Saint Aloysius Gonzaga or Luigi Gonzaga, as he was baptized, was born on March 9, 1568, in the castle of Castiglione della Stivieri in Lombardy, Italy. St. Dominic Savio, another Saint of the young, whom we have also written about in this book, and who was called another Aloysius, died on March 9th, only in 1857, almost three hundred years after the birth of St. Aloysius. Coincidence or God’s way of telling us something, putting the pieces of the puzzle of life together. I believe we will discover, as his story unfurls, why St. Dominic Savio was called another Aloysius.
Every time, we write a book, you ask us why this book now? As we are writing these chapters on these young Saints, God’s word keeps coming to us. It’s like the unreal changes of weather we have been having in this, the end of the last century of the Second Millennium. All I keep thinking, Is God talking to us, and is anyone listening? “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
Dominic was born into a life of poverty, of parents who were poor materially, but rich in faith. Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, on the other hand, was born into a family of wealth and position. He was the oldest son of Don Ferrante, the Marquis of Castiglione and Marta Tana Santena, who as part of the royal court of Philip II of Spain, was lady of honor to the Queen. Not only did his mother have a highly esteemed honor, his father held a prestigious position in the court, as well. So, baby Luigi (Aloysius) was born into the velvets and purples of his century.
Now, it is noteworthy to mention that he was also born of a people who had resisted the holocaust of Lutheranism and Calvinism that had spread to the northern parts of Europe, swallowing up whole nations. The Spaniards held fast to their Faith. After almost seven hundred years of domination by the Moors, when uttering the Name of Jesus and worshiping in the Catholic Church was punishable by death, the Catholic Queen Isabela determined, never again would her fair land be lost to Jesus and His Church. When the Church was again threatened, Isabela’s loyal sons would carry on for her and block the enemy from entering her land and conquering the souls of the faithful. She had claimed them for Jesus and Spain, a land of soldiers and poets, and she fought to keep Spain for Jesus and His Church.
When Ferrante’s first-born son came into the world, like most fathers, he had a dream and a plan for Luigi; he was to be a great soldier. His son would fulfill his father’s dream for him, but as a soldier of Christ. Ferrante began executing his plan for his son, at age four, starting him off with a miniature battlefield, equipped with a set of tiny soldiers, scale model guns and all forms of battle regalia, all in minuscule dimensions.
A year later, at five years old, his father took him to Casalmaggiore, where three thousand men were being trained to join a Spanish expedition which would attack Tunis (or Tunisia). The little boy of five was enthralled with all the parades and the life-size soldiers practicing real life maneuvers; it was like a huge playground, and he was playing with the big guys. The months spent there were like a dream come true for a little boy. He was allowed to join the big soldiers, marching in the parades, often up in the front of a platoon. He was a sight to behold; they had outfitted him with a long wooden spear sporting a metal arrowhead, which he carried slung over his tiny shoulder. The spear, at least four times his size, trailed behind him, as he jaunted proudly trying to keep in step with the others.