THE REV. F. GOLDIE, S.J.
In a time
of terrible wars, when the passions excited by the false Reformation
were still at red heat, but while the effects of the true Reform
were making themselves felt throughout Europe; when St. Pius V.
was in the Chair of Peter, and Elizabeth was reigning in England,
St. Aloysius was born in his ancestral castle at Castiglione in
Lombardy, on March 9th, 1568.
his father, was not only Marquis by title, but also the sovereign
of his little state. He was besides a gallant soldier. Aloysius
was his eldest child. Our Saint's mother, a lady of high family
in Piedmont, had met her husband at the Court of Madrid, when
she was maid of honour to the Queen Isabel, who had brought her
in her train on coming from France.
of Castiglione were a junior branch of the historic family which
had made so great a name for itself. By inter-marriages they were
connected with the Hohenzollerns, the Bourbons, the d'Estes, the
house of Aragon, the Guises, the Medici, and all the chief families
of Christendom, and Aloysius was himself related to some twenty
Cardinals. The rival powers of France and Spain had made Lombardy
in those days the battlefield of their jealousies. Open wars or
secret intrigues had necessarily demoralized the peoples of those
lands. The Gonzagas held high positions in the service of Spain
and Germany, and were famous alike in court and in camp, and not
less so in the field of Arts and Letters. But the taint of the
times was on them, and their domestic history bears traces of
wild ambitions and strong passions such as were stirring in those
days of struggle and contest.
of St. Aloysius was attended with such danger to the mother and
child alike, that she vowed a pilgrimage to Loreto, and the babe
was baptized almost before it was born.
to have been a special grace about the child from its earliest
days, and the mother, who was very pious, and who longed above
everything to foster a like spirit in her baby boy, was delighted
to notice his fondness for prayer. But the father's pride was
to bring up his son to be a soldier like himself, and as he had
to drill a large muster of troops enlisted in the service of the
Emperor Charles V. for the expedition of Don John of Austria to
Tunis, he took Aloysius away with him, though not then five years
old, to the camp. There he was delighted to see his little son
marching in the front rank at the reviews in a suit of light armour,
and with a diminutive pike upon his shoulder.
thoroughly entered into the spirit of the thing, and showed a
daring that delighted, though it now and again alarmed, his father.
He burnt his face one day while firing off a musket; and on another
occasion, at the time of the mid-day siesta, he took some powder
from a soldier's pouch, and actually loaded and discharged a small
field piece. The report startled the whole camp from its afternoon
sleep and he was very nearly run over by the recoil of the gun.
Marquis marched away with his troops, Aloysius was sent home,
and it was soon found that the child had picked up from the soldiers
a coarse expression of which he did not know the meaning, but
by which, on being reprimanded by his tutor, he was so horrified
that even when accusing himself in subsequent confessions of the
fault, he could not bring himself to repeat the word. This and
the theft of the powder were subjects of his life-long repentance,
the only faults of any gravity of which he could accuse himself.
age of seven, when reason dawned more fully on his mind, such
a wonderful spiritual light came to his soul, with so clear an
understanding of the things of God, that he ever spoke of that
time as the period of his conversion. Nor in fact did he ever
look back in his swift ascent to perfection. He began each day
to say long prayers, of which the Gradual and Penitential psalms
were but a part; and even though he got one of the wretched fevers
so common in the Lombard plain he would not abandon this pious
valour of Don John of Austria had won the day at Tunis, in 1573,
Don Ferrante came back to Europe; but he stayed two years at the
Court of Spain. On his return home, he found Aloysius completely
changed and given up to holy thoughts. The first symptoms had
already shown themselves of that terrible scourge of the plague,
which during the following year was to devastate Milan, and thus
to call forth the devotion of St. Charles Borromeo. The Marquis
determined to seek shelter in the deep valleys and richlywooded
hillsides of the Baths of Lucca. He hoped also there to find
relief from gout, as he was a great sufferer, and to leave his
sons, Aloysius and Rodolph at Florence, to acquire the exquisite
accent for which that cultured city was so famous. The Grand Duke
would have taken the two boys into his palace, but their father
was anxious that they should attend to their studies, and only
consented that they should go to Court on Sundays and holidays.
At the palace, St. Aloysius had, amongst other children as his
play-mates, Mary de' Medici, the future Queen and Regent of France.
He had to join in their sports and amusements, but he much preferred
to build up and decorate little altars out of devotion.
was always dear to our Saint, and he ever after looked upon that
bright city as the cradle of his sanctity. He had come across
a book by a Spanish Jesuit, a work familiar in old days to the
persecuted Catholics of England, on the Rosary; and it filled
his young heart with a high idea of that precious devotion and
taught him to know and to love better our dear Lord and His Blessed
Mother. In the Church of the Servite Fathers is an ancient painting
of the Annunciation, and tradition tells us that an Angel finished
the head of our Lady, which it had baffled the skill of the artist
to complete. This shrine was an object of much devotion, and Aloysius,
who lived not far off, loved to pray before it. Once while at
his devotions, St. Aloysius was moved to dedicate his virginity
to God by vow, and from that moment he became more like an angel
than a man, and never was troubled in mind or body by a shadow
of those wild storms which are the heritage of man's fallen nature.
