St. Aloysius Gonzaga
As the eldest son of an aristocratic family, Aloysius Gonzaga was in line to inherit his father’s title and lands. The violence and frivolity of Renaissance Italy shocked young Aloysius, and at an early age he began to adopt an ascetic lifestyle and dream of entering a religious order. Over the objections of his family, he became a member of the Society of Jesus at the age of 17, thereby renouncing his inheritance. While in the novitiate, the Jesuits ordered Aloysius to curb his ascetic practices and encouraged him to interact more with the other novices.
Though suffering from chronic illness himself, during an outbreak of the plague in 1591 Aloysius volunteered to work in the Jesuit’s hospital in Rome. As a result, he died a few months after his 23rd birthday. Even at such a young age Aloysius had a reputation for holiness and was considered by many to be a saint. Artists often depict him holding the man from whom he contracted the fatal disease. Long considered the patron of plague victims, in recent years he has also become a patron for both AIDS patients and their caregivers. Aloysius Gonzaga is the patron saint of Christian youth as well.
His feast day is June 21.
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