“In my area, the Catholic popular names are: Therese, anything with Mary or Anne (Anne-Marie, Anne-Elizabeth, Mary-Grace, Mary-Helen), Kateri, Bernadette, Gianna, Zelie, Genevieve, and I’ve come across a lot of Veronicas.
Boys would be Benedict, Joseph, John Paul, Michael, Francis, Dominic, etc…”
What a fun topic to discuss! It’s related to but just a little different from the lists of Unmistakably Catholic boy names and girl names we compiled recently.
When I think of Catholic popular names, I think of the names that are being used a lot *now* — not the names that have always been popular with Catholic families, but the ones that are popular with 21st century Catholic families. There’s some good overlap, for sure, but not totally, especially when it comes to the new saints/blesseds like Zelie, Kateri, Gianna, Chiara, Maximilian and Kolbe, and John Paul. I thought Kym did a great job listing the ones that show up frequently in current Catholic families; in addition to those I thought some others I might add would be (rifling through the Catholic families I know):
Caroline and Karoline
Clare and Chiara
Helen and Helena
Lily and Lillian
Lucy and Lucia and Lucille
In those lists (mine and Kym’s) I see a lot of distinctive names — names that parents choose because they’re not heard so much in secular (American) circles and they have great faith connections, like Kateri, Karoline, Chiara, Evangeline, Faustina, Gianna, Magdalene, Seraphina, Zelie, Augustine, Benedict, Blaise, Fulton, John Paul, Jude, Kolbe, and Sebastian. I also see the vintage/retro/nursing home names that are coming back in style in society as a whole: Agnes, Bernadette, Cora, Edith, Helen, Lillian, Lucille, Rose and Rosemary, Stella, George, Leo, and Louis.
I’d love to know what names all your Catholic friends are using! When you all get together, which names are worn by multiple children?
It was more horrifying than I anticipated: The Ulma family — the 44-year-old dad, his 32-year-old pregnant wife, and their seven children (ages 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 1.5, and unborn) — were shot and killed for hiding eight Jews (father, mother, and four sons of the Szall family, and two daughters of the Goldman family), who were also killed. The Jews were murdered first, in front of the family; then the parents, in front of the children; then the children.
And some people don’t believe the devil exists. SMH.
This holy family consisted of:
Stanisława “Stasia” (age 8)
Barbara “Basia” (age 6)
Władysław “Władzio” (age 5)
Franciszek “Franuś” (age 4)
Antoni “Antoś” (age 3)
Maria “Marysia” (age 1.5)
Unnamed baby, who was due not long after the killings, and was discovered partially born when a few men from the village secretly recovered the bodies for a proper burial
All I can think of when reading something like this is Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The particular detail of this story that caused me to want to post it here is this bit:
“At the diocesan stage of the process a decision was made to add the Ulmas’ six children, because of their parents’ faith. There is dilemma concerning the child who died in mother’s womb. Provisions applying to canonizations and beatifications clearly stipulate that a candidate to be declared saint or blessed in the Catholic Church should be known by first and second name. The Vatican congregation will ultimately decide whether the youngest member of Józef and Wiktoria’s family will be considered a martyr, too.”
I did some research and couldn’t find that information anywhere — that a candidate needs to be known by first and and second name. Certainly the baby’s credentials are not based on disagreements about personhood, as the Church holds we are persons from the moment of conception. And of course not being beatified or canonized doesn’t mean the baby isn’t in heaven, just that the Church doesn’t have enough information to declare him or her to be so.
The fact that this comes down to his or her name is also really interesting from the perspective of choosing names for our babies before they’re born, and not just a boy name and a girl name, but the baby’s actual name, which would require finding out the sex during pregnancy. Are there some among us who might decide to find out our baby’s sex, in order to name him or her, so that if the worst happens our babies will be known by name and be able to be included among the list of Venerables/Blesseds/Saints? Given the wide range of personalities in the Church, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some who would do so!