The Roman tribunal which examined his case for canonization declared
that his innocence was not only rare, but that no like case was
At his first
confession to a Jesuit Father at Florence, Aloysius was so filled
with shame at the sight of his sins, and of reverence to the minister
of so mighty a grace that he fainted at the feet of his director,
and his tutor had to lead him home dazed and confused. He returned
the following day, and made what he called a general confession,
and from that time began seriously and steadily to study the defects
of his character, with a view to correcting them. He felt the
chief source of his faults to be his hot temper and an inclination
to speak unkindly of others. But he bridled his strong character
with so firm a hand that he never after felt any rebellion, except
perhaps when he chanced to be praised. And in order to forestall
faults of the tongue, he withdrew as far as possible from society,
and though never morose, became as silent as a Carthusian.
years at his beloved Florence, Aloysius and his brother were summoned
to the brilliant court of his relative the Duke of Mantua. Here
a troublesome and dangerous illness obliged him to diet himself
very strictly, and he learned to love at that early age a fast
worthy of the Fathers of the desert. And when his ailment had
departed, he still insisted on continuing an abstinence which
seemed to leave little room for his stricter fasts on several
days during the week. Meanwhile the thought of leaving the world
was taking clearer shape in his mind, and he fully determined
to assign to his younger brother, the headstrong Rodolph, the
heirship of his ancestral states. Aloysius kept away from theatricals
and fêtes of the Court, and found his delight in reading
the Lives of the Saints, by Surio, or talking with holy people
whose thoughts ran in the same channel as his own. But his father
heard how feeble and thin his son had grown, and sent for him
to the bracing and breezy heights of the Castle of Castiglione.
It looked down on the spacious precincts of the town, with its
open spaces and many gardens and over the intervening hills to
the lovely Lake of Garda, 'the bluest of all waters.'
was indignant with the boy's tutor at the state of St. Aloysius,
but he found that neither he nor even the fond mother could make
the child alter his ways. On the contrary, God drew him nearer
to himself. Hitherto St. Aloysius had only employed vocal prayer.
Now, without human teaching, he learnt the method of meditation.
He seemed unable to withdraw himself from its attraction. He spent
the greater part of his day shut up in his room; and when the
servants peered through the chinks of the door to see what their
young master was doing, they saw him on his knees with his eyes
fixed on a crucifix, his arms outstretched or crossed on his breast,
while he sighed and sobbed as if he had been standing on Calvary,
and was witnessing the tortures and death of his Lord and Love.
His tears were so constant that not only were his clothes wet
by them but they flowed down on the floor. Even when going about
the house he was continually absorbed in prayer.
Just at this
time B. Peter Canisius' little work of Daily Meditations, which
had been published a year or two before in Mantua, fell into his
hands, and taught him the time he ought to spend in mental prayer,
giving him valuable hints as to how to practise it. He came across
another work also, the "Letters from India," three series of which
had appeared in Venice. Like our "Annals of the Propagation of
the Faith," it gave the reports of the progress of the Church
by the Missions of the Society of Jesus in India and America.
It fired him with a desire to do what he could for souls. He used
to frequent the Sunday School, and there to help to teach the
little ones and the ignorant among his father's vassals.
God and the
things of God were the only topics of which he cared to speak.
Once when his mother took him on a visit to the widowed Duchess
of Milan, whose beautiful portrait by Holbein adorns the collection
of the Duke of Norfolk, the attendants were amazed at the heavenly
wisdom of his remarks, for, as they said, if they had not seen
him, they would have thought it was an old man that was speaking.
1580 was specially blessed, because the holy Archbishop of Milan,
St. Charles in making a visitation of the dioceses of his suffragans,
came and stopped at Castiglione.
refused the hospitality of the Castle and stayed with the parish
priest. There St. Aloysius went to see him, and the two saints
soon understood one another. St. Charles found the boy had not,
though twelve years old, made his first Communion, and seeing
how fit he was, asked to have the privilege to give It to him
with his own hands. This he did on July 22. We have no record
of the fervour with which the Saint received his Divine Guest,
but his devotion to the Mystery of Love ever after tells us how
great it must have been. St. Charles bade St. Aloysius farewell
by a fatherly and fervent blessing. He had recommended strongly
to our Saint the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which had
then but lately appeared, and St. Aloysius became so fond of the
solid and beautiful instructions it contains that he spoke highly
of it in turn to others.
the Marquis, who was at his post at Montferrato, as Governor for
the Duke of Mantua, ordered his wife to come and join him with
the two boys. As St. Aloysius and Rodolph were crossing a ford
of the river Ticino in a flood, the carriage, one of the clumsy
vehicles of the period, broke in two, and while the horses dragged
the front part safe to shore with Rodolph who was seated in it,
the back part with our Saint and his tutor was swept down the
stream. It was providentially stopped by the trunk of a tree,
which the torrent had brought down, and drenched and half dead
the two were rescued in succession by a man on horse back, who
got them off safe. It was at Montferrato, in company with the
Barnabite Fathers and the Capuchins, his constant companions,
that St. Aloysius's resolve about religious life was finally made.
He envied them their freedom from the ties of the world, their
joyful hearts, their entire devotion to God and their indifference
whether to live or to die. People noticed how more than usually
absorbed and abstracted he had become, and his religious friends
read in his face what was going on in his mind.
