This evening I am reflecting on two famous Italians who died on this date – one is Niccolò Machiavelli who died in 1527 and the other is Aloysius de Gonzaga, S.J. who died in 1591. The latter lived fewer than half as many years than the former. And, while Machiavelli is certainly on more course syllabi today, Aloysius de Gonzaga is a canonized saint whose example and spirit continues to be invoked from generation to generation.
Aloysius de Gonzaga came from an affluent and influential family. He decided, however, to renounce his aristocratic lifestyle and joined the Jesuits while he was still a teenager. When there was a plague in Rome in 1591, Aloysius insisted on volunteering at a hospital and it was in this context that he contracted the disease and died when he was just 23.
What does a 23-year-old who died in the sixteenth century have to teach young people today living in the 21st century?
Here is a summary of Pope Francis’ remarks on this point to high schoolers:
Today I am remembering Fr. James V. Schall – Jesuit priest, longtime professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, and the author of more than thirty books. He died around this time two years ago.
I had heard that he had given a Last Lecture at Georgetown entitled “The Final Gladness,” but I only listened to it for my first time this evening.
Here is the video of the lecture and below are some highlights in summary as well as some brief thoughts on the value of a last lecture.