Ireland part 1: Edel

I have so much to tell you all about my fast four-day trip to Ireland for my sister’s wedding! I posted a bunch of photos over the last few days on Instagram, and had some longer things to write here, which I’m going to break up into a few posts.

I’ve written before about Ven. Edel Quinn — e.g., I posted a birth announcement for a little girl given Quinn as a middle in honor of her; I posted a family spotlight of three sisters, one of whom has Edel as a middle in honor of her; and I did a consultation for a mama who loves Ven. Edel and Edelweiss and would love to work them both in somehow — and she has a pretty incredible name story of her own. She was born in Co. Cork, which is where my sister’s wedding was, and I had the fun experience of seeing a twenty-something Irish girl in Dublin airport on my way home whose bag had her name stitched on it — and it was Edel! I heard her friends referring to her by name a couple times, and they said it like “Adele,” which is what I’d always assumed was the dominant pronunciation. BUT that same girl was paged several times during the several hours I was at the airport, and one of the times her name was said to rhyme with pedal (EH-del), and another time like the first part of Edelweiss (AY-del). How cool! Three different possibilities, all used by Irish natives (or so I assumed, given their brogues). Encountering names of the faith “out in the wild” — seeing them used in real life — is one of my very favorite things!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Name story: Oscar Thomas

A few years ago I did a private consultation for a mama pregnant with her sixth baby — a boy she and her husband named Oscar Thomas. (Oscar Thomas! I love it so much!) She recently wrote to tell me more of the story — specifically, how the name they chose for him ended up being so perfect for him in other ways:

You helped us out over three years ago with a name for our sixth child and fourth boy, Oscar Thomas.

Anyway, I have a story to share. Our Oscar began having seizures when he was five months old, and it turns out he has some profound, lifelong disabilities. (He is making good progress and he is an amazing, dear boy; we are in a great place as a family now but getting here was rocky.) But I am telling you this because I feel like Oscar is THE ABSOLUTELY PERFECT name for him, and one we would never have considered without your nudge. It is strong and determined and a little funky, just like him.

St. Oscar Romero was beatified while I was pregnant, but not canonized until after our “storm,” when we had really found our peace with Oscar’s medical issues. We prayed for his intercession on a daily basis and felt like he walked the whole journey with us, while he waited for his own reward. I am so grateful that our little boy has this tremendously powerful friend in heaven, and I am grateful to you by extension for making the introduction. 😉 We didn’t know at the time our Oscar was born how much we were going to need someone like that.

Anyway. You popped up in my Facebook feed today and I felt prompted to let you know that the work you do matters, sometimes maybe more than you know.”

How amazing is that?? What a wonderful story!! I love her description of both the name Oscar and her boy Oscar: “strong and determined and a little funky, just like him.”

There’s more! The mama, Christy, included Oscar’s name story and some more fun details in her amazing blog post entitled What’s in a name? How our kids got their Catholic saint names and why it matters. She said everything I always want to say, and she said it so well! There’s so much I want to quote from her post, but I don’t want to discourage you from going to read it in its entirety. Seriously, you’ll love it.

Thank you to Christy for sharing all this wonderful information!

Georgia O’Keeffe’s siblings

Claire emailed me not too long ago to share the names of artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s siblings, which she had come across while working on a project. I was delighted to read them too! Claire said she didn’t know if Georgia was Catholic or not, but thought her siblings’ names might provide a clue. Especially, I would argue, one sibling in particular — her brother, Francis Calyxtus, Jr.

Francis Calyxtus! I love it! (I spotlighted Callixtus here.) A bold middle name is always such a treat!

Here’s the whole family (source):

Georgia Totto (named for her grandfather, George Totto; Totto was her mother’s maiden name)
Francis Calyxtus, Jr.
Ida Ten Eyck (their mother was Ida Ten Eyck Totto)
Anita Ten Eyck
Alexis Wyckoff “Tex” (love Tex as a nickname for the Alex names!)
Catherine Blanche
Claudia Ruth

They’re all saintly, but that Francis Calyxtus is really what cements it, don’t you agree?