I wonder, too, if “be known by first and second name” means more than just having a name, but also means that others must know it? That is, not just that there’s a name the parents have given or intend to give to the baby, but that it’s one that’s been shared with others, so much so that others would know and refer to the baby by that name?
I wonder, too, if the Church can name the baby. Though that right and privilege is given to parents, this is certainly an unusual situation that might require an unusual solution.
Also, what is this “second name” business? Perhaps a new requirement? I’m just thinking of when people didn’t even necessarily have surnames, but we certainly have saints from back then. (Not that the second name matters here — the baby’s second name IS known: Ulma.)
I’m not being argumentative, I’m just interested. I trust the Church’s process, and I know there is so often more to a story than what we know.
In trying to find out more, I was googling variations on “can children and babies be canonized” and I was getting pages and pages of results having to do with Jacinta and Francisco — I couldn’t get past them! I did find a couple things that I thought were helpful and/or interesting, though:
Divinis Perfectionis Magisteris the 1983 Apostolic Constitution by Pope John Paul II that outlines the canonization process (no mention of names though)
It’s important to note that with the Ulma children, there isn’t any controversy about whether they were old enough to have led lives of “heroic virtue” (as is sometimes argued in regards to children), as they’re being considered martyrs (though even then, it’s an unusual case I think, because they’re being considered martyrs “because of their parents’ faith” rather than because of their own).
If any of you can point me to any sources that explain or demonstrate that candidates for the canonization process need to be known by first and second name, please do! And also, the idea of children being considered by virtue of their parents’ faith (I’ll be musing on that for a while — it certainly adds an extra something to parents’ responsibilities in regards to their children!).
“I suggested Simon for a boy but Simon said that ship has sailed since we didn’t name our first born Simon but I disagree“
And I said,
“though perhaps it’s more traditional to name a firstborn son after dad, if you’re going to do that kind of thing, it’s not UNtraditional nor unheard of to give Dad’s name to a subsequent son. I’ve got loads of personal examples: we named our firstborn after our two dads, and our second boy got my husband’s name as a middle, my brother’s second son is a Junior, my two brothers were named after my grandfathers, and if there was ever a third boy he would have gotten my dad’s name as a middle. There’s something really nice about naming a non-firstborn after Dad, actually — there are a lot of traditional firstborn ‘perks,’ so saving Dad’s name for a second/third/fourth son could help even the playing field a bit.”
(Just to clarify: By “Junior” I mean using Dad’s name either in its entirety as a first+middle combo, or using either his first or middle as the son’s first or middle. This isn’t the actual definition of course; this explains the rules for all of it.)
I was interested to hear about your thoughts and experiences too! One of you emailed me to say,
“my husband is the third born son and he is a junior. His father passed away when he was two so he absolutely loves being a junior.”
My aforementioned brother and sister-in-law Juniored their second son, and my SIL explained that her thought process is similar to mine,
“we did talk about not having a junior and using [a different] middle name but we figured if we were going to use the [the same first] name … we would make him a junior.
We also felt that being a first male born is a big deal and being a 1st male and a junior might be too much! So I always liked that our Jr is our 2nd born.”
And a friend of mine connected me with a friend of hers whose second son has the same first name as Dad. For them, it was more important to name their first son after a different man:
“A couple of years prior to my first son’s birth, one of my husband’s closest friends (named Michael) was killed in Iraq as a Marine. As soon as we knew I was pregnant with a boy, we knew we would named him Michael.
My second son is named after my husband. If not for Michael losing his life we may have named our first son after my husband. I’m not sure.”
The idea of honoring a different man than the dad with the first son’s name — and not naming a son after Dad until the third one! — is actually an old naming custom in Irish, English, Italian, and Scottish families, and other heritages as well.
But a couple of you felt strongly that Junioring a non-firstborn is to be advised against:
“I do know a set of brothers (grown men in their 60’s …) and the older brother somehow feels that the parents saved the junior name for the younger brother and feels hurt by it — to the point where the whole family cautions against using junior for a younger brother … So, if a family wants to use a junior name on a younger son, it might be a good idea to check with the older brothers and make sure that they wouldn’t feel jealous/hurt/unworthy, etc. Or at least they could kind of feel the situation out without tipping their hand too much if they think that they don’t want to burden a kid with making that kind of decision.”
