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.

Celebrity guest: Meghan, literary+Catholic namer

The consultation I had scheduled for today had to be postponed, so I’m excited to bump up this post I had scheduled for later this week!

When I worked on that post on Catholic literary names the week before last, and saw all of your great comments and suggestions, I immediately thought of a beautiful family who I follow on Instagram whose daughters have the most amazing Catholic+literary names and I’d been meaning for ages to ask the mama if I could share them on here! So I asked and she said yes and I’m delighted to share their name stories with you all today!

Meghan is a FertilityCare Practitioner teaching the Creighton Mode of NFP, and her husband is “in the editing phases of his first book (!!!) and frequently freelances for the Catholic Beer Club and Aleteia.” What a cool couple!

They have three daughters, and Meghan writes,

The source of our inspiration for our first names thus far has largely been from literature, so far authors have been the namesake of our three girls. But as we’ve created lists before each birth they’ve spanned all aspects of literature. Aside from that, we like them all to have a little nod to our Catholic faith, but in a unique/eclectic not-so-traditional way. I’ve been told my names are Catholic hipster, but trust me — least. hipster. girl. ever. over here, full blown SAHM stuff of your childhood happening, so I don’t know how I’m doing it.”


My husband and I are both avid readers (at least we try!) and big literature fans. Neither of us got degrees relating to the subject, but both love to write! … We never find out the gender of our babies before they are born, so while we await their arrival, we typically have a short running list of names for both a boy and a girl.

We always S T R U G G L E to think of boy names that fit in with our style … or should I say we struggle to agree on boy names, we both can come up with boy names for days, but none that the other is on board with. But the Lord has been merciful to us in that and we have only girls so far!

With this last pregnancy I was very near considering contacting you for a consult when it came to boy name ideas just in case we had one because I was panicking! Thankfully we came to an agreement — one so oddly obvious we couldn’t believe it hadn’t been decided on earlier!

As a Meghan (a very popular name at its prime) it was important to me that we tried for more unique names! …. We are both QUITE Irish and so we often find ways to hint toward our ancestry in a lot of our name choices.”

Are you all ready to see these beautiful names?! (( drumroll ))

Flannery Ellen: “She’s named after Flannery O’Connor. The name accomplished just what we wanted. Something unique, with a Catholic flavor to it — something subtle that only the most Catholic and well-read among us usually pick up on. We tend to make fast friends with priests and scholars when we introduce Flannery! Now her middle name is a little bit of a different story. First of all, I’m picky about how the first name and middle name sound together. But when it gets down to it, her middle name is after my youngest sister Ellie. But we also have some other women from my side of the family that it subtly alludes too — I have a grandma and a great-grandma both named Helen, so its kind of a nice marrying of all those lovely ladies. I always assume that Flannery may take St. Helen as a patron one day if she so chooses!

Harper Edel: “First, I have to clarify that we have chosen a different pronunciation for ‘Edel’, we say it like it rhymes with ‘pedal’. We thought it added to the uniqueness of her name to have a different pronunciation, which was important to us since as it turned out Harper had a bit of a rise in popularity around the time she was born. But as you can guess, her first name is after Harper Lee the well loved author of To Kill a Mockingbird. And Ven. Edel Quinn for her middle name. I had to be on bed rest for three months while pregnant with Harper and I was reading a lot about this incredible Irish Missionary during that time. One day when Zach came home I just told him, “if we have a girl we have to name her after this powerhouse Irish missionary!” Seriously, she is so legit. Fearless, disciplined, selfless, and zealous! All traits I hope my girls will embody in some way!