I looked into her religious affiliation, and while she unfortunately didn’t live her adult life as the kind of role model a devout Catholic would hope for, this site did say about her painting Black Iris III:

The iris is a familiar image in Western art, frequently used in Christian iconography; its swordlike leaves were especially employed as a symbol for Mary’s suffering, a pictorial metaphor which might also have been familiar to O’Keeffe from her Catholic upbringing and her parochial schooling.”

I love when a name can totally identify a person or family as Catholic!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady, is now available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon! It’s a perfect for expectant mamas, baby showers, and just because. 🙂 If you feel moved to leave a review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated!

Celebrity guest: Amy, mom of 11!

Don’t forget to enter the Mother’s Day giveaway I announced at the end of my previous post! You have until midnight (Eastern) on Saturday (May 19) to email me your entry. And if you haven’t listened to my interview on Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary on Mater Dei Radio, you still can!

I’ve followed Amy Laddbush on Instagram for a while, and as I told her, I just love seeing the joy that comes through the pictures of life with her six boys (like me) … and five girls! (Not like me! Wow!) Yes, ELEVEN children! And they all have amazing names too! Though I’d picked up some of their names here and there through various posts, it wasn’t until I read this article about her and her family that I was able to see them all. Ever since then I’ve wanted to contact Amy to see if she would mind telling me about the namesof her kiddos so I could share with you all here, and I’m so glad I finally did! I know you’re going to love reading this. 🙂 ❤

laddbush_family
Photo credit: Annie Norton

Our oldest, Ray, is 20. His full name is Ray Tucker Shourds Laddbush. We had him when we were young. We were both 20 when I was pregnant, and 21 when he was born. I remember I had a baby name book that we looked through. After finding out we were having a boy, I wrote down all of my top boy names in the book. I let Ryan pick out of those choices. Ray is a family name, my great grandfather was named Ray — not Raymond. I let Ryan pick the middle name Tucker. He liked that name a lot, and I thought it was cute. Shourds is my maiden name. Because we were unmarried at the time, at birth, I named him Ray Tucker Laddbush Shourds. After we were married less than a year later, we had his name legally changed to Ray Tucker Shourds Laddbush. (Confirmation name St. Padre Pio).

Josie is 17. Her full name is Josie Layne Laddbush. We liked the name Josie from the song “Josie” by Steely Dan. Layne was just something cute we came up with. I don’t know why we spelled it that way! Like Ray, it’s just Josie — not Josephine. (Confirmation name St. Joan of Arc).

After Josie is our daughter, Brady Ann. She is 14. I liked the meaning of Brady because it means “spirited”. She was very active in the womb. She is still a very active young lady. The name suits her, even though it is predominately male. Ann is a middle name/family name on Ryan’s side of the family that we thought sounded cute. (Confirmation name St. Patrick).

Next is Sean Patrick Whetzell, age 12. I liked Sean because it was the Irish form of John. Patrick just had to go with a Sean. Whetzell is my husband’s second middle name (he is Ryan Francis Whetzell Laddbush). We wanted to pass down the Whetzell name which is Ryan’s grandfather’s last name. He has 3 daughters (one being Ryan’s mom), and Ryan was the only grandson in the whole family. This was a nod keeping with the theme of the men/boys having 4 names (2 middle names). Also keeping with somewhat of a theme of having last names as middle and first names! (like Brady).

Next is Evan Matthew, age 10. At this point we decided 2 names was enough. I liked the name Evan, I can’t remember why, and Matthew is my brother’s middle name. I thought it sounded good so we went with it.

After Evan is Bennett Francis, age 9. He was supposed to be Francis Bennett. Francis after Ryan’s middle name and I don’t know where we got Bennett, but we liked it. After he was born, I thought he looked more like a Bennett, so Bennett Francis it is.

Number 7 is Mary Catherine, age 8. Mary is named after Ryan’s grandmother Mary Laddbush and Catherine is his other grandmother Catherine Whetzell. Easy peasy. At this point we realized I guess we are one of those big Catholic families, so we had better have a Mary.

Number 8 is Finnian Fritz, age 6. We call him Finn. Ryan came up with Finnian after researching saint names and found a St. Finnian. Fritz is named after Ryan’s grandfather, George, nicknamed Fritz.

Number 9 is Charlotte Jones, age 5. I don’t know how we got Charlotte, but we loved it. Jones is my grandmother’s maiden name. We thought we would call her Charlie Jones, or CJ, or something cool like that. Somehow she got the nickname Kitty and we’ve been calling her that since she was a baby. We try to call her Charlotte but she likes the name Kitty.

