Choosing your saint (Confirmation or otherwise) (or vice versa)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of choosing a patron saint, or having that saint choose you (see my post about St. Anne), and how that relates to choosing names for your children, or for yourself for Confirmation or when taking a religious name.

In that vein, I liked this article giving advice on how to choose a Confirmation name: How to Choose a Confirmation Saint. I thought this bit of advice is something I often forget, and probably others do too?: “The first thing you should do is pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in choosing a saint that will be best for you.” I think that’s where it all converges, all the choosing and being chosen, in patron saints and baby names and Confirmation names and all of life really. I know you know.

This article was really great too, reiterating all that was said in the article above, including pray pray pray, and some further ideas as well: How to “Choose” a Patron Saint. This was well worded: “There is a saying in the Church that we do not choose our saints; they choose us. But as in all things, we allow the Holy Spirit to work more fully when we cooperate with God’s grace. To do this, we must keep an open mind and heart, and prayerfully listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit” (emphasis as in original).

I’d love to hear what names you chose for Confirmation, and why. Are you happy with your choice? If you had it to do over, would you choose the same name, or something different?


Birth announcement: Annalise Rose!

I posted my consultation for the D Family’s sixth baby back in April, and the mama just emailed me to let me know the baby has arrived! She writes,

It’s a girl! Annalise Rose was born May 27th & weighed 8lbs, 11oz. Our older daughter is absolutely thrilled to finally have a baby sister!

We picked Annalise Rose for a few reasons~ after St. Anne, we had visited her shrine a shortly before she was conceived. Rose is short for the Rosary in honor of our Lady & that she was born in Mary’s month of May. Rose is also in honor of our favorite saint- St. Therese.

My husband’s favorite girl name is Allie, so her potential nickname is Allie Rose.

Lastly, the name Annalise means consecrated to God & graced with God’s bounty.”

What a gorgeous name!! I just love it, and all the meanings behind it, and that they were able to sneak in Dad’s fave nickname Allie — that is some GREAT nicknaming!! (I’m also feeling pretty tickled that my last suggestion for a girl in my post was “Some form of Anne”! 🙂 I didn’t suggest Annalise, but I did suggest Susanna, Christianna, Gianna, Anne, Anna, and Hannah, so … I was kinda close!)

Beautiful beautiful job, Mom and Dad D.! Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Annalise!!


Annalise Rose

Birth announcement: Lucia Grace Maria!

A reader emailed me to let me know the name of her little girl — it’s so beautiful, and packed with meaning! Alison writes,

Our second baby, (first one that I held in my arms, miscarried the first) will be 6 months old on the 10th. Her name is Lucia Grace Maria. Named after St.Lucy, full name Lucia of Syracuse … we chose Lucia after Saint Lucy … St. Lucy was the patron for my husband on the retreat where we met which played a big role in his conversion. Also because her name means light and that’s truly what she is brought into our family. [She’s also] named after Lucia who Mary appeared to at Fatima.

And her middle names, I always want two. And every girl we have will have Mary honored in some way and her name. [Our Blessed Mother] has had such an influence on my husband and I in [our] relationship with the Lord — the first time we went to Mass together was on a Saturday [all Saturdays are dedicated to Mary] … the first trip we took was on the Feast of the Assumption, we picked out our engagement rings on the presentation of Mary, we got engaged on January 1st the feast of Mary the Mother of God, and we were married on August 22nd the Feast of the Queenship. So we figured the least we could do was to honor her by naming our daughters after her. And Grace because that’s what we received when the Lord gave us another child. We lost our first to miscarriage and named her Noel Marie [miscarried on Christmas eve].”

What a blessed little girl Lucia is to have all those wonderful names!! And her big sister Noel Marie was so lovingly and carefully named as well, a perfect name for a Christmas baby. Thanks to their mama for sharing the details with us!!


Lucia Grace Maria

Baby name consultant: Eve? Adrienne? Or …?

