Catholic naming outside America

I read Jenny’s explanation of her kids’ names ages ago over at her blog Mama Needs Coffee, and this bit has stayed with me ever since:

“… while traveling in Italy (the first time) we chatted up a capuchin Franciscan from Poland in a restaurant in Assisi of all places, and as he bounced 7-month-old Joey on his knee, we proudly told him that his middle name was Kolbe “for Father Max.” The happy friar shot us a look of horror and asked in disbelief You took his family name?! So I guess the American trend of assuming surnames is not kosher the world over.”

I think I’m pretty knowledgeable about how to honor beloved saints within the landscape of the American baby naming scene, but I’d never really considered the idea that names that are okay here might be problematic elsewhere. I mean, certainly there’s a limit to how much parents should worry about such things, unless they’re planning to live abroad with their children, and being Catholic helps I think, because our saints come from every country. Biblical names also seem like a safe bet, since we all use the same Bible. But still I wonder …

Do any of you have any insights into what Catholic names to avoid if you’re worried about international opinions/sensibilities? Off the top of my head, certain categories of names that might cause issue are: surnames (as illustrated above), place names, and names traditionally given to one gender being used by the other. Do any of you have stories like Jenny’s?


Find me on Instagram (the celebration continues!)

My sister, who is eleven years younger than me (=more up on what’s up), keeps telling me “it’s all about social media!” which is why I’ve got Sancta Nomina on Facebook and Twitter, and now — tah dah! — on Instagram! She’s been telling me for a while that I should, and the blogiversary seemed a good time to bite the bullet.

I’m not totally sure what a name blogger puts on Instagram? I thought maybe any names I spot while out and about? But I started with the pics from my trip to St. Anne’s that I’d posted here, and added a couple more from the trip that I hadn’t posted to the blog.

AND — I was determined to go to the gift shop while at the Shrine, specifically because I wanted to get a little something for you all, so I picked up several different holy cards of St. Anne, and I just now posted a picture of all of them and I put descriptions of them in the caption. (And even though I tried reeeeeaaally hard to have a nice-ish picture [I’m not a photographer], somehow my final cropping took out almost all of one of the cards, and none of the crumbs above, and I didn’t realize until after I’d posted it with the looong caption, and I felt like throwing my hands up and taking a nap at the thought of re-doing it all. So — it is what it is.)

I would love to send a holy card to whomever wants one! But since I have so many different ones, I thought the best way to do it would be to have you all see the descriptions of them that I posted today, so you know what all there is, and then starting tomorrow I’ll post a picture of just one, front and back, each day, and if you like that one, email me with your mailing address. (You’ll be able to see better the card that got cut off when I post the picture of just it.) I only have four or five of each, so unfortunately it’ll be first come, first served, and only one per person (one total, not one of each). Does that sound okay? (And please be patient with Instagramming me … I’ve had a personal account for a while and it continues to confound me, and totally irritate me that I can only post pics from my phone. Whyyyy not directly from the computer?? My sister rolls her eyes every time I ask these questions.)

And lest you think I’ve changed from a name blogger to a first-blogiversary-travel-photography blogger, fear not: I do actually have a name question for you all, but I’ll post it separately a little later. 🙂

Baby name consultant: Not-too-difficult Irish name needed!

Jenny and her husband are expecting their third little one this fall, a girl. Their other two children are:

Caitlin Josephine
Sean David Paul

Good, solid Irish names! There are family names included in both. Her husband is from Cork, Ireland, and all of his family is still there. (Jenny writes the blog Irish by Marriage!) As Jenny writes,

It is very important to us that the baby have an Irish name. I want an Irish name that Americans will be able to pronounce. I love the Irish names, but I am a teacher and I know the frustration that comes from having your name misread over and over again.”

They did an amazing job naming their first two to fit that criteria!

For baby #3, we like the name Molly. The problem comes with the middle name. It took us a while to get pregnant the first time and we said a special prayer to Mary that we believe made a difference. My husband really wants the middle name to be Mary. Two of his three sisters have Mary as their second name. His third sister is named Rosemary. I love Mary as a middle name, but I really don’t like Molly Mary together … We also liked the name Cara (possibly spelled Chara), but my husband claims that we are pronouncing it differently. I cannot hear the difference in pronunciation, so we’ve had to cross that one off the list … I would love to include Ann some how. My grandmother is Betty Ann. It isn’t a must, but it would be nice. My husband keeps suggestion Molly Mary Ann or Molly Ann Mary, but I’m still not sold … We were quick to agree on names with our first two children, but this time we are really having a hard time finding names that meet our criteria. A few people have said,” It is only a middle name” but I really need to love the whole name. We would love any suggestions!”

