Saint Aloysius was born Luigi Gonzaga on March 9, 1568, in Lombardy, Italy, the eldest son of Don Ferrante Gonzaga, the Marquis of Castiglione. His father intended him to become a great soldier and began pushing him in this direction as early as age four when Luigi was sent off to military camp. Luigi's early life was one of pomp and privilege among the aristocracy of Rome, Milan, Florence and Madrid.
At the age of seven Luigi became instilled with a deep reverence for God. By the age of 11 he had decided to renounce his wealth and titles. By the age of 12 he was preparing himself to become a Jesuit Missionary. His father tried repeatedly to dissuade Luigi from his religious ambition and keep him on the military path. But Luigi's focus would not waver and his father finally relented. Upon reaching his eighteenth birthday, Luigi relinquished his wealth and inheritance to his younger brother Ridolfo. On November 25, 1585 he was received into the Jesuit novitiate in Rome. He was an ideal novice, dedicated to his chores, studies, prayers, and service to the poor.
During his novitiate, plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital of their own in which the father general and many other Jesuits ministered personally to the sick. Luigi requested and was permitted to join them in this service. This son of privilege instructed and exhorted patients, washed them, made their beds, and performed the meanest chores of the hospital. He eventually caught the plague himself and succumbed to it at the age of twenty-three. He is buried under the altar in the Lancellotti Chapel at the Church of Saint Ignatius in Rome.
Luigi Gonzaga was canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. His feast day is June 21, the anniversary of his death. He is the patron saint of youth. AIDS victims, seeing their disease as a modern plague, have spontaneously proclaimed him as their intercessor, seeing him as someone willing to reach out and touch even those considered "untouchable" by the world around them.
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