Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

(Genesis 13:2.5-18; Matthew 7:6.12-14)

If Abram, whose name means “exalted father,” is to generate a truly great nation, he must overcome the vices of greed and treachery. Diligence and magnanimity befit one whose descendants will number like particles of dust on the earth. The reading from Genesis first indicates that Abram has already become rich through hard work. Then it shows his golden disposition. When Abram realizes that his and his nephew Lot’s households have grown too complex to coexist, he tells Lot that the two clans must separate. He neither dictates which land will be his nor suggests that a flip of coin determine who gets what. Rather he proves himself more than fair by giving Lot his preference. Shrewdly but ultimately unwisely, Lot picks the more favorable plains to the east. There he will mix with city dwellers who incur God’s wrath. Meanwhile, God blesses Abram’s nobility of spirit with what has been known as the “Promised Land.”

Today the Church honors St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Like Abram he showed himself to be prudent in face of ambition. Seeing how his family was corrupted by power, Aloysius gave up his claim to nobility. Unlike the patriarch of Jews, Christians and Muslims, however, he was a young man when he showed willful self-restraint. But his virtue never went unnoticed. His courage and determination caused a sensation in Italy. He died young in the late sixteenth century caring for people infected with the plague. Since the first part of the eighteenth century he has been recognized as the patron of youth. For this reason his Jesuit order has named many universities and high schools after him.