“I never gave much thought to the importance of name order until I met my husband. He’s the oldest and he and his younger brother have the same middle name, but their parents called the younger brother by his (their) middle name. The name was their paternal grandfather’s name and their deceased uncle’s name. So, it’s a family name and was given to my husband first as his middle name, then repeated and “chosen” for his younger brother. It has been an issue between them and their parents for their whole life. We chose to never use a family name because of it. I think a family name can be an honor, but it has the potential to cause hurt feelings when not used traditionally.”
So a lot of good thoughts here! I feel so badly for anyone who feels hurt over the name their parents gave them (or didn’t give them), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue in those cases is often bigger than just the name. Like the name is a symptom of a bigger problem, you know? So while my personal feeling is still that Junioring a non-firstborn is not that big a deal and can in fact be a really great thing, I also think that particular personalities and family culture should be taken into account as much as possible, if possible. Also, these strategies might help in trying to make sure all your kids know how special each of their names are, no matter who they are/are not named after.
I also did a quick search for articles/posts on the topic, and came up with a couple good ones:
I think one of the things I loved the most about the Social Security Administration releasing the 2016 name stats last Friday was seeing how excited Abby from Appellation Mountain was! That morning on Facebook she revealed how she’d been refreshing the SSA site all morning in hopes they’d finally updated it … then when they did she pretty immediately posted a video of her talking about the results (she mentioned some names I’ve had discussions about recently, like Matteo and Shepherd), and has posted a couple great articles analyzing the results:
Laura starts out by saying, “At first glance, this wholesale retreat from a familiar name may seem to be a rejection of Jenner’s new public identity,” which was exactly what I would assume it to be, but I also appreciated that she pointed out, “The name was sliding out of fashion, and it’s easiest to move the public in a direction it’s already heading.” She also makes the good point that, “The name itself was the story, announced with a flourish in a ‘Call Me Caitlyn’ magazine cover, the choice of name debated and analyzed” — a million percent yes! — but then argues, “The result was inevitable Caitlyn fatigue,” which I strongly disagree with. I would characterize the fact that the name was already “sliding out of fashion” as name fatigue; I would describe what happened in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner (which Laura herself called a “wholesale retreat”) as name train wreck. Take a look at these numbers:
This screenshot is from the newest statistics, and they’re listed in order of greatest amount of decrease to least amount of decrease, so these four names were the four biggest drops of all the girls’ names in use in the U.S. I was amazed to see this! I mean, all four of those variants were well into the top 1000 (except Kaitlynn, which was hovering on the line), and all four dropped out of the top 1000 in one year.
To be fair, I tried to find the decrease stats from last year, to see if this isn’t as big a deal as it looks like to me, and found a post Nancy had done that showed Isis as the biggest loser in 2015, having dropped 1065 spots, but in the top ten biggest decreases were also Annabell (500 spots), Anabel (500 spots), Anabella (333 spots), and Anabelle (272 spots), which I thought were good parallels for the Caitlyn names, since they were also four variants of the same name, and all dropped similar amounts to the Caitlyn names — in fact, not to get all math-y, but I did the math and the four Caitlyn names dropped a cumulative 1787 spots (averaging 446.75 each), while the Annabell names dropped a cumulative 1605 spots (averaging 401.25 each). This might not seem like anything except that Nancy noted, “nearly every single variant of Annabelle was negatively affected by the horror film Annabelle, released in late 2014.” So Caitlyn’s no Isis, but had a similar effect as a horror movie. Oh dear.
(For the record, I still love the name.)
(There are also other variants of both names lower down in the decrease list, I just focused on those in the top ten.)
(Also interesting in light of our Damien discussion is that until now I hadn’t heard a whisper of that horror movie, despite having freely and frequently suggested Annabel(le) to parents on the blog and in private consultations.)