On his return
to Castiglione, in 1581, St. Aloysius continued with more rigour
than ever his life of penance and prayer. The love of our Lord,
as it always does when it is genuine, made him unwilling to live
in comfort and without pain. He shunned the bright charcoal fire
in the braziers, which are the sole defence against the sharp
winter beneath the frozen Alps. Even if forced out of civility
to approach, he took care not to enjoy the warmth, and his hands
were chapped by the severe cold. When his father took him to see
a great review at Milan, he went into a back seat and turned his
eyes from the brilliant sight.
In the autumn,
Mary of Austria, the daughter of Philip II. of Spain, and widow
of the Emperor Maximilian, was returning to her beloved country,
and her royal father ordered the princes and nobility of Italy,
who were his subjects, to accompany her. Leaving their younger
children behind, the Marquis and Marchioness of Castiglione, with
Aloysius, Rodolph, and their only daughter went to meet the imperial
party as far as Trent, and accompanied them by Genoa and Marseilles.
There our Saint honoured the relics of St. Mary Magdalen.
and her suite took ship at Marseille and landed at Collioure on
the Spanish coast. They went across the country to the mountain
sanctuary of Our Lady of Montserrat, and to her other shrine almost
as famous, of "The Pillar" at Saragossa.
St Aloysius and his brother Rodolph were installed in the palace
as pages of honour to the boy prince Diego, heir to all the Spains.
Under the guidance of his tutor, St. Aloysius pursued his philosophical
studies, natural science, the globes, logic, and the ethics of
that marvellous but eccentric genius, Raymond Lull. Aloysius happened
to pass through Alcala when a "public act" or defension of theology
was going on under the celebrated Jesuit theologian, Father Gabriel
Vasquez, and though but fifteen or sixteen years of age, our Saint
was invited to object. He did so with such skill as to give promise
of a brilliant future.
the charms of study, nor the splendours of a court, the most punctilious
and magnificent in Europe, consoled Aloysius for the inroads made
on time which he would have liked to give entirely to God. He
found his devotions somewhat chilled by his absorbing duties,
and he resolved, without neglecting what he was bound to do, to
draw a sharp and definite line, beyond which nothing but absolute
duty should compel him to go. He refused to make any calls of
mere ceremony, and would neither learn to dance, nor practise
gymnastics like his younger brother. He kept so strict a guard
over his eyes that though every day that the Empress Mary was
in Madrid at the royal Convent of the Discalced Franciscans —
she stayed some twenty days in the capital — he accompanied the
Infante to make her a formal visit, he never once looked at her,
and did not know whether her hair was dark or grey, nor could
he have recognised her again. The nobles and gentlemen of the
court respected his presence, and never ventured on a light word
when he was near. "The little Marquis of Castiglione," they used
to say, "is not made of flesh and blood."
prince Diego was once standing at a window, and a violent wind
annoyed him. "Stop, wind," he pettishly cried, "and do not bother
me." St. Aloysius playfully yet seriously reminded his young master
that though he was lord of men, he was "not lord of the wind,
which owned no master but their common Creator." But with all
Aloysius' gravity and dislike of state or of amusement, the Prince
was still very fond of his admonitor.
faithful to his resolve, gave himself up with new fervour to his
prayers and austerities. A fresh reason made him redouble his
endeavours and his supplications. Steadily the conviction had
been growing upon him that God wished him to leave the world entirely.
Now it had come merely to the question as to what Order to enter.
The Society of Jesus had a special attraction for him, because
it seemed to bar the way to any ecclesiastical dignities. He was
naturally drawn to a life of retirement and external austerity;
but his mother assured him that his health would be sure to sink
under it and he would be forced to give up the dearest wish of
On the feast
of Our Lady's Assumption, 1583, for which he had prepared with
special fervour, he was praying after Holy Communion, in the chapel
of our Lady in the great Church of the Jesuits at Madrid, now
called San Isidro, when suddenly a distinct voice came to him
bidding him to enter into the Society of Jesus, and telling him
to inform his confessor as soon as possible of what had occurred.
That feast is a day specially sacred to the Society, as upon it
the first vows of St. Ignatius and his companions were made at
Montmartre, and upon it too St. Stanislaus went to his reward
in the very year of St. Aloysius' birth. St. Aloysius hastened
to his confessor, Father Paterno. The Father was no doubt well
aware of his fitness, and that his calm judgment protected him
from delusion. He told him however that he must necessarily first
receive his father's approval before he could be received. St.
Aloysius went to break the news to his mother. She took his side
earnestly, and pleaded his cause so strongly with her husband,
who was furious at the announcement, that he suspected her of
favouring Rodolph and of wishing to supplant Aloysius in the Marquisate.
son came himself to speak to Don Ferrante on his own part, the
Marquis broke into a violent passion and drove him out of his
sight. He even threatened to have him stripped and flogged for
his audacity. St Aloysius' only reply was: "Would that I could
have the privilege to suffer something for God." Don Ferrante
sent for Paterno, and vented his rage upon him, accusing him roundly
of putting this idea into his son's head, upon whom were centred
all the hopes of his family and of his states. The Father succeeded
in calming the Marquis and showed him that the boy's life was
quite enough to tell anyone which way his thoughts were tending.
The Marquis avowed that he would not have made such strong objections
to his entering any other Order, because his son could by that
means have obtained some dignity in the Church fitting his high
birth. But as St. Aloysius assured his father, this was just the
very thing he sought to avoid.
