GonzagaThis poignant waiting titled, “The Vocation of St. Aloysius Gonzaga,” by Guercino, hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC). The Gonzaga family castle looms in the background and the crown of the marquisate on the ground behind him, which he has relinquished. The lily is a sign of his chastity.

Aloysius’ father was not persuaded that his son had a vocation to be part of the new group called the Society of Jesus, much less a priest. Therefore, he sent his son to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus with a letter stating, “I merely say to Your Reverence that I am sending you the most precious thing I possess.” The young Aloysius distinguished himself as a model Jesuit. As the plague came to Rome in 1591, Aloysius  threw himself into caring for plague victims. But he was told by his superiors not to touch them, lest he contract the disease. One day, he carried a man from his bed, was infected with the plague and then died, at age 23 in the octave of Corpus Christi.

The opening Collect of his Mass today speaks of asking for the same grace Aloysius had: to join innocence with penitence. As J. Michael Thompson writes in a hymn for our saint, we trust as Aloysius did, in the “Trinity of endless mercy.”

The Church named Saint Aloysius a patron of youth, and of those living with HIV/AIDS.