St. Aloysius Gonzaga was a Jesuit seminarian who died from the plague after contracting it from patients to whom he was ministering. He had been heir to the House of Gonzaga in Mantua and renounced his fortune and right to royal succession to enter the Jesuits. A pious, but relatively short period of formation was cut short by his chronic ill health worsened by his exposure to the epidemic. He died at the age of 23 years.
St. Aloysius never lived to be ordained a priest, a goal toward which he had set out with his dramatic sacrifice of royal prestige. But as his canonization reminds us, there is no real sense in which he failed to reach his most important goal – heaven.
If we measure our lives by goals – get a driver’s license, gain entry to a specific college, prepare for a career, marry, live in a certain neighborhood, have children, earn a certain amount of money… not only does such life accounting chop our life’s journey into arbitrary segments, but living purely toward a goal makes it impossible to live in the now. Goals are necessary, but we cannot live in the future.
If we focus on the present without dwelling on the past and worrying excessively about the future, it helps us experience God’s grace in our lives. Our gratitude for what we have grows greater than our resentments or fears. Gratitude and charity are especially effective at dissipating anger. It’s providential St. Aloysius wasn’t waiting to work toward holiness after his ordination… his ordination never came.