I’ve recently completed a manuscript for an upcoming book on the saints of the Counter-Reformation. In the book I cover the lives and achievements of ten saints, but not strictly as a biographical tome for the reader to learn facts an appreciate a life (though, I definitely want that) but as a practical means of learning how to be like the saint of that chapter: how did they help reform the Church, and how can we imitate their example to make our Church even stronger?
In order to do this I had to dissect the lives of each saint and study their motives, their reasons for doing what they did, and their tactics. Alongside this, and much to the credit of my editor, I made finding excellent quotes from these saints my number one mission. As my editor said, “We must hear from our saints.” I can work all day to study these lives and show the reader show to “do it” but who better to speak for their actions than the saints themselves?
I chose ten saints, as I said, for their unique involvement in the Counter-Reformation. Reading varying biographies on these saints was easy. Finding relevant quotes took work for most of them, but eventually I found what I needed. However, there was one saint that eluded me in this prospect and that is St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Dying at age 23 and never having written a book, it was hard to get started. I read through the saints who knew him, like Bellarmine and Borromeo, and read his biographies, many of which took weeks to order because of their obscurity. Still, few quotes surfaced and I had to get create as I wrote the chapter, extracting quotes from those who were his spiritual directors and provided him first communion, and extrapolating details from what I had read. I thought to myself, “You’ve done all you can do, make it as good as you can and move on.”
And then came Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.: With an Undivided Heart from Ignatius Press. I anticipated this new addition each day since ordering and every second was worth it. The intricate details of his life. The words from those who knew him well. And then . . . the quotes.
This book contains personal letters written to his mother, father, and brother. It contains words from his counselors and teachers at colleges in Rome and from his other spiritual directors, too. It also contains wonderfully presented essays from his schoolwork, and other occasions where he jotted down his thoughts on spiritual matters, or simply wrote out entire homilies he might perhaps use one day.
The bottom line is: this is the very best book on St. Gonzaga one can find right now. Some might not realize it, but St. Gonzaga is considered to be one of the most holy and virtuous saints of all time and this book captures several ways in which we can understand and, better yet, imitate his holiness and virtue. If you enjoy reading about the saints, then I highly advise you to consider giving Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.: With an Undivided Heart from Ignatius Press a look in the near future.