Heavenly Chiaras are saying hello!

Check out my latest Instagram post y’all. Seriously. Today was a Chiara day, apparently. I’m feeling a little bit like my mind is blown. When heaven dips down so close to us, it’s like Moses’ hair turning white in the presence of the burning bush, right? Like a little too much to handle. I’m thinking there’s a good chance someone reading this needs this little Chiara connection … maybe it’s me, maybe it’s you … no matter, I’m so grateful for God’s care for us, even in the smallest things. ❤


Spotlight on: Chiara

One of you wonderful readers emailed me recently asking for a spotlight on Chiara, and it’s kind of been on my mind now as we prepare for Christmas because of the carols It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and Silent Night: the title of the former (“clear”) and these lyrics from the latter, “All is calm, all is bright” (the “bright” part).

What is going on in her head? you’re likely asking yourself, but wait! It does make sense! Chiara is the Italian form of Clara, and Clara is from the Latin for “clear, bright” (Claire is the French form of Clara, and Clare the English form). So I personally think, if Christmas carols make you think of a certain name, there’s something Christmas-y there. Therefore, Chiara can be a Christmas name. 🙂 (Once again, I *am* the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where everything turns out to be originally Greek. “Kimono, kimono, kimono. Ha! Of course! Kimono is come from the Greek word himona, is mean winter. So, what do you wear in the wintertime to stay warm? A robe. You see: robe, kimono. There you go!😀 )

Anyway, Chiara: did you know it was St. Clare of Assisi‘s actual name? I mean, we call her St. Clare because that’s how you say Santa Chiara in English, but her name was actually Chiara. And our recent, beloved, and oh so relevant for today’s young girls Bl. Chiara Luce Badano (died 1990 at the age of 19) is another amazing namesake. I’ve also read recently about Chiara Corbella Petrillo, who died in 2012 at age 28 for Jesus and her own child in St. Gianna fashion. Beautiful beautiful role models and intercessors for a little girl.

Likely the first question one would have is how the heck do you pronounce Chiara? The Chi- is said like “key,” the -ara is said like “ah-rah.” key-AH-rah. So pretty, right? It can sound a lot like Keira when said quickly, I think, but it’s definitely three syllables. And like Gianna, I think it’s one of those names that transcends ethnicity, as does the Church — St. Chiara of Assisi and Bl. Chiara Luce Badano are ours, whether we’re Italian or not, so I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest this beautiful name to any family.

As for nicknames, it’s one of those names that might not feel right to nickname, if that makes any sense. Kind of like Siena — also a name I wouldn’t think to nickname. But maybe Chi (said “Key”) or Kiki? Kind of like Gigi for Gianna?

What do you think of Chiara? Do you know any Chiaras, especially non-Italian Chiaras? Do they ever go by a nickname, and if so, what is it? Do they like their name?

ETA: I’d also be interested in hearing if you’ve heard other pronunciations besides key-AH-rah. This may be a Gianna situation, where the authentic Italian pronunciation is JOHN-nah but we’ve anglicized it to jee-AH-nah.

ETA2: Gah, sorry! I forgot I’d wanted to reference the art term chiaroscuro — it’s said like Chiara (key-AH-rah) with “scuro” added on, if that helps with pronunciation. (And the chiar– bit references light, it’s the same root as Chiara.)

December CatholicMom.com article posted today!


Last year I wrote what I thought was a pretty comprehensive post about Christmas names.

Oh, what a newbie name writer I was!

Not only have I since found better, more comprehensive articles (like this one), but I’ve also found articles and posts that cover ideas I’d never even considered (like names from Christmas TV specials).

So it seemed the only “new” thing to write about Christmas names was to just try to take a new angle (like the aforementioned Christmas TV specials idea), a new-ish way of talking about the same names we always talk about in regards to Christmas.

That’s what I tried to do with my latest column at CatholicMom.com, which posted today: Holy Family Names for Christmastime Babies. If you couldn’t guess from the title 😉 , I focused on names solely having to do with the Holy Family. They’re familiar to you, of course, but it’s always a nice idea to rehash ways of naming babies after the Major Players in The Christmas Story. I’m also limited with space, which is freeing, because I wouldn’t be able to list All The Names, even if I wanted to. (Whew! Thank goodness for word limits!)