I’m also not sure I agree with this point, which I’ve seen a lot of other people say as well: “Finally, consider that the Caitlyn gazing out of that famous magazine cover was 65 years old. Caitlyn became popular as a fresh, youthful twist on Catherine and Kathleen. The new standard-bearer for the name helped age it in a hurry.” I just don’t see the name Caitlyn as having aged at all, I still see it as a young-ish name that is now worn by a 67 year old, which is as jarring to me as hearing other names that were similar in popularity to the Caitlyn names during the Caitlyn names’ peak (1990s), like Lindsey and Kristen, on a grandmother. Do you agree?
Otherwise, I took a look through the rest of the changes (changes in increase as well as decrease, and those that stayed the same), which I found to be the most interesting part of the statistics, and didn’t find anything as interesting as Aranza and Mon(t)serrat of 2014 except for Mercy for the girls — it’s no. 21 on the list of girls’ names that rose the most, having increased 222 spots from out of the top 1000 to well in it (new no. 731) and all I think is: Jubilee Year of Mercy! 😍 Zaylee also increased 177 spots to no. 813 (which may be due to St. Zelie?), and Regina, Rosemary, Juniper, Clementine, Mabel, Colette, Edith, Siena, Livia, Adelaide, Aurora, Helen, Felicity, and Gianna caught my eye from those names that increased in popularity.
For the boys Augustine went up 87 spots to no. 728, Santiago went up 21 to no. 106 (what? I had NO idea it was that popular!), and Thaddeus, Matthias, Conrad, Fisher, Gilbert, Bennett, George, Oliver, Henry, Jasper, Harold, Oscar, and Roman (which is new to the top 100) all jumped out at me as well.
On the decrease list, Guadalupe, Madeleine, Lola, Catherine and Katherine and Kate, Genevieve, and Mary stood out to me for girls, and Blaise, Mohammed, Damien (though still a top 300 name) and Damian (though still not too far from top 100), Myles, and Jude for boys.
Also Sylvie is up while Sylvia is down, which seems right to me based on where the collective taste seems to be at the moment. Do you agree?
Did any of the rest of you wait on pins and needles for this new info? Did you find anything exciting or disappointing? Any other thoughts/analyses?
A couple of weeks ago I posted my CatholicMom article for April in which I list the girl names I think are unmistakably Catholic (i.e., when people hear the name, they usually know right away that the child is Catholic), as well as those that are super duper Catholic but might not translate immediately that way due to other associations.
I’ve been trying to put together a similar list for boys — I’ve had my notebook open on the table all week, ready for me to jot down my ideas — but I feel like I’m falling short! Like my mind isn’t focusing the way I want it to! So you all definitely have to add your ideas in the comments.
This is what I have for obviously Catholic boy names (audience: USA broadly; northeast specifically [because that’s where I am and that’s what I know, but I’d love to hear all about your experiences]):
Francis, Francisco, Francesco
And these are names that ARE very, traditionally Catholic, but aren’t as obvious to as many people as the above names because they have decent usage in other areas:
Xavier (this one I wavered on … it might be better placed in the above list)
Augustine (mostly because there’s a Protestant school near me called St. Augustine’s)
The other apostles’ names (and really, all the biblical names)
Some I thought of including in one list or the other but decided not to:
Joachim (most people don’t know what this name even is!)
Athanasius (I almost included this on one of the other two lists …
I feel like I’m missing a bunch of obvious ones and it’s driving me nuts! Help me out!
The sun is shining here today, and it’s warm-ish, and I’m feeling a bit better, so the Joyful Mysteries are perfect for today. Also since it’s Saturday, one of the days they’re actually said on! Please feel free to add more ideas in the comments.
The Annunciation by Gabriel to Mary (yesterday’s feast!) The Visitation of Mary to Her Cousin Elizabeth The Nativity of Jesus The Presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Names associated with the Joyful Mysteries might include: