VENERABLE ALOYSIUS LA NUZA, SJ
Died: October 21, 1656
Aloysius, the son of a Spanish officer, was born in Licata, Sicily. He spent his early youth in Spain but returned to Sicily for his studies where he enrolled at the Jesuit school in Palermo. He thought of becoming a Jesuit and for a period of three years, he tried many times to apply to enter but each time the Jesuit provincial told him that his health was too frail to withstand the rigours of religious life. He finally succeeded at the age of eighteen and entered the Society’s novitiate at Messina on February 16, 1609 and pronounced his vows two years later. After his studies in humanities, philosophy, teaching and theology, Aloysius was ordained in 1623. He taught rhetoric for three years to young Jesuit scholastics after his ordination before he was assigned to give parish missions.
Fr La Nuza’s priestly ministry was totally devoted to preaching God’s Word. For thirty years, he traveled all over Sicily’s cities, towns and villages, preaching sermons and missions. His preaching was so effective that the people called him their “Apostle.” He tirelessly gave the annual Advent and Lentern series of sermons and at other times he became an itinerant parish missioner, criss-crossing Sicily from the mainland to the offshore islands. He went as far as Malta as his main objective was to bring God’s Word to the people, regardless of whether they were city of country folk. His style was simple and his delivery sincere, at times emotional and fiery, but always interesting. The people saw him as a man of strong faith, holy and prayerful and fervent in his dedication to God.
He heard confessions during missions, visited prisons and the sick in their homes and hospitals. He helped families settle disputes and reconciled feuding parties. He visited the galley slaves when ships docked. Fr La Nuza’s poor health took its toll as he was on the road in all seasons and on October 9, 1656 when he was sixty-five, his health deteriorated while on a mission at Carini in Palerno. When he noticed that the local farmers were absent during the first few days of the mission, he decided to go to them as they had to remain in the fields. He preached to them near the fields. The hot sun and his energetic sermons made him perspire profusely during the day and in the evening he spent hours hearing confessions, exposed to the cool breezes which were blowing upon him and although he felt feverish, he thought he would be alright after a good night’s sleep. When he became too ill to go about his work the next day, a physician diagnosed that he had pneumonia and had to be in bed. He was taken to the Jesuit residence in nearby Palerno to receive better care but Fr La Nuza never recovered.
A day or so before his death on October 12, Fr La Nuza asked for a statue of Our Lady to be placed near him as he wanted to gaze on his heavenly mother.
When the bells tolled the sad news of his death, all his friends gathered outside the Jesuit residence, eager to touch his body and to whisper their petitions to him as he was known to have the gift of healing even during his lifetime. His cause was introduced in Rome on Feb 17, 1713 and on March 25, 1847, the decree declaring his exercise of heroic virtue was promulgated.