March 6, 2018 - This year, Pope Francis has invited the Church to focus its attention on young people. The October Synod of Bishops in Rome on “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment,” and the January 2019 World Youth Day in Panama will be two significant moments in which the Church will concentrate on young people today, to listen to their concerns, dreams and hopes, and to enrich itself with their joys, initiatives and openness to life.
The Society of Jesus also simultaneously celebrates the lives of two young saints in the remembrance of the 450th anniversary of the birth of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, March 9, 1568, Castiglione delle Stiviere, and the death of Saint Stanislaus Kostka, Aug. 15, 1568, in Rome.
Feeling called to give their entire selves, both Jesuits responded with determination and enthusiasm to their vocation and overcame many challenging obstacles that seemed to block their entrance into the Society of Jesus.
For its part, the Holy See, mindful of the anniversary of the birth of Aloysius Gonzaga, has announced the celebration of a Jubilee Year of St. Aloysius, from March 9, 2018, until the same date in the year 2019. It has identified as privileged places of pilgrimage the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome, where the remains of Saint Aloysius lie, and all churches in the world dedicated to this young Jesuit.
About St. Aloysius Gonzaga
Aloysius Gonzaga manifested a vigorous personality from a young age. He was born and grew up in a Christian family setting, in which letters written by Jesuit missionaries from distant places were read, but his family context was also a worldly one, full of sensuality, ambition and violence, that promised him a future of wealth, fame and power. Nevertheless, with a strong faith, an amazing interior freedom, and resisting pressures of all kinds, he sought to be guided by the voice of the Spirit that resonated in his conscience, adopting the following of the Lord as his way of life. Like St. Stanislaus, he overcame resistance from his family and completely surrendered himself to God in the Society of Jesus, founded only a few decades earlier.
Aloysius Gonzaga only had time in his life to devote himself fully to formation; his utter commitment to that formation justifies his being considered a model for young Jesuits. He died as a theology student, at the age of 23, having contracted the terrible plague that wiped out half of the city’s population. Voluntarily caring for those suffering from the disease, he risked himself and gave up his life for them. In the face of this witness, Pope Benedict XIII proclaimed him patron of youth in 1729. Pope Pius XI named him patron of students in 1926, and, on the fourth centenary of his death in 1991, Pope John Paul II declared him patron of those suffering from AIDS.
About St. Stanislaus Kostka
Stanislaus Kostka entered the Jesuits in Rome in 1567 on his 17th birthday. His piety was denigrated by his family, who were prominent political figures in 16th century Poland. St. Stanislaus transcended the rejection and physical violence he suffered on the part of his family to pour his energy into prayer and devotion to God. He died at a young age and is said to have foretold his own passing. He is patron saint of Jesuit novices, and is often chosen as a protector of novitiates. The novitiate for this province, located in Grand Coteau, La., is named in his honor.
You can learn more about Sts. Stanislaus Kostka and Aloysius Gonzaga in Fr. Sean Salai's book All the Pope's Saints: The Jesuits who Shaped Pope Francis available through Our Sunday Visitor.