Beth and her husband are expecting their fifth baby, a girl! Unfortunately her husband has vetoed “many popular Catholic female saints that I like like Gemma, Felicity, Kateri … We both like the name Eve, but don’t want to necessarily name her after Eve in the bible, so we thought of Genevieve or Evangeline and call her Eve, but then again none of our other kids have nicknames and we aren’t big on nicknames. We have also discussed Adrienne and found out there’s an interesting catholic author who died in the 60s named Adrienne … I would love a good strong holy saint … We also don’t want a repeat first initial so no M, J, L or S. I know, so picky. ;)”

Their other kiddos are named:

Madeleine Margaret

John Paul Landon (goes by John Paul)

Leo Michael

Sarah Gianna

I found this dilemma a difficult one! Not repeating initials knocked out a lot of names I thought seemed really perfect for this family! Like Lucy, and the Juli- names, all of which showed up in the lists of names similar to the ones Beth and her husband have already chosen for their kids and are considering: Julie, Julia, Juliet, Julianne, Juliana.

Also, I just have to comment on Eve — it seems to me they’ve found *THE* name for their girl! Beth said both she and her hubs like it, and it totally fits with the other kids … I love Genevieve and Evangeline, but if they’re not big into nicknames then that doesn’t seem like a great solution … so I wondered if just moving away from Eve-in-the-Bible and more toward Mary-the-New-Eve would help? I was surprised that they don’t already have a Marian name, and was totally going to suggest one, but then there’s Eve! There’s also the mysterious St. Eve of Dreux who appears in some good books, like Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints, but doesn’t have much information available.

But of course I can always come up with more suggestions. 🙂 I always shoot for three ideas:

(1) Isabel
I love that Isabel is a form of Beth’s name (whether she’s the full Elizabeth or Beth alone, Isabel’s related!), which is such a nice connection between Mom and daughter. Since Beth wanted a “good strong holy saint,” any of the Sts. Elizabeth could be a patron, but I also discovered St. Isabel of France who, according to The Catholic Baby Name Book, “was a daughter of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile. She received several offers of marriage but refused them all because she had consecrated herself to God. She devoted herself to serving the sick and poor. She also founded the Franciscan Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Longchamps in Paris. She lived there but never became a nun.” I don’t know of too many saints who were celibate singles (as opposed to priests or religious, or children saints), so St. Isabel is distinctive in that regard, and a good example of God calling each of us to our own path.

(2) Claire or Clare or Chiara
I always look through the Baby Name Wizard book when trying to come up with ideas for families — each entry has other names listed that are similar in style/feel/popularity — and when I looked up the other kids’ first names and the names Beth is considering, Claire showed up a lot as being similar. At first I was going to suggest Clara instead, thinking two syllables was a better fit with their one-syllable last name, but then I realized Clara rhymes with Sarah. So I went back to Claire, which is different enough from Sarah in my opinion that it works fine, and I don’t mind Claire with their last name (nor do I mind Eve with it, or even Beth for that matter). If Beth has a devotion to St. Clare, that spelling is lovely too. Or Chiara, which was St. Clare’s actual name (Italian version of Clare), and a recent Bl. Chiara Luce Badano is setting the Catholic world on fire (she was young when she died of cancer — she was born in 1971, so very current and relevant for girls today — and beatified by Pope Benedict). (Claire/Clare can be an honor name for her too.)

(3) Faith
Another name that showed up in my research was Hope, which immediately went on my list for Beth and her hubs to consider, and then I realized that Hope coupled with their last name, which begins with P, tends to reduce Hope to Ho in sound, which probably isn’t something anyone would love for their daughter. But it made me think of Faith, both because they’re similar, but also because I knew sisters growing up named Sarah and Faith. I have no other reason I like it for this family other than that it just *feels* like it would fit! I also know a little Faith currently, and I just love it on her — it’s sweet and so meaningful.

Those are my ideas for Beth’s baby girl! What do you all think? what other suggestions do you have for this family?

Eleanor=Helen after all?

I have long been familiar with the idea that Eleanor is actually not related to Helen, despite the fact that Elena and Ellen actually are Helen variants and Eleanor seems like yet another of those, no? Behind the Name, which I take to be the best and most trustworthy online source of name meanings and etymology, says this about Eleanor:

From the Old French form of the Occitan name Aliénor. It was first borne by the influential Eleanor of Aquitaine (12th century), who was the queen of Louis VII, the king of France, and later Henry II, the king of England. She was named Aenor after her mother, and was called by the Occitan phrase alia Aenor “the other AENOR” in order to distinguish her from her mother.”

I even referenced this “fact” in my article at Nameberry about how the intention behind the choosing of a name matters more than the actual meaning of the name, using as an example one of you dear readers who had named her daughter Eleanor for St. Helen and then was horrified to discover months later (after the birth and after the naming) that Eleanor is not believed to be a variant of Helen. (Add to the confusion that in the Eleanor entry at Behind the Name, Ellen is listed as the short Dutch form of Eleanor. This is different than the English usage of Ellen, which is as a variant of Helen. Oh dear.) (Hence my assertion that if the mama wanted her daughter to be named for St. Helen, and she genuinely believed Eleanor to be a form of Helen, then then baby *is* named for St. Helen.)

THEN, I was checking in with the Baby Name Wizard forums the other day, and came across this:

So a mention in another thread of the probably spurious etymology for Eleanor as “the other Aenor” from Alia Aenor reminded me…”

Wait a minute, what?

Of course I had to find the other thread with the “mention” of the “probably spurious etymology for Eleanor” (I’m sorry but “mention” is too casual a word for this rock-my-world bit of info), and indeed found this:

“… K.M. Sheard’s Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names (with the very long subtitle) … says (any typos mine): ‘Although Alianor is almost certainly a medieval Provencal form of Helena, there is an outside chance that its origins are actually Germanic — being possibly one and the same with Aenor. Alianor is often said to be the source of Eleanor, and the two were often used interchangably in the middle ages; the English Queen Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, for istance, was known as Alienor in Aquitaine. Her mother’s name was Aenor, and folk-etymology likes to derive Alienor from a combination of L: alia “another (female)” + Aenor. This play with words may have been in the minds of her parents, but it is not the source of either Alienor or Eleanor. Both had already been in use for at least a hundred years at the time of her birth; Eleanor of Normandy (c. 1011-aft. 1071) was the aunt of William the Conqueror, while the wife of the tenth-century Aimery II de Thouars, was called Alienor. Thus the superficial “other Aenor” meaning can only really have been an influencing factor in the naming of the Duchess. Such thinking is often a factor in choosing names today and there is no reason to suppose that things were all that different a thousand years ago.'”

Color me flabbergasted. And ecstatic!!! How fabulous that there’s actually a legit and reasonable argument in favor of Eleanor being a Helen variant!!! What do you all think??

(And now I’m off to think some more about that book by K.M. Sheard referenced above, which I’ve long been intrigued by, but so put off by its title: Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names: For Pagans, Witches, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Mages, Shamans & Independent Thinkers of All Sorts. Yeah. Bet you never thought you’d see those words on this blog! The commenter, whose thoughts and insights about names I always really enjoy and respect, made a point of saying, “I have been enjoying this book, for what it’s worth. I was initially a bit put off by the subtitle … but I’m glad I got it!” And a review on Amazon says, “Definitely not for Pagans only, this scrupulously researched volume covers a wide range of names, from the traditional, Old Testament Benjamin to the medieval French Goddess name Bensozie. A wealth of onomastic information.” That description just makes my mouth water … If I could actually consider myself an academic onomastician I would definitely need to have it, but as a mom of littles? I just don’t know if I could in good conscience let a book with that title in the house with all my still-forming boys. Maybe if I paper-bag-covered it? Like a school textbook? Or maybe I should look at it in the library … Have any of you read it? I’m such a sucker for good meaty name books with lots of info and commentary …)

Our blog’s patron saint

Ages ago (a couple months?), my mom asked me if I’d considered entrusting this blog to a particular patron saint. Or maybe she suggested that I do so?

