St. Aloysius: A Baby’s First Words, First Thoughts, and Keeping an Eye on Heaven

Aloysius Gonzaga as a Young Boy

Our daughter’s first word was “Squirrel!”  She was excited by the furry critters that romped outside the living room window—so excited, in fact, that we bought her a stuffed squirrel in lieu of a teddy bear on her first Christmas.

Our son’s first word (after “Mama” and “Dada”, of course) was “Airplane”.   Riding to Grandma and Grandpa’s house safely buckled in the infant seat, he sat too low to see the forward lunge of commuters in Fords and Chevys, the harried shoppers and the barking dogs.  He could, though, look up and see out the windshield (car seats were installed in the front seat in those days) as planes from a nearby airport ascended and descended against the blue sky.

I was reflecting today on this, remembering their sweet faces peering out of snowsuits, peering over Daddy’s shoulder, and excitedly screaming their first words.  And since children are completely dependent on their parents, who control what experiences they will have, what they will see, what words they will hear, I was feeling a little guilty.

I mean, squirrels and airplanes are nice—but I just learned that the first words of baby Aloysius Gonzaga, the saint whose feastday we celebrate today, were “Jesus” and “Mary.”  His parents had in his first months of life exposed the infant Aloysius to the timeless teachings of the Gospel, and had helped him to understand that this was what really mattered.

By the age of nine, Aloysius had decided to enter religious life and had made a vow of perpetual virginity.  A quiet, humble lad, he kept his eyes downcast rather than risking temptation by looking at young women.

Aloysius entered the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and hoped to become a missionary.  He was struck by illness, though, and died at the age of 23.  His last word, like his first, was “Jesus.”

Patheos Bloggers Conspire to Change the World: My Day with My Friend, Fr. Dwight Longenecker

I am so proud to call this guy my friend.

Yesterday in Greenville, South Carolina, Father Dwight Longenecker and I got together for food and fellowship.  We chatted:  about writing, about our respective blogs, about Catholicism, and about you, the reader.  This photo was taken in his office.

I’ve been reading the works of Fr. Dwight Longenecker since the publication of More Christianity: Finding the Fullness of the Faith, circa 2002.  That book took C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity to the next step:  What if Lewis had carried the logic he laid out so well in that book to its logical conclusion?  Why, he’d have become Catholic, of course! (The book is such a good read that I always keep a copy on my bookshelf, ready to be presented as a gift to someone who is raising questions about the Catholic faith.)

Later, Longenecker (just “Dwight” in those days before his priestly ordination) played the same game of “What if” in Adventures in Orthodoxy, an imaginatively crafted sequel to G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

With one son working in those days at an airline (think: free travel privileges!) and another son living in Greenville, South Carolina (think:  free lodging!), I flew down several times to hear Longenecker—a former evangelical-turned-Anglican priest-turned-Catholic visiting the U.S. from Britain—when he spoke at St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, near his parents’ home.  Some time later, Longenecker, whose faith journey included years as a married Anglican priest with four children, was accepted as a candidate for priesthood in the Catholic Church, and I again flew down to witness his ordination at St. Mary’s.  I read his other books:  The Gargoyle Code: Lenten Letters between a Master Tempter and his diabolical Trainee, an allegory reminiscent of The Screwtape Letters; inspirational works on St. Benedict and St. Therese; Christianity, Pure and Simple, and more.

And now here we are—blogging side by side on the Catholic Portal at Patheos.  Fr. Longenecker’s blog Standing on My Head is a personal favorite of mine. 

Take a minute to check out his blog, Standing on My Head.

 

 

 

And if you’re also a fan of Longenecker’s work, you’ll want to preorder his next book, The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty

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Lastly, Father Longenecker has an ambitious plan to build a beautiful new church at Our Lady of the Rosary, his parish in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Check out the architect’s sketch and maybe, if you feel called, consider whether you can help with this project to build something beautiful for God.