Reflection by Fr. Emmanuel Msuri sac on a personal encounter with St. Aloysius Gonzaga – from Moshi to Rome
IN ROME AT ST. IGNATIO CHURCH.
One of the things that you would love to do going to a new place is to visit the famous place(s) that you have heard about or that you have longed for or just wandering for its sake. It becomes an experience of its own if it is within religious circles and having to do with your vocation; what you longed for and what you have become.
My journey to priestly life is traced back to 1991 when I became an altar server at Christ the King Parish, Moshi Cathedral. St. Aloysius Gonzaga (born on March 9, 1568 and died on June 21, 1591. He was beatified in 1605, and canonized in the year 1726) was our patron saint, and once a week on Saturdays we would gather for prayers and other Church’s activities, and daily at evening masses we would be animating the celebration.
With the sense of wandering from church to church, I found myself at St. Ignazio Church. You would certainly admire its beauty and its structure. As I was walking around the church and reading the histories of different chapels, I came across the chapel of St. Aloysius and to my inner surprise, his remains were there, resting in an urn of lapis lazuli. It became a joy of its own because: first, this was a saint that I have being praying to when I was a child and an altar server. Secondly, I never got tired of praying that after my primary education I join seminary, of which I did. Thirdly, as a patron saint for youths, we were urged always to pray for youths in the parish and in the world at large. Fourthly, we were encouraged to imitate him in loving the purity of heart and devotion to Virgin Mary by praying the rosary. And lastly, I always said to him in prayer, ‘I love priesthood and I would love to become one of them…’
Imagine the experience of childhood being retrieved: its memories, its innocence and openness to many possibilities! Imagine the journey of a prayer from a child like prayer to prayer of a grown up and a bit of experience! Imagine the joy of being where you wouldn’t have thought of or say ‘one day I want to …!’ This was a joy of an encounter, of inner and deep experience, of re-tracing the memories and of saying ‘wow, this is great!’
Having been working with the group of altar servers in the parish, I have never hesitated sharing what was initiated in me as an altar server and a member of St. Aloysius Gonzaga prayer group. The number of times that I have been visiting the Church of St. Ignatio and the altar dedicated to St.Aloysius Gonzaga, I have always remembered and prayed for all the altar servers, that the spirit of the Most High would guide them and that those who would love to serve the Lord as priests would one day be at the altar of God. That remains my duty as I would imagine somebody has been there praying for me. In fact, this is a call when we pray St. Vincent Pallotti’s apostolic prayer, which is a prayer for vocations … ‘send forth, O Lord, laborers into your vineyard …’ So, let it be!