I think I was noncommittal in my answer — there are a million saints I love, for one thing, and the idea of picking one seemed enormous and somewhat arbitrary. I mean, there isn’t a patron saint of names or namers (yes, I just googled it to be sure!) … there are a bunch related to motherhood of course, but is that what I should focus on? I’m a lay Dominican — should I restrict my options to Dominican saints? I chose my roses (sidebar) when I first started the blog as the symbol and avatar of Sancta Nomina — mostly because I like roses, and I love that there are the name quotes by Shakespeare and Anne Shirley that reference roses:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet)

I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage” (Anne of Green Gables)

And of course, roses are so associated with Our Lady. So maybe her? She probably seemed the most likely candidate, but then she has so many titles — would I pick just one? Which one?

It was all sort of overwhelming and any time I thought about it I felt stressed out, which is weird, because I don’t tend to stress out over this blog.

But then I was praying a novena to St. Anne recently for some loved ones, which was new to me — I admit I haven’t given her a whole lot of thought in the past, but I had some particular intentions and I came across a novena to her in my Mother’s Manual that seemed to be just perfect, and I found myself adding to my list of intentions “all the readers of my blog, including those who are mothers or who want to be, and those who are hoping for a baby or are suffering from the loss of a baby or from infertility.”

Funny, though I’d never really thought to pray for you, as soon as it came to me I was all of course. Of course I should be praying for all of you who are so interested in the beautiful holy names (sancta nomina) of our faith. And so you were included in my novena to St. Anne, which included the words, “Continue to intercede for me until my request is granted,” so though my novena ended after nine days, I have full confidence that you’re all under St. Anne’s special protection for the long haul. I’ve thought many times since the end of my novena to pray for you all, and every time I do I specifically ask St. Anne for her intercession.

So it occurred to me that, sort of accidentally (though of course not), St. Anne has become the patroness of this blog. I believe she chose us! And when I looked up what she’s the patron of (some I knew, but some I didn’t), she did seem pretty perfect: childless people, expectant mothers, grandmothers, grandparents, mothers, pregnancy, pregnant women, women in labor, and against sterility. I think that covers everyone who might read this blog.

And not only that, but St. Anne was married to St. Joachim, who is one of my favorite saints and bears one of my very favorite names. AND — they named Mother Mary.

That’s some serious business for a Catholic name blog.

I’m delighted at this development. One of my grandmothers was Anne, and she was warm and loving and made wonderful things to eat — I think of St. Anne the same way! With the craziness we’re surrounded with and bombarded by in our everydays, I’ve often thought of our little spot here as a haven, where we can have a happy little natter about names and not worry about the things that weigh us down. That feels grandmotherly to me, sweet and cozy and safe.

St. Anne, pray for us.

St. Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary, and the grandmother of Jesus. She was mother to the Mother of God! Because of this, mothers in every generation have called upon St. Anne to help them with their needs, especially in raising their children …

Glorious St. Anne, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection … (Mention your request).

I implore you to recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus.

Cease not to interceded for me until my request is granted.

Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face, and with you and Mary, and all the angels and saints, to praise Him through all eternity. Amen.

Mother’s Manual, edited by Bart Tesoriero (2003)

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

Catholic fams at Nameberry

I saw this sib set in the May birth announcements over at Nameberry:

Felix Ysmael, brother of Jacinta Gabrielle, Serafina Dolores, Avila Francesca and Cosima Ceilia

“Felix has been on our list since our first pregnancy almost eleven years ago. My husband loves it and it fits the requirements of being a Catholic saint name. I love that it means “happy, lucky.” Ysmael is my husband’s mother’s maiden name. She passed away last year and Felix was due on the one year anniversary of her death.”

I love all those names! And there was this one:

Sienna Theresa Joan

“Her name has a lot of meaning as a few day’s before Sienna’s birth my wonderful paternal grandmother passed away. She was called Theresa-Joan and her confirmation name was Catherine of Siena so we chose to honour her confirmation name in a roundabout way (we added the extra n because we didn’t want all the confusion for the rest of her life).”

