Thursday — St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591)
This patron of Catholic youth was born in 1568 and called to God at age 23 in 1591. Aloysius came from a wealthy and socially prominent family. He was obliged to participate in court life, but he did not like it at all. He hated the superficial and the artificial hypocrisy of the courtiers. He entered the Society of Jesus at age 16. Always frail, he was told by his Confessor that he would do real penance by eating more and getting more recreation! Penance is doing what should be done, and not what we want to do. Aloysius had a delicate conscience and was fervent in every virtue. He died very young.
The weekday readings: Again and again, we need to remind ourselves of Jesus in today’s gospel passage: “In your prayer, do not babble on like pagans who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Saying syllables is not prayer. Prayer is the lifting of the heart and mind to God; this requires attention and reverence. Speeding and slopping through words is not prayer. How often, at Mass, I begin the Gloria or the Lord’s Prayer only to have people race ahead as if there were some prize for speed. It is a monotone barrage of syllables. How often do we find a rosary “said” but not “prayed.” Dragging is not prayer either, but the key is reflection, attention, and reverence. Perhaps some other people have a problem like mine: I find it very difficult to pray the rosary in public because it seems to be just a racing mumble of monotonous syllables.
Others will argue with me. They will say that the vocal prayers are unimportant and that they act as “mantras” for the meditation on the mysteries. So be it. I cannot think or do two things at once. I don’t find mantras to be a Christian practice. If you disagree with me, at least be patient. And let us always remember that the criterion for our prayer is what Jesus teaches: “Don’t babble on like pagans.”
One of the saints has said, “One Our Father well prayed is worth ten thousand rosaries which are just said.”