Thought for the Day – 21 June – The Memorial of St Aloysius de Gonzaga S.J. (1568-1591)
Aloysius also volunteered to work at the local hospital. On closer inspection, this was heroic of him since he was very sensitive to disgusting sores and odors. He strove to conquer his inborn squeamishness and attend to the most repulsive cases. A fellow novice, Decio Striverio, remembers approaching a particularly loathsome patient, full of bleeding sores. Aloysius turned completely pale as they approached but as if summoning some hidden strength, his colour returned and he approached the victim as if he were Christ Himself. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did it for Me.” (Mt. 25:40)
Aloysius worked first at the overcrowded hospital of St Sixtus. He traversed the streets of Rome and carried the ill on his back to the hospital; when there, he undressed and washed the victims, gave them fresh clothing, placed them in a bed and fed them. However, the Jesuit superiors took alarm, as some of the novices started dying. They assigned Aloysius to the hospital of Santa Maria di Consolazione, reserved for non-contagious patients.
While assisting at this hospital, he lifted an unknowingly infected man out of his bed, tended his needs and returned him to his bed. Unfortunately, this act of charity cost Aloysius his life. He received the diagnosis of infection on 3 March 1591, and died on 21 June 1591. He was 23 years old. In a letter addressed to his mother shortly before his death, he wrote, “Our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise Him with heart and soul, sing of His mercies forever, and enjoy eternal happiness.”
Aloysius’ patronage extends foremost over the youth. Thus, artists have made the effort to emphasise his angelic purity, as a role model for chastity. While undoubtedly commendable, the realisation of this virtue in pictorial form often results in a caricature. There is a fine line between heroic purity and honey-dripping effeminacy, at least in artistic terms. Interestingly, St Aloysius is also the patron of AIDS patients and caregivers, due to his compassionate care and ultimate infection of an incurable disease. In the final analysis, the sugarcoated holy card depiction of St Aloysius is misleading, as he possessed ferocious will power. Moreover, one can easily absolve his youthful quirkiness before entering the Jesuits, in light of his large-hearted compassion revealed in the end….(Reference – The Life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron of Christian Youth by Maurice Meschler, S.J.)
Aloysius seems an unlikely patron of youth, in a society where asceticism is confined, to training camps of football teams and boxers and sexual permissiveness has little left to permit. Can an overweight, sin-soaked and air-conditioned society deprive itself of anything? It will, when it discovers a reason, as Aloysius did. The motivation for letting God purify us is the experience of God loving us in prayer. Prayer is our most urgent work!
St Aloysius Gonzaga, help us to pray and please Pray for us all!
Quote of the Day – 21 June – The Memorial of St Aloysius de Gonzaga S.J. (1568-1591)
“May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady.
Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over.
If charity, as Saint Paul says, means “to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad,” then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in His grace and His love for you, is showing me the path to true happiness and assuring me, that I shall never lose Him. Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this, if you mourned as dead, one living face to face with God, one whose prayers, can bring you in your troubles, more powerful aid, than they ever could on earth.
And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise Him with heart and soul, sing of His mercies forever and enjoy eternal happiness.”
– from a letter to his mother by Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
One Minute Reflection – 21 June – The Memorial of St Aloysius de Gonzaga S.J. (1568-1591)
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy, to suffer dishonour, for the sake of the name...Acts 5:41
REFLECTION – “He who wishes to love God, does not truly love Him, if he has not an ardent and constant desire, to suffer for His sake.”…St Aloysius de Gonzaga (1568-1591)
PRAYER – “O Holy Mary! My Mother; into your blessed trust and special custody and into the bosom of your mercy, I this day and every day and in the hour of my death, commend my soul and body. To you, I commit all my anxieties and sorrows, my life and the end of my life, that by your most holy intercession and by your merits, all my actions may be directed and governed by your will and that of your Son.”… by St Aloysius de Gonzaga (1568-1591)
Our Morning Offering – 21 June – The Memorial of St Aloysius de Gonzaga S.J. (1568-1591)
Prayer of a First Jesuit By St Peter Faber S.J. (1506-1546)
With great devotion and new depth of feeling,
I hope and beg, O God, that it finally be given to me
to be the servant and minister of Christ the consoler,
the minister of Christ the redeemer,
the minister of Christ the healer,
the liberator, the enricher the strengthener.