It was a
weary and long struggle for the Saint. This however winnowed his
vocation, and left it pure from any imperfect motive. It
proved that it came directly and entirely from God. His father
tried to persuade himself that it was a mere passing fancy, and
that in opposing his son's wishes he was not opposing the will
of God. The little prince Diego had died of small-pox and so Aloysius
was now free but his father, anxious to delay, promised him through
his cousin, the Father General of the Friar Minors of the Observance,
that he would be at liberty to follow his call, if he would return
with him to Italy. People at the court imagined that the whole
thing was but a mere scheme of St. Aloysius to scare his father
from gambling, a pursuit by which he was impoverishing himself;
and they praised his knowledge and tact.
As they were
sailing on their return voyage along the coast of Southern France
there was an alarm of Turkish pirates, and they were chased by
the Bey of Algiers to the very port of Marseilles. St. Aloysius
at once exclaimed, "Would that we might be martyred!"
In the July
of 1584, St. Aloysius was back again in Castiglione, and hoped
soon to be released. But his father said he must first go
on a tour of visits to the princes of Northern Italy with his
brother Rodolph. He hoped that a life among brilliant courts would
give his son new tastes, and would wean him from his design. But
though our Saint won the affection and esteem of all, he only
showed more than ever how fixed was his heart in its love of higher
things, and in contempt of all the brave gaieties of Florence
and Ferrara. He would not even wear the splendid clothes, all
heavy with gold embroidery, which the Marquis had ordered for
him to appear before the Royal Duchess, Ann of Austria, Infanta
of Spain, and wife of the reigning Duke of Savoy. Rodolph had
to wear them in his place, and they suited well his fine figure.
The journey was spent by St. Aloysius like a pious pilgrimage,
in spite of the almost royal honours with which he was received,
and of the number of attendants who accompanied him. He found
his chief delight in the houses of the Society, paying there always
his first visit to his Sacramental Lord. He never omitted either
his fasts or exercises of devotion; and at night if he had to
stay at an inn, he shut himself up in a room, and before an improvised
cross, which he drew with a morsel of charcoal on a piece of paper,
he spent a good hour and a half in prayer.
At a house
of the relatives of his mother at Turin, an old gentleman dared
to begin in presence of St. Aloysius a loose conversation with
a number of young men that were there. "How dare you, an aged
man of your station of life, speak of such things to these young
gentlemen? This is a scandal and evil example," exclaimed the
Saint, as he turned on his heel; and taking up a religious book,
he went into a room some way off, to show his displeasure.
when invited to an uncle's house at Chieri in Piedmont, he found
a ball had been got up in his honour. He could hardly stay away
under the circumstances, but he went into the ball-room upon the
express condition that he should not be asked to dance. However
he had hardly sat down when a lady came up to him to invite him
to be her partner. Aloysius at once rose and left the hall. Some
time after, his uncle, who could not find him anywhere, chanced
to pass through one of the servants' rooms, and there he noticed
his nephew, hidden between the bed and the wall, absorbed in prayer.
On his return to Castiglione, Don Ferrante only made fresh endeavours
to turn St. Aloysius from his resolve. Everyone of weight and
influence, relatives and strangers, priests and laymen, whom Don
Ferrante could enlist in the work, were employed by him, but in
vain, to shake his vocation. Aloysius' only weapon was renewed
prayer and increased penance.
At last the
chance sight of his son disciplining himself to blood wrung a
tardy consent from his father, and Aloysius at once used every
effort to procure from the Emperor on whom his states depended,
the necessary transfer of the fief to his brother. Meanwhile he
went to Milan on some business for his father, who was unable
through the gout to see after his affairs. There he astonished
everyone by his aptitude and skill. At the same time, he pursued
his studies, and used to go to the Jesuit College to attend lectures
on science, dressed simply in a cloak, without even a sword, the
obligatory mark of gentle birth in those days. In a grand cavalcade
during the Carnival, in which all the young men of fashion took
part on valuable horses richly caparisoned, accompanied by a large
number of attendants, to show how utterly he had given up the
world and how he contemned it, he rode through the street where
the procession was passing on a miserable old mule and followed
by only two servants.
orders to return home, his father quite unexpectedly arrived one
day in Milan, and, as a last resource, he begged Father Achilles
Gagliardi, a Jesuit of great name and the friend of St. Charles
Borromeo, to test the vocation of his son. This the Father consented
to do, as the Marquis promised him to stand by his decision.
His arguments were so powerful and apparently so genuine that
Aloysius was somewhat disturbed, for it seemed to him that Gagliardi,
whose opinion he so much valued, was opposed to his entering the
Society. However our Saint answered so wisely, and so thoroughly,
that even his father was forced to admit that the vocation was
a true one.
the day was not won. Before returning to Castiglione, Aloysius
sought strength and light in a retreat at the Jesuit College at
Mantua. When he came home he led the life of a solitary in the
castle, so strict was his silence, so severe his fasts, so rigorous
his penances. His only director was his fervour, and one of the
arguments his mother used to induce the Marquis to give his consent
that Aloysius might be allowed to enter religion, was that he
would be there protected from his own indiscretion, and his life
prolonged; for he had grown so weak that he could hardly stand.