Willa Margaret: “She is named after Willa Cather who famously penned O Pioneers and Death Comes for an Archbishop. I also have a great great Aunt Willa who was known to be stunning and strong. My great grandmother is still living (91!) and loves when we bring little Willa to visit her — you can see the rush of nostalgia just at the mention of her name! She has a hard time remembering who everyone is, but she always remembers that there is a baby named Willa! Now the Margaret part … So, our girls were on a big Daniel Tiger kick while I was pregnant and they do a fantastic job in that show explaining how it will be when mom has a new baby and so naturally, my girls related very well to this. Maybe a little too well … Daniel Tiger’s baby sister is named Margaret in the cartoon, “Baby Margaret”. Just kind of became how the girls referred to the baby in my belly — even though we didn’t know the gender! This went on for so long and no matter what I said to try and explain that if the baby was a boy it wouldn’t be named Margaret, etc. etc. I started to just say, “If it’s a girl, maybe that can be her middle name”. Well, then while I was pregnant we drew patron saints for the year and the patron we drew for the baby was St. Margaret of Cortona … so finally after a few months of ‘maybe that will be her middle name’ I had to ask my husband if that was in fact going to be our potential daughter’s middle name!? We both just decided … Why not!? So that one just sort of happened haha! But I love it!

Aren’t these ah-MAZ-ing names??!! Can you see why I was so taken with them, and why I wanted to share them here?? I love each one!!

I asked Meghan if she would feel comfortable sharing some of the names on their list for the future, and this is what she said:

-Emerson, for either boy or girl. We were kind of leaning toward boy even though I kind of preferred it as a girl name (but then my cousin had a baby girl and named her Emerson, so I decided to nix it for now)

– Louis, Zach LOVES Louis Lamore, but I just wasn’t so sure if it fit with the style…

– Jack Clement (I love all the hard ‘k ‘ sounds especially with our last name), After Jack London and then Clement after St. Clement but its also a family name of Zach’s. He had a cousin a few generations back who died very young from tuberculosis while working as a doctor, it just sounds so romantically like the story of many of the great saints we know and love, I often dream up what he may have been like!

– Gilbert, because G.K. Chesterton and also Anne of Green Gables

– J.D.- One of my husband’s favorite books is the Catcher in the Rye, so he was really trying to talk me into Jerome David, but I just can’t get on board with initials … or Jerome for that matter.

– Quinn and Sully, okay okay — these are more inspired by my mild obsession with Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, but I love Quinn for a girl and Sully for a boy and I think stylistically they work with our current names. So help me find a literary tie so I can get them on the list for next time! 😉 I tried suggesting Solanus Casey, nicknamed Sully … hubby LOVES Solanus Casey — we’ll see if we ever have a boy haha!

Authors/ books we love and would love to use as inspiration:
Some of these are our most favorite books/ authors but we struggle to find a way to utilize them in a way that matches our naming style and is unique …
John Steinbeck
Ernest Hemingway
Little House on the Prairie (we recently just moved back to SD and are reading them with the girls)
C.S. Lewis
East of Eden
Anne of Green Gables
Charles Dickens
I know there are more, but my brain and memory are failing me …

I love all of this!! I personally think Gilbert is a slam dunk for them — I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think “Gilbert Blythe” upon hearing the name, so to me it fits in perfectly with the obviously literary first names their girls have, and that tie-in with G.K. Chesterton is so great! Sully for Solanus is amazing too, I love that! I don’t know of any literary connections though?

Other ideas off the top of my head include:
Wilder (b) for Little House on the Prairie (but too much “er” with Harper?)
Eden (g) for East of Eden (similar in appearance to Edel, but okay since one is a middle name and one might be a first name?)
Blythe (g) for Anne of Green Gables (but this would knock Gilbert out of contention)
Caspian (b) for C.S. Lewis, loooove!

I looked through the comments you all left on the Catholic lit post and thought these might be good (though I haven’t read the books they’re from yet):

Brede (for In This House of Brede, which wasn’t on Meghan’s list but I like Brede! Reminds me of Bridey from Brideshead Revisited, and it’s said like the Irish name Bríd)
Ransom (from C.S. Lewis’ The Space Trilogy)

And I did a quick search on the Name Matchmaker on the babynamewizard site for names that have a similar style to Flannery, Harper, and Willa, and I really liked these (though they’re not all related to the books/authors Meghan said they like):

Darcy (Mr. Darcy! But I like it better for a girl)
Scarlett (she’s got that Irish thing going on too!)
Jules (Jules Verne)
Atticus (too much with Harper?)
Barrett (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Bennet (the Bennet sisters)
Tennyson (such a cool name!)
Gulliver (I always thought Gulliver and Tennyson would make a cool pair of brothers)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this family spotlight! Thank you to Meghan for sharing all of this with us! If you have any name ideas for this family, please leave them in the comments, and be sure to hop on over to Meghan’s Instagram to catch a peek of her little lovelies!


