Contardo Ferrini was born on 5 April 1859 in Milan to Rinaldo Ferrini and Luigia Buccellati. He was baptized at the font where Frédéric Ozanam, also a native of Milan, had been baptized 46 years before. After receiving his First Communion at age 12, he joined a Blessed Sacrament Confraternity.
Contardo's father, a professor of mathematics and science, taught his son at an early age. By the time he was a young man, he spoke several languages. His apparent love for his faith caused friends to call him by the nickname St. Aloysius (St. Aloysius Gonzaga). He entered University of Pavia at age 17 and, two years later, was appointed Dean of Students. At age 21 he became a doctor of the law at the University. His doctoral thesis, which related penal law to Homeric poetry, was the basis of his being awarded a scholarship to the university in Berlin, where he specialized in Roman-Byzantine law, an field in which he became internationally recognized as expert.
During Contardo's stay in Berlin, he wrote of his excitement at receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time in a foreign country. The experience brought home to him, he wrote, the universality of the Church.
Upon his return to Italy, he was a lecturer in universities at Messina, Modena, and Pavia. He received his first professorship at age 26. Contardo attempted to discern a vocation as a secular priest, a religious, or as a married person. Ultimately, he remained an unmarried layperson. He vowed himself to God, became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis in 1886, and was a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, to which he had been introduced by his father, a member of a conference.
As a faculty member at University of Pavia, he was considered expert in Roman Law. Over the course of his career he published books, articles and reviews. He taught for a time at the University of Paris. He became a canon lawyer in addition to being a civil lawyer. Mountaineering was an avocation.
An anecdote, unsourced, about Contardo is that he was asked to attend a dinner party and, once there, found it tedious. His resort was to invite all the guests to join him in praying the Rosary.
In 1900, Contardo developed a heart lesion. In Fall, 1902 he went to his country home in Suna in order to rest. There he became ill with typhus. He died at age 43 on 17 October 1902. Residents of Suna immediately declared him a saint. His fellow faculty members at the University of Pavia wrote letters in which he was described as a saint. In 1909 Pope Pius X appointed Cardinal Ferrari to open a cause. Contardo was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XI and he was beatified by Pope Pius XII on 13 April 1947. His body is venerated in a chapel of Milan's Catholic University. He is a patron of universities.
"Our life must reach out towards the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity."
"If on any particular day we do nothing more than give a little joy to a neighbor, that day will not be wasted. For we have succeeded in giving comfort to an immortal soul."
"If the way that leads to Jesus' Heart is arduous and long, have one look at the heart of this Mother, and you will have courage!"