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St. Aloysius Gonzaga, June 21

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591) was the eldest son of Ferrante, Marquis of Castiglione in Lombardy. In 1585, he renounced his birthright in favor of his brother Rodolfo and joined the Society of Jesus. He died in 1591, a little over 23 years of age. Because of the great fight he made against impurity in a time of general immorality, he is a patron saint for young men. The following selection is taken from a biography by Dourignac:

St. Aloysius Gonzaga as a youth

St. Aloysius Gonzaga as a youth,
remarkable for his purity of spirit

When the army commanded by Ferrante Gonzaga departed from Casala, the four-year-old Aloysius was sent to Castiglione. The young Prince and his preceptor Francesco del Turco rode together in a carriage, with an entourage of nobles guarding them on horseback.

As they entered onto the open country, the tutor addressed his young charge in the solemn and respectful tone he always used with him: “For some days I have wanted to make an important observation regarding the behavior of Your Lordship, but I have waited until you left Casala.”

“What did I do?” asked the startled child.

The tutor replied: “During your stay in Casala you lived in the camp with the soldiers, and Your Lordship acquired the habit of saying some inconvenient words and expressions that a prince of such high blood should never permit himself to use and would best be forgotten, since it would cause profound sorrow to the Princess, your mother, if she would hear one of these words from the lips of her son.”

“But, dear friend, I don’t know what I said that was bad,” said the disconcerted boy.

The teacher disclosed to his disciple the words of which the innocent child had not caught the meaning or inconvenience.

“This will never happen a second time, my good friend,” Louis replied, embarassed at his fault. “I promise you to always remember this.”

And he was faithful to his promise. This fault, committed in ignorance, was never forgotten. He considered this the most lamentable sin of his life, and he confessed afterward that the memory of this fault humiliated him deeply.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

It seems useful to make a brief review of the facts. St. Aloysius Gonzaga had Spanish blood, but was son of a semi-sovereign Prince of Italy of the House of Castiglione, which was related to the most important Sovereign Houses of Europe, including the House of Austria, which was the most important of all of them.

He was four-years-old when this incident took place. But a little before he had reached this age, he had already been placed in the military ambience. This could seem excessive, but the opposite is true. It is a splendid thing. Today many parents put boys in kindergarten when they are young like this. When you send a boy, however, to kindergarten [which in German means the garden of children], the man tends to stay in this garden all his life. I have the impression that the softness of the modern kindergarten contributes to the spinelessness of many men of the new generations. What the child needs is to mature. The kindergarten keeps the child in an infantile state much longer than necessary, instead of leading the child to a more mature stage that would stimulate him to seek something higher.

St. Aloysius was not sent to kindergarten, but to the army. He was under the guardianship of his father who was the commander of the army. Now then, everyone knows that the language in military ambiences is not always the most elevated. And the boy learned some words with immoral meanings used in the military camp that were not part of the language of a noble house or upright family.

The tutor entered the picture. It is interesting to observe how the boy traveled, how a prince traveled on such an occasion. He went in a carriage with his preceptor, and had an entourage of nobles who followed him on horseback. It was only after they had left the city and were already on the open road that the preceptor spoke with him about the bad habit he acquired. You can observe the grave tone the tutor assumed to make the correction. Those who like kindergarten would judge this gravity to be exaggerated. But the preceptor, who was chosen for this role because he had a secure Catholic orientation and a prudent sense of circumstances, thought the exact opposite. He solemnly stated that such words should never be uttered by a blood prince, that a prince of such a level should not be familiar with such words. St. Aloysius, who did not realize the meaning of those words, was disconcerted.

Some might say that the preceptor was precipitate and overly severe. Since the child did not even know what the words were, he could certainly not be blamed for saying them. On the contrary, the tutor revealed a more profound understanding of the matter. He realized that words of that sort carry an evil in themselves, even if a person does not know what they mean. For instance, a boy can acquire the habit of saying blasphemous interjections. Would it be useless to correct him? By no means. He should be corrected. Such words intrinsically have a bad sense, and the lips of a son of Our Lady should not be sullied by pronouncing such blasphemies.

Another remarkable thing is the humility of St. Aloysius. Humility is truth. It was truth that led him to consider his fault so grave that he called it the gravest sin of his life. What becomes transparent in this episode is the complete innocence and sanctity of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. It is so brilliant that it is blinding.


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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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