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Published originally on June 21, 2004; re-published and slightly revised, June 21, 2005

Saint Aloysius: Lover of the Eucharist

by Thomas A. Droleskey

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga is one of Holy Mother Church's shining examples of a youth who maintained his innocence and purity throughout his twenty-three years of life as a member of the Church Militant on earth. I have had a particular devotion to this great lover of Our Lord in His Real Presence since 1956, the year I entered kindergarten at the school in the parish that had taken him for its patron in Great Neck, Long Island, New York. I owe Saint Aloysius Gonzaga so very much, for it was in the school that bore his name that I learned my Catholic Faith without any degree of compromise or dilution, It was in Saint Aloysius Church that I made my First Holy Communion on Saturday, May 30, 1959, and it was in that same church that the Most Reverend Walter P. Kellenberg, the founding Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, confirmed me as a soldier in the Army of Christ when I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Oh, yes, I owe Saint Aloysius so very much.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was born in 1558. He received his own First Holy Communion from the hands of Saint Charles Borromeo, then a curial cardinal who was doing theological battle with the forces of the Protestant Revolt. Saint Aloysius had from the start a pure and burning love for Our Lord in His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, it is said that he had such burning fervor for Our Lord when receiving Holy Communion that his whole chest was aflame with a palpable, burning ardor. He was so aflame with ardor that he had to burst out of the doors of the church frequently after the reception of Holy Communion and throw himself into the fountain in the piazza in order to cool off his ardor. A miserable, recidivist sinner such as yours truly cannot even imagine such ardor, the likes of which prompted a priest on Long Island in 1986 to say in a sermon, "I am sure that this [Saint Aloysius's burning ardor upon the reception of Holy Communion] is the very reason that many of you leave church immediately after receiving Holy Communion. You just have to throw yourself into your swimming pools." Saint Aloysisus thus teaches us first and foremost to recognize that our sins have damaged our immortal souls and that we need to recover some semblance of the purity of our own childhood in order to grow more fully in a pure and burning love for Our Lord that will result in greater intimacy with Him when we receive Holy Communion day after day. The Collect for Feast of Saint Aloysisus in the Traditional Latin Mass makes this very point:

"O God, among the gifts of heaven bestowed upon the angelic youth, Aloysisus, you united a wondrous innocence to his exceptional spirit of penance. Although we have not followed his path of innocence, may we at least imitate his penance through his own merits and prayers."

Saint Aloysius spent much time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, understanding that Eucharistic piety was a true foretaste of eternal glories. His time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament prepared him to see in others the very image and likeness of the One He loved with such innocence and purity. It was this pure love of Our Lord that moved him to reject the courtly privileges of the Gonzaga family and to join the Society of Jesus when he was seventeen years of age. He excelled in his theological studies, excelling even more in his service to the poor and the the forgotten, especially the little waifs of the Trastevere district in Rome (where one will find these days a few Vatican offices) to whom he taught and explained the basics of the catechism. It was his desire to serve the Christ in the poor and the sick and the suffering that brought him to the bedside of a patient who was dying from the plague, thereby exposing himself to the disease that killed him in short order.

Saint Aloysius did not fear exposing his mortal body to the dangers of a man dying from the plague. He understood that suffering and physical death, both of which are punishments for Original Sin, are not the most dangerous things for a human being. Exposure to the near occasions of sin was what could result in the eternal death of the soul. Far better to be exposed to the diseases of mortal flesh than to contaminate both body and soul by a lukewarmness of spirit and/or by the casual embrace of sin and sinful influences in the course of one's daily life. Saint Aloysius teaches us to recognize that our souls must be kept free from the contagion of sin and error lest we die of the spiritual plagues of pride, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, sloth and greed and their permutations. His confessor, Saint Robert Bellarmine, believed that it was most certainly the case that Saint Aloysius had never committed a mortal sin in his entire life. It is possible for one to cooperate with the graces won for the many on the wood of the Holy Cross by the shedding of every single drop of the Divine Redeemer's Most Precious Blood to scale the heights of personal sanctity so that he can gain he highest place in Heaven next to that of the Blessed Mother herself.

Saint Aloysius asked Saint Robert Bellarmine if it was possible for a soul to go directly to Heaven without having to suffer in Purgatory. Saint Robert Bellarmine said that it was possible, thus inspiring Saint Aloysius to pray ceaselessly as he was dying from the plague, a malady that took his life around midnight at the end of the Octave Day of Corpus Christi, June 21, 1591. Four hundred thirteen years have passed since his death. The brightness of his love for Our Lord in His Real Presence still illumines the path of those First Communicants, especially those in Traditional Latin Mass communities and parishes, who are given Saint Aloysisus as an example to imitate as they prepare to receive Our Lord for the first time in Holy Communion. How fitting it is that both Pope Benedict XIII and Pope Pius XI declared Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J., the patron of youth. You see, all we need to do to turn back the plagues of sin and sinful influences that seek to besmirch and ensnare the young today is to teach them about saints such as Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and Saint Therese Lisieux. There is no need at all for the evil of various "instruction programs" as to how to avoid sins of impurity. All a young Catholic needs is the good example of Saint Aloysius and Saint Therese to prompt him or her to reject sin and to cooperate more fervently with the God's grace as a consecrated slave of Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.