Names of note on British Baby Names

Happy Monday y’all!! It’s eclipse day! Are your kids as excited as mine?? Since we haven’t been able to snag any of the sold-out eclipse glasses, we’ll probably watch most of it on NASA’s site, but we’re also going to make these eclipse viewers (just waiting for my coffee to brew).

In similarly earth-shaking news, for the first time in a verrrry long time I’m all caught up on consultations and don’t have any scheduled to post! What! So if you’ve been wanting one, now’s a great time!

In lieu of our normal Monday consultation fun, I want to talk about the British Baby Names blog. Are you as hooked on it as I am?? I’ve been keeping it up on my computer all summer and browsing through the birth announcements when I have a few minutes here and there, and there have been so many amazing names that I’ve been keeping a running list to share with you all! Like these amazingly Catholicky Catholic sib sets:

Clemency Jane Frances “Clemmie,” baby sister of Edward Blaise “Ned,” Beatrice Mary “Bea,” Christopher Ambrose Richard “Kit,” Josephine Alice “Posy,” & Mary Assumpta (from this post)

Sebastian Francis Bertram (from this post)

Matilda Agnes, baby sister of Hubert James Raphael, Beatrice Elizabeth, Emilia, Leo John Bartholomew & Helena Adelaide (from this post)

Rufus Benedict, baby brother of Theodora Verity & Harriet Cecily (from this post)

Theresa Eleanor “Tess,” baby sister of Robert John “Bobby” & Francis William “Frankie” (from this post)

I’m fascinated by these Irish and Welsh and names!

Liusaidh Hannah Lesley, baby sister of Ruairidh Joseph Henry & Eilidh Margaret Catriona (from this post)

Gwenlli Fflur, baby sister of Ynyr Alun & Gwern Rhisiart (from this post)

Beca Grug, baby sister of Aron Huw, Erin Gwen & Math Owen (the woman behind the blog, Eleanor, noted that Grug = GREEG “heather”) (from this post)

Nedw Lleu, baby brother of Liwsi Glwys (from this post)

Guto Lloyd & Elen Mair, twin sibs of Awen Mair (from this post)

I liked seeing Evelyn as a boy’s middle (a la Evelyn Waugh): Humphrey Evelyn (from this post).

These were just amazing, for one reason or another:

Henrietta Zillah Iris, baby sister of Xanthippe Phyllis Elizabeth (from this post)

Primrose Ophelia “Posy,” baby sister of Theodora Kate “Teddy” (from this post)

Zinnia Indigo, baby sister of Azalea Primrose (from this post)

Zsa Zsa Hermione Christobel, baby sister of Cressida Lucy Florence, Rocco & Aubrey (twins) (from this post)

Molly Jessica & Pippa Josephine, twin sisters — I love how their first and middles have the same number of syllables, and I love Molly and Pippa together! (from this post)

Tatiana Mary Alexandra, baby sister of Maximillian Randal James, Jemima Honey Frances & Willa Charlotte Moore (from this post)

And speaking of Jemima, beloved of every name lover, I also spotted Jemimas in these posts: here, here.

I really liked the nickname here: John Patrick Carnegy “Jock” (from this post), and was so surprised to see both a Jack and a Johnny in this family: Jack Oliver, baby brother of Johnny Robert, Harry Anthony & Joseph James (from this post). I was also surprised at the number of Montys (two of them here and here) and Jontys (as is, as both a first and middle, here, here, here) — Jonty’s a traditional nickname for Jonathan, and you might remember that I suggested it to Rosie and Tim in this consultation.

