Baby name consultant: Baby Girl needs an obviously Catholic name

Jaclyn and her husband are expecting their fourth baby, a little girl! She’ll join big siblings:

Lillian Charlotte
Olivia Kathryn
Henry Sullivan

Which is just such a lovely, elegant set. ((sighing with happiness))

Jaclyn writes,

We have really had a reawakening and increased love for our faith in the last few years, so it’s important to us that that name is a saint (or derivative) or otherwise Catholic in nature…we want someone to hear her name and just know she’s Catholic

We are currently considering Lucia/Lucy, Clare, Gianna, and Azelie/Zelie (though we really want your input on how a Midwestern American would say the name!)

We have always liked Madeline, Eleanor, and Cora as well but they didn’t feel “Catholic” enough. We liked Cecilia but ruled it out as baby has a cousin named that.”

First off, I think Jaclyn’s kiddos’ names are full of faith-y significance! And they’re very consistent style-wise, as are Madeline, Eleanor, and Cora. I’m interested that they don’t think they’re “Catholic” enough — I do know what she means I think, and I have some super duper Catholicky Catholic suggestions below — but at the same time they all can hold their own in the world of saint names: St. Madeleine Sophie Barat is amazing; Eleanor is often given as a form of Helen(a), and St. Helena is wonderful; I’ve seen Cora used recently in reference to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (see the comments on this post especially) — all heavy hitters!

But there are definitely names that are clearly, obviously Catholic to most people. I love how Jaclyn said, “we want someone to hear her name and just know she’s Catholic” — a beautiful hope! I guess there will always be someone who just isn’t familiar enough with Catholicism and its names to get right away that their daughter’s name is a Catholic name, but some that I think are pretty universally known include:

  • Lourdes
  • Therese, Theresa, Teresa (especially Therese, I think, but they’re all great)
  • Maria, Marie
  • Mary+[something] (Mary doubles tend to come across as nun-like, which I love)
  • Bernadette
  • Regina
  • Philomena
  • Rosary (there was a baby on the blog last spring named Rosary and I LOVE it!)
  • Rosemary, Rosemarie
  • Immaculata, Immaculee
  • Cecilia
  • Benedicta
  • Scholastica
  • Magdalene/Magdalena

Others that definitely ARE very Catholic, and almost exclusively so, but might be less likely than those listed above to come across that way, just because of having other associations as well or being unfamiliar, include:

  • Grace
  • Gemma
  • Catherine
  • Elizabeth
  • Margaret
  • Lucy, Lucia
  • Jacinta
  • Felicity
  • Clairvaux
  • Vianney (the Lourdes mentioned above has sisters Clairvaux and Vianney!)
  • Josephine
  • Genevieve
  • Evangeline
  • Karoline (that “K” points right to St. John Paul II)
  • Avila
  • Ava when paired with Maria as the middle name or as a double first name — like “Ave Maria”
  • Azelie, Zelie (I don’t think anyone else is using these but Catholics, but they’re so unfamiliar that I don’t think enough people know where this comes from)
  • Kateri
  • Gianna
  • Chiara
  • Clare
  • Perpetua (I’ve seen Pia and Pippa as nicknames for this, so sweet!)
  • Pia
  • Frances, Francesca

And then certainly there are a million other names that have saintly connections, but are so widely used by Catholics and non-Catholics that they don’t have an exclusively Catholic feel. Some people love that they just get to choose their favorite names and not worry that they’re saintly because so many (most?) names that Americans use today can trace back to a saint somehow. But when you want an obviously Catholicky Catholic name, I think a name from the lists above are your best bet.

So the names this family is considering — Clare, Lucy/Lucia, Gianna, and Azelie/Zelie — are all ones I’d consider to have that really Catholic feel they want. Clara/Clare and Lucy/Lucia are especially really similar to other names they like, style-wise.

As for their question regarding the pronunciation of Zelie, I’m guessing the pronunciation zellie, like rhyming with Kelly, would be their best bet. The Lourdes, Vianney, and Clairvaux sisters I mentioned above also have a sister named Zellie, spelled that way, which makes their pronunciation really obvious — maybe that would help? I have seen other pronunciations for it too, which I wrote about here.