Dom Gueranger wrote this beautiful prayer to Saint Aloysisus, found in The Liturgical Year:

"Venerable old age is not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years: but the understanding of man is grey hairs; and a spotless life is old age." (Wisdom 4: 8-9) And therefore, Aloysius, thou dost hold a place of honour amidst the ancients of they people! Glory be to the holy Society in the midst whereof thou didst, in so short a space, fulfill a lon course; obtain that she may ever continue to treasure, both for herself and others, the teaching that flows that thy life of innocence and love. Holiness is the one only thing, when life is ended, that can be called a true gain; and holiness is acquired from within. External works count with God, only in as far as the interior breath that inspires them is pure; if occasion for exercising works be wanting, man can easily always supply the deficiency by drawing nigh unto the Lord, in the secrecy of his soul, as much as, and even more than, he could have done by their means. Thus didst thou see and understand the question; and therefore prayer, which held thee absorbed in its ineffable delights, succeeded in making thee equal to the very martyrs. What a priceless treasure was prayer in thine eyes, what a heaven-lent boon, and one that is indeed in our reach, too, just as it was in thine! But in order to find therein, as thou didst express it, 'the short cut to perfection,' perseverance is needed and a careful elimination from the soul, by a generous self-repression, of every emotion which is not of God. For how could muddy or troubled waters mirror forth the image of him who stands on their brink? Even so, a soul that is sullied, or a soul that without being quite a slave of passion is not yet mistress of every earthly perturbation, can never reach the object of prayer, which is to reproduced within her the tranquil image of her God.

The reproduction of the one great model was perfect in thee; and hence it can be seen how nature (as regards what she has of good), far from losing or suffering aught, rather gains by this process of recasting in the divine crucible. Even in what touches the most legitimate affections, thou didst look at things no loner form the earthly point of view; but beholding all in God, far were the things of sense transcended, with all their deceptive feebleness, and wondrously did thy love grow in consequence! For instance, what could be more touching than thy sweet attentions, not only upon earth, but even from thy throne in heaven, for that admirable woman given thee by our Lord to be thine earthly mother? Where may tenderness be found equal to the affection effusions written to her by thee in that letter of a saint to the mother of a saint, which thou didst address to her shortly before quitting thine earthly pilgrimage? And still more, what exquisite delicacy thou didst evince, in making her the recipient of thy first miracle, worked after thine entrance into glory! Furthermore, the Holy Ghost, by setting thee on fire with the flame of divine charity, developed also within thee immense love for thy neighbour: necessarily so because charity is essentially one; and well was this proved when thou wast seen sacrificing thy life so blithely for the sock and the plague-stricken.

Cease not, O dearest saint, to aid us in the midst of so many miseries; lend a kindly hand to each and all. Christian youth has a special claim upon they patronage, for it is by the Sovereign Pontiff himself that this precious portion of the flock is gathered around thy throne. Direct their feeble steps along the right path, so often enticed to turn into dangerous by-roads; may prayer and earnest toil, for God's dear sake, be their stay and safeguard; may they be enlightened in the serious matter before them of choosing a state of life. We beseech thee, dearest saint, exert strong influence over them during this most critical period of their opening years, so that they may truly experience all the potency of that fair privilege which is ever thine, of preserving in thy devout clients the angelical virtue! Yea, furthermore, Aloysius, look compassionately on those who have not imitated thine innocence, and obtain that they may yet follow thee in the example of thy penance; such is the petition of holy Church this day.

We pray, therefore, to Saint Aloysius on his feast day so that we who have been impure in thought, word and deed might become serious about the pursuit of holiness and embrace with joy the cross of penance and humiliation as the true pathway to making our souls as white as they were when we wore white suits and white ties and white shoes and white socks and white shirts (or white dresses and white veils) at the time we received our First Holy Communion. May Saint Aloysius, a pure lover of the Eucharist, help us to spend many hidden hours in prayer before the tabernacle, keeping company with Our Lady and all of the angels and saints, including Saint Aloysius himself.

Our Lady, Queen of All Saints, pray for us.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us.

Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, pray for us.

Saint Robert Bellarmine, pray for us.





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