Too gruesome for naming?

I had an interesting name convo the other day about whether some of the more gruesome saint stories are off-putting enough that parents might hesitate before choosing the name for their child.

I think my personal feeling is that I don’t mind the gruesome stories — it’s the heroism and faithfulness of the saint that attracts me, and I suppose it might even be that the more gruesome the story, the more I admire the saint’s holiness. I think of St. Maria Goretti — being stabbed fourteen times for refusing a boy’s advances. I think of St. Margaret Clitherow — being crushed to death for harboring priests. St. Nicholas Owen, St. Charles Lwanga, the Apostles, Bl. Thaddeus (Tadhg) Moriarty, St. Tarcisius, Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher — I can think of a million beloved saints and blesseds who showed strength and holiness in the face of suffering and evil. I love them all for their fortitude and faith and, indeed, heroism, and I’d be proud for my children to be named after them and to have their patronage and protection.

What about all of you? Are there any saints whose stories are so awful that you just couldn’t give the name to your child?

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11 thoughts on “Too gruesome for naming?

  1. In a recent conversation with a pregnant friend, I suggested the name Lazarus. (I’ve always taken such comfort in meditating on Jesus’ friendship with Lazarus at his home in Bethany.) She wasn’t a fan. For her the four days Lazarus spent in the tomb made the name too gruesome. I had always wondered why the name hasn’t been more popular and had thought perhaps because of the other Lazarus in Christ’s story of Lazarus and the rich man. Probably the two stories combine to make the name seem deathly.

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    • That’s an excellent example. I have a similarly negative feeling about Lazarus, which is so unfortunate because it’s also got great associations — friendship with Jesus, and that cool Z in the middle … but I could get on board with the variant Eleazar, because it’s removed enough, it doesn’t seem like the same name. Poor Lazarus.

      Speaking of variants … I was thinking how glad I am that Jude and Judah haven’t been tainted by brother Judas!

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  2. One of my favorite names is Winifred, frankly *because* St. Winifred’s story is so delightfully gruesome. She was a 7th century Welsh virgin princess who refused to marry a heathen prince. He cut off her head and where her head landed a healing spring bubbled up. Her uncle, also a saint, was able to bring her back to life and she went on to be an abbess and great saint of Wales. Personally, I think that fortitude in the face of suffering for the sake of Christ is what makes saints–and the exciting stories will be fun for the kids to learn about!

    Re: Lazarus–I like the name and wouldn’t connect any bad feelings of the macabre with it, it’s just not my style. Maybe it will gain in popularity soon because of that very trendy -z-?

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  3. I also agree that gruesome saints stories aren’t a turn off to me. Like a pervious commenter said, it shows little ones that there are people who died for God and it’s worth it to die for God, which could be a difficult concept for kids to grasp.

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  4. Our little girl’s middle name is Perpetua! We figured that we will tell our children about Jesus’ death on the Cross, and that is about as gruesome as it gets. I think that you can maintain a child’s innocence, even when telling these stories by limiting details and emphasizing different parts of their story. Beyond her death and heroic love for Christ, St. Perpetua was educated, a wife and mother, and a strong leader. I can’t think of a better woman for my daughter to strive to be like :).

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  5. My son is Isaac after Isaac Jogues, and he loves the gruesome parts. He thinks it’s cool and tough. So that worked well for a boy. I have to name my daughter (probably middle name) after Maria Goretti because of a miracle that caused her to even be conceived, and I am a little worried about how to explain that whole story – not only the gruesome part. I’ll have to think back to what I thought when I was little because I knew the general story.

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