The importance of names in this particular beatification case

Have any of you seen this article? On the road to sainthood: Family of 9 murdered for hiding Jews in Poland by Dominika Cicha, posted yesterday at Aleteia.

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:

Józef (dad)
Wiktoria (mom)
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 Magister is the 1983 Apostolic Constitution by Pope John Paul II that outlines the canonization process (no mention of names though)

Child saints have much to teach the Church on suffering, sacrifice by Charles Collins at Crux 

5 Child Saints Who Totally Put All of Us Adults to Shame at ChurchPOP

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!).



A brief break from my Sunday blogfast to join the prayers for all those suffering. Talking about names often feels a little silly, a little frivolous, a little privileged even, in the face of death and devastation, but I loved what Abby at Appellation Mountain said about it all today in her Sunday Summary:

“… some weeks I sit down to write about names when the news of the world around us feels overwhelming. How can I write about something as frivolous as unusual color names or bird names when the soundtrack is anger and despair?

… there’s no doubt in my mind that names matter, and that the act of bestowing a child’s name is sacred. And because if you want to experience unadulterated hope and joy, thinking about new life is one of the best ways to do so.

To write about names is to celebrate the potential of every new person on this planet. It’s a simple perspective, perhaps, but I do believe that the act of naming is always an optimistic one.”

St. Genevieve, patron saint of Paris, pray for us.

St. George, patron saint of Beirut, pray for us.

St. Romanus of Baghdad, pray for us.

St. Francis Xavier, patron of Japan, pray for us.

St. Joseph, patron of Mexico, pray for us.

Mother Mary, in all her titles (including Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Lebanon, Our Lady of Salvation [Baghdad], Our Lady of Japan, and Our Lady of Guadalupe), pray for us.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Our blog’s patron saint

Ages ago (a couple months?), my mom asked me if I’d considered entrusting this blog to a particular patron saint. Or maybe she suggested that I do so?

I think I was noncommittal in my answer — there are a million saints I love, for one thing, and the idea of picking one seemed enormous and somewhat arbitrary. I mean, there isn’t a patron saint of names or namers (yes, I just googled it to be sure!) … there are a bunch related to motherhood of course, but is that what I should focus on? I’m a lay Dominican — should I restrict my options to Dominican saints? I chose my roses (sidebar) when I first started the blog as the symbol and avatar of Sancta Nomina — mostly because I like roses, and I love that there are the name quotes by Shakespeare and Anne Shirley that reference roses:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet)

I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage” (Anne of Green Gables)

And of course, roses are so associated with Our Lady. So maybe her? She probably seemed the most likely candidate, but then she has so many titles — would I pick just one? Which one?

It was all sort of overwhelming and any time I thought about it I felt stressed out, which is weird, because I don’t tend to stress out over this blog.

But then I was praying a novena to St. Anne recently for some loved ones, which was new to me — I admit I haven’t given her a whole lot of thought in the past, but I had some particular intentions and I came across a novena to her in my Mother’s Manual that seemed to be just perfect, and I found myself adding to my list of intentions “all the readers of my blog, including those who are mothers or who want to be, and those who are hoping for a baby or are suffering from the loss of a baby or from infertility.”

Funny, though I’d never really thought to pray for you, as soon as it came to me I was all of course. Of course I should be praying for all of you who are so interested in the beautiful holy names (sancta nomina) of our faith. And so you were included in my novena to St. Anne, which included the words, “Continue to intercede for me until my request is granted,” so though my novena ended after nine days, I have full confidence that you’re all under St. Anne’s special protection for the long haul. I’ve thought many times since the end of my novena to pray for you all, and every time I do I specifically ask St. Anne for her intercession.

So it occurred to me that, sort of accidentally (though of course not), St. Anne has become the patroness of this blog. I believe she chose us! And when I looked up what she’s the patron of (some I knew, but some I didn’t), she did seem pretty perfect: childless people, expectant mothers, grandmothers, grandparents, mothers, pregnancy, pregnant women, women in labor, and against sterility. I think that covers everyone who might read this blog.

And not only that, but St. Anne was married to St. Joachim, who is one of my favorite saints and bears one of my very favorite names. AND — they named Mother Mary.

That’s some serious business for a Catholic name blog.

I’m delighted at this development. One of my grandmothers was Anne, and she was warm and loving and made wonderful things to eat — I think of St. Anne the same way! With the craziness we’re surrounded with and bombarded by in our everydays, I’ve often thought of our little spot here as a haven, where we can have a happy little natter about names and not worry about the things that weigh us down. That feels grandmotherly to me, sweet and cozy and safe.

St. Anne, pray for us.

St. Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary, and the grandmother of Jesus. She was mother to the Mother of God! Because of this, mothers in every generation have called upon St. Anne to help them with their needs, especially in raising their children …

Glorious St. Anne, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection … (Mention your request).

I implore you to recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus.

Cease not to interceded for me until my request is granted.

Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face, and with you and Mary, and all the angels and saints, to praise Him through all eternity. Amen.

Mother’s Manual, edited by Bart Tesoriero (2003)

St. Anne, pray for us
St. Anne, pray for us