But the Marquis
in answer to the Saint's fresh request, told him plainly that
he never would give his consent until his son was twenty-five,
and that if he chose to go without his leave, go he might, but
he would cease to own him as his son. This was a crushing blow
to St. Aloysius; and his first thought was to write to the Father
General of the Society and ask his advice. But Don Ferrante pressed
him so hard for a reply that he had to act on the spur of the
moment. He told his father accordingly that he consented to the
delay, but only on two conditions, that he should spend the interval
in Rome, and that the Marquis should write to the General at once
and declare that he had given his consent. St Aloysius himself
wrote a letter to Father Acquaviva, the General of the Society,
to tell him what he had done. That Father could sympathise with
the young man, for he himself had left high place to enter the
Order. Meanwhile arrangements were being made for the Saint's
stay in Rome, in a position fitting his high rank. He openly lamented
to his intimate friends that he had not been born a simple peasant
boy, for then he would have met with no difficulties, if anxious
to become a religious. Suddenly, in the midst of his earnest prayers,
Aloysius felt an impulse which he could not resist. He followed
it, and entering the room of his father, who was confined to bed
with the gout, said to him with the greatest firmness: "Father,
I leave myself entirely in your hands, you can do what you like
with me; but I tell you positively that God has called me to the
Society of Jesus, and in resisting my wishes you are resisting
the will of God." Then he left the room without another word.
turned his face to the wall, and broke out into such a fit of
grief that his sobs and cries could .be heard outside. He sent
for St. Aloysius. "My son,'' he said, "you have stabbed me to
my heart, for I love .you and have always loved you, as you indeed
deserve. In you I have put all my hopes and those of our family.
But as God calls you, I do not wish to keep you. Go where
you please, and I give you my blessing."
thanked his father, and escaped from the room lest he should increase
his grief. He hurried to throw himself on his knees, and thank
God for this favour so long delayed. The news soon spread through
the town, and all were deeply grieved to lose their good young
master. Some ventured to press him to stay and be their prince.
"I want," he answered, "to be a prince in Heaven. It is hard for
a sovereign to save his soul." As the carriage bore him off to
Mantua, the poor people filled the air with loud laments over
weary waiting yet. His mother was at the court of the newly wedded
Duchess of Savoy, and all the possible heirs expectant to the
Marquisate were, by order of the Emperor, to be present at the
solemn renunciation. An additional difficulty was, that by the
deed, the Marquis had settled a sum of money on St. Aloysius for
his own private use. But this was contrary to the rule of St.
Ignatius, and, for fear of invalidating the whole, fresh changes
had to be made.
on All Souls' day, 1585, in the vast palace of the Gonzagas, in
a hall then bright with the creations of Mantegna, a brilliant
family gathering were listening to the long document which transferred
the succession irrevocably from Aloysius to his young and hot-blooded
brother. Don Ferrante was in tears the whole time, while Aloysius
was full of joy. As he signed this act of renunciation, he said
to Rodolph, who could not conceal his boyish delight, "Well, brother,
which of us is the more pleased? I am sure that it is I."
he bade good bye to his father and mother, and on his knees begged
reverently their blessing, but his heart was too full of joy for
any grief to show itself in his face: and on the fourth of November
he set out for Rome with a suite of attendants which his father
had provided for him. Rodolph went with him as far as the riverside;
there they parted and the party took boat for Ferrara.
gone before as to what he was and what his errand, and the crowds
of pilgrims gazed at the young prince, who had made so hard a
fight to be poor with Christ. The journey was to him one long
prayer, sweetened by penance. At the early dawn, before starting,
he made a brief meditation and next recited the day hours of the
Divine Office with his chaplain, and the "Itinerarium" or prayers
for travellers. He then mounted, and rode on alone, absorbed in
thoughts of God, and if ever he called the priest to his side
it was only to talk to him on holy things. While the horses baited,
he broke his fast, and then said Vespers and Complin, and mounted
again. His mind flew off to the rigorous life he hoped to spend
in religion, and to lands where dangers and death awaited him
in his zeal for souls. Did England and the gibbet of Tyburn come
before his mind? It was then ennobled with fresh Martyrs' blood.
evening came on sharp and cold, he would never warm himself at
the inn fireside, but spent two hours in prayer, and scourged
himself as was his wont. After this he said Matins and Lauds;
and only then came down to partake of a very poor supper. But
for the prohibition of his confessor, he would have continued
his regular and constant fasts.
close of November, Rome appeared to the travellers, not crowned
as now by the mighty dome, but suggestive as ever of the devout
thoughts which it recalls to the pious millions who have trodden
its sacred soil. The party went to the house of the Patriarch,
After a short
rest, St. Aloysius hastened to the old house, then standing in
all its poverty, wherein St. Ignatius and his first companions
had lived, and where the holy founder, B. Peter Favre and St.
Francis Borgia had died. Father Acquaviva came down to meet him
in the garden; and the Saint threw himself at his feet and renewed
the offering of himself. The General raised him up, and kissed
him affectionately on the forehead.
November 23, St. Aloysius went to an audience of the Holy Father.