It was fun to put together the lists above of names that are likely to be recognized as belonging to a Catholic girl, but of course I’m sure they don’t all fit the particular taste and style of this family. So I went through the Baby Name Wizard, as I almost always do for consultations, and looked up all the names they’ve used and liked, looking for patterns and overlap, and thought these names (which are included in the lists above) are the closest fit:

(1) Grace (or Mary Grace)
Grace seems a great fit for Jaclyn and her husband! It’s similar in style to their other kids’ names, and has such beautiful meanings, from the grace of God to Our Lady of Grace. Lovely! I especially like that I consider Lillian and Olivia to be Marian names (lilies are associated with her, and another of her titles is Our Lady of Olives), and Grace would fit right in with that. It is quite popular though, which they may not like, as the more popular a name the less any one association sticks to it, so I wondered if they might like Mary Grace? They could still call her just Grace, or Gracie, but the full Mary Grace definitely has Catholic cachet.

(2) Mary, or Mary+, or Maria
Mary on its own is being used less and less these days, which makes it kind of a bold yet very traditional and very Catholic choice. Mary could take Molly as a nickname, as Molly started out as a nickname for Mary, as did Polly; the nickname Mae would be sweet too — I’m offering all of these in case Jaclyn and her hubs like the idea of Mary as the first name but not as the everyday call name, if that makes sense.

Putting Mary in front of any names immediately “Catholicizes” it, I think, so I wondered if they’d consider something like Mary Madeline (reminds me of both Mary Margaret and Mary Magdalene, which are such traditional Catholic combos!), Mary Eleanor, Mary Cora … all so pretty! The middle names could be the call names, or both names all the time — it seems a good way to try to work in names they really like but want to be more heavy hitting faith-wise. Mary Elizabeth is another pretty combo, I know one who goes by M.E. (sounds like Emmy, so cute!). Sophia was a name that is really similar to a lot of names Jaclyn and her hubs like — maybe Mary Sophia? Maria Sophia? Which reminds me that Maria is a great option on its own, and Maria Teresa or Maria Therese would be really pretty too.

(3) Elizabeth, maybe nicknamed Zelie?
Another way of getting around the Zelie pronunciation issue is to use it as a nickname for a more common name. It’s kind of a crazy idea! But I did a consultation for blogger Jenny Uebbing a few months ago, and one of her readers suggested Elizabeth with the nickname Zelie, which incidentally I had just thought of myself before even reading it and thought was brilliant, and a reader here recently reminded me of it as well.

Even just Elizabeth on its own would be a lovely choice (or as Mary Elizabeth, as mentioned above) as it’s definitely saintly and Catholic — The Visitation is considered a really pro-life mystery, because of John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb for joy — so I always think of Elizabeth as a really pro-life and even Marian name, in a sense. But I know it’s been used so much that it might not come across as Catholic enough.

(4) Ava Maria
Ava showed up in my research quite a bit as a name that’s similar to others this family likes. On its own it’s certainly lovely, but pretty popular these days, and I think most people would think of Ava Gardner or other associations, but if it’s paired with Maria as a double first name, I think it’s really very Catholic sounding, as Ava Maria sounds so much like Ave Maria. It could even be hyphenated (Ava-Maria) or make it one name (Avamaria or AvaMaria).

(5) Magdalen(e)/Magdalyn/Magdalena
Finally, I wondered what Jaclyn and her hubs would think of Magdalen(e)/Magdalyn/Magdalena? It’s the origin of Madeline/Madeleine/Madelyn — they’re all variants of Magdalen(e) — but I think I’m correct in thinking that Magdalen(e) et al. come across as extra Catholic. With Magdalen(e) (or whatever spelling) they could have the nickname Maggie, which is the kind of thing I love — a bolder, more offbeat given name with a more accessible, familiar nickname. (Since they’re thinking of Clare, I was also reminded of this little Clare Magdalene, which is a combo I love!)

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for Lillian, Olivia, and Henry’s little sister?

Birth announcement: Bennett Michael!

One of my dearest friends (bridesmaid-in-my-wedding kind of friend) and her husband have welcomed their second baby on earth, and have given him the amazingly handsome name of … Bennett Michael!

One of the most fun parts of his naming is that she and her husband keep their name choices secret until the birth, but she revealed to me not too long ago that they’d actually first heard the name they’d chosen for a boy from one of you readers! So I was a little obsessive about going through old posts and trying to figure out what I thought the name could be, and I totally called it — I even told my husband, just so I’d have a witness! Haha!