To be able through You to help many–
to console, liberate and give them courage;
to bring them light not only for their spirit
but also for their bodies,
and bring as well other helps
to the soul and bodyof each and every one
of my neighbours.
I ask this through Christ our Lord.
Saint of the Day – 21 June – St Aloysius de Gonzaga S.J. (1568-1591) Jesuit Seminarian, Mystic, Marian devotee, Apostle of Charity – born as Luigi de Gonzaga on 9 March 1568 in the family castle of Castiglione delle Stivieri in Montua, Lombardy, Italy and died on 21 June 1591 at Rome, Italy of plague, fever and desire to see God. His relics are entombed under the altar of Saint Ignatius Church, Rome. Patronages – Catholic youth, Jesuit scholastics, the blind, eye ailments, AIDS patients, care-givers, Jesuit students, for relief from pestilence, young people, Castiglione delle Stiviere, Italy, Valmonte, Italy. His attributes are a lily, referring to innocence; a cross, referring to piety and sacrifice; a skull, referring to his early death; and a rosary, referring to his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Aloysius de Gonzaga was born the eldest of seven children, at his family’s castle in Castiglione delle Stiviere, between Brescia and Mantua in northern Italy in what was then part of the Duchy of Mantua, into the illustrious House of Gonzaga. “Aloysius” is the Latin form of Aloysius de Gonzaga’s given name in Italian, Luigi. He was the son of Ferrante de Gonzaga (1544–1586), Marquis of Castiglione, and Marta Tana di Santena, daughter of a baron of the Piedmontese Della Rovere family. His mother was a lady-in-waiting to Isabel, the wife of Philip II of Spain.
As the first-born son, he was in line to inherit his father’s title and status of Marquis. His father assumed that Aloysius would become a soldier, as that was the norm for sons of the aristocracy and the family was often involved in the minor wars of the period. His military training started at an early age but he also received an education in languages and the arts. As early as age four, Luigi was given a set of miniature guns and accompanied his father on training expeditions so that the boy might learn “the art of arms.” At age five, Aloysius was sent to a military camp to get started on his training. His father was pleased to see his son marching around camp at the head of a platoon of soldiers. His mother and his tutor were less pleased with the vocabulary he picked up there.
He grew up amid the violence and brutality of Renaissance Italy and witnessed the murder of two of his brothers. In 1576, at age 8, he was sent to Florence along with his younger brother, Rodolfo, to serve at the court of the Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici and to receive further education. While there, he fell ill with a disease of the kidneys, which troubled him throughout his life. While he was ill, he took the opportunity to read about the saints and to spend much of his time in prayer. He is said to have taken a private vow of chastity at age 9. In November 1579, the brothers were sent to the Duke of Mantua. Aloysius was shocked by the violent and frivolous lifestyle he encountered there.
Aloysius returned to Castiglione where he met St Cardinal Charles Borromeo (1538-1584 – feast day 4 November) and from him received First Communion on 22 July 1580. After reading a book about Jesuit missionaries in India, Aloysius felt strongly that he wanted to become a missionary. He started practising by teaching catechism classes to young boys in Castiglione in the summers. He also repeatedly visited the houses of the Capuchin friars and the Barnabites located in Casale Monferrato, the capital of the Gonzaga-ruled Duchy of Montferrat where the family spent the winter. He also adopted an ascetic lifestyle.
The family was called to Spain in 1581 to assist the Holy Roman Empress Maria of Austria. They arrived in Madrid in March 1582, where Aloysius and Rodolfo became pages for the young Infante Diego. Aloysius started thinking in earnest about joining a religious order. He had considered joining the Capuchins but he had a Jesuit confessor in Madrid and decided instead to join that order. His mother agreed to his request but his father was furious and prevented him from doing so.
In July 1584, a year and a half after the Infante’s death, the family returned to Italy. Aloysius still wanted to become a priest but several members of his family worked hard to persuade him to change his mind. When they realised there was no way to make him give up his plan, they tried to persuade him to become a secular priest and offered to arrange for a bishopric for him. If he were to become a Jesuit he would renounce any right to his inheritance or status in society. His family’s attempts to dissuade him failed, Aloysius was not interested in higher office and still wanted to become a missionary.