So, as Jenny sums up, the name:

– Must be Irish
– Must be something that Americans can pronounce
– Mary for the middle name
– Ann would be nice, but can do without

You all might have guessed a time or two that I love my Irish heritage 🙂 so I loved working on this. I had four ideas that I thought might be helpful:

(1) Molly is an old traditional nickname for Mary!! That’s its origin, that’s what it means — it’s Mary with a different dress on, it’s a totally, thoroughly, 100% Marian-as-in-Mary name. For real! Behind the Name notes that Molly “developed from Malle and Molle, other medieval diminutives” of Mary. So naming one’s daughter Molly IS honoring Mary! That, to me, solves all the problems!

(2) However, if that’s not good enough for Jenny’s husband — and I know how husbands can be about names (!) — if he really just wants a different Marian name in the middle (and I’m totally with Jenny on Molly Mary … not only is it technically “Mary Mary,” but its flow is … singsongy? Sort of rhymey?), I wonder what they would think of Rose or its many variations? Rose is also considered a Marian name, as the rose has long been associated with Our Lady (“Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland” for one), and Rose can also refer to the Rosary, which is thoroughly Marian. Molly Rose is lovely, as is Molly Róisín (would an Irishy Irish name be okay in the middle? I love Róisín!), or there was even a consultation I posted to the blog in March of a family who ended up naming their daughter Rosary — I’d never seen it used as a name before, but I like it!

(3) As for Ann, someone close to me is named Molly Anne. I’ve always thought it was such a pretty combo! Molly Ann would be so great for this new little baby I think, or, if Jenny and her hubs liked the Rose idea that I mentioned above, maybe something like Molly Roseann or Molly Rosanna would work? (I also love Molly Áine … but I suspect I’m pushing it by suggesting the Irish spellings, even for the middles!) Also, since Ann would be for Grandma Betty Ann, and since Betty is a traditional nick for Elizabeth, maybe a form of Elizabeth would work if they just couldn’t get comfortable with the various ways to include Ann in the name.

(4) Finally, if Jenny and her husband decide that Mary simply must appear somewhere as is, maybe these would be of interest:

  • Mary Ann nicknamed Molly
  • Maura Ann nicknamed Molly (Maura’s also a form of Mary, and I know a little girl whose given name is Maura but she goes by Molly)
  • Ann Mary or Anna Mary

So those were my ideas for this little Irish-American baby! What do you all think? What suggestions do you have for Jenny and her husband?

(Jenny said I could share the photo she used in her pregnancy announcement on her blog — I LOVE IT!)


St. Anne says hello! ;)

I know a lot of families that do trips with their kids — big trips, little trips, every trip’s a trip.

We are not that kind of family, because I am not that kind of mama. Traveling with the kids feels like purgatory and I avoid it at (almost) all costs. (My poor kids.)

At least, until yesterday! I’m still amazed at how well it went. I know for 1000% sure it was all those pilgrimage graces. 🙂  And also some mental preparation: all week I told the boys about our “pilgrimage” we’d be going on on Saturday. I explained what a pilgrimage is (focusing on how a lot of times the nature of a pilgrimage is to be somewhat difficult), and we talked a looootttt about St. Anne. I think I must have reminded my 3yo five times yesterday morning alone that St. Anne is “Mother Mary’s mama” and “Jesus’ Nannie” (their name for my mom) and I thought his head was going to explode every time. His jaw just kept dropping. It was the cutest.

It was a long day, because we broke up the 2+ hour drive with a stopover for lunch (takeout McD’s, the boys were in heaaa-ven. They were like, let’s do pilgrimages more often! Haha!), and were determined not to leave the Shrine for home until bedtime (so they’d fall asleep in the car). I packed a picnic dinner (grilled cheese, doritos, applesauce, brownies, gatorade), which we ate at a picnic table on the beautiful grounds while (yes, while) the boys ran around, rolled in the grass, dueled with huge sticks, etc. We used their public bathroom a whole bunch of times.

IMG_0633 (1)

I did try to find that Mother’s Garden … I never did find anything so marked, but there was this sweet little spot with a small bench and a bubbling fountain and this lovely statue:


so I’m thinking maybe that was it?

I discovered that the Edmundites administer the Shrine — I’d never heard of them! Looking them up just now, what an absolutely perfect mission they have:

Who we are is defined in large part by our long history of responding to real and challenging issues of the day … The Society of Saint Edmund began in the 1840s in a rural region of France to revitalize the faith of people who had become increasingly alienated from the Catholic Church.

One story was just beautiful:

Early in 1965, Edmundite Fr. Maurice Ouellet, pastor of St. Elizabeth’s African-American mission in Selma, answered a knock at his door. He was surprised to see [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] standing on the front step.