As he was waiting in the antechamber a crowd of courtiers
gathered round him and looked with wonder upon one who turned
his back upon wealth and honours. Pope Sixtus V. asked Aloysius
if he had weighed well the difficulties and wearisomeness of a
religious life, but when the Saint had told him that he had considered
the matter thoroughly and for a long time, the Pontiff encouraged
him to persevere, and gave him a hearty blessing.
the feast of St. Catherine, the Saint with his attendants went
up the Quirinal hill to the Noviciate of Sant' Andrea, then fresh
with the memories of St. Stanislaus. At the door, St. Aloysius
bade good-bye to his faithful household, giving them a message
to his father and mother. "What shall we say to Rodolph?" they
asked. "He who fears God, will do good," were the Saint's well-timed
words. The Patriarch stayed to say Mass and give Holy Communion
to his dear relative, and then remained to dine with Father General,
who had come there to meet them. When all the guests were gone,
and St. Aloysius was led to the room where he was to spend in
solitude the first days of his religious life, he burst out into
those fitting words: "This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell,
for I have chosen it." He then went on his knees and thanked God
for the grace which had come at last, and St. Catherine's feast
was ever after a marked day in his calendar.
In the early
days of his religious life, his father died, and died too, as
he had lived since his son's entry into religion, a most exemplary
and edifying life. Aloysius, though he wrote a letter of condolence
to his mother, so mastered his grief that it seemed as if he had
forgotten his father and his father's house.
at Sant' Andrea, as at the Gesù, was a man of very signal
virtue. To him he unveiled his whole heart, and the very simplicity
and humility of Aloysius only made the Father reverence him the
more deeply. It fell out that the superior's health broke down,
and to save his life the doctors ordered him to be carried in
a litter to Naples, and three of the weakest novices were ordered
to keep him company. Of these was George Elphinstone, of good
Scottish family, whose uncle had died a saintly death but a short
time before as a novice in the Society at Naples; St. Aloysius
was another, and as he was the weakest, Father Pescatore, the
novice-master, would have him with him in his litter. The Saint
tried to evade the luxury, but when ordered to accept it, was
delighted to be privileged with the company of one so holy and
so learned in the science of the soul, and as the Father poured
out his rich seed of spiritual knowledge on so well prepared a
soil, Aloysius owned that he learnt more in that journey than
in all the noviciate together.
he had for his companion the Blessed martyr, Charles Spinola,
who was to give his life so gloriously for God in far-off Japan,
and the memory of St. Aloysius was fresh in his mind during the
horrors of his terrible prison at Omura. At Naples as at Rome
the thirst for lowliness and suffering was the conspicuous characteristic
of the Saint, and God chose to allow him to suffer some unintentional
neglect during a long and dangerous attack of erysipelas. He was
as radiant and joyous under it as always.
months saw St. Aloysius back in Rome, but this time in the great
Roman College, then fresh from the hands of its magnificent builder,
Gregory XIII. It was at that time, as it has been with some sad
intervals till the taking of Rome in 1870, a sort of Catholic
University, where the students of the National Colleges, gathered
under the shadow of the Vatican, drank in theology at its fountain
head. There came the new recruits for England's conversion, the
future martyrs and confessors and controversialists, to whom the
venerable College of St. Thomas of the English gave, thanks to
the generosity of the Roman Pontiff, what was refused to them
at Oxford and Cambridge. And in the lecture rooms of the Roman
College, no less than ten, who were to witness by their blood
on English scaffolds to the faith delivered by St. Augustine,
sat for some time by the side of St. Aloysius1. And
with them was Matthew Kellison, who for 28 years was president
of the English College of Douay; Father Blount, the first Provincial
of the English Province of the Society, and the well-known Father
John Gerard, S.J.
now began, at the age of 19, his final studies of theology, the
queen and mistress of all others; hardly could he have been under
better auspices, for Suarez, Vasquez, and Azor were among his
professors. Those who knew him best said that he was to them a
loving picture of what St. Thomas of Aquin must have been when
young. His piercing intellect, his brilliant memory, his docile
respect for his professors' views, his horror of eccentric opinions,
were the least remarkable points of the likeness. His burning
ardour in prayer, his strict fidelity to his spiritual duties,
the constant union of his heart and thoughts with God, his genuine
contempt of himself, were still closer traits of resemblance;
and above all, the marvellous purity of his soul. So intimate
was his union with God, that when asked by his superior, St Aloysius
was forced to own that for six months, the period which the question
regarded, the length of all his distractions together would not
amount to the space of a Hail Mary.
And his prayer
only made him more ready to oblige, ever gay and joyful at recreation,
though his talk was always of God, ever at the service of any
and of all, always anxious to bear another's burden, to serve
the sick and poor in the hospitals, or the cook in the College
kitchen, and never more pleased than when in poor and old clothes,
engaged on lowly and distasteful work.
On St. Catherine's
day, 1537, our Saint bound himself still closer to God by his
first religious vows; and in the following year, on four successive
Sundays, received the four Minor Orders in the Basilica of St.
John Lateran. The surplice in which he is represented reminds
us of this. A Martyr shared with him this fourfold privilege,
the Maronite Abraham Giorgi, who, in 1605, gave his life for his
God on the shores of the Red Sea.
But a rude
interruption of our Saint's studies was soon to occur. He was
resting for a few days from the heat and toils of Rome with his
companions on the green uplands of Frascati, when Ven. Father
Bellarmine was sent by the General to bid him to leave at once
for Lombardy. His brother Rodolph had been deprived of his rightful
succession to the Castle and property of Solferino. His uncle
Horace had left it away from him by will to the Duke of Mantua,
in spite of imperial law, and the Duke held it by right of might.