I’m barely scratching the surface with all the amazing names listed in the birth announcement posts, and there are also consultation posts too. Such a fun site!

Celebrity guest: Katie, mom who did the John Paul + middle thing really well

I met Katie, one of you wonderful readers, at the Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference in October, and I got to meet her littlest guy, snoozing away in his wrap (soooo cute.!), who has one of my very favorite names for one of my very favorite saints: John Paul!

So of course we started chatting about names, and she was telling me that her husband hadn’t wanted John Paul to have a middle name, because he thought that three names was too much, and my interest was immediately piqued, because I know this very issue has been struggled with regarding this very name by some of you (and myself as well!).

So I was literally waiting with bated breath to hear how they resolved it (not even joking, I’m a little breathless about names 😂) when we got interrupted (this sweet old lady came over to tell Katie how much she reminded her of the Madonna and Child, which she totally did) and I never heard the rest of the story.

So yes, I emailed Katie! And we had a nice virtual chat and she said it would be okay for me to post about her John Paul’s name, as well as her seven other kiddos’ names! I’m so excited to introduce this beautiful family to you today and share their names with you!

To start, here’s the end to the John Paul + middle name story:

Yes, he said three names were too many so we were at an impasse. I ended up having a c-section bc baby turned to breech in labor. After [my husband] saw the c-section, I was wheeled back into my room. He said “I’ll name this baby anything you want!” So we went with John Paul on the birth certificate but John Paul Anthony is his name on his baptism certificate, birth announcement, etc. Turns out the husband was just worried about the blanks on the birth certificate form.”

Isn’t that a fantastic solution?! I could see a lot of people being really relieved to let go of the idea that the child’s name can only be what’s on the birth certificate. Like, the legal name is the legal name, but the legal name doesn’t have to be *the name*, you know? I kind of love the idea of a baby’s *real name* only being official with the Church and friends/family/real life. And doing so opens up so many options!

Of course I wanted to know what little John Paul Anthony’s big sibs were named, and I really love each one of them and the reasons behind them:

Daniel Thomas (“named for family friend & my step-dad“)

James Michael (“we liked James & Michael is for my husband“)

Joseph William (“we just liked those names“)

Benjamin Jon (“liked the name Benjamin, Jon is the husband’s middle name“)

Samuel Luke (“I liked the names & the Bible theme…kids liked Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars“)

Robert Jacob (“Robert because the husband REALLY liked the name and I was so pregnant with twins that I had no energy to argue. Jacob is for my great grandfather“)

Mary Lucille (“Mary for my grandmother, Lucille because we were going to call her Lucy. But when she was born, I was asking for Mary’s intercession in labor & as I was hemorrhaging after. So when I held our little girl, I felt like a heel not calling her Mary. 😁 “)

John Paul Anthony (“love JP2, all the dads and grandpas are named John. Anthony is because with all these boys, I have a devotion to St. Anthony. Without him we would never go anyplace bc we would never have keys or socks“)

My naming style is less traditional…if it were up to me, we’d have Gavin, Ignatius, Leo, Henry, etc. the husband likes the 80s names…So I consider our name choices a good compromise.”

I LOVED reading all of this! All those boys! And that one sweet little lady! I died over Katie’s comment that Mary Lucille was supposed to be Lucy but after Our Lady’s intercession in labor “I felt like a heel not calling her Mary”!! 😂😂😂


Thank you so much to Katie for sharing all this fun and fabulous info with us! Check out her beautiful children (all photos taken by Mary Wiseman):

View More:

Age order: Daniel, James, Joseph, Benjamin, Samuel, Robert, Mary, and John Paul

Some really cute ones of her younger kiddos:

Clockwise from top left: John Paul, Samuel, Joseph, Mary and Bobby, Dad and Bobby, Mary


Celebrity guest: Quad mom Justina

I don’t remember how I came across Justina, but I think it was on Twitter … I swooned over “Setting the world on fire, Catherine of Siena style” in her Twitter bio as well as her marriage/NFP/pro-life posts, so I already knew she was my kinda girl, and then when I was clicking around as you do when you “meet” someone new online, I checked out her and her husband Matt’s wedding photos and honeymoon photos, which are like from a magazine (both the photos and the subjects — stunning couple!), and then I discovered she was expecting quadruplets (!!!!). Well. I was immediately smitten with this beautiful mama, and followed her on Instagram to keep up with her journey, and when she had the babies I just died over how precious they are.

