6.21.2006

St. Aloysius Gonzaga


Today is the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, so a happy feast-day to all of my Jesuit friends and various graduates of Gonzaga-devoted schools across the country.

As you can tell by the image, he's one of the church's "child saints" (the term "boy saints" having fallen out of favor, for obvious reasons...). He entered the Jesuits at the age of 18 and died five years later tending to victims of the plague in Rome.

One reason I love being Catholic is the treasure-trove, the grandmother's attic of saints' lives and devotional commentary on their lives; the saints, in their collective totality, are the greatest icon of the Holy Spirit which we have (a particularly fine example of this is the tapestry series at the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles in California...here is the tapestry with a particularly West Hollywood, gym-fit Aloysius first in line in front of Stephen of Hungary, Marie-Rose Durocher, Matthew, and two of the future saints to come from the church of Los Angeles). But in addition to being a source of devotion, these strange outfits and crazy hats are also a great source of "Catholic fun". Today is one of those days. For example, one site describes Gonzaga as having died "of plague, fever, and desire to see God". And what started me looking on the web for more is today's collect, taken from the Liturgy of the Hours:

Father of love,
giver of all good things,
in Saint Aloysius you combined remarkable innocence
with the spirit of penance.
By the help of his prayers,
may we who have not followed his innocence
follow his example of penance.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

Now, as one of those "who have not followed his innocence," I couldn't help but feel a smile escape at the corner of my mouth this morning as I prayed the office and my tongue almost poked through my cheek. Some people might see this as a sign of my lack of piety and depravity; and others, particularly those selling Virgin Mary toast stamps down at the local Urban Outfitters, might feel free to just mock the whole darn thing. But I think that part of being a faithful Catholic today involves enjoying the freedom of the Christian to recognize our own collective, historical craziness sometimes, and to josh some of our spiritual forebears with as much gusto and genuine love as those who follow us will no doubt laugh, lightly and charitably, at our own craziness. I'm still convinced that more than anything else, Jesus loved to laugh, and the Father loves to hear it still.

2 comments:

HillsboroughHeretic said...

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David said...

I have always been amazed by the devotion to Aloysius Gonzaga displayed by my former Weston classmate and iconographer Billy McNichols, SJ. His prayer to Aloysius moves me immensely:

Aloysius, You have drawn me to you,
gentle teacher, loving guide.
I am filled with gratitude to you... l love you.
Just to see you, to sit with your image,
is to see all the simplicity, the trust, and the innocence
of the children of the kingdom.
Aloysius, Let me serve,
let me love as you loved people on earth!
Teach me to leave the dark destructive forces
within for the Light in the presence of Our Savior, Jesus.
Aloysius, Teach me to pray unceasingly, better yet,
pray with me, sit near me, kneel with me... take my hand.
And finally, when my life here is over,
come to lead me Home.
Amen