The impetuous Marquis of Castiglione, impatient of all delay,
was determined to try his quarrel by an appeal to arms, and the
Duchess of Mantua and Lady Martha, the Marquis' mother, wrote
to the Father General to beg him to send Aloysius, as the only
hope of staying a fratricidal war.
In a quarter
of an hour our Saint was on his way; He travelled in company with
a lay brother, and though his delicate health and the urgency
of the business required that he should go on horseback, he journeyed
in as lowly a way as his superiors would allow. He inspired everyone
with reverence; the very ostlers listened to his holy words, and
revealed to him the secrets of their souls, nor could they tear
themselves away from him. Much against the wish of Aloysius, -
his arrival at Castiglione had been announced beforehand, - he
was welcomed by ringing of bells, by salutes of artillery, and
still more by the loving reverence of prince and people. And he
met with similar marks of honour from his uncle Alphonsus, in
his town of Castel Goffredo. But he lived with the greatest simplicity
in his mother's house, refusing to be treated otherwise than as
a poor guest.
Duke of Mantua had steeled his heart to any arguments from others,
one hour and a half of conversation with Aloysius made him come
to terms and render up the castle of Solferino at once to the
Marquis. And in a still more delicate affair was our Saint equally
successful. Rodolph had fallen in love with a rich and beautiful
girl of his States, had carried her off to his castle, and married
her there. But the marriage was kept a profound secret, as his
uncle, Alphonsus, wished him to espouse his daughter. Rodolph
feared, as the event proved, lest if he knew of the wedding he
should try to transfer his fief from him, the lawful heir, to
his own child. St. Aloysius, like the rest of the world, was ignorant
of the marriage, and he implored his brother to put an end to
a grave scandal. He pressed him so hard that he avowed his marriage.
The Saint insisted further that, to remove the scandal, his brother
was bound to make the marriage public. He gained even this point,
and persuaded Alphonsus and the rest of the Gonzaga family to
acknowledge the bride.
the Saint, to his joy, got back to religious life at the great
College of the Society, - the Brera of Milan. There he was so
fond of sweeping the corridors and dusting down the walls, when
any person of distinction happened to go by, that to see Aloysius,
broom in hand, was enough to show that some distinguished visitor
was in the College. Yet among his own brethren, so clearly did
his talents and remarkable capacity for affairs shine forth that
he was called the little General; and grave Fathers looked upon
him as destined one day to hold high office in his Order. Those
who knew best the secrets of his soul found that he had climbed
to heights of holiness which are never even dreamt of but by a
to him while at the Brera a distinct intimation that the next
year was to be his last, and that he must in consequence strive
to give the finishing touches to his perfection. Just then arrived
a letter from the Father General summoning him back to Rome. "If,"
he said in a letter, on receiving the news, "we have a country
on earth, I know of none but Rome." It was a time of terrible
famine, of which thousands were dying in the cities and in the
country. The horrors of want were increased by the plague of brigands,
which burst forth as soon as the stern hand of Sixtus V. was relaxed
by death. His companions on the road remarked to St. Aloysius
how fortunate for them it was that they had not been born in poverty,
and the Saint at once replied, "How much more fortunate not to
have been born among the Turks!"
the house of Saint Catherine, at Sienna, and approaching Holy
Communion in her house, they set out with a large party, gathered
together, no doubt, out of fear of the brigands. A storm broke
over them, and the river Paglia, which flowed beneath the hills,
grew at once to so furious a torrent that some eighteen who attempted
to pass were swept away down the stream. Suddenly a man was seen
crossing at a spot where never ford was known to be. St. Aloysius
urged them to pass over by that way. They did so and in safety;
and as they did not meet with the man, they felt sure he must
have been the guardian-angel of our Saint.
Rome, St. Aloysius parted even with his theological notes, as
the one thing he had kept and cared for on earth; and he begged
for a room which was so dark and small that it was never tenanted
before. There he lived more than ever abstracted from the things
of earth. He used to say that he feared the dignity and responsibility
of the priesthood, and would be glad if God would call him away
while yet in His grace. His wish was soon to be granted. A fearful
contagion, the child of famine, supervened, and Father Acquaviva
opened a hospital for the poor and went to serve there himself.
St. Aloysius volunteered for the work. Not content with going
about the streets to beg for their support, and writing to his
mother, and the Marquis, his brother, he went into the thick of
the work, specially revolting as it was, and choosing by preference
the most loathsome cases. He undressed, he washed the poor sufferers,
put them to bed, brought them their food, and prepared them for
death. He found on his way to the hospital, one day, a poor wretch
in filthy rags, lying on the ground, stricken by the plague. He
raised him up, and gently and tenderly he led him to the hospital.
The contagion struck the weary and worn youth, and on March 1st,
159l, he was forced to take to his bed, and within a week he received
the last Sacraments, rejoicing that the foresight was verified,
and that he was going to God.
were to be prolonged as a source of merit to himself and of example
to all around. He bound himself by vow, if he did recover, to
return to the plague stricken. He sipped the nauseous drugs given
to him, nor did he ever speak to anyone of the terrible bed sores
which he had contracted. Now and again he got up, but only to
spend a long time in prayer at the foot of a crucifix, or to kneel,
as when a child, between the bed and the wall.
