John Baptist Rossi


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St Aloysius Gonzaga (1568—1591)


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priest of Rome. He was born at Voltaggio (near Genoa) and was educated by a Genoese nobleman. He was sent to the Roman College, but suffered a breakdown due to epilepsy. From this he recovered and was ordained priest in 1721. In spite of physical handicap he worked among the deprived and the destitute. These included patients in hospitals and the inmates of a refuge founded long before by Pope Celestine III. In addition he cared for those for whom little or no provision had been made. On the one hand were the cattle-drovers who sold animals in the Roman market, on the other were homeless women and girls, including beggars and prostitutes. These were provided for in his new refuge of St Aloysius.

Side by side with these aspects of the social gospel went the cure of souls. Penitents of all classes followed his direction, for which he discovered a latent skill. He was also outstanding in his preaching to religious orders. Not only that, but he was also deputed to instruct prison warders and even the public hangman.

His personal poverty was extreme, even when he was appointed to a canonry, whose revenues he devoted to an organ and an organist in his church instead of to his own comfort. It was thus appropriate that when he died of a stroke at the age of sixty-six, the hospital he had served paid his funeral expenses. The funeral was led by an archbishop, followed by 260 priests as well as the papal choir. He was canonized in 1881; in 1965 his relics were translated into the new parish church in Rome dedicated to his memory. Feast: 23 May.

M. Escobar, Le dimote romane dei santi (1964), pp. 256–311; N.C.E., xii. 680–1 and Bibl. SS., vi. 959–63; B.L.S., v. 124.

Subjects: Christianity.

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