Please hop on over and leave a comment — I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas for Christmastime babies, or tell me yours!

Birth announcement: Andrew Augustine!

I posted a consultation for Janelle and her husband back in June, which was pretty memorable for its requirements:

“We clearly have a first – middle alliteration thing going on that we would like to keep but in addition to that we also like a solid spiritual meaning and a familiar but not trendy first name with an unusual middle for the boys (reversed for the girls obviously). Bonus for my husband–a theologians name for the boy. Bonus for me–a nature or scientific reference (Elanor: flower from LOTR, Peter: rock, Inessa: genus of skipper butterflies and the coolest version of Agnes ever)

Janelle emailed me to let me know their baby boy has arrived! And they gave him the very handsome name … Andrew Augustine!

Janelle writes,

You did a name consult back in June for my little boy due in July. Here he is–Andrew Augustine. We so appreciated the many suggestions both from you and from the commenters on the post but in the end, my husband really had his heart set on this name. We’ll have lots of ideas for the future if we need them. Thank you so much!

Indeed, Andrew Augustine was the option they’d been discussing when Janelle first emailed me — to me, when you keep circling back to the same idea, even after having been given loads of other ideas that you kinda like, that means something! This little boy was clearly meant to be Andrew Augustine. (And he certainly seems delighted over his name, if his picture below is any indication! So cute! 😀 )

Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Andrew!!



Andrew Augustine

Baby name consultant: A little brother for four big sisters!

Kelly and her husband are expecting their fifth baby, a boy, after four daughters! Their girls are:

Cora Rose
Della Maria
Adelaide Katherine
Luisa Claire

This list just makes me sigh with happiness. So lovely! (And did you see how the middle names nearly exactly match the length of the first names? Wow!)

Some of the names they’re considering include:

John (“I’d like to use John as a middle name. Or possible first name.”)

Kelly writes,

We like traditional names [and] names that aren’t super popular but that isn’t the number one concern. We are Catholic and like a tie-in to a Saint name if possible (middle or first) … names that end in -son don’t work well [with their last name].”

My first idea when I was reading Kelly’s email was whether she and her husband might like the name John Henry? I know a little John Henry who goes by John Henry (I’ve never heard it shortened to just John), and I thought that might be a nice option for them.

On that vein, because Kelly said they’d like to use John as a first or a middle name, I wonder if a different John+ name might appeal to them if John Henry doesn’t? John Paul is the most familiar I think, and I love it for this family, especially (as you’ll see below) Paul was a pretty big style match for them. (Also John and Paul have the same number of letters!) Or John Peter, or John George, drawing from the other boy names Kelly said they like — one of the fun things about a John+ double is that it takes two fairly “normal” or popular names and makes them much more unusual by combining them into a double name. (For the foodies out there, John George is fun because it reminds me of uber chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.)

For additional ideas, as you all know, I almost always start a consultation by looking up the big siblings’ names and the names on the parents’ current list in the Baby Name Wizard book, which has the awesome feature of listing, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Looking up all of the names for this family was so fun because it revealed that their style is really really consistent! I always look for “overlap names” — names that are listed as similar to more than one of their current names/ideas — and there were loads for Kelly and her husband! I’ve broken them down into three main ideas:

(1) Charles/Charlie/Charley/Carl
The Charles names were by far the biggest match for this family, appearing in one form or another in the lists for Rose, Della, Adelaide, Henry, John, and George! I’ve seen Charles used as an honor name for St. John Paul II (pre-papal name=Karol, which is Polish for Charles), as well as such saints as St. Charles Borromeo and St. Charles Garnier. Charles John is very handsome, and blogger Dwija at House Unseen, Life Unscripted has a little John Charles (who actually goes by Charlie) so that’s a nice idea too.

(2) Thomas, Samuel, or Hugh
I included these three together because they all tied for second place in terms of matching up with the big sisters’ names’ styles (whoa, apostrophes!) and the boy ideas.