So when she texted me the wonderful news about my wonderful newest pseudo-nephew, I was dancing for joy for all sorts of reasons. 😀 ❤ ❤ ❤

Bennett joins big brother Luke Francis, and I don’t yet know if they’re going to call him Ben or Benny but I love every single aspect of brothers Luke and Bennett. Fantastic taste you guys!! Lots of love and congratulations again, and happy birthday Baby Bennett!!

bennett_michael

Bennett Michael


(Fun fact: Bennett’s mama is one of several really close friends of mine from college, and between the five of us we have three girls and lots of boys — Bennett is boy #16!!!)

(Now to go obsessively try to figure out their girl name, which is a totally futile attempt because I know she won’t tell me. 😛 )

 

Birth announcement: Marielle Elise!

Do you all remember the spotlight post on Ruby? Julie had asked for it, since she and her husband were considering it for their second baby girl — she emailed me to let me know her little one has arrived, and has been given the gorgeous name … Marielle Elise!

Julie writes,

Hi Kate!

I am the reader that had requested the spotlight on Ruby. You asked if I would share our final choice, and I would love to! We didn’t end up choosing Ruby for the birth certificate, but this little girl came out with bright strawberry blonde hair so it has been floating around as a nickname. 🙂 I tend to be very “nick-namey” so she also goes by Mellie, Ellie, Elle, and Mari-Berrie … Marielle Elise was born in early February! (Pronounced Mary-El)

Our older daughter is Rosalie Gabrielle so you can tell that we gravitate toward French monikers. We liked the idea of both girls having connections to our Blessed Mother via at least one name. Then it happens that my favorite mysteries of the Rosary are the joyful, so their middle names tie into people present at the Annunciation and the Visitation. Both full names have numerous family connections as well.

I have suffered medical complications since her birth so I would appreciate any spare prayers you might have. Thank you and thank you for your blog. Keep writing!

You all are such great prayer warriors, I know you’ll remember Julie in your prayers. And how wonderful are her girls’ names?! I love that both have a Marian name and a Joyful Mystery name — that’s pretty Master Class naming right there! And I love that Ruby’s still possibly a contender as a nickname — I love that, in Marielle’s case, it would be for her hair, how lovely!

Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Marielle!! (And remember Julie in your prayers!)

marielle_elise

Marielle Elise

(Can you believe that sweet smiley face on such a tiny girl? ❤ )

 

Spotlight on: Ludmila

Grandparents — especially grandmothers — have been on my mind this week. Feb. 20 marked the 17th anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s death; Feb. 23 was the 25th anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s; and my mother-in-law — my boys’ grandmother — is rapidly being called home, it won’t be long. Please pray for her and for our family.

In light of all this, today’s spotlight is perfect. Months ago Amanda emailed me this image from the Magnificat:

ludmila

And said,

I love the story! It seems like more and more of these parent/grandparent saint stories are emerging lately, which makes perfect sense. The saints had to learn from someone!

And I was so struck by that thought — the impact of grandparents on the faith of their grandchildren — that it’s stayed with me all this time. My boys have been very very blessed to have two grandmothers who have contributed in immense ways to their faith formation, as well as a living grandfather (my dad) who’s a great model of Catholic manhood, and a grandfather in heaven (my father-in-law) who I know has been praying for all of us, and who himself was also a great model of Catholic manhood. And of course we can’t forget our dear St. Anne, Grandmother to the Divine, who holds the Sancta Nomina community close.

But — as much as I’m loving the story of St. Ludmila — that name! Oof! So what can we make of Ludmila. I think the secret lies in the second part of her name: Mila’s got a totally current look and sound, and according to behindthename the -mila element of Ludmila means “gracious, dear.” How lovely! Another spelling is Ludmilla, so –> Milla, a la actress Milla Jovovich, whose given name is actually Milica (said MEE-lee-tsah), from the same element that renders -mila in Ludmila; behindthename says Milica was “originally a diminutive of names that began with that element.” Lida is also given as the Czech diminutive of Ludmila, and the comments on behindthename’s entry for Ludmila list Luda, Lulu, Lidka, and Lila as nicknames for it (among other more ethnic options) — Lulu and Lila seem particularly suited to today’s tastes. The DMNES has an entry for Luda, which is from the same word as the Lud- part of Ludmila, and says that Luda can be a pet form of any Slavic name beginning with that element. Could be cute?

I’m also tagging this as a possible Christmas name, since St. Ludmila’s grandson Vaclav/Wenceslaus, who she had so much influence over in terms of teaching the faith, is the King Wenceslaus from the carol “Good King Wenceslaus.” Cool, right?

What do you all think of Ludmila? Would you consider using it as either a first or a middle? Or would Mila/Milla/Lulu/Lila/Luda be more the way you’d go, if you wanted to name a little girl after this saint? Do you know anyone with this name? What do they think of it? Do they go by a nickname?

“Father in heaven, through the intercession of St. Ludmila, bless all grandparents who seek to share the faith with their grandchildren.” ❤

 

My weirdo namey mind strikes again

I know that some of you do this, I’m sure of it (right? right?), but I also know that it’s really weird, and I think you all are the only ones I can tell that might appreciate it!

I’ve been musing on the names Benjamin and Gwendolyn  for a while (since the Fountains of Carrots podcast, because Haley has a Benjamin and a Gwen) and how cool it is that they have the exact same number of syllables and rhythm and a rhyming first syllable and ending syllable but are completely different otherwise. I really love that kind of thing — names that are totally different but have a connecting thread. A real-life example that I love is someone I know whose kids are A!dan, Laur3n, and Mad3lyn — I love that all of them have the same sound at the end of their names, but spelled three different ways (-an, -en, -yn). The latter two are twins, and I think they’re names are awesomely matched in terms of each seeming very much their own but subtly connected through that last syllable at the same time.

Anyway, whenever I think of two names that I think really go well together for specific reasons — like syllables+rhythm+similar-sounding beginning and/or ending syllables — I like to try to think of a third, to make a nice group of three. It’s one of the reasons I loved so much the imaginary triplets post of a while back.

So yes, I have spent a ridiculous amount of my free mental energy thinking of the perfect name to go with the hypothetical sibling set of Benjamin and Gwendolyn. And then … I got it:

Hendrickson.

Benjamin, Gwendolyn, and Hendrickson.

It’s beyond weird how much satisfaction it’s given me to consider these three names together.

 

Pope told parents to name their daughters after Mary?

Whew! My head is spinning after yesterday’s post! You all had so many good thoughts! I do want to let you know that my computer (or WordPress?) has been acting up recently and I can’t always interact with the comments the way I want to — sometimes I’m not able to “like” them in the notifications, sometimes I miss them completely … just this morning I started writing down all the posts that had new comments so I could go back to each one to like all the comments (since the notifications thing wasn’t working) and decided I just can’t — it would take me all morning! But I love each one of your comments, I love all the feedback, I love that this blog is exactly what I hoped it would be when I started it — a searchable database of Catholic name info. You’re all the best! ❤

I also have some more thoughts on yesterday’s post, but I think I need to sit with it all for a while more and organize my thoughts. Stay tuned!

So this is the post I was going to post yesterday before I got sidetracked by Abby’s post. I was doing some name research the other day (you don’t say) ( 😉 ), chatting with some family members about family names, and one of my cousins said she thought, in reference to the many Marys in our family of a certain age (mostly born in the 40s, though there are a bunch of older relatives named Mary as well), that the Pope had told parents to name their daughters after Mary.

You know me, I was immediately like a prairie dog up on my hind legs, totally alert. How interesting! I’d never heard of such a thing — and I assume whatever truth there is to it, if any, is surely not an official statement but perhaps an informal comment, or perhaps something like, “Mary is a wonderful role model for your daughters” which got mistranslated into, “Name your daughters after Mary.” So I took to the internet, searching mostly for anything similar attributed to Pope Pius XII, who was Pope right when the women we were talking about were born and named (1939-1958), and who was pretty Marian, what with his Consecration of the World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and his definition of the dogma of the Assumption, but wasn’t able to find anything. My history-teacher friend and suggested maybe it was the local bishop and not the Pope, so I looked for info about him — also very devoted to Our Lady — but couldn’t find anything like what I was looking for. A priest friend suggested maybe Pope Benedict XV, who was Pope from 1914 to 1922 and who both instituted the old Code of Canon Law (1917), which said that Catholic parents must give their babies saints’ names and if a baby didn’t have a saint’s name the priest was to give one at baptism, and also authorized the Feast of Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces, so he was namey *and* Marian, and I could see that being the source of this belief. But again, I wasn’t able to find anything official (I did find this interesting article while searching, which talks about naming requirements and practices among different groups, including Catholics. It’s not accurate Catholic-wise, but an interesting read nonetheless).

