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June 21 Saints of the Day – Niketas of Nisyros and Aloysius Gonzaga

On this date in 1948, Columbia Records introduced the long-playing record album in a public demonstration at the Waldorf-Astor. Waldorf-Astor. Waldorf-Astor. Wal — New York.

Niketas of NisyrosNiketas of Nisyros (1716 – 1732) was the son of the governor of Nisyros, which was all well and good until Dad got into trouble with the Turks. To prevent tragedy, the whole family converted to Islam and moved to Rhodes, Niketas becoming Mehmet. At fourteen he learned the horrid truth and, distraught, fled to Chios (about 100 miles NW). He told the whole story to the abbot of the Nea Moni monastery, who sent him to the retired Bishop of Thebes, who anointed him with the Holy Chrism. The monks in Thebes gave him prayers, blessings, advice, and a four-color pamphlet on martyrdom (by way of foreshadowing).

He went back to Chios and was immediately nabbed by an official collecting the head tax. As he had no money, he was hauled off to jail. Along the way a priest recognized him and said, “Hey, Mehmet!” (One imagines Niketas mouthing the Greek equivalent of “ixnay!”) Suspicious, the official ferreted out the family story (no secrets on a small Aegean island), and led him to the Aga (military commander). Nikitas confessed his faith boldly; the Turks entreated him to reconvert to Islam. Their arguments went from verbal to physical, and after ten days of torture, he was beheaded. He is the patron of Nisyros, where today they are publically celebrating his day. Happy Feast!

Aloysius GonzagaAloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga (1568 – 1591) was the eldest son of Ferrante Gonzaga, the Marquis of Castiglione, who served Philip II of Spain and was a compulsive gambler (I merely pass these facts on; I make no judgments). Ferrante wanted more than anything else for little Luigi to become a great captain, so at age four Luigi was sent to a military training camp, where he learned to march (or “strut” as one source puts it), set off a canon without authorization, and picked up a lot of “strange oaths” he regretted learning for the rest of his life (his mother wasn’t terribly pleased about them either). Nevertheless he was also a spiritual lad, and at age seven determined to pursue a religious vocation.

At age eight, while fostered with his brother Rodolfo in Florence, he came down with a kidney ailment and spent much time in bed, praying and reading the lives of the saints (sadly he didn’t have the Onion Dome). Back home, he read a book about Jesuit missionaries, and determined to become one himself. He practiced on his peers by giving them catechism classes. Next he and Rodolfo were made pages to Infante Diego (an Infante is a not-next-in-line son of a Spanish king), but when Diego died, they returned once more to Castiglione. When Luigi informed his parents of his intention to join the Society of Jesus, Mom was good with it, but Dad went through the Five Stages of Losing a Son to the Jesuits, making Luigi’s life unpleasant (for unpleasant values of “unpleasant”) until he finally got to number five, “Acceptance.”

At eighteen, Luigi ceded the succession to his brother Rodolfo and joined the Jesuits in Rome. He was sent to study in Milan, and returned to Rome just as the plague hit. He was professed, and went to work in the house’s hospital. There the former nobleman washed and instructed patients, made beds, and did many other humble chores. In short order he got the plague, was given last rites, was healed of the plague, and had his kidneys give notice. Although he was very ill, he arose every night (until he could no more), venerated the crucifix and icons in his cell, and prayed, wedged between his bed and the wall to keep from falling.

On the night of his death, he received the viaticum, and asked the priest to recite the prayers for the dead. After that he lay still, occasionally murmuring, “into thy hands,” until at last he said the name “Jesus,” and died. He is the patron saint of AIDS patients and caregivers, teenagers, and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Go Zags!


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
June 21 (Wikipedia)
St. Niketas the New Martyr of Nisyros (Full of Grace and Truth) – Main source
Aloysius Gonzaga (Wikipedia) – Main source
Aloysius (Luigi, Louis) Gonzaga, SJ (St. Patrick DC)
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (SQPN)

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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