Sancta nomina is Latin for “holy names,” and that’s what you’ll find here! Welcome to the wide and wonderful world of Catholic naming. 🙂
About the blog
In the old days, you may have heard, parents who wanted to have their babies baptized in the Catholic Church had to bestow a saint’s name — or the priest would. Indeed, the old Code of Canon Law (in effect from 1917 until 1983) did stipulate that the baby needed to be given a Christian name, and if not, the priest was to add a saint’s name to the baby’s given name. (Canon 761)
Though the Catechism of the Catholic Church still shows a preference for legitimately Christian Names, saying, “In Baptism, the Lord’s name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The “baptismal name” can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue” (no. 2156; emphasis mine), the Code of Canon Law changed in 1983, and the new naming requirements are not so strict: Canon 855 states that, “Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given.” Basically, most names are totally fine.
But this blog seeks to go beyond “most names.” As a Catholic mom, I’ve pored through lists of saints’ names and Biblical names and virtue names and names of apparition sites and other holy places when compiling lists for my husband and I to discuss for the naming of each of our kids (seven so far). I understand that many Catholic parents today aren’t always going to be thrilled with names like Mary, Philip, and Elizabeth, and I myself swoon over name choices that are interesting and unexpected while undoubtedly Catholic. Not that there’s anything wrong with other kinds of names of course, but I get the most thrill out of a confection like Maria-Seraphina or a first-name-Isaac-middle-name-Jogues. I love that names like Serra, Siena, and Kolbe are heavy hitting and substantially saintly but feel thoroughly modern and trendy. I love friendly, accessible nicknames for heavier given names, like Seb for Sebastian and Gus for Augustine and Dory for Dorothea. I love “spicing up” a “normal” name with a quirky nickname, like Packy for Patrick and Libbet for Elizabeth. I love seeing parents take bold risks like naming a son Nicodemus or a daughter Prouille, or switching up gendered names like the religious have always done: Richard Mary for a son and Catherine James for a daughter. I love hearing all the names of the children in a big family, no matter what style of names they chose. I love ethnic variations of common names, like Mairead for Margaret and Anya for Anne and Pavel for Paul. I love pairing a bold choice with a more standard choice, so little Boniface John can go by John if he decides he’s mortified by Boniface or hates that his brothers call him Bonnie. I love that you can figure out a patron saint connected to your child’s name almost without exception. I love that, no matter your personal naming style, you can find a Catholic name that fits your taste.
There are a million ways to employ a Catholic sensibility when naming one’s child, and I love to hear every example!
I’m Kate, a cradle Catholic mama to seven little boys here on earth and one in heaven. Like so many of you, I have always.loved.names. I drew a picture when I was a little girl of my best friend and I as I was sure we would look when we were grown — she was a sister in full black habit and I was a mom of eight (including twins) and each of the children had a carefully considered name (the only ones I remember are the twins: Brian and Brianna). (My childhood best friend is still one of my very best friends and godmother to one of my boys, and she almost was a nun in full brown habit, but is currently discerning a marriage vocation.)
I started collecting names and name books long before I was married. I used one to pick my Confirmation name (my first chance to choose a name for an actual real-life person! My pick: Jacinta, after one of the Fatima children. The aforementioned best friend and I had made a pilgrimage to Fatima with the Blue Army sisters the summer we turned fourteen, during which I experienced the conversion from faith-of-my-parents to faith-of-my-own and became filled with a zeal that still sustains me, lo these twenty-plus years later. It was a meaningful choice. Plus, Jacinta’s an amazing name). I used several books, plus websites and online discussion forums and conversations with friends and loved ones, to help my husband and I name our children. There are few things I love better than a good name discussion, especially with parents who, like me, employ a Catholic sensibility when considering baby names. And so: this blog.
I know it’s silly and/or strange for me to freely discuss the names of others’ children and not reveal my own, but due to various factors my boys will need to be pseudonymed here (except my youngest, whose name my husband was okay with me sharing). Lest you expect any less, be assured each of these was carefully chosen to mimic the feel of the names we actually chose for our babies; I believe you will have a good sense of our naming taste after reading this list:
Luke (his actual name!)
And our baby in heaven, who I believe was a boy; we named him Ignatius.