Number 10 is Sloane Stewart (Mary), age 3. I remember being pregnant and watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and hearing the name Sloane. I thought it was a cool name. Stewart is named after Ryan’s grandmother’s maiden name. Her name on her birth certificate is Sloane Stewart. When she got baptized, our associate pastor at the time, Fr. Lewis, asked if he could throw a Mary in there, so we said sure. Her baptismal name is Sloane Stewart Mary.

And finally number 11 is John Paul Nicholas, age 2. When I was pregnant with him, I read the book Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. Saint John Paul became my best friend after that, so I had to honor him by naming my son after him. The December before he was born, there was a tragic car accident involving in my cousin’s best friend’s death. His name was Nicholas Cassidy (Nick). He was only 22. Also at this point we had a family devotion to St. Nicholas.

Unfortunately we have not been able to get pregnant since John Paul. We will be 42 this summer, it’s been a good ride. If we are blessed with another baby, I like the name Karol Józef, named after my good friend, Karol Józef Wojtyła.”

How wonderful is all this?? There’s so much here that I love! I love how Amy and her hubs just chose names they loved, I love what an eclectic bunch of names they used, and how many family names are woven into the first+middle combos. I love that they were like, “At this point we realized I guess we are one of those big Catholic families, so we had better have a Mary.” I love that Finn’s middle name is “after Ryan’s grandfather, George, nicknamed Fritz” (I love those kinds of name stories! I’d love to know how George came to be known as Fritz!) and that Charlotte has always gone by Kitty (and prefers it). I love that Sloane has Mary added on her baptismal certificate. And of course, I love that St. John Paul II is Amy’s “best friend.” ((sighing with happiness))

Thank you to Amy for such a lovely, intimate look at her beautiful children’s names!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady, is now available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon! It’s a perfect for expectant mamas, baby showers, and just because. 🙂 If you feel moved to leave a review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated!

Name story: Caspian and Eliot

Today’s Name Story is about Shaina’s little guys! She writes,

Our first son we named Caspian Isaiah. I told my husband while we were dating that I loved the name Caspian and wanted to use it for a son someday! We are both big Lewis fans, and he played an important role in my grandfather’s faith walk when he went through a period of agnosticism. Well.. about nine months after our wedding, Caspian made his debut! We picked Isaiah because we wanted a Bible name and we loved the way it sounded with the first and last name. Our girl name (we haven’t found out gender before birth so far) was Melanie Rowena. I felt a little silly naming our baby Caspian…because really, who does that? But the slight weirdness wore off quickly and it fits him perfectly.

During my second pregnancy, my husband and I went back and forth on a boy name. I love the name Eliot and he didn’t. But I kept coming back to it and eventually he said we could use it as long as we spelled it his way. Agreed! We chose the middle name James. Our girl name for him was Aida Christine. We both love the sound of Aida and were having a really hard time finding a saint name we liked to go with it, but apparently there are several St Christinas and Christine is a family name on my husband’s side. When our son was born, he reminded us both so much of my side of the family and my father specifically that we gave him my dad’s name too, so he ended up Lane Eliot James. We mainly call him Eliot still. And Ee-ot! haha.”

Caspian and Eliot!! Looooovvvveeeeeee!! ❤ ❤ ❤ Shaina said that “finding a name that does go with Caspian without being total geeks is a difficult balance,” but I think they did an amazing job with Eliot!

Shaina wrote, “We became Catholic shortly after Eliot was born, so I’ve been enjoying diving into your blog and discovering a different motivation behind naming,” which makes me so so happy that I can help in this small way! And also — she shared her list of names for future babies! (She was very clear though that these aren’t necessarily husband-approved! 😀 ) Check these out:

John Michael Loren. (call name Loren. I love the name John but we have four of them in the family already. And love that Loren is less common.) John for our both our mentor and my husband’s confirmation names. And so many St Johns. Michael after my husband, and St Michael. And Loren after my husband’s grandfather.

Vivienne Cypress. just love it. the end. (well, and there’s a hymn written by a friend dear to our hearts from the scripture “how like a cypress evergreen”

William Wise

Lewis Martin. Lewis and Martin are both family names. And L M is my MIL’s initials.

Illa Anne-Marie. Illa is my husband’s grandmother’s name. And I dunno, I just like the way Anne-Marie goes with it.

Sebastian Philip. After Bach! And St Sebastian. And Philip after my husband’s friend.”

So many unexpected names! I LOVE unexpected names! I love that they’d call John Michael Loren by his second middle, WOW! Vivienne Cypress! Cypress! What a cool middle name! Same with Wise! I love William Wise! And Illa! Can you tell I’m all heart eyes over these interesting picks?! I love Lewis Martin and Sebastian Philip as well. Such a cool list!

Thank you to Shaina for sharing all of this with us! Here are her handsome little guys:

Caspian and Eliot

Name story: Owen, Violet, Eliza, Edmund

Leslie emailed me to share the stories behind the names of her kiddos, and I’m so glad she did! This is the latest in the Name Stories series, where I share families’ name stories, whether they’ve had a consultation done or not. (This one also fits nicely in with our recent conversations about literary names!)

Leslie writes,

I discovered your blog while my husband and I were going through RCIA (we were received at Easter 2016) and have enjoyed it so much! We just had our fourth baby (well, on 10/27 — it’s gone fast) and our first since joining the Church, and I was hoping it would be ok for me to say hello, and thank you for your awesome site, and tell you a bit about our kids’ names.

We were Protestant when we named our first three kids, but it’s been so cool to discover ways that their names connect to the Catholic faith, without our planning it. Our first child is Owen David. Owen we just picked because we really liked it but we have loved learning about the awesome St. Nicholas Owen, who used his carpentry skills to build priest holes in 16th century England. David is a family name for both me and my husband.

Next we had Violet Irene. I actually learned from you that Violet can be considered a Marian name! That’s another one that we just picked because we loved it. There is a St Irene, although not much is known about her — I love that the name means “peace” and is the name of the main character in George MacDonald’s book “The Princess and the Goblin.”

Our third child is Eliza Lark. My husband’s grandmother was named Elisabeth and my sister is Elizabeth so using Eliza was a nod to both of them. We picked her name out before she was born, but by the time I gave birth we were starting to think pretty seriously about converting and St. Elizabeth and the story of the Visitation became really important to me as we were going through all that. I believe her intercession played a significant role in my labor and delivery, and God gave me a lot of peace through that experience that we were indeed supposed to pursue joining the Church.

As for the middle name Lark, my husband suggested we try to use a nature-themed middle name for Eliza, since big sister is Violet, and Lark immediately felt right as it’s the name of one of my favorite children’s books, by Sally Watson. The main character is named Lark and she’s strong and spunky. So both our girls have middle names inspired by strong characters in wonderful children’s books!

We were team green for the first time ever with our fourth baby. I was POSITIVE we were having another girl, but luckily we did have a boy name picked out because that’s what we had!

It was a very easy choice — once we learned about St. Edmund Campion we knew we wanted to name another son after him, if we had one. We loved the sound, loved how it went with our other kids’ names, and loved how it connects us to our beautiful Catholic faith. We somehow made it to Mass on All Saint’s Day, even with the new baby, and it really hit me as I listened to the litany of saints what a precious gift it is to give our child a name that connects him from his first moments to an intercessor in Heaven! Wow, I love being Catholic.

Thank you for letting me share and thank you again for a great blog! God bless you!

What awesome names!! And such great name stories!! As I told Leslie, it’s so cool that they were able to discover saintly connections in their older three’s names after their conversion! And Edmund Campion (yes, that’s his full given name — love it!!) is an amazing addition. About his name, Leslie writes,

I thought we might use Camp as a nickname but so far we mostly just call him Edmund, although his sisters do love to call him “Campion ” or “Edmund Campion”, which is really cute. And something I forgot to mention is that it was very cool to make the connection that Edmund Campion and Nicholas Owen are both English martyrs, it’s a neat link for our boys to share (and Owen, age six, likes to hypothesize that maybe they were friends!).”

(Be still my heart! So sweet! 😍)

Thank you to Leslie for sharing these wonderful stories, and this photo of her beautiful family!

