Monday, July 3, 2017
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.
In 2011, I had a draw to learn more about him and loaded a couple of items for my Kindle. I remember reading them but don't recall a lot about my thought process other than thinking they were brief and not particularly connecting with him in a more meaningful way based on reading them, though that could be more about where I was at in my faith journey than about the contents.
As I helped support the Confirmation preparation process at our church a couple of years ago, I started to think about how if I were choosing my Saint today, I probably would have chosen someone else, such as Thérèse of Lisieux or Mother Mary. Nonetheless, I still had a pull toward St. Aloysius and thought about how my journey has led me into being the Director of Religious Education and Youth Minister for my parish, a connection to working with youth in a way I had not anticipated as I had my sights set on a career as a teacher.
When I recently saw Silas Henderson's Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.: With an Undivided Heart I was excited to read a book about him at this phase of my life. I decided to start reading it as his feast day approached and was in progress with the book when I went on my retreat, which started on his feast day. While reading the book, I realized that I connected with him in more ways than I would have ever anticipated. I can see myself in his hopes, dreams, and personality. While there are obvious differences between our levels of sanctity, I appreciated the sense that I could relate to him. Learning more about him, inspired me when thinking about where I am at and considerations for on-going growth to more closely approximate his model within the context of my life and vocation.
At a recent women's conference, one of the speakers shared that she chose her Confirmation Saint solely based on matching the name to that of her Confirmation sponsor, but that while shallow in meaning when she made the decision, special connections to her Saint emerged over time. That resonated with me as I was in the midst of recognizing a deeper connection with my own.
This book read much more like a textbook than most books I read linked to my Catholic faith. With 19 chapters and 3 appendices, the book was also more substantial, which I loved as I had been seeking depth. The book provides a biography of St. Aloysius, considerations for how he can impact the lives of people today based on his life and witness, the background of his family, historical background, and information on other relevant people. It includes primary documents, such as some of his letters.
I loved seeing how his life intersected with other people from history, as well as the overall historical context during his lifetime. Seven years ago, I was especially drawn to a unit I taught about the Renaissance to my 6th and 7th graders, and one section specifically focused on Florence as the cradle of the Renaissance. At the time, I did not recognize the connection to St. Aloysius; however, while reading this book, I noticed that it was the very context and time period where he was growing up and that Florence was referred to as the cradle of his spiritual life.
While reading the book, it gave me some ideas for how to frame our 17-18 ministry year (more details to follow as it all takes shape). In connection with that, I am planning on re-reading the book with that specific purpose in mind. He is also inspiring me with implications for myself and my on-going journey. I am grateful for this opportunity to feel that sense that there was a reason why he spoke to me as I was flipping through all the different options about 20 years ago. It points toward how just as with anything else in our spiritual lives, there is much more depth and richness to emerge over time. It is a process with plenty of space to feel a sense of awe with how God works in our lives over the years, how whispers become more audible as we grow.