Spotlight on: Henry

We had some great conversations recently regarding Henry, between Dwija’s consultation post and little Henry Edward’s birth announcement post, and I kind of wanted to combine everything into one place.

So: Henry. Some Catholics have a hard time shaking the Henry VIII association. I get it, I do! But you give something power when you give too much mental energy and worry to it, you know? I’m not blaming anyone! I’m certainly not saying you’re wrong. I do believe Henry VIII would cause problems for us here if I lobbied for the name Henry, especially because my husband came from Protestantism. (And yes, I guess if the baby is #8 in a family, mayyybe Henry’s not the best name if you’re already feeling weird about the name!) But this is totally a case of needing to Reclaim the Name, because, as I said, there are so many holy Henrys. Priests and saints, men who gave their lives for the faith. I’m feeling a little weepy about their courage and their faith and how their name still has the taint of the VIII for many. They deserve better than that!

I’m loving the story of St. Henry Morse, and this gorgeous icon of him with Our Lady and Baby Jesus. Laura also referred to a documentary about his life called St. Henry Morse, Priest of the Plague, and an out-of-print book by the same name. He was one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales; another was St. Henry Walpole — both men killed for the crime of priesthood. St. Henry of Uppsala is another I have a personal connection with — a friend of mine specifically named her son for him, as a result of her Finnish heritage (he’s also known as Henry of FInland, and is Finland’s patron saint). He’d be a great patron for any Scandinavian boy, since he was sent to evangelize Scandinavia.

Moving a little away from Henry, which may be helpful, is John Henry, as in Bl. John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest who became Catholic, and was later named a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. John Henry is a sweet combo that can not only soften the Protestant connection if it’s proving problematic for a couple that might otherwise like Henry, but it also pulls together a biblical name (John) with a non-biblical saint’s name (Henry) for families who want to stick with a biblical theme but might also really like Henry. (You know who you are. 😉 ) (Yes, there’s the song and story of the hammer-wielding John Henry, but that’s not a bad association as far as I can tell.)

Basically, Henry is “totes Catholic,” according to cajuntexasmom. 😀

There’s also this scene in the movie Ever After, when Danielle (Cinderella, played by Drew Barrymore) says the prince’s name (Henry, played by Dougray Scott), and it’s just the most loving thing you’ve ever heard. Every time I hear or see the name Henry, all I think is Drew Barrymore saying, “Henry” in this scene (it’s at the 2:03 mark; do be warned there’s lots of smooching before and aft).

I do think that all of this worry is a Catholicky Catholic Problem. I know loads of little Henrys whose parents likely didn’t give two thoughts to the VIII because religion isn’t on their radar as much (even Catholics), and I love hearing it and I never think of the king, only of the sweet little guy in front of me. So if those who don’t constantly think about the names of our faith can freely and happily use Henry without any problem, so much more can we, who know of the Holy Henrys!

It’s got some great nickname potential too — Hank is just to die for. Ohmygosh, a little Hank would just make me melt! There’s Harry of course, and Hal is listed as a traditional Henry nickname on, and I recently heard of a little Henry that goes by Huck! Huck also makes me think of Hutch, which is also awesome — neither Huck nor Hutch are traditional for Henry, but they’re totally the kinds of nicknames I would love. (Especially if paired with a middle name that would make sense of something like Hutch — like Henry Charles. Ohhhh. ❤ )

I also thought maybe Ricky — Henrik/Henryk, Hendrick, and Enric are all forms of Henry in other languages, so I feel like Ricky is a natural (if not very obvious to those who don’t know the other forms). Some of the other forms of Henry could easily be nicknamey for a little Henry too — I particularly like the Scandinavian Henning and the Scottish Hendry (though I guess it’s not really that much different from Henry).

I did a quick search for “nicknames for henry” and “Ry” was mentioned a few times (like “ree”), even morphing into Rio, which is kind of hipster (and Rio’s been calling Pope Francis to mind for me recently, because of his visit to Brazil), so that could be cool. Also Hen and Henny … I could see both being very natural and sweet on a little Henry, especially if it’s likely to just be a family nickname.

I don’t want to talk Henry to death, but I’d love to know if all this info sways you over to the Heavenly Henry side! Also, do you know any Henrys who go by a nickname different from the ones I mentioned here?


35 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Henry

  1. I know a little Catholic Henry and have never made any kind of connection with Henry VIII! Never crossed my mind! I don’t know much about any of the St. Henrys but I always knew there were several and assumed that association. As a history major, I’m kind of embarrassed I didnmt think about the Henry VIII connection ever.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I feel like Henry is totally usable for Catholics. The main reason for that (beyond all the Holy Henrys) is the plain fact that it’s so popular. I feel like it might be different if it was unpopular, but being top 100 makes it even more usable!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I honestly struggle more with the name Calvin!

    But Henry is a family name for me. That said, it never really occurred to me how Catholic Henry can be until this wonderful post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I so needed this post! We named our 4.5 year old is named Oliver Henry before we were Catholic so I have been trying to find patrons for him. I recently discovered Our Lady of Olives which was a perfect match but couldn’t figure out which Saint Henry I could tie in. But then reading this you mention St Henry of Uppsala which is perfect. I wanted to name him Oliver Henrik but my husband ended up winning the battle and got Henry!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I have a Henry (called Hank about half the time) who is 2. When he was born and we brought him to mass for the first time our priest went on and on about how great Henry was as a name and how many great Saint Henrys there are. Our other priest’s name was Michael Henry, we he was pleased, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How sassy Hallie is! It is a variant of Harriet, feminine form of Henry, Harold and Hallam. Henry comes from Old High German name Heimirich, while Harold is derived from Hariwald.


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