The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Lives of the saints

Canisius | 21 June, 2007 06:25

One feature I like in the old breviaries is the biographies of the saints to go with the feast days. The editors of the new breviary truncated the biographical entries to three to four sentences for each saint, so brief and generic that they cannot form the basis of any devotional meditation or inspiration.

But today's entry for St. Aloysius Gonzaga reminds me that some of those old biographies probably did need to be edited in some way. For example, it says (XII,196) that "his senses, and especially his eyes, he so restrained that he never once looked on the face of Mary of Austria, whom for several years he saluted almost every day, as page of honour in the court of the king of Spain." So far, so good. But it continues: "and he used the same reserve with regard to the face of his own mother: wherefore he might truly be called a man without flesh, or an angel in human flesh."

He restrained his eyes from looking at his mother's face? Is this something we want to propose for imitation? I am far from having the self-mastery of St. Aloysius, and it may well be that, were I to grow in sanctity, I would understand this--but at the moment, the idea that a holy person would not look at his mother's face seems wierd.

The description of St. Aloysius's decline in health is mildly humorous (XII,197): "His love of God was so ardent, that it gradually undermined his bodily strength. Being commanded, therefore, to divert his mind for a while from divine things, he struggled vainly tto distract himself from God who met him everywhere." What kind of religious superior commanded his charge not to practice the presence of God?

It seems more likely that St. Aloysius's poor health was related to his bodily mortifications (XII,196-197): "He fasted three days in every week, and that mostly upon a little bread and water. But indeed, he, as it were, fasted every day, for he hardly ever took so much as an ounce weight of food at his meal. Often also, even thrice a day, he would scourge himself to blood with cords or chains.... He passed a great part of the night even in the depth of winter clad only in his shirt, either kneeling on the ground, or lying prostrate when too weary to remain upright...."

Given this strenuous a physical routine, why would one say that it was St. Aloysius's sheer love of God that was wearing his body out?


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