The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Father Aloysius Solari

Father Aloysius SolariThe restored Society of Jesus followed the footsteps of the old. It has not only experienced the fierce persecution of the enemies of the Church, but has blossomed anew in noble examples of virtue and sanctity. Saint Aloysius seemed to exist again in the person of the Venerable Aloysius Solari. The acts of the process sum up the chief features of his character in these words: “The practice of severe penance, serene and inviolate splendor of innocence until death, obedience to superiors as to God, insatiable, consuming thirst to win souls for God, and zealous promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to enflame all with love for Him – were the eminent virtues of Aloysius Mary Solari. He was born on 13 May 1795, of a prominent family at Chiavari in Liguria on the Riviera of the Levant. In baptism he received the name of August, but afterward called himself Aloysius, to honor the princely youth of Castiglione, in the hope that the saint would make it possible for him to enter the Society of Jesus.

The tendencies of boyhood were at first prominently noticeable in his early years. He was somewhat wild, petulant, averse to work, and seemed too much given to amusement. His father therefore entertained some anxiety for the future of his only son. But it was all merely the thoughtless exhibition of the lively temperament of a child that scarcely knew the difference between good and evil.

When August was sent by his parents to the Lazarists in Savona for his education he soon showed how seriously he could take the fulfilment of his duties toward God and man. He attained first rank among his schoolmates for his good conduct and piety as well as for his progress in learning. After he had decided to study for the priesthood and had donned the clerical dress he used to gather the poor children of the city at his father’s house during vacation days and instruct them in catechism. He proved also a zealous promoter of the young men’s sodality in Chiavari.

The Society of Jesus had but recently arisen from its grave. The young Solari was inspired by its ideals and his heart glowed with a great love for it – an affection he was to preserve through many struggles. His father had died and his mother would not be parted from her only son. So the superiors of the Order advised him to postpone his entrance. Solari obediently applied himself to his studies and received the orders of subdeacon and deacon. But his mother remained inflexible. He would wait no longer and in the autumn of 1817 fled secretly from his home to the college of the Jesuits at Genoa. His mother could no longer refuse the sacrifice demanded of her.

We may imagine what zeal the novice showed for the vocation he had struggled so hard to preserve. One thing especially helped him to achieve in a short time the highest perfection – his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was enraptured by the love, the nobleness, the rich treasures of the Heart of the God-man wounded for us. From now on he considered it his life-work to be an apostle of the Sacred Heart.

After his novitiate Solari studied rhetoric for a year, and then taught in the colleges of his Order in Turin and Naples, after which he completed his theology at Rome and was ordained. As a young priest he was sent to Benevento in 1824 to help in the school and in the ministry. His virtuous example and his zeal soon attracted the attention of the whole city. His preaching especially was mighty in effect and enkindled in all his hearers the fire of divine love. Every Friday until the last before his death he preached on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was the confessor best liked by the pupils of the college. His zeal, humility, and amiability were a constant incentive to the community. Since the Order at the time had comparatively few members he offered himself for the performances of the meanest services. He chastised his body in such a way that his superiors were obliged to restrain him. In the novitiate he had already asked permission to go to the foreign missions. The newly elected general, Father Roothaan, was inclined to grant his petition. But instead of to the Arabs, to whom he had been destined, God called him after an illness of only a few days to the joys of heaven. He died in his thirty-third year on 27 August 1829, of scarlet fever. He seems to have foreknown his death. In his last letter to his mother he spoke of it with all certainty and to his brethren he made similar intimations. The whole city was stirred with emotion by the news of the death of the saintly father. A guard had to be placed over his body lest it should be disturbed by persons seeking relics. On the news of Solari’s death the rector of Naples preached a panegyric to his community on the virtues of the deceased.

The likeness between him and Saint Aloysius is quite striking. Both had a hard struggle with their families for their vocation, both preserved angelic purity, had a holy zeal for penance, a most heartfelt devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and both were eager for the foreign missions. Aloysius Gonzaga died after six years of religious life; Aloysius Solari after twice that time, twelve years, of which he lived half as a scholastic and the other half as a priest.

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916