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.”