In November 1585, Aloysius gave up all rights of inheritance, which was confirmed by the emperor. He went to Rome and, because of his noble birth, gained an audience with Pope Sixtus V. Following a brief stay at the Palazzo Aragona Gonzaga, the Roman home of his cousin, Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga, on 25 November 1585, he was accepted into the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome. During this period, he was asked to moderate his asceticism somewhat and to be more social with the other novices.
Aloysius’ health continued to cause problems. In addition to the kidney disease, he also suffered from a skin disease, chronic headaches and insomnia. He was sent to Milan for studies but after some time he was sent back to Rome because of his health. On 25 November 1587, he took the three religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. In February and March 1588, he received minor orders and started studying theology to prepare for ordination. In 1589, he was called to Mantua to mediate between his brother Rodolfo and the Duke of Mantua. He returned to Rome in May 1590. It is said that later that year, he had a vision in which the Archangel Gabriel told him that he would die within a year.
In 1591, a plague broke out in Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital for the stricken and Aloysius volunteered to work there. After begging alms for the victims, Aloysius began working with the sick, carrying the dying from the streets into a hospital founded by the Jesuits. There he washed and fed the plague victims, preparing them as best he could to receive the sacraments. But though he threw himself into his tasks, he privately confessed to his spiritual director, Fr Robert Bellarmine (St Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) Doctor of the Church), that his constitution was revolted by the sights and smells of the work; he had to work hard to overcome his physical repulsion.
At the time, many of the younger Jesuits had become infected with the disease, and so Aloysius’s superiors forbade him from returning to the hospital. But Aloysius—long accustomed to refusals from his father—persisted and requested permission to return, which was granted. Eventually he was allowed to care for the sick but only at another hospital, called Our Lady of Consolation, where those with contagious diseases were not admitted. While there, Aloysius lifted a man out of his sickbed, tended to him, and brought him back to his bed. But the man was infected with the plague. Aloysius grew ill and was bedridden by 3 March 1591, a few days before his 23rd birthday.
Aloysius rallied for a time but as fever and a cough set in, he declined for many weeks. It seemed certain that he would die in a short tie, and he was given Extreme Unction. While he was ill, he spoke several times with his confessor, the cardinal and later saint, Robert Bellarmine. Aloysius had another vision and told several people that he would die on the Octave of the feast of Corpus Christi. On that day, 21 June 1591, he seemed very well in the morning but insisted that he would die before the day was over. As he began to grow weak, Bellarmine gave him the last rites and recited the prayers for the dying. He died just before midnight. As Fr Tylenda tells the story, “When the two Jesuits came to his side, they noticed a change in his face and realised that their young Aloysius was dying. His eyes were fixed on the crucifix he held in his hands and as he tried to pronounce the name of Jesus he died.”
Aloysius was buried in the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation, which later became the church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Sant’Ignazio) in Rome. His name was changed to “Robert” before his death, in honour of his confessor. Many people considered him to be a saint soon after his death and his remains were moved into the Sant’Ignazio church, where they now rest in an urn of lapis lazuli in the Lancellotti Chapel. His head was later translated to the basilica bearing his name in Castiglione delle Stiviere. He was beatified only fourteen years after his death by Pope Paul V, on 19 October 1605. On 31 December 1726, he was canonised together with another young Jesuit novice, Stanislaus Kostka, by Pope Benedict XIII.
Purity was his notable virtue. The Carmelite mystic St Maria Magdalena de Pazzi had a vision of him on 4 April 1600. She described him as radiant in glory because of his “interior works,” a hidden martyr for his great love of God.
Feast of Our Lady of Miracles – 21 June – the patron of the town of Alcamo, Sicily.
The cult of Madonna of Miracles in Alcamo dates back to 21 June 1547, the day people remember the Madonna’s apparition to some women near a stream running north of Alcamo. According to tradition while washing their clothes in the stream, the women, with a blind and a deaf one among them, saw the apparition of a woman with a child and were hit by a gust of pebbles, during the apparition but without receiving any injury or pain; on the contrary, after being hit by the pebbles, they strangely felt a certain sense of wellbeing and recovered their health. After learning the news, the women’s husbands, thinking that it was a joke, went to investigate, thinking that someone was hidden among the bushes around there but they didn’t find anybody.
