Homily for the Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga
It has often been said that the greatest saints of a particular age are those who were most counter-cultural to their time, those who weren’t afraid to stand against what the culture was selling. Throughout the history of the Church we have seen how the Lord raises saints who provide a different option from the perceived norm. St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whom we celebrate today, was one of those saints for his time, I believe.
Aloysius was born into an Italian family that was known for its corruption, particularly in the area of politics. At a very early age, he was thrown into that lifestyle by his parents – he began training as a soldier at the age of 4. After developing a serious kidney condition, he spent months recovering and healing. But it was during that time that Aloysius began to read more about the faith and spend countless hours in prayer. And obviously the Lord used that time to put a claim on the heart of Aloysius.
In the years that followed, he received his first Holy Communion from St. Charles Borromeo (my favorite saint), began studying in Florence, and taught catechism to his friends and peers. He also told his father that he wanted to become a Jesuit. His parents tried to convince him to be a diocesan priest instead, so that they could “buy” him an appointment as a bishop one day – talk about political corruption. But Aloysius was determined to buck the system, and at the age of 18 he signed away his inheritance and personal title so that he could join the Society of Jesus.
After being with the Jesuits for 6 years, Aloysius began serving those in Rome who had been affected by the plague. Because his own health continued to be compromised, he contracted the illness and eventually died months later.
But what we see by his life is just how much he was determined to stand out against the crowd. He wasn’t afraid of standing up to the powerful in his own family and within his town. For him, what was important was being set apart by Christ and being a witness to the Gospel. He wanted to be someone who pointed others to something more important.
Today, the Lord needs us to be like Aloysius. We have to be the ones who stand out, we need to be the ones who are countercultural, who point others to Christ. We’re called to do that in our own ways – not compromising on our beliefs in the workplace or in society, bringing Christian morals to the forefront in our political life, and advocating for the conversion of hearts. Today, let’s make that our reflection. How is the Lord inviting us to be those saints in our time? How is He inviting us to stand out in the crowd? How are we being called to be countercultural?