June 21, 2012 by eneubauer
The great plagues of the 14th and 16th centuries are responsible for the death of approximately 50% of the European population. One interesting fact unearthed from this great tragedy was its impact on priests and religious. During this same period the Catholic Church lost between 1/2 – 2/3 of its priests and religious – a number not easily replaced. The majority of those who served God through the Church did not hide nor avoid but marched diligently into certain death. Our religious leaders during this time faithfully went to comfort, care for and minister to the dying. It wasn’t a pretty site nor easy task. These facts remind me of Jesus’ statement when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (religious) was one such servant who took seriously the call to take up the cross of Christ in the face of significant human suffering. He was born into a prestigious family near Mantua in Lombardy in 1568. Early on his mother saw his inclination towards religious life. He delivered his inheritance to his brother and joined the Society of Jesus – dying in 1591 while serving the sick affected by the plague.
Here is an excerpt from a letter St. Aloysius sent to his mother,
“May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.”
In light of these great words from St. Aloysius may we firmly grasp our own personal crosses, look suffering in the face and embrace that life of service that Christ has called us to. It will not always be easy but it will lead each of us to that place, like St. Aloysius describes, where we will (forever) be in His presence – praising GOD.
May eternal life come for each of us in the same way as it did for St. Aloysius. May we respond in like manner – in faith and confidence.