And their names! So amazing! Of course I had to ask her if she would mind sharing their story, and she graciously agreed, and I’m so delighted to share it with all of you today! So without further ado … ((drumroll)) … read all about the Kopp Quad Squad!



Kate: Quadruplets are a big deal! Would you mind sharing your reaction to finding out you were expecting four babies? Especially after previously losing a baby? Is there anything else about your story you’d like to share?

Justina: Quads ARE a big deal! After losing our first baby, Francis Jude, to an early miscarriage just seven weeks into our marriage, we went through a season of unexplained secondary infertility, most likely due to PCOS. After a few months of working with my doctor, we found ourselves very pregnant! The chances of this were less than 0.3%. I’ve heard estimates as low as 1 in 700,000! At that first ultrasound at 6 weeks, Matt and I were nervous about an ectopic pregnancy because I had been feeling sharp, specific pain. At the beginning of the ultrasound, I thought I saw four gestational sacs, but I didn’t want to say anything and assumed I was wrong. When we saw the first baby’s heartbeat, we both cried with joy because we had never seen that before with our Francis. Then the sonographer chuckled and labeled that baby, Baby A. Next came Baby B. We got so excited about twins! Then, the sonographer found Baby C, and we laughed and made jokes about how I would grow a third arm during the pregnancy to accommodate triplets. The sonographer took a look at the fourth gestational sac, and it was empty. Strangely, we felt peace and I thought about how that little saint would join Francis in heaven. Our doctor stepped in to take a peak, and I noted that we hadn’t gotten a photo of Baby C, and as she went back for that, Baby D appeared in the fourth sac! QUADS! We just LAUGHED! There is nothing else to do by laugh in that situation! Don’t worry, though; two days later, everything hit us and we panicked a bit.

Kate: Did you know the genders ahead of time, or were you surprised (and therefore have to pick eight names)?

Justina: We found out the genders at 16 weeks. We had enough surprises for that pregnancy, so we chose to find out. I refused to brainstorm names for all the possible gender combinations, so we really didn’t talk about names until we knew what we were having.

Kate: I’d love to hear your thoughts on the particular challenges of picking names for four babies!

Justina: Four names was hard, but not as hard as it would have been for us if we were having more girls! I could name boys for days, no problem. That girl name, though… that was the challenge. For the past five years or so, I’ve kept a running list of boy names and girl names that I liked. When it came to naming our daughter, I looked at that list and hated every name I saw! For a while, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to find one we liked!

Kate: Could you list your babies’ names, and tell us how you and your hubby choose them? Were there particular saints you wanted to honor, for example? Are there layers of meaning to each name other than the obvious? (E.g., family names, that kind of thing.) Any other place you looked to for inspiration? (If you named your baby in heaven, I’d love to hear about him or her as well, but I understand if you’d prefer to keep it private.)


Cora Immaculée – We knew we wanted our little girl to have a Marian name, but we didn’t want Mary, Marie, Maria, etc. This little lady had a bright spot on her heart in her early ultrasounds, so that brought name Cora, which means “heart” or “maiden.” Immaculée is a nod to Our Lady. Together, her name means “Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Raphael Gerard – St. Raphael is actually both Matt’s and my confirmation saint! Matt picked him because he’s the patron saint of travelers, and I picked him because he’s the patron saint of physicians (I had my eye on a career in medicine) and because my parents named my miscarried siblings Raphael. The real kicker is that St. Raphael is the patron saint of singles and happy meetings. So, here we are. Happily met with a lot of babies. The name means “God has healed,” a fitting name for a pregnancy after a miscarriage. Gerard was a last minute switch from Blaise. The babies were born on the feast of St. Gerard, the patron saint of expectant mothers. We call him Raph (rhymes with calf).

