American Ecclesiastical Review – Bishop Francis Gonzaga

Bishop Francesco GonzagaArticle

The good news is published in the official acts of the Franciscan Order that the Sacred Congregation of Rites has resumed the process of Beatification of P. Francesco Gonzaga, the man to whom Saint Aloysius owed perhaps above all others the realization of his wish to become a Jesuit, when the opposition of the family threatened to frustrate the Divine call and to deprive the Church of so fair a Saint. Francis Gonzaga had been, before his entrance into the Franciscan Order, attached to the Court of Charles V of Spain, and at the age of eleven, as page elect, accompanied the special embassy of the Emperor to Alessandro Farnese in Flanders. A few year later, he was deputed as escort to Philip of Spain, son of Charles, for the royal coronation ceremony, to Brussels. That same year, however, he renounced the pleasures and honors of the court, and being scarcely eighteen years of age, entered the novitiate of the Friars Minor at Alcala. He became an eminent theologian, and in 1579, at the age of thirty-three, was elected General of the entire Franciscan Order. It was on his return from a visitation of the Minorite communities in Spain, that he took the young son of Count Ferrante Gonzaga of Castiglione, with him to Italy. Aloysius Gonzaga was then about eighteen years old. A few months later, after Aloysius had entered the novitiate of the Jesuits, P. Francesco came to Don Ferrante who was on his deathbed at Milan, and moved him fully to second the sacrifice which his beloved boy had made in leaving behind him the prospects of a military and courtly career in order to assume the black gown of the militia of Christ.

When the archiepiscopal see of Milan had been left vacant by the death of Saint Charles Borromeo, the Pope nominated P. Francesco Gonzaga as his successor, but the latter declined to accept the dignity, as he deemed himself unworthy and incapable of sustaining the work begun by the saintly Archbishop. Later on, he was prevailed upon to assume the difficult post of Bishop to the see of Cefalu in Sicily. Here he laid the foundations of the first ecclesiastical seminary on the model prescribed by the Council of Trent. He was relentless in enforcing the reforms sanctioned by the decrees of the Council, and effectually resisted the political intriguers who, in the name of the King, sought to maintain certain abuses among the clergy under the title of ecclesiastical prerogatives, which they found to their temporal advantage. On one occasion, when an officer of high degree pleaded his past loyalty to the King as an excuse for refusing to recognize the ordinances of the Bishop, the latter answered: “You speak of loyalty to the King, as though the Bishop had no such sentiments. Let me remind you, sir, that the Gonzagas have shed a greater quantity of blood in defence of the King than you have consumed wine during your lifetime, which I think cannot be little.”

Later, P. Francesco was nominated Bishop of Pavia; but, at the urgent instance of the Duke of Mantua, he was appointed to the see of the ducal city, where he also founded a seminary, and enforced the reforms of the Council. To his efforts were largely due the Beatification of his holy young relative, Aloysius, which occurred within fifteen years after the death of the youthful Saint. The final canonization was not effected until a hundred and twenty years later. There is a biography of P. Francesco Gonzaga from the pen of Donesmondi, published in Venice, 1625. The body of the Venerable Francesco Gonzaga is preserved in the Cathedral of Mantua; the figure of the Bishop is there seen sitting upon the episcopal throne erected in the vault under the high altar.

MLA Citation

  • “Bishop Francis Gonzaga”. American Ecclesiastical Review, 1905. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 December 2019. Web. 3 March 2021. <>