On June 21 the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. I’m named after this saint, and I get a lot of questions about my legal name. How do you pronounce that? How did you get the name? Who is this saint you’re named after?
My name sounds very little like the way it is spelled. “Ah-loh-wi-shus” is the pronunciation most commonly heard in English-speaking countries. Every telemarketer who’s called me has managed to butcher it.
As my father’s story goes, he was pressed to name me when my mother went into labor. He had been up all night and had resolved to give me a name that started with “A,” as he had with both my brothers. Our family had a long-standing relationship with the Jesuits in Manila and my brothers attended the Jesuit school. So when the name “Aloysius” popped into my father’s mind and he couldn’t replace it with another “A” name, it was the name I received.
Aloysius Gonzaga was a Jesuit acolyte who was canonized in the 1726. He is the patron of youth in the Catholic Church. Known for the disciplines of fasting and prayer that he imposed on himself, he exemplified the Jesuit motto, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (For the Greater Glory of God). Sometimes called the papal elite troops because of the intellect they cultivated, the Jesuits were a young order at the time Aloysius joined them. This young priest selected Robert Bellarmine (who would be canonized in 1930) as his spiritual director. Having chosen to attend to the physical and spiritual needs of plague victims , he himself became a victim of the disease and died before his ordination as a priest.
(Photo credit: Gonzaga University web site)
Am I inspired by my namesake? Certainly. But I don’t have the same commitment and drive that he possessed. Like he was, I am “in the world.” However, I am far less disciplined and more “of the world” than I dare to admit. Someday, I hope to say that I, in my way, was able to follow his example and become a man for others.