7. St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Xavier University

St. Aloysius Gonzaga
Xavier University, 1831

Cincinnati, Ohio

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591) began his rather short life as a privileged son of the Marquis of Castiglione, Italy. His father began training him with warrior skills from a very young age and sent him off to the Medici court at the age of nine, intending the youth to become a noble like himself.

Aloysius began to choose his own way of life when he was about twelve, reading the lives of saints and Catholic teachings, and praying regularly. From the time of his First Communion he set himself on a path of religious practices: attending Mass daily, frequent Communion, and also fasting. Even in his teen years, when Aloysius was made a page in the court of Empress Maria Theresa, he continued these habitual exercises. He met frequently with local Jesuit priests and finally asked his father for permission to become a Jesuit himself, which was at first refused.
When Aloysius turned seventeen he finally received his father’s approval and he entered the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome. After two years he began theology studies and was quickly recognized as an excellent student and also a person of great kindness and care for the welfare of the people in the neighborhood.

Before Aloysius had completed studies preparing him to become a priest, the plague broke out in Rome. Undeterred by his proximity to the disease he went out and ministered to the suffering. Within the year he himself was stricken with the plague and died, in the early summer of 1591. The saint’s brief life was filled with such evident sanctity that, for the Church, he has become the universal patron of youth.

Aloysius is depicted wearing the simple cassock and surplice of an acolyte and carries a crucifix as his personal symbol. By his feet is a single fleur-de-lys, symbolic of his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Below his feet, as though no longer of significance to him, is the coat of arms of the Gonzaga family: a golden field with three black bars.

The shield of Xavier University of Cincinnati consists almost entirely of a tribute to its patron saint, Francis Xavier. The left side of the shield contains the coat of arms of the Xavier family, five vertical stripes. The right side of the shield is divided horizontally. In the top half on a field of gold is a sleeved arm holding a crucifix, which represents Saint Francis Xavier preaching Christ crucified and baptizing thousands to Christianity. In the lower half of the shield, on a field of silver are three red sea shells, which stand for the three journeys undertaken by Xavier on his missionary labors. The inscription reads: Xavier University, Cincinnati; the foundation date is 1831. The school colors are white and gold.

Aloysius Gonzaga - Xavier University