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Name story: Ruby and Peter

Two things happened recently that inspired this post: one was that a reader suggested I do a series on “the stories behind the names” — sharing the name stories of the children of any of you that would like to do so, whether you’ve had a consultation/birth announcement or not, which is an idea I love. The other was that another of you messaged me, “So I’ve shared bits and pieces about my daughter’s name with you, so I thought I’d just give you the whole big run down! I know you love name stories.” Perfect timing!

I’ve shared personal stories before, tagged either Name stories, Personal stories, or Real-life naming (little Meriam’s recent post is a perfect example), but I want you all to consider this an official invitation to send me your kiddos’ name stories, if you’d like to! I’ll run them when I have openings — I know I’d love to read them, and I’m sure all of you would as well!

So first up we have that mama who messaged me about her daughter’s name, and then she added in the info for her son’s name, and I’m thrilled to share their stories with you because they’re awesome!

Theresa and I follow each other on Twitter, and she has indeed shared bits and pieces of her daughter’s name with me before, so I loved reading the whole story!

She’s Ruby Mae Anastasia. I liked the names Ruby and Mae independently of each other but one day (before we were even married!) my husband said, ‘What about the name Ruby Mae?’ I told him I loved it but that she needed two middle names (I have two and so we agreed so would each of our kids). Immediately he threw out Anastasia and we were set.

When we were finally pregnant, I actually wanted a completely different name for our first girl but this one kept coming back to me and eventually I gave in. Then all the weird coincidences started happening.

Ruby is both mine and my mom’s birthstone, so that was a nod to us. Mae is obviously a form of Mary and my mil’s middle name is Marie and my sil’s name is Maria, so a nod to all three of those ladies. Mae also means flower; my mil and I are both named for St. Thérèse the Little Flower, so that became another nod to all three of us. Then Anastasia is my other sil’s confirmation name, and then An- was a nod to my, my mom’s, and my maternal grandmother’s middle name Anne. But there’s more!

Ruby was due on Sept. 15 — feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. This is where things get even crazier. I have a huge devotion to OLS, my paternal grandma died on her feast and *her* Mother was named Maria Delorosa and raised my gma and her siblings in Seven Dolors parish. My mom (and all of my dad’s family) are buried at Seven Dolors cemetery. So I *knew* that OLS just had to be her patroness and I consecrated Ruby to her in utero. But there’s more!

My paternal grandma’s name was Irene and her mom heard it on a radio program and fell in love with it. I first heard Ruby on a television show a couple years before I met my husband and fell in love with it. I consider that a special link between my daughter and my Gram.

And then you made me realize the connections between Ruby and the Sacred Heart and the Precious Blood, both of which I’m very devoted to, so I count those in her patronages, as well.

Literally all the women in my family are accounted for in Ruby’s name … and then she’s got some powerful patrons on top of that! It was just so perfect I love when a name just comes together like that and I *love* when they’re so full of meaning.”

Isn’t this amazing? I totally agree with Theresa — I love when when names come together like that, and when they’re so full of meaning.

I asked her if her son had an equally as great story and Theresa said,

Not nearly as involved but yes! I’ve always wanted to name my first son Peter and hubby was totally on board. Peter is for two of my favorite literary characters — Peter Pan and Peter Pevensee — and then for St. Peter. His middle names are Leon and Gerard after his grandfathers. Leon is my fil’s middle and Gerard is my dad and his dad’s name. My name goes similarly — I’m named for my mom’s favorite saint and then my middles are for my gmas, one of their first names and the other’s middle; so we thought that was a nice connection. My dad’s brother never had any sons (neither did my dad, actually) but if he had, he would’ve named one Peter, so I think this is a nice nod to him, too, as I’m very close with that Uncle. But there’s more! Growing up, we didn’t live near either side of my family, so my bff’s grandparents ‘adopted me’ and I remained semi-close with them until their deaths. My adopted gpa’s middle name was also Leon, so that’s a nice nod to him! Peter likes to tell us he’s also named for Spider Man (Peter Parker) bc that’s his favorite character, sooooo we just go along with it 😂 Obviously, there are also Sts. Leo and Gerard that we invoke for his patronages as well.”

I just sigh with happiness over good name stories. 😊😍❤️ Thanks to Theresa for sharing this great info! And please feel free to share your own! Email me at sanctanomina at gmail dot com and write “Name story” in the subject.