I also found this article, which says that “For very many years the Catholic Church in Ireland would not baptise a child unless the name chosen was that of a saint or, in the case of a girl, was a version of Mary,” but it doesn’t cite any official source — I’m thinking like any kind of Church documents or regulations that were actually written down and not just unwritten local custom. (Written local custom would be fine!)

Have any of you heard this idea before? Can you shed any light on all this?

Names “foreign to Christian sentiment”

I had a different post in mind for today — I was actually almost done writing it — when I read today’s Baby Name of the Day over at Appellation Mountain: Lucifer. I had some thoughts that I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to share, so here we are!

I thought Abby did a great job with the post, providing lots of info about the name Lucifer’s place in history, religion, and current pop culture. Lucifer does have a beautiful meaning, and my 11yo was actually asking me recently about it, the fact that its meaning of “light bearer” or similar is full of faith significance, so why can’t we use it? I explained to him that the Church teaches that babies must not be given names which are “foreign to Christian sentiment.” No matter what Lucifer means, it is the deepest depth of all names that are “foreign to Christian sentiment.” There’s just no getting around that one.

My son and I went on to talk more about such things, and I told him that I thought the list of names that are “foreign to Christian sentiment” was one of those things that changes with time and culture — like Adolf (who’s in the news today for other reasons, oh my). At one time it would have been totally fine to use for Catholic babies — it’s a saint’s name, and before WWII had a decent amount of use so a lot of us probably have Adolfs in our family trees, but now I would definitely consider it to be “foreign to Christian sentiment.” Do you agree? I don’t feel that way about its variants though — Adalwolf, Adolphus, Adolfo are all far enough removed from Hitler in my mind that I wouldn’t think twice if I heard of a baby named those names. For my time and culture (21st century English-speaking northeast America), I don’t think Adalwolf, Adolphus, and Adolfo are “foreign to Christian sentiment.” But is Hitler known as Adolfo amongst those who speak Italian? Do Italians have the same reaction of fear and horror when they hear Adolfo as I do when I hear Adolf? If so, perhaps Adolfo is a name “foreign to Christian sentiment” to them in their time and culture. And maybe one day it will all change again, when some amazing Adolf comes along — perhaps a great saint — and the passage of time and the brilliance of the new Adolf will dim our recollections of Hitler’s evil.

Interestingly, the thought that “perhaps … the passage of time and the brilliance of the new Adolf will dim our recollections of Hitler’s evil” is, I think, definitely something to be feared happening to the name Lucifer. It’s got a great meaning; it’s got a current appearance/sound with the Luc- beginning and its similar rhythm to Christopher (which, interestingly, has a similar meaning: “Christ bearer”); it’s sort of exotic because it’s unusual and edgy because of its associations, which are the kind of characteristics that are catnip to certain modern-day parents. Like the parent from this comment from last year who wanted to name his daughter Lilith *because of* the dark associations. If one of the 14 boys who were named Lucifer last year were to become a saint, I could see the name quickly becoming a possibility, even among parents of faith. Would that be a good thing? Names matter, and saying the name of the devil repeatedly and without worry seems very worrisome indeed. I would imagine a holy person who was given that name at birth would change his name, and then he’d be St. So-and-So. (And then people like me would research the heck out of all names associated with him so as to have lots of options for naming a baby after him, including his birth name. Oh dear.)

Anyway. I’ve said a million times and written that for me, “The intention behind the bestowing of the name can be as important — or more so — than the name’s actual origin or meaning or other specifics.” I hold really firm and fast to that notion — except in this case. In this case, intention is altogether completely trumped by the “other specifics.” I say again, and Abby agreed: Lucifer is not an okay name for a baby.

What other names can you think of besides Lucifer, Adolf, and Lilith that would be on the “foreign to Christian sentiment” list?