Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Saint by Any Other Name

I grew up in the sixties, when, if you were Catholic, you named your children after a saint. Period. There was plenty of variety, you could go for a popular saint like John or Mary, or go a bit ethnic with Stanislaus, or Brigid. For my parents I was between Angela or Brigid, each catering toward their own particular ethnic tradition. They compromised, and found Leticia in a "What to Name Your Catholic Baby Book", which is actually Spanish, and a name for the Blessed Mother, Causa Nostrae Laetitiae, which means Cause of Our Joy(are you seeing a pattern here?), a title of the Blessed Virgin in the Litany of the Virgin..You could get brownie points and use a family name, like my friend who has chosen her grandmother's name, Concetta, and placed it within her daughter's array of names, in Italian tradition, Maria Teresa Concetta.
In the case of boys, you could get a tradition going, with, say, John Junior, or carry on an established tradition with Peter the third. You could name a boy after the Holy Father, like so many John Pauls I know.You could get fancy, and look up a rarely heard version a tried-and-true name like Elizabeth, choosing instead, Sabeth, Isabella(as I did for my second daughter), or Liza. You could marry a couple of common names and come up with Marybeth, Bethanne, Anna Maria, or Maria Elena. And, despite his downgrade to questionable origin, there are many Catholic versions of Christopher, like my daughter's Christina. We just like to include a reference to Our Lord's name without seeming presumptuous, and using Jesus.
Some parents went uber-traditional with names like Benedict, Aloysius, Xavier, or Dolores. And of course, there are many formerly ignord, but now popular Biblical names like Joshua and Gabriel. Saint's names give the child a good example to follow, a heavenly patron to pray for them, and a feast day to celebrate.
It always hurts when new parents reject this time-honored tradition and name a child after the latest meaningless trend. Doesn't it bother you when Brittany, the name you thought was oh-so-unique ends up splashed across the papers with the words rehab or divorce associated with it? All right, I admit, this has happened with good saint's names like Monica and Justin, so there's no guarantee, however, there IS hope that, with a saint's name, that the former association of the child's name will outlive the bad publicity.Names, according to a book I once read, DO have an effect on a child's future. Take that nurse who poked her head into my mother's maternity ward room and pronounced, "you'd better change that little baby's name from Leticia, or she'll never forgive you!" Mom, it's been rough at times, enduring misspellings and awful pronunciations and unwanted nicknames, but, as an adult, I love the semi-uniqueness of my name, and wouldn't change it. Girls are supposed to do well with unusual names, according to the book, but boys get teased unmercifully if you have the poor judgement to name them after their great-grandfather Leopold, for instance. My girls love the list of baby names in the Berenstain's Baby Book, with appropriate comments: Egbert (he's your kid. lady!) or Romwauld(wonderful, a little brother for Brunehilde!).Today's Generation Y parents, who have largely disconnected from any religious condition find themselves without spiritual roots to help them name their children, yet they are compelled to find meaning where there is none, and are going to ridiculous extremes to name their children.
One couple hired a pair of consultants to draw up a list of suggestions based on "phonetic elements, popularity and ethnic and linguistic origins."One woman paid a "nameologist" $350 for three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing each name's history and personality traits.Another spent $475 on a numerologist to see if her favorite name had positive associations, whatever the heck that means.Why the obsession over child names? One baby-naming expert says that we live in a market-oriented society. That by giving your kid the right name — the right branding, if you will — he or she will have a head start in life.
If my Gen Y cousins would ask me,and you can be cetain they won't, I would tell them to save the consultant fees, and re-investigate their own religious tradition for guidance. With all the new saints and blesseds our late Pope John Paul II named in his tenure, you have many more choices than I did. I love Gianna, Pio, Jose Maria, or today's saint, Teresa Benedicta. Find your child their own heavenly patron and role model, and they'll turn out well in the end, by the grace of God.
HT Catholic Exchange

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