“The Negro people tell me there is one white man in Selma who is black,” King said by way of introduction, “and I want to meet him.””

(Be still my heart!)

This is their outdoor church, where we attended the Vigil Mass:


Do you see the actual church building on the left? And how the whole front is one big gray door? I think it’s like a roll-down door, like a garage, because during Mass it was up, and it was just big enough for an altar and chairs for the priests and lectern and altar servers, so the pavilion housed the pews. I would have loved to have gotten a picture of the altar and beautiful statue of St. Anne inside, but while the Mass-goers were dispersing I headed over to a small A-frame to see what was there, and it was the thing I’d been hoping to find:


I lit a candle for all the intentions I promised to bring — it’s the one in the back row of candles in the bottom of the picture, the fifth from the left, between the super bright one and the 3/4 dark one. There were pads of paper where we could write down our intentions, so I did — you’re all covered!! 🙂

When I finished there, I went back to the church/pavilion in hopes of getting a picture of the altar and the St. Anne statue, but it was all closed up. This one was on the ground next to it though:


It makes me think of “Lovely Lady dressed in blue, teach me how to pray,” except it wouldn’t be blue for St. Anne — pink? At least, I always think of pink as her color.

After Mass we changed diapers and used the bathrooms again (!) and headed home, but not before I got this sweet pic of my youngest (and his little toes!) watching his brothers play (while I fed him a brownie):


I’m still flying high with the loveliness of the day, it was truly a #MissionofJoy, and the perfect way to celebrate the blogiversary. 🙂 ❤

St. Anne, pray for us!

UPDATED: I made the pics bigger.

One year blogiversary!!

Hey everyone, guess what?? A year ago today I started this little name blog! Can you believe it?!

Today my husband and my boys and I are taking a mini pilgrimage to one of the (many!) St. Anne Shrines, where I will be praying for all of you and your intentions, with a special care for those who are hoping for motherhood (or fatherhood) or struggling after miscarriage(s); or who are struggling with infertility; or who are suffering the after effects of an abortion (whether recent or long ago); or who are struggling in their motherhood (or fatherhood) in any way. I’ll pray for all your babies, both here and on earth. I will also be offering prayers of thanks for all of you and the blessings that have come to me through this blog (there have been many!). It and you all have been beams of sunshine through stormy clouds in ways you’ll never know.

I don’t blog on Sundays, but tomorrow I will, in order to tell you about our trip! Have a fabulous and festive day!! 😀 ❤

St. Anne, pray for us
St. Anne, pray for us

Irish census records

I’ve been meaning to share this here for ages and I’m finally remembering to! Maybe you already know about it? But it was quite the find for me: Census of Ireland 1901/1911 and Census fragments and substitutes, 1821-51. It has:

All thirty-two counties for 1901 and 1911, searchable by all information categories, are now available on this site. Corrections and improvements will be ongoing, and we are very grateful to all users who have submitted corrections to us. A small amount of material is missing from the site, and will be placed online as soon as possible” (emphasis as in original).

I found my grandfather’s family, which was awesome, and one of the other fun things was seeing other Irish names by way of seeing the names of the people who lived near his address. Happy searching!

Pope Emeritus Benedict on choosing his papal name

I think most namiacs like me followed story after story (after story …) of how and why Pope Francis chose his name (I have a pretty good round-up of them here; and I just came across this one: The Vision and Name of Pope Francis), but I only recently came across this treat, in which our Holy Father Emeritus explains why he chose Benedict: Pope tells why he chose the name of “Benedict XVI”. Reading it of course in hindsight, knowing the course of BXVI’s papacy, I was most struck by this bit:

I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely …”

There’s more to his choice than that, but I thought it summed up so well how I see him. ❤

Holy Spirit names

A reader asked me for ideas for names to honor the Holy Spirit — cool question, right? I’d never thought of names for the Holy Spirit before, but it’s a lovely thought. This is what I came up with:

— A “spirit” meaning, like Hugh/Hugo

— A “dove” meaning, like Colum/Columba, Jemima, Paloma, Jonah, or Dove itself. Or this interesting treat (from behindthename):


Gender: Feminine

Usage: Basque

Meaning & History: From the Basque name of the Spanish town of Ujué where there is a church dedicated to the VirginMary. Its name is derived from Basque usoa “dove”.

Mother Mary and the Holy Spirit in one name! But Uxue? I don’t even know how to say it! Haha!

— One of the ways I once heard the Trinity explained are that the Father is the lover, the Son is the beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the loving that goes back and forth between them. I could see a “love” name going along with that — like Amanda, Amadeus (literally means “love of God”), Carys, Charity, Kerensa

— A fire-related name might work, like for the tongues of fire: Aidan, Ignatius, Cinaed (often anglicized as Kenneth)

— The word “spirit” comes from the Latin “to breathe,” which makes me think of “the breath of God,” so maybe a “breath/breathe” meaning: Abel, Eve

Those were my ideas — do any of you have any to add?