Theodore Ambrose – Theodore is the name of Matt’s late maternal grandfather, and both Theodore and Ambrose are family names on my side. Theodore means “God’s gift,” which is kind of funny because Matt’s name also means “gift of God.” Sts. Theodore and Ambrose are saints that we both admire, too. St. Theodore was a martyr and one of the “soldier saints.” St. Ambrose played a huge part in St. Augustine’s conversion, served the poor, and stood up against heresies of his time. These two saints together represented the unique calling we have as Catholics in this age, to defend our faith bravely and pray for conversion of hearts. We call this little guy Theo.

Benedict Peter – We both came up with this name on our own and brought it to each other one night. When we studied in Rome, we both got to read at papal Masses with Pope Benedict XVI, and I think I *might* be B16’s biggest fan. St. Benedict is also a saint we admire, and we love that the name means “blessed.” Peter was also my dad’s name. He passed away 9.5 years ago, and I wanted to honor him without taking away an opportunity for my younger siblings to use the name as a first name when then have children of their own someday. St. Peter is also the saint that just gets me, as we are both Sanguine/Choleric. We call our sweet boy Ben.

Francis Jude – Our little saint is named after St. Francis and St. Jude. St. Francis is a saint that I grew close to during my semester in Rome, and on our honeymoon we spent a few days in Assisi. We felt such joy and peace during our time there, and it stands out for both of us as such a special time in those early days of our marriage. St. Jude was picked because he is the patron saint of impossible causes, and gosh, did things feel impossible after losing our first baby. Both of these saints are October saints, which is when we lost our sweet babe. Francis can also be Frances, as we do not know the gender of our saint.

Ultimately, we wanted our children to have strong, traditional, and timeless names. We love what we picked for our kiddos. They are all fraternal, so we wanted them to have names that could stand alone if they were not quadruplets, too.

Aren’t these names ah-MAZ-ing??!! And every single detail of the naming is so perfect!!

Be sure also to check out Justina’s blog, Love Multiplied, whose first post (which she purposely put up this past Sunday on the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade 💕) tells more about finding out they were expecting quadruplets, and their meeting with the perinatologist. Such a great witness!

Thank you thank you to Justina for sharing her family’s wonderful story with us!! Check out how big and happy these beautiful babies are!!

Cora Immaculée, Raphael Gerard, Theodore Ambrose, Benedict Peter

(Cora, Raph, Theo, and Ben)


“Silence,” Catholic Japan, and names

Have any of you seen Martin Scorsese’s new movie Silence yet? It’s been on my husband’s radar for years, as Daniel Day-Lewis, one of his favorite actors, was originally supposed to star in it, so he’s excited it’s finally here (even though the final casting doesn’t include Day-Lewis). I loved reading that the two leads, Andrew Garfield ([Spiderman!] “raised in a secular Jewish household”) and Adam Driver ([Kylo Ren!] “raised in a Baptist family”), went on a silent retreat at a Jesuit retreat house  as reported in the Aleteia article “‘Silence’ actors made silent retreat to prepare for Scorsese film: To better play their roles as Jesuit missionaries, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver went on a 7-day retreat in North Wales.” Well known Fr. James Martin, SJ, was even commissioned to help them prepare for their roles. I’ve never read the book it’s based on (Silence by Japanese Catholic author Shūsaku Endō) and I don’t know if the story’s ultimately faith-strengthening or not, but I love that it’s a story of Jesuit missionaries by a Catholic author. Fingers crossed that it does good work!

I’ve long been interested in the Japanese Catholic Church — this bit from New Advent is amazing and so moving:

There is not in the whole history of the Church a single people who can offer to the admiration of the Christian world annals as glorious, and a martyrology as lengthy, as those of the people of Japan.”

