21st June – St Aloysius Gonzaga

Jesus’ words in today’s gospel (Matt 7:6,12-14) are sobering:narrow gate

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

This clearly contradicts the presumptuousness common in present-day funerals as if salvation was automatic regardless of our commitment to Jesus. It clearly contradicts the prayer Our Lady of Fatima asked to be added to each decade of the Rosary: “O’ my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.”

If we wish to direct our lives to the Narrow Gate, we should draw great inspiration from our saint of the day, Aloysius Gonzaga (*1568 +1591).

He was the eldest son of a nobleman, and was intended by his father to be a soldier. Aloysius, on the other hand, had determined to be a missionary, and even to die for his faith. He renounced his birthright in favour of his brother and at the age of 16 became a Jesuit novice in Rome, living the same life of severe austerity and penance that he had followed even when serving in the courts of dukes and princes. In 1591 an epidemic of plague broke out in Rome, and the Jesuits opened a hospital to care for the sick. Aloysius, still a novice, worked hard in the hospital until he himself caught the plague. He did not recover; but, his determination to die for the faith having been fulfilled, died at midnight on the 20th of June with the name of Jesus on his lips.

This is an excerpt of a letter he wrote to his mother from his deathbed:

The divine goodness, most honoured lady, is a fathomless and shore-less ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this, it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labours, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears [of penitence]  I have so seldom shed.