“Boy names” and “girl names,” etc.

Alrighty, today I want to hear your thoughts on the gender of names broadly, and specifically your feelings on “boy names used for girls” and the resulting usability for boys.

I was motivated to ask by the dad’s opinion in yesterday’s consultation that Micah “is a girl’s name,” and so therefore he doesn’t want to consider it for a son, but it’s been on my mind lately anyway because of the (as most people would agree, I think) ultra-feminine name recently chosen as a man’s new identity — specifically because he wants to be known as a woman. And how that all goes along with the idea I’ve seen bandied about by some that “there’s no such thing as a boy’s name or a girl’s name” and “why is it acceptable to use a boy name for a girl but not vice versa?”

More personally, how do you feel about giving your son a name that might read “girl” to others?

I’m particularly interested in your responses as those who know, understand, and respect the Church’s teachings on: the dignity of men and women; the beauty and gift of the bodies we’ve been given; and the definition and importance of masculinity and femininity. St. Anne, please help keep our conversation holy and fruitful. ❤

Baby name consultant: Brother to Miles

Haley and her husband are expecting their second baby, and second boy! Their first little boy is:

Miles Howard

which I love, so handsome! She writes,

I love that Miles is a strong name, especially paired with Howard, named after my grandfather/father … Our last name … proves to make things a little more difficult as it is such a guttural, one-syllable name … I do think it’s important for a least one half of a name (whether first or middle), be connected to a family member whose character I would wish my child to look up to.”

Some family names they could consider include:


Other boy names they’ve discussed include:


although, according to Haley,

Thus far Henry is the only name still viable from that list, as Jake thinks Micah is a girl’s name … Lane is also one I really like, but I’m not sure how I like it with [our last name] … Donovan is Jake’s choice as of late (he likes that it has “Don,” as both our grandfathers were Donalds), but overall the name does not resonate with me at all. Philip is another one of my choices that Jake feels is too nerdy … where he gets that from, don’t ask me! Henry we both can agree on, although my hesitation is on its current popularity … For girls, we considered Sloane and Anna, but in the end I was completely set on Anna Louise.”

First off, Haley’s husband made me laugh — he sounds JUST LIKE mine! I’ve long loved Micah but it’s a no go, Philip was on my list for a long time, and Donovan! My hubs has bugged me about that name for years because he was a big fan of Dononvan McNabb when he played for the Eagles. (He’s sort of joking.) (Sort of.)

(I will admit though that I kind of love Donovan as an honor name for a Donald!)

I love their ideas, and Henry too (especially because it’s a family name!), and they all gave me a lot to work with inspiration wise. So I always shoot for three suggestions, but I came up with four for Haley’s second little guy:

(1) Colin
As you all know, I use the Baby Name Wizard book a lot when thinking of ideas/suggestions for people — it has this awesome feature where, for each entry, it lists boy and girl names that are similar in style/feel/popularity. Colin was listed as a style match for Miles, and Cale as similar to Lane, and Charles as similar to Philip and Henry — Colin, Cale, and Charles all strike me as somewhat similar in that they visually look similar and if you consider that a viable nickname for Charles is Cal, there’s a sound similarity among the three as well. Colin was my favorite of them for Haley — I get a little bit of a fun vibe from Miles, and Charles doesn’t seem to fit that quite as well, and Cale doesn’t sound great with her last name. Using the family names she listed as possibles, I love Colin Francis, Colin James, and Colin Spencer.

(2) Isaac
Isaac was another that was listed as similar to Miles, and it seemed right in line with the feel of Micah as well (without the being-used-for-girls baggage). I love the name Isaac, and I think brothers Isaac and Miles sound awesome together. I quite like Isaac Francis, Isaac Bowen, Isaac James.

(3) Spencer
According to the BNW Spencer is a style match for Donovan! And it’s a family name! I can definitely see brothers Miles and Spencer, and Spencer sounds nice with a one-syllable last name. My favorite first-middle combos for Spencer would be Spencer Francis (two family names! So cool) and Spencer James.

(4) Samuel
Samuel fits the general areas Haley’s taste is swirling, and Sam is such a great nickname. And Miles and Samuel as brothers — so great! They sound like they just stepped off the Mayflower, in the best way possible. Samuel Francis, Samuel Bowen, and Samuel Jacob are all quite handsome.

Other names that seemed to fit but that didn’t make my final cut for whatever reason, are: Thomas, Asher, Emmett, Jasper, and Elliott.

Those are my ideas for Haley’s little boy! What do you all think? What names would you recommend for Miles’ baby brother?