Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 21 June 2021

St Aloysius Gonzaga

Today is the Feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga, the patron of the church of the Oxford Oratory. Due to circumstances largely beyond my control I was unable to attend the Solemn Mass for this patronal festival as I had planned to do and had to rely on the livestream link to join my fellow parishioners.


St Aloysius Gonzaga
Painting by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (1608/9-1661/2)

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Provost, Fr Nicholas, preached an excellent sermon making the point that the  extremes of penance practised by St Aloysius was of its time and very much of himself. It is not what would be expected or accepted today. This was a saint full of youthful fervour, but that, unlike so much youthful vigour today, St Aloysius got it right in that it was that rooted and centred in the love of God. With that all other issues fall into place as part of a total pattern that centres all things in the Divine and care for His creation.

Fr Nicholas also made the important point that St Aloysius has often suffered in his depictions in ecclesiastical art. The results are often very sentimental, and this question is discussed in in this post at The Real Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

St Aloysius said of himself he was a piece twisted iron and joined the religious life to be straightened out. His iron determination to join the Jesuits and firm resolve makes him an unlikely figure to be sentimentalised, yet far too often inferior artists have managed to do that to him.

A 17th-century painting of St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

St Aloysius Gonzaga
A seventeenth century painting 

Image: New York Times

Thinking about today in advance I recalled a discussion on the Medieval Religion discussion group a while ago. We are called to admire the Saints but not to directly imitate them. They reveal what God can do in one particular person, but it is not necessarily for us to seek to copy them, but rather to emulate them in find our own way to God. To copy St Aloysius austerities would doubtless by extreme and wrong for us. To recognise his commitment and to seek to emulate that in our own way and place is what we should seek to do.

St Aloysius Pray for us

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