Thursday, June 21, 2012

Devotion for today: prayer, study, action: the tripod of the spiritual life

Today we look at St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron saint of youth, whose story teaches us the foundation of the spiritual life. Today is his feast day.
“I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered religion to get twisted straight.” St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Aloysius is the Latin form of Gonzaga's given name, Luigi. In English, the equivalent form would be Louis. The Gonzaga name is well known in Italy. Aloysius Gonzaga was born at Castiglione near Mantua, Italy, in 1568 to a celebrated family of wealth and prestige. As the first born son of his father, Ferrante, and his mother, Marta, he was in line to inherit his father's title of Marquis. He grew up amid the violence and brutality of the Renaissance Italy and witnessed the murder of two of his brothers. In 1576, Aloysius' parents sent him to attend the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco de'Medici, in Florence. Later, accompanied by his parents, he traveled to Spain to join the court of Philip II in Madrid.
In Spain, Aloysius decided he wanted to join the newly founded religious order, The Society of Jesus. His father resisted his decision and there followed a struggle of wills that continued after his return to Castiglione in 1584. But Aloysius eventually prevailed. Renouncing his right to the title of Marquis and to the vast wealth he was destined to inherit, he entered the Society of Jesus in Rome on November 25, 1585. During his early studies in Rome, he would regularly go out into the streets of the city to care for victims of the plague. He himself contracted the disease as a result of his efforts for the suffering and died on June 21, 1591, at the age of twenty-three, six years short of his ordination as a Jesuit priest. Even before his time as a Jesuit, Aloysius was known for his love of prayer and fasting. He received his First Communion from St. Charles Borromeo. As a Jesuit at the Roman College, he continued to devote his time to prayer and practices of austerity. His spiritual director was Robert Bellarmine who later was canonized and declared a doctor of the church. When Robert was dying, he asked to be buried next to the grave of Aloysius. Today, they rest next to each other in the church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Rome. Pope Benedict XIII canonized Aloysius in 1726, and three years later declared him to be the patron of youth in the Catholic Church, an honor later confirmed by Pope Pius XI in 1926 (

Scriptures for meditation: 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Psalm 199:11, Proverbs 28:27,
“Pray without ceasing.” “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  He who gives to the poor suffers no want, but he who ignores them gets many a curse.”

My thoughts: We have a solid spiritual life if it is based on the tripod of prayer, study and action. Our lives, however, must follow that order. Without praying first, we are not allowing God to direct our study and action. Without study of God’s word, we have no direction for understanding good verses bad, and without action, we are full of God’s direction and understand His will but do nothing with it. St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s brief life shows us the power of the tripod. By prayer and fasting he was able to discern God’s will for his life. By constant study and direction he learned the way to bring God’s mercy and love into the world, and by his action, he comforted many sick and dying people. We may not  literally take ourselves into plague-riddled cities to bring Jesus to the hurting, but we do figuratively do just that every time we step out our doors into a society which is sick and dying because they have lost the path to God. We can be like St. Aloysius by caring more for others than we do for ourselves, by testifying to the truth of surrender to God’s will, which brings Authentic Freedom, and by prayer, prayer and then prayer. God loves us and wants us to know Him and His plan for heavenly living. “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” St. Aloysius, patron saint of youth, pray for us.

Prayer: Prayer to Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron of Youth
Dear Christian youth, you were a faithful follower of Christ in the Society of Jesus. You steadily strove for perfection while generously serving the plague-stricken. Help our youth today who are faced with a plague of false cults and false gods. Show them how to harness their energies and to use them for their own and others' fulfillment—which will redound to the greater glory of God. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I want the tripod! :)