Thomas is solid and traditional, and Thomas John is a great combo. John Thomas is great too (I have several relatives named John Thomas who go by various nicknames, including Jack and Tom).

Samuel is just a great name — there are few nicknames for boys that I like better than Sam! Samuel John is so handsome.

Hugh feels different to me than the others, even though it was as well matched for this family as Thomas and Samuel — it was listed as similar to Cora, Adelaide, and Louisa (the spelling Luisa wasn’t listed in the BNW). If Hugh isn’t quite right, maybe they’d like Hugo? It’s a variant of Hugh; Hugo John has a great rhythm, and there are saints variously known as Hugo and Hugh. The girls’ names strike me as having a little bit of a funky twist, a little unexpected, in the very best way possible, I love them — Hugh and Hugo strike me as similar.

(3) Stephen, Paul, Harry, Everett, Porter
Lastly, this group tied for third as a good match for Kelly and her husband’s style.

Stephen and Paul remind me of each other — New Testament martyrs and obviously saintly. I like Stephen John, and I’d mentioned the idea of John Paul earlier (I don’t think Paul John works as well).

Harry kind of reminds me of Hugh — kind of a Brit feel, which can be fun. Other names that have that feel for me are Simon and Oliver, which are great too. While Harry can stand alone, it’s a traditional nickname for Henry, so that’s a possibility too.

Everett and Porter both really surprised me — neither one are usually on my radar, so it was really interesting to see both Everett and Porter listed matches for Cora and Adelaide. Kind of a fun connection! I love Everett John and John Everett, and Porter John.

Those are my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother of Cora, Della, Adelaide, and Luisa?

Reclaim the name

I’ve long wanted to start a running list of names that need to be reclaimed from unfortunate or undesirable associations. These are the ones I’ve already blogged about:

And I want to add Lydia, because there are some people (my husband included, but I’ve seen it mentioned with some frequency on name boards) who won’t consider it because of the unlikable Lydia Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. (In fact, I added that to the Lydia entry in the Baby Name Wizard’s Namipedia, and the response was pretty funny:

My husband won’t consider Lydia, because of the unlikable Lydia Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice.”

Your husband read Pride and Prejudice? Kudos on snagging a literate one.

Gosh — have to agree — very impressive! I’d be willing to concede just for the fact he’d read it and made the connection! Well done, you! 🙂


We do, however, love Lidia Bastianich, so maybe the spelling change would be enough? I’ll have to ask him and get back to you. (I wrote good things about Lydia here.)

Do any of you have names to add? I’m thinking more like traditional, established names (not Nevaeh-type names) that regularly receive a negative reaction, whether on name boards or in real life, rather than names you have a particular personal aversion to, but I’d actually love to hear those too! Actually — wait on that, I’ll do a different post about that. For now — what names would you add to a “Reclaim the name” list?

New Marian names

On my post about the name Saint the other day, Sara commented,

Names deriving from Latin sanctus (which gave rise to modern English ‘saint’) are not uncommon in the Middle Ages. Perhaps the most surprising one — people not realizing where it came from — is Spanish Sancha and Sancho! These directly arise from sanctus (m.) and sancta (f.)

For me, Sancho is all Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s sidekick, and because of Sara’s comment I looked him up real quick, to be sure I was remembering correctly who he was, and discovered (which I had not remembered) that his daughter was named “María Sancha (also named Marisancha, Marica, María, Sancha and Sanchica).”

I kind of love all of those! What a beautiful and meaningful combo “holy Mary” would be for a little Catholic girl! I’d have to dig a little deeper to discover whether or not the use of any of those would be weird, like, you named your daughter after Sancho Panza’s daughter? I’m thinking it would not be weird — who knows the ins and outs of Don Quixote anyway? (Funny fact: I did refer to him as “my boyfriend” that semester I took the Don Quixote class, because I couldn’t spend time with anyone else but Don Quixote … that class did its very best to kick my rear.) (But I was triumphant.)

