Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"By their names ye shall know them"?

Heard an interesting story a few days ago on the news; while it was bad news, and mind-numbing, in that it was *yet another* story of Iraqi casualties in the war, it in a sense "witnessed" to me about something I feel we used to have, and may not anymore.

The announcer mentioned that in Iraq, you can tell which religious sect a person belongs to by their name. So when rescuers come to save the lucky ones, or when the law comes to find those not so lucky, with one glance at their IDs, they can tell how many of which religious group have been involved in a certain encounter.

And that got me thinking...what if we could tell what faith we were by our NAMES alone?

And that got me remembering that there was a time when, for Catholics, that was just about true. And maybe that ought to start being true again.

Think about it. If you grew up in a neighborhood with the proverbial big Catholic families, what kind of names did they give their kids? Of course--saints' names. When I was growing up, in fact, you had to have at least a saint's name for your middle name (if you had one) in order for the priest to be willing to baptize you in the Church.

Not for Catholic kids the whimsical, spacy names of 60s flower children; we didn't get away with baptizing babies Starshine or Astral Joy (that one's for you, T2). And even some of the more popular names of our day--if they couldn't be traced back to a saint's name with a fairly straight line--had to be linked to something that COULD, or the priest would make you add another name to the kid or choose something else.

In those days, amazingly enough, that wasn't considered violating anyone's freedom....it was what you DID, as a Catholic. It was expected of you, the priest said so, the Church said so, and so you did it. You didn't think about how "unfair" it may have been. It was part of your Catholic duty, your identity, and in the end you were proud to do it. If Aunt Sunshine was a little put out because you named your girl Mary Ellen instead...that was just something you dealt with.

But now? Now the Church gently "suggests" or "advises" that your child's name be traceable to a saint's name.

Suggests?

Advises?

Since when does the Church have to feel that the best they can do is "suggest" or "advise"? How about "require"?
Will it drive people away from the Catholic Church? Not in the numbers the Church apparently fears. More people are leaving the Church because it's not taking strong enough stands than because it's "too strict." That excuse used to have some validity. Now? Don't make me laugh.

In the name of "compassion," thousands of grown-up children of the 60s have diluted the Catholic identity to the point now where it's hard to know what a real Catholic looks like anymore. Maybe knowing one by his or her name--and having that name proudly represent and honor a patron saint--would help.

It's certain that at least having a saint in a child's background would be better catechesis than many of them are getting nowadays. And any better catechesis is a step in the right direction.

Thoughts?
Janny

7 comments:

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Interesting. So, with what faith would you associate Victoria Louisa Gabriella Henriette Rachael Michelle Elizabeth d'Orléans - de Vienne?

Mary Ann said...

I am from an Irish-American Catholic family. My husband is from a Polish one. We named our sons with very common (40 years ago) saint names. They are family names on my side.

I can't tell you the number of times people have commented to me on how nice it is to hear a traditional name for a child! The only place we really fit in, name-wise, is our Catholic homeschool group. There are actually other boys with the same Christian names.

JV said...

I thought the same thing when my sister told me the name of her first son, "Reese". I thought - "I don't know a St. Reese".

I'm now his Godfather so I'm praying he might be the first. hehe...

Dunno who his patron might be...maybe one of the St. Theresa's out there?

Janny said...

Sha'el...I would give her the benefit of about sixteen saints' protection! Is that Joan of Arc?
:-)

Janny

Cheryl Wolverton said...

Hehe...Okay, I'm a very un-catholic, you could say. I go to an assembly of God church, though we're interdenominational...aka 'just a christian' so to speak.

And I have to say, who cares what a name is. I mean, I love all names. We lived in the south and talk about some names--back out in the southwest now, I really miss some of them...aka Shanequia ...grin.

But, the main goal, I would think, would be their soul--raising them right. You can name them anything you want, but if you don't raise those kids right, really work with them, pray over them, then a name isn't going to matter.

However, I do agree that we should be known by our works. Faith without works is dead. If we're out there living like the devil monday through friday, then we aren't going to look very 'christian' on Sunday when we go to church with a hangover.

So I definitely want to be known by a name: Christian.

:)))

Cheryl Wolverton said...

Hehe...Okay, I'm a very un-catholic, you could say. I go to an assembly of God church, though we're interdenominational...aka 'just a christian' so to speak.

And I have to say, who cares what a name is. I mean, I love all names. We lived in the south and talk about some names--back out in the southwest now, I really miss some of them...aka Shanequia .

But, the main goal, I would think, would be their soul--raising them right. You can name them anything you want, but if you don't raise those kids right, really work with them, pray over them, then a name isn't going to matter.

However, I do agree that we should be known by our works. Faith without works is dead. If we're out there living like the devil monday through friday, then we aren't going to look very 'christian' on Sunday when we go to church with a hangover.

So I definitely want to be known by a name: Christian.

:)))

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Names are part of our identity, who we are - meet someone new and they ask, "What's your name?" So what does your name mean to you? Just a fun name your parents picked? Or something with a deeper meaning - like a saint they respect, admire, hope that you will take as your role model? I like the idea of giving children names that mean something.