Feast Day: June 21st | Patron Saint of Youth, Students, AIDS Patients and Caregivers, the Blind, and all those suffering from epidemics.
If you take a look at the list above of those that St. Aloysius is a particular patron of, you would already have in mind many of the things and people that he loved. As for those in their first decades of life, and in particular students, Aloysius (Luigi) was an intelligent, energetic, and blessed young man. At the age of 12, he had a life-changing encounter with God and the saints, and from then on desired to give his enthusiasm and talents to the service of God. Added to these positive experiences of his youth were the difficult ones, in particular the violent deaths of two of his brothers, murdered by the sometimes brutal era that was 16th century Italy. All of these brought Aloysius to a fervent desire to join the Jesuits and give up everything for the sake of Christ. After long conversations with his parents – who, wanting what was best for him, strongly urged him to choose some occupation that would allow him a certain amount of worldly comfort and at least the ability to receive the inheritance they had worked many years to provide for him – he convinced them that it was for his good, and the world’s, that he join the Society of Jesus, and he entered that order as a novice at the age of 17.
From there, his patronage for the ill and suffering began to come to the forefront. He suffered from various ailments of his own, including kidney disease, insomnia, various skin conditions, and headaches, and these became the impetus in his heart to give his time and love to those afflicted by disease and the rigors of age and the burdens of a hard life. His charity grew enormously during these months, to the point that when the plague broke out in Rome in 1591, he thought nothing of offering his young life in service to those suffering from the disease. He had already had a premonition of his immanent death after an encounter with the Archangel Gabriel, but each day he persevered in asking his superiors to give him permission to care for the ill, risking his own frail health to offer love and dignity to those who were hospitalized. Sure enough, he came down with the dreaded disease. He received the Sacrament of Anointing and rallied for a short while, but again succumbed to the plague, and received his final sacraments on the octave day of Corpus Christi.
He had received his first Communion from St. Charles Borromeo and his last sacraments from St. Robert Bellarmine. And this is the final love that I would like to emphasize throughout St. Aloysius’s short life: in the statue we have of him in our cathedral (up the ramp on the right side of the sanctuary), he wears the cassock of a Jesuit, a surplice to serve at Mass, and holds a crucifix. St. Aloysius loved the youth, and he loved the sick, but above all he simply loved Jesus. As we celebrate Corpus Christ this weekend, even more than all our other loves, we should ask this saint’s intercession so that our love for Jesus would increase! Aloysius, in his final minutes, wracked by the the plague, simply repeated the name of Jesus. Would I do the same? If I don’t repeat frequently, with love and devotion, Jesus’ name now, will I suddenly start when eternity looms?
– Fr. Dominic Rankin did not receive his first Holy Communion from a cardinal, nor (yet) someone who has been canonized a saint. But my priest growing up was a lovely, humble, saintly priest named Fr. John Carberry, and nicknamed the “White Tornado”. I do hope to emulate just a little of his energy, but even more of His tender and simple devotion to Jesus and Mary.