Then the local authorities inquired on the spot, cut down the near grove and found the ruins of a “cuba”, an old arc of a mill that nobody remembered any longer and inside there was a fresco on a stone made by an anonymous painter of the 13th century representing Our Lady with the Child Jesus, which at first the believers called “Madonna Fons Misericordiae” (that is Our Lady Source of Mercy).
After this discovery all the people started praying before the rediscovered image and in the following days there were several miracles.7, Our Lady of Miracles became the patron saint of Alcamo, in substitution of the Holy Crucified, who was the patron saint of Alcamo and other near small towns (among which Calatafimi and Salemi). The old patron saint’s memory however remains in Alcamo people’s mind: in fact they call San Francesco di Paola “santu patri” (whose translation means “patron saint”) as the Church named after him was called the Holy Crucified Church.
The Madonna’s discovered image was first called “Our Lady Source of Mercy” but thanks to the high number of subsequent miracles, in 1583 the name was changed into “Our Lady of Miracles”.
Further to these events, Don Fernando Vega, Alcamo’s governor, ordered the construction of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Miracles, which hosts the Madonna’s image. Inside the Church there is a white marble sarcophagus containing the mortal remains of the governor Don Fernando Vega, according to his will.
Every year in Alcamo there are the celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Miracles from 19 June until 21 of June. This is the most important religious festivity in Alcamo. The real celebrations are often anticipated by other events, so extending the feast to about two weeks, in this way the beginning of the celebrations changes every year, while the last day is always the 21 June.
The celebrations include: “The pealing of church bells” which opens the celebrations together with the burst of fireworks and the passing of the band through the town streets; in the past Alcamo’s band also joined the musical band of Partinico (a neighbouring small town). The holy Mass in honour of Our Lady of Miracles in the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta (also called “mother church”), in which all confraternities and laity groups in Alcamo take part. The procession to the Sanctuary of Madonna of Miracles (called “calata”), in which all civil and religious authorities of the town (together with the Mayor) take part; they are preceded by the band of the town. In old times people took also the animals that had recovered from an illness. Inside the sanctuary they sing Vespers and then there is the Eucharistic Blessing/Benediction.
Dance, music and theatrical performances. Sport events. Exhibitions of various kinds, including one about local Craftmanship. “The Market Fair” at Piazza della Repubblica. The Streets entertainers (called “Madonnari”). The Procession of Our Lady of Miracles’ statue along the town streets and return to the mother church. Before this solemn procession, the statue of Our Lady of Miracles, createdin 1720 by Lorenzo Curti from Castelvetrano (see the image of the statue above and the back below), is adorned with a silver 12 star crown (“stellario” in Italian), a crown and a hairpin embellished by precious stones (called “tuppu di la Maronna”) which is placed behind the Madonna’s nape. After that, the statue goes out from the Church, taken along the streets by a group of believers on their shoulders and accompanied by the band and it comes back to the mother church at the end of the procession.
Fireworks near the “bastione” in Piazza Bagolino. They take place at the end of the feast, soon after the statue’s return into the church, at about midnight. The traditional descent to the sanctuary takes place during the so-called “Historical Cortege” with period costumes. This cortege, which anticipates the real “calata”, passes through Corso 6 Aprile and Piazza Ciullo and finally ends at the Castle of the Counts of Modica (also called “Castle of Alcamo”). The workmen of the association “I Cavalieri di San Giorgio” (San Giorgio’s knights) and the Civil Authorities take part in the cortege too. Translated from the Italian).
Madonna of Miracles – Our Lady of Miracles (or Madonna of Miracles) is the patron saint of the town of Alcamo, Italy.
St Agofredus of La-Croix
St Alban of Mainz
St Apollinaris of Africa
St Cyriacus of Africa
St Demetria of Rome
St Dominic of Comacchio
Bl Jacques-Morelle Dupas
St John Rigby
St José Isabel Flores Varela
Bl Juan of Jesus
St Martia of Syracuse
St Martin of Tongres
Bl Melchiorre della Pace
St Mewan of Bretagne
Bl Nicholas Plutzer
St Ralph of Bourges
St Raymond of Barbastro
St Rufinus of Syracuse
St Suibhne the Sage
St Ursicenus of Pavia
Martyrs of Taw – 3+ saints: Three Christians of different backgrounds who were martyred together – Moses, Paphnutius, Thomas. They were beheaded in Taw, Egypt, date unknown.