This Advent, Ignatian writers from across the Jesuit Conference are sharing 25 days of reflections on Ignatian heroes. You can receive these reflections directly in your inbox by signing up here.
Day 6: Aloysius Gonzaga
Aloysius Gonzaga Helped Me Make It Through High School
By Patrick Saint-Jean, SJ
Like many saints in the Catholic Church, Aloysius Gonzaga gave his life for the mission.
Born on March 9, 1568, in Castiglione delle Stiviere to an Italian aristocratic family, young Aloysius left everything behind to join the Society of Jesus. Though he is recognized today as the patron saint of youth, Saint Aloysius, however, stands out because of his coolness — his swag — which he combined with his commitment to serve God. This 16th-century saint changed my life.
When the nuns first taught us about Aloysius Gonzaga in my freshman theology class, I wasn’t particularly interested. I knew I would rush through the homework as I always did, without ever really engaging with the assignment. But this time was different. As I was doing my homework, Aloysius’ simplicity captured my imagination, his holiness disturbed my distraction, and his trust challenged my faith. That night I stayed at my computer until past midnight, learning more about his life. I realized I needed to learn from Aloysius’ prayer life how to resist temptation with humility and joy.
I faced the usual temptation of adolescence — peer pressure — which threatened my vocation as a Jesuit. My interior temptations, however, were even greater than the exterior ones. My ego was enormous, but now, my encounter with Aloysius startled me out of my complacency. As I grew to know him better, I learned to prayerfully detach my sense of identity from any exterior quality. My true identity is from God; everything else about me is his gift to me, for which I can take no credit.
Reflection: With Gonzaga at my side, I made it through high school with my vocation intact. He helped me then, and his example of joyful prayer continues to help me as a Jesuit today. What about you?
Patrick Saint-Jean, SJ, is a native of Haiti and a member of the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus. He is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Creighton University and the author of “The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice: A Month of Meditations with Ignatius of Loyola” (Anamchara, 2021) and “The Crucible of Racism: Ignatian Spirituality and the Power of Hope” (Orbis Books, March 2022).