(Big rule of baby naming is no criticism once the baby’s born and named! BUT … what do you all think of Sienna with two n’s? It’s a leeetle bit of a pet peeve of mine, that so many people think it’s Catherine of Sienna or Bernardine of Sienna — it’s after an Italian city people! Which is spelled Siena! I actually don’t mind it here though because (1) they know what the real spelling is and (2) they made of point of explaining why they changed it.)

ETA: I do know Sienna’s a legit spelling — a color and a minivan — it’s just not the spelling of the city that is part of the saints’ names.

Spotlight on: Casper

I’ve been wanting to chat about Casper for a while. I’ve been loving it in recent years, but haven’t even suggested it to my hubs, since we have a loved one who was tormented as a child by being called Casper because of his fair skin and light hair. The problem in that scenario of course is the meanness with which the other kids called him Casper — not the name Casper itself nor even the ghost, because really — he’s the cutest ghost ever. But still — Casper is tainted for us, unfortunately.

But what about for the rest of you? Casper the Friendly Ghost was well known when we were growing up, but is it still? And even if it is, does that bother you? This post at NameCandy (which is what inspired me to finally post this spotlight) officially argues that there’s no reason not to use it, but two different commenters noted that DreamWorks owns the rights to Casper, so a near-future movie is not out of the question. But then one of them also noted that were a Casper movie to come out, the name would likely shoot up the charts. Pop culture is such a weird, powerful, sometimes awesome, sometimes devastating, often hard-to-predict thing).

If you’re not afraid of a little ghost :), I can think of a million reasons why Casper’s an awesome name for a boy today.

For starters, he’s one of the Three Wise Men! Casper, Jasper, and Gaspar are all variants of the same name (behindthename has Jasper as the original, Persian for “treasurer”; it lists Gaspar as the Latin, Spanish, and Portuguese form of the name and Casper as the Dutch and Scandinavian form. Jesper, Caspar, Kasper, and Kacper are some other variants), and I’ve seen each of them used in reference to one of the Three Kings (the others are Melchior and Balthazar. I’m thinking Casper’s the most usable, actor Balthazar Getty notwithstanding). A good paragraph about the Church’s tradition from the Catholic Education Resource Center:

Since the seventh century in the Western Church, the Magi have been identified as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. A work called the Excerpta et Collectanea attributed to St. Bede (d. 735) wrote, “The magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard… who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, Caspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned… honored Him as God by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, named Balthasar … by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die.” An excerpt from a Medieval saints calendar printed in Cologne read, “Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (Sebaste in Armenia) in A.D. 54 to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on Jan. 1, aged 116; St. Balthasar on Jan. 6, aged 112; and St. Caspar on Jan. 11, aged 109.” The Roman Martyrology also lists these dates as the Magi’s respective feast days.”

Other than the Wise Man (who is referred to as St, Casper, both above and on Wikipedia), there’s also the pretty fab St. Caspar del Bufalo, who founded the Congregation of the Most Precious Blood.

Secularly, there’s a good list of Casper/Caspars here (both in the body of the entry and at the bottom of the page). And what about nicknames? Caz and Cass seem the most likely; maybe also Cap/Cappy (cute!).

Have any of you considered using Casper? Do you know any Caspers? Do they like their name? Do they go by a nickname?

Birth announcement: Ethan Andrew!

What a wonderful day!! I received another birth announcement email from another mama I’d offered suggestions to not long ago, in which she writes,

“… of course it was a boy … those are the names I struggled with if you recall 🙂 … we finally ended up with Ethan Andrew … My husband and I went back and forth for days trying to figure something out. I really loved James Mark with the nickname Jack and the hubs really wanted Michael Andrew after his father. I really didn’t want my son to have the same first and last name as his grandfather, and my husband did not want Jack in anyway shape or form, so we started from scratch. While the baby was in the NICU we used our time wisely and scoured the internet using your website and other websites you mentioned to come up with a good strong name that suited our sweet baby boy. It took us a day and a half, but we finally settled on Ethan Andrew and we absolutely love it!!

The palpable joy in “we absolutely love it!!” makes my whole day. 🙂 Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Ethan!!


Ethan Andrew