St. Aloysius Gonzaga was a well-connected young man who lived during the Renaissance. His father longed for him to become a military hero, and brought him up in the court society. But Aloysius was affected from an early age by a desire to become one with God, and often practiced great penance and asceticism. By age eleven, he was teaching catechism to poor children, and fasting three times a week. I don’t really remember what I was doing at age eleven, but I know my piety was not nearly as advanced as Aloysius! He eventually decided he would like to join the Jesuits, but had to wage a four-year battle with his father, who eventually relented and let him forsake his right to succession and join the novitiate.
Today’s Gospel is one that Aloysius knew well. He not only prayed the words of the Lord’s prayer but also lived them, letting God’s will be done in him and through him. In his seminary studies, he must have read St. Cyprian, who said of the Lord’s prayer, “When we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything except the object of its prayer” (On the Lord’s Prayer, 31). The Lord’s Prayer teaches us this attitude of being changed by our prayer, if we take the time to center ourselves and be present to the prayer and the object of our prayer, who is our God. St. Cyprian and St. Aloysius remind us well today how beautiful a prayer we make when we enter into prayer with our whole being and when we live the words we pray.