An old Father
was dying in another part of the house, who was deeply attached
to St. Aloysius. He asked the infirmarian to bring the Saint to
his bedside, and there he humbly begged him to give him his blessing.
This St Aloysius stiffly refused, and the dying man was able only
to extort from him a compromise. A few nights afterwards three
times did old Fr. Corbinelli appear to St. Aloysius in his sleep.
He strove to make light of these dreams, and even blamed himself
for paying any heed to them. No one told him the fact that the
Father had died that night. But St. Aloysius had a firm conviction
that the departed soul was with God; and he asked Father Bellarmine,
his confessor, if there were any who went straight to heaven.
The Father was not afraid to tell him, not only that some there
are who do so, but that he thought that Aloysius himself would
be one of those. In a rapture of delight, the Saint lay awake
all that night full of the thoughts of Paradise. The time passed
by as a moment, and it was revealed to him then that he would
go to his reward on the octave of Corpus Christi.
of this revelation got about, and all his brethren were anxious
to receive his parting words and to give him their commissions
not hear a word, since he took to his bed, but of God and of the
things of God. He was deeply grateful when anyone would say for
him the Penitential Psalms while he gazed upon his crucifix, or
if they would read to him some other psalms of his own choice,
such as "I rejoiced at the things that are said to me, I go into
the house of the Lord," or prayers from St. Anselm or St. Bernard.
two letters to his mother from his sick bed, to be written, and
others to three of his special friends in religion, one of whom
was his former master of novices. When Father Vincent Bruno, who
had special charge of the sick, had told him that his end was
near, he begged one of his brothers to join him in a hearty Te
Deum. His latter hours seemed one long ecstacy, and he kept an
indulgenced crucifix for the last three days tightly clasped to
of the octave day had come, and brought no nearer sign of death;
but St. Aloysius said quietly in reply to all good wishes, "I
shall die to-night." The morning passed. All the time he had been
rapt in prayer. During the day he begged for Viaticum, but the
infirmarians rejoined that he had received it once, and it could
not be repeated. The new Pope, Gregory XIII., was told of his
state by his relations, and during the afternoon, he sent him
his blessing. St. Aloysius was so confounded, in his humility,
at this mark of honour, that he hid his face in his hands, and
the Father who bore the message had to calm his trouble by saying
that his Holiness must have heard of his illness by chance. In
the evening, a Father and old friend of his, came from Sant' Andrea,
and the Saint begged him to intercede with the Rector that he
might have the Viaticum. The favour was granted, and with a beaming
face he prepared for It by saying the Litany of the Blessed Sacrament.
Then his Lord came to give His faithful servant His last embrace.
After his Communion, Aloysius bade a long good-bye to each and
all present. Just then the Father Provincial arrived to see him;
"How fares it, Brother Aloysius?" he playfully enquired. "We are
going," was his reply. "And where?" said the Father. "To Heaven."
"To Heaven?" asked the Provincial. "If my sins do not stop me,
I hope in God's mercy to go there," broke in the dying Saint.
The Father turned to those around, and said in a low voice: "Just
listen! He talks of going to Heaven, as we would talk of going
to Frascati." As Fr. Cepari, his future biographer, was
holding up his wearied head, that he might look upon the crucifix,
the Saint took off his cap out of reverence to his Lord. Night
fell and there was no sign of death, so only two or three were
allowed to stay with him. One of these was the future Cardinal
Bellarmine. "Now, Father," said St. Aloysius at last, "it is time!"
And they recited the prayers for a departing soul. But the infirmarian
soon dismissed even Father Bellarmine, as he did not think his
patient would die that night; and the Saint was left with but
anon a word or so of Holy Writ came from his lips, or he kissed
the crucifix, while the Fathers suggested to him some holy thought.
His pains increased, and he would fain have been moved, but his
assistants did not dare to do so, and encouraged him to drink
bravely the last dregs of the cup. He gazed hard at the cross,
and seemed to gather from that look strength to bear and to conquer.
Then his speech failed him, and they placed in his chilled hands
the lighted candle, the beautiful figure of constant faith; and
as he fixed his eyes on the Crucified, and strove to utter the
Holy Name, he quietly passed to his reward.
It was between
nine and ten on the night of the 20th June, the first vespers
of the first Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, the future
feast day of the Sacred Heart, and, in the Church's reckoning,
the 21st. That frail body, glorified by many miracles, lay some
time in a humble tomb in the "Church of the Annunciation" of the
Roman College. St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, while in a rapture,
proclaimed his glory in heaven. God quickly honoured his servant.
Paul V., in 1605, declared him Blessed, and his sepulchre was
made glorious in the new church of St. Ignatius at Rome. In 1726,
Benedict XIII. canonized him on the same day as his brother in
religion, St. Stanislaus Kostka, and declared him to be the patron
and pattern of all young students. And now, with St. John Berchmans,
they form a "triplex funis", a triple cord, to guard our young
against the threefold snare of the World, of the Flesh, and the
The Venerable Edward Oldcorne, S.J.; H. Roberts, O.S.B.; Christopher
Buxton; Edward Duke; John Ingram; Eustace White, Edward Thwing;
Thomas Tichborne; Joseph Lampton and John Thules.