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In the Society of Jesus

At first Aloysius wanted to join the Franciscans in Spain. But his weak condition had him worried that he would have failed at the mortifications and been brought back to the world as an ecclesiastic. His mother, Martha, was also opposed to his joining the Franciscans.

The Society of Jesus offered Aloysius two areas to work in that he believed pleased God. One was the teaching of youth and the other the conversion of the heathen.

He wanted to be sure of his decision. While praying to the Blessed Mother an answer came to him. He was convinced that he was divinely called to the Jesuits.

Martha agreed with this choice, but Ferdinand did everything he could to prevent Aloysius from becoming a religious. His goal was for his eldest son to be his heir, to continue the glory of the Gonzagas. Aloysius, however, was unwavering. The Marquis could not help being extremely angry with his son. At one point in this ongoing feud, Ferdinand ordered his son to remain in his room. There Aloysius knelt on the floor for prayer, wept, and scourged himself, causing his back to bleed. When Ferdinand saw what his son was doing to himself he relented...somewhat.

Aloysius wrote a letter to the Superior General, Claudius Acquaviva, exactly two years after he first realized his calling to the Society of Jesus. His father had delayed him that long so far. The General gladly welcomed Aloysius.

Aloysius had to wait for his abdication from Emperor Rudolph II. Ferdinand used this opportunity to send his son to Milan to handle some family affairs, which the son often did (See the link Letter below). He was still hoping to change Aloysius' resolve to enter into the Society. But Aloysius was determined to adhere to his convictions. While in Milan, when not acting on behalf of his family, he was studying spiritual matters or science.

The Marquis had priests, lay people, nobles, family members all try to convince Aloysius to give up his desire to enter the Jesuits. Could he not do more good as the Marquis of Castiglione? This question was stressed by Ferdinand's intermediaries. Even the people of Castiglione regretted losing him to the religious order. Aloysius went home and the people conveyed their sorrow that he would not be their leader. He told them that he wanted to save his soul foremost and suggested that they do the same.

The day finally came for Aloysius when he was to formally renounce his right to the Marquisate. He quickly signed the documents which gave his inheritence to his brother Rudolph. After Rudolph signed, Aloysius said to his brother, "What do you think, dear Rudolph, which of us two is the happier now, you or I? You may be sure I am."

Aloysius was well known for what he had given up to enter the Society of Jesus. He traveled to Rome and there he met with Pope Sixtus. The Pope thoroughly interrogated Aloysius, wondering whether or not he would last as a religious, believing that the young man had not known what he was actually embarking on. But Aloysius assured Sixtus. The Pope was pleased by what Aloysius had to say. He therefore praised the Saint and sent him on his way.

Ferdinand underwent a change after his son had entered the Society. He became much less engulfed in worldly affairs, such as his gambling. Instead, he devoted himself to pious practices. Ferdinand died on February 13, 1586.

The companions of Aloysius were surprised that his father's death did not cause more emotions in the seemingly loving son. Aloysius was tranquil because in his mind, why would he grieve over the Will of God?

It was the Jesuit custom in Rome to send the novices to the Professed House, the Gesù, where they would get some worldly experience under the direction of one of the Fathers, who was novice-master for the time being.

For Aloysius, following rules was a very serious act. One day, his relative, Cardinal della Rovere, met the Saint in the sacristy. But since Aloysius did not have permission from one of the Fathers to talk, he asked the Cardinal to please excuse him and did not say another word. Della Rovere sought permission from the Father General, and only then did the two converse.

There were many who scoffed at Aloysius' strict adherence to rules and his overall lifestyle, but most who met him regarded him as a saint.

Holy Communion remained a central part of the Saint's life. His week was divided into two parts: the first he devoted to thanksgiving for receiving Christ, the second was preparation for the next Communion. On the eve of receiving the Eucharist, many of his fellow novices and priests would want to be near him to be inspired for their own masses because Aloysius would talk of the happiness that awaited him when he did consume the Body and the Blood.

Aloysius loved to keep busy performing the chores of the house. He helped in the kitchen, washed dishes, and the work that brought him the most delight was bringing food to the house gate for the poor. He also loved to tend to the sick, fulfilling God's commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

His love for mortifications was a cause of uneasiness to the older Fathers, who chided Aloysius. They worried over his health.

Then one day an angel appeared to Aloysius and told him of his approaching death. Aloysius was overjoyed to learn this, for he would soon be united with God. He at first only told Father Vincent Bruno, until the Saint returned to Rome and told a select group of others.

On the journey back to Rome, the Jesuits came upon a swollen stream. They could not pass, and did not even know that 18 people were drowned trying to get across earlier that day. Aloysius knelt and began to pray. Not far away, he noticed a boy crossing the water back and forth with much ease. He led the group to the spot and 40 people made it safely to the other side. When no one could find the boy who Aloysius had earlier seen, Father Mastrilli stated that it was an angel of God sent to allow the young saint to pass.

When he returned to Rome, Aloysius told Father Cepari, "I have buried my dead and need to think no more of them; it is time for us to prepare for another life."

He seemed to forget the world he was living in. His humbleness caused him to pray when hidden. But now he would drop to his knees anywhere, no matter what he was doing in order to pray to God.

During the Plague, he sought to comfort the sick. The cause of his infection was thought to have been from his carrying a man, whose illness was very well advanced, off of the streets, on his back to the hospital.

Now that Aloysius was sick, he still would avoid comforts. When they offered him something to soothe his cough, he turned it away.

A friend of Aloysius, Father Corbinelli, was sick at the same time. When Corbinelli died, Aloysius saw his dead friend in dreams that same night. The Jesuits tried to hide Corbinelli's status from the Saint, but he had seen his friend three times. The first time Corbinelli said that he was in agony, the second he asked for prayers to end his suffereing, and the third time he said that he was dead. Fr. Robert Bellarmine, Aloysius' confessor, came to the Saint. When Bellarmine saw that Aloysius knew of Corbinelli's fate without being told by anyone, he was amazed.

In the morning he announced that he would die in eight days – on the octave of Corpus Christi.

Aloysius was excited that death was approaching for he would soon be with God. He bid farewell to all who were in his presence.

He appeared fine on the day of his predicted death. Bellarmine left his side to go to sleep. Then Aloysius asked, "Lift me a little," as his bed sores had actually become too much for the man who had constantly punished his body. It was then the Fathers with him saw death on Aloysius' face. He looked at the cross in his hands, attempted to say Jesus and breathed his last. His death was so sudden that Bellarmine could not be summoned in time. He died between ten and eleven o’clock in the night between Thursday the 20th, and Friday, the 21st of June, 1591, at the close of the Octave of Corpus Christi. He was twenty-three years, three months, and eleven days old at the time of his death.

Picture from Fr. C.C. Martindale's "The Vocation of Aloysius Gonzaga."

Early Life