I love Sancho too, but again — too weird? I’m sorry I don’t have time to delve into it (I’m trying to play catch up on everything this week, not least of which is my son’s first Confession this Saturday, and everything Christmas!), so if anyone knows, please share!

Celebrity guest: Tommy Tighe (The Catholic Hipster)

Happy feast of the Immaculate Conception! One of my favorite things about holy days is that they’re meant to be celebration days, so let’s break out the yummy desserts and live it up!

A special treat for us today is this fun guest post from one of Mother Mary’s biggest fans, Tommy Tighe, who, as you probably know, blogs and tweets and writes at CatholicMom.com and podcasts — all as The Catholic Hipster. He’s also living my dream of writing an actual book that’s going to actually be publishedThe Catholic Hipster Handbook is in the works! (Available Spring 2017 from Ave Maria Press.)

I’ve had “Catholic hipster baby names” on the brain because of Tommy, but, as I told him, I’m either too old or too uncool to really *get* exactly what all this hipster stuff means, so I asked him if he could suggest a name or two for each gender that would fall squarely in Catholic hipster territory.

As with all his writing, the result made me laugh out loud! (Or lol, for all you younguns 😀 )

The Top Catholic Hipster Baby Names of 2015

By Tommy Tighe

It’s coming close to the end of 2015, and that means one thing: A ton of blog posts telling you the top somethings of 2015!

And this will be no different, as we bring you the top Catholic Hipster baby names of the year!


Kids love themselves some horses, right? So why not name your son after the Patron Saint of horses, St. Hippolytus?!

The actual Hippolytus was a martyr from Rome back in 235. He spent some time in exile for being elected as an antipope, the first in the history of the Church; however, he was reconciled to the Church before his martyrdom.

Your child’s name would be a clear sign that no one is too far away for God to bring them back in.

Plus, you could call him “Hippo” for short, and that would be pretty clutch.

Now here’s one that may be even too hipster for the biggest Catholic Hipsters among you.

Guinefort was a 13th-century French dog that received local veneration as a folk saint after miracles were reported at his grave. Evidently, the dog’s owner was a well-known knight who left his infant son in the care of the dog while he went off to battle. When the knight returned, the nursery was in disarray, and the jaws of the dog were bloody. Figuring that the dog devoured his son, the Knight killed the dog, only to hear the sound of his baby crying moments later. When the Knight flipped over the overturned crib, he saw the baby, safe and sound, lying next to a dead viper, which Guinefort had killed in order to save the child.

The dog became recognized by locals as the patron of infants, and sick infants brought to the dog’s grave would often have a total and miraculous recovery.

Guinefort … do it!


Nothing like a good ol’ “Qu” name for your daughter, right?

The real Quiteria was one of nine children … all born at the same time. That’s right, she was nonuplet! In a fit of rage, her high ranking mother demanded that their nurse drown the babies in a river. Thankfully, the nurse couldn’t do it, and instead snuck the babies out to a remote village where they grew up together.

After they grew up, they formed a badass Christian gang that travelled around breaking other Christians out of jail and smashing Roman idols. After being jailed themselves, they ended up breaking out and waging a guerilla-style war against the Roman Empire.

Sure, they lost, but how cool would it be for your baby girl to tell the story of where she got her name to her Kindergarten teacher?

Helena isn’t just an awesome name for your baby girl because of that one tweeting nun; it’s also awesome because of St. Helena of Constantinople.

The mother of Constantine the Great, Helena is credited with finding the relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified! She was a powerful empress, a very important yet still somewhat unknown figure in the history of Christianity, and even lived a life worthy of getting her face on a coin!

She’s also the patroness of divorcees, which is a pretty hot topic around the Catholic Church these days.

So, there you have it, the ultimate Catholic Hipster baby names list for 2015.

Are you pregnant right now and spending countless hours trying to select the perfect name? Well, I’m happy to have done all the work for you!!

And, for all of you kids out there with regular old names like James, Paul, or Andrew … sorry guys, but Daddy stuck with the classics.

Thanks a million to the funniest hipster I know for entertaining my namey request, and I hope you all have a very happy feast day!!