On this day: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga of the Society of Jesus. He was born on March 9, 1568, and died on June 21, 1591.

Click here to see "St. Aloysius, when about 17 years and a half. From an oil painting by an unknown master of the School of Paul Veronese (Cagliari). The picture is in St. Aloysius' Cappelletta in the Jesuit College, Rome."

The portrait is on the cover of the indispensable Life of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, by Father Virgil Cepari, S. J., translated for the Tercentenary, and edited by Father Francis Goldie, S. J., Benziger Brothers, 1891. The book may be read free at Google Books. Scroll down to page ii to get a better look at the signature of Aluigi Gonzaga. He was about to enter the Noviciate of S. Andrea, Rome.

"During the last three centuries a multitude of biographies of S. Aloysius have appeared; but they are all more or less drawn from the same source, and have lost some of the clearness and purity of the fountain head. This source is the classical life by Father Virgil Cepari of the Society of Jesus. It is impossible to find in any other biographer of S. Aloysius the qualities which we meet with in Cepari.

"He was a contemporary of the Saint, an ocular witness of most of the facts he narrates; he was his fellow-student and lived with him for several years, during which he met him every day and was honoured with his most entire confidence. And what Cepari himself had not seen and heard, he learned from the lips of those who had witnessed all that he narrates, the mother and brother of S. Aloysius, his tutors, servants, his relatives and acquaintances, his masters, superiors in religion, his confessor. Cepari visited every place, except those in Spain, where the Saint had stayed for any length of time, and took down on the spot the most exact information, as can be learnt from the statements of the sworn witnesses. No other writer of the life of S. Aloysius has done the same."

--Preface, page xi-xii.

If the biographies of St. Aloysius written before 1891 had lost clearness, those in the 110 years since then have lost even more. Cepari's Life contains details that have been dropped from modern accounts or distorted or diluted. The front matter and back matter are fascinating: letters from Aluigi to his parents and brothers, the elaborate signatures, the testimonies. The chapters on the saint's life and death are gripping, as are the endnotes. See, e.g., pages 344-348 for the list of expenses incurred by Aloysius and his brother during their stay in Florence and Mantua.

See page 1 for "Chapter I. His Ancestry and Birth. 1568." Aluigi Gonzaga was baptized by the midwife before he had completely emerged from his mother. His parents' wedding in Spain was the first "celebrated in the country according to the orders and with the solemnities prescribed by the Council of Trent".

See page 234 for "Chapter XXXI. His holy death. 1891." Aloysius was 23 when his life ended.

See page 321 for a "Chronology of the Life of S. Aloysius".

See page 425 for the "Table of Contents".

Life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, of the Society of Jesus, edited and published by Rev. J. F. X. O'Conor, S. J., was written by The Students of Rhetoric, Class of '92, of St. Francis Xavier's College, New York City, for the Tercentenary of the death of St. Aloysius. It draws heavily on the Cepari biography, but is shorter. It, too, may be read free at Google Books or downloaded to a device. The book contains various prayers, including the Devotion of the Six Sundays, the Litany to St. Aloysius, and the Student's Prayer to St. Aloysius. See the Contents on page 219.

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