Along with airing Sunday services on Facebook Live, churches are finding other creative ways to engage their parishioners. Such is the the case with Jesuit priest, Fr. Fred Betti, Society of Jesus (SJ) of St. Michael’s Parish in downtown Buffalo.
“Leave it to a jesuit to find a patron saint for epidemics,” Michael Billoni passed along. “Many years ago he and his father restored a damaged statue (icon) of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, SJ (inset right), which is now in the sanctuary inside St. Michael’s Church on Washington Street. The public is invited to visit the church to pray and focus on St. Aloysius Gonzaga, SJ, and his role as a Patron Saint in times of Epidemics. There is a prayer card at the statue for visitors, created by Fr. Betti, SJ.”
And leave it to Mike Billoni to come across this fitting sanctified statue that is now on full display at the church. If there was ever a time – at least in our lifetime – that a Patron Saint in times of Epidemics might come in handy, this is pretty much it.
In addition to cluing us in to the restored statue, Billoni also shared the history of St. Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga, S.J. Patron of Young People and of Victims of Epidemics, along with a pertinent prayer:
Aloysius (Luigi) was born in Lombardy, Italy in 1568, the son of the Marquis of Castiglione. He was raised in the courts of Italy’s noble families and was highly respected for his intellectual gifts, his skill as a natural born leader and for his intense faith and devotional practices. He was repulsed by the decadent lifestyle of Renaissance nobility and was known for his strict religious practices to preserve his purity.
Luigi became convinced that he had a vocation to the Society of Jesus. He renounced his royal title and entered the Society in 1585.
As a Jesuit in training, Luigi immersed himself in works of service to the poor and needy in Rome. He visited prisoners, taught catechism to street children and cared for the sick and dying.
It was while tending to the dying plague victims of Rome that he himself became infected and died on June 21, 1591. He was canonized a saint in 1726.
Prayer to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, SJ In times of Epidemics – Patron in times of Epidemics
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, you were eager to care for your suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, in the midst of a terrible epidemic. You persisted in seeking permission to care for the sick, even though you knew it might endanger your own health. You felt natural revulsion toward the unpleasant realities of the sickness around you, but you wholeheartedly threw yourself into the task of caring for those who were ill and dying.
I pray through your powerful intercession for all those who are affected by this epidemic. May the Lord bring healing to the sick, wisdom to medical professionals, prudence to our civil leaders, charity towards all and hope to those who are discouraged.
St Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be…
Those intending on visiting the statue, please bear in mind any of the city, state, and federal, as well as venue-imposed quarantine measures and restrictions that are in place. To that end, one doesn’t need to visit a statue of a patron saint to pray, or a church for that matter. But it’s nice knowing that it’s there when the time is right for a visit.
Lead image: The Vocation of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga | Guercino – Met Museum (Public Domain)