Today is the Feast of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. I am assigned to the Church under his patronage, so this is a special day here. I was privileged to preach at the morning Mass.
To find out more about Saint Aloysius, click here
Here is the text of my homily. May Saint Aloysius pray for us!
The day after I was ordained a transitional Deacon, I was at my youngest brother’s college graduation. The graduation speaker was droning on and on. At one point, as she was introducing her talk, she made a comment which struck me as representative of many today. She said “there is no path to happiness” but that we should “see the world and travel”. Now I have a serious bone to pick with this comment…because it is the lie that we hear constantly. We must find ourselves, but happiness can only be found when we are “free”, free from commitment, free from worries, free from suffering. I would further say I think this idea is one of the temptations that Satan entices us with today. Yes, happiness is related to freedom, but the freedom which brings happiness is not the freedom of license.
But the thing is, there is a way to happiness. That happiness is found in living out the vocation God calls us to live. This happiness is deeper than the passing happiness that the world tempts us with. Yes we will have a deep joy that sustains us through the ups and downs in life. In committing to our vocation, we will be truly free.
In the gospel we hear our Lord say that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This combined the second great commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) shows us the blueprint for happiness. Love God, love neighbor. Pray to God and grow in love toward your neighbor. If we love God, we will love our brothers and sisters because we will realize we are children of the same God, who are all redeemed by the blood of Christ.
Saint Aloysius personifies how the two of these go hand in hand. As he pondered and prayed to God, “he seemed unable to restrain the joy which thrilled him” (Butlers, 605). When he was 23, the plague struck Rome. He joined with the other Jesuits in caring for the sick. He washed the patients, made their beds, and did the lowliest tasks. He was responding to the gospel call to love God and neighbor. Eventually he did contract the plague, but he recovered and then suffered from a fever which severely weakened him eventually leading to his death.
I think the life of St Aloysius can be a model for us in at least two ways. The first is the importance of spiritual reading. He was inspired to join the Jesuits after he read about them. He read, prayed, and acted. This should be our model and we should feel challenged to do at least 10 minutes of some good spiritual reading everyday. The lives and writings of the saints and Sacred Scripture are a good source for this! Then we should ask God what He wants us to take away from that reading…how is God speaking to us, and what is He calling us to do?
This patron of Catholic youth, who died at the age of 23 years and 8 months, is a powerful intercessor and model for us. Not only does he provide us with a great model of prayer, chastity, and service, but he also faced opposition from his father in joining the Jesuits. In fact his father was initially furious, because he had other plans for his son.
If one of your sons expresses interest in the priesthood, or a man you know expresses interest, do you support him? Or perhaps he doesn’t say anything, but you see him and think he would be a good priest, do you mention this possibility to him? If a friend had not asked me about considering the priesthood, I don’t know if I would be here today. If that is his vocation, and he feels supported by others, he will feel supported to pursue it, and by finding and living his vocation, he will be truly happy. Yes, good prayerful and faithful priests are happy! Think of a man you know who may have a vocation to the priesthood. Tell him so, and help to encourage him. We are having a retreat in July called “Quo Vadis Days” meaning “where are you going?”. This is a good opportunity for men, who are older than 18 to come and discern their vocation.
Jesus does not say, travel, explore, be “free!”, do what you want! No, He offers a better path. So I extend this to you as well. Make a commitment to grow in your faith life. Start, or continue, your daily spiritual reading. Encourage and support a man to discern the call to the priesthood. The narrow road of Christ, and not the broad wide road of the world, brings us happiness. Instead of listening to that speaker, I thought “this is bogus. Happiness is found in Christ”. Today we have the great joy of having Eucharistic Adoration until the Mass this evening. Come and spend time with our Lord, let Him convict you of areas in your life where you need to grow. Encourage others to do so as well. Saint Aloysius, help us to grow in our lives of prayer and penance. Amen.
For more information about Quo Vadis Days in the diocese of Altoona Johnstown, see image below for more information!