Indeed there are huge lists of Venerables, Blesseds, and Saints who were born in Japan and died in Japan, and I’ve always been interested by the fact that every single one of them has a familiar saint’s name for a first name — I know there are Japanese Catholics with Japanese names (Silence‘s author being one; I did actually look to see if he also had a Christian name but didn’t find one), so I’ve wondered how the idea of “Christian names” fits into the naming traditions of Japanese Catholics.

I did some research and found this helpful article about Japanese naming practices in general, and it seems that names are chosen strictly for meaning, which is different than our familiar practice of often naming *for* someone (the traditional understanding of “Christian name” — i.e., the name of a Saint), but isn’t necessarily different in the sense of using virtue names nor in avoiding names that are foreign to Christian sensibility. You know?

I found this on Quora:

Here in Japan there is no tradition of giving a middle name, so it is common for parents to name the child a normal Japanese name, and then the child is given a Saint’s name at baptism. The baptismal name is generally only used at the parish for official things, and not in every day life – though a lot of my friends use their baptismal name in their email addresses. 🙂

Occasionally the parents will give a Saint or Christian based name as a given name, but not as a rule. There aren’t that many Saints names that go well with Japanese, but there is a little girl at our parish named Kurara (the Japanese for Clara/Claire). Some parents choose given names such as Ai (love), Megumi (grace), Nozomi (hope), etc.”

I feel like the idea of not being named after someone is also reflected in the names of the Catholic churches in Japan — I follow @catholicjapan on Instagram,* and the featured churches all have names like Chuchi Catholic Church, Tsuwano Catholic Church, and Aokata Catholic Church, which I think are geographic names. All of them have patron saints that aren’t part of the churches’ names (St. John Goto, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, and the Holy Family, respectively), which is so different from our churches here. (Be sure to check out the web site I linked to for the saints’ names in the previous sentence — it’s the site of the Daughters of St. Paul in Japan, and there’s a listing on the site of all the beautiful Sisters and their names — you can click on each one for their stories!)

Do any of you know anything more? I love finding out different naming traditions in different cultures, especially as they relate to our faith!

*I also follow @ruriruri, which focuses on images of Our Lady in Japan, and which I believe is maintained by the same person as @catholicjapan — I find the pictures so inspiring, definitely worth a follow!

Celebrity guest: Kate Wicker, author & speaker

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!! What a beautiful feast day, one of my favorites! Feast days are celebration days, and I’ve got a lovely treat for you all today! 💕🎁

I’ve “known” Kate Wicker through her blog for years — her oldest and mine are just about the same age, and she and I had babies at roughly the same pace, and she’s a writer like me (though far more accomplished, being that she’s the health columnist for Catholic Digest and has written for numerous regional and national media, including Atlanta Parent, Catholic Exchange,, Catholic News Agency, Children’s Ministry Magazine, Crisis Magazine, Family Fun, Fathers For Good, Pregnancy, Pittsburgh Parent,, and Woman’s Day. She’s also a monthly guest on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air Show, has appeared in Danielle Bean’s Momnipotent DVD series, and has been a guest on the Faith & Family LIVE and Among Women podcasts, Huffington Post Live (known as HuffPost Live), Kresta in the Afternoon radio show, and EWTN’s Son Rise Morning Show among others. Whew! 💃), so I’ve felt a kinship with her in the way that fangirls do with their mom/blogging heroes. 😍😍😍

Then she went a wrote a book (Weightless: Making Peace With Your Body, informed by her own struggles with a clinical eating disorder and written from a Catholic perspective), and she’s got a new one coming out soon (Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in the Messiness of Motherhood, which I’m currently working on a review of [spoiler: it’s amazing!]; it’s available for pre-order here), AND — she’s got a new baby on the way!

Yes! A new baby! A boy! Her little guy joins three big sisters and a big brother, and Kate graciously humored me when I asked if she would mind sharing a little about the hows and whys of her kiddos’ amazing names, as well as any thoughts she and her husband have about naming the new baby. I know you’ll love all of what she has to say!


(This photo was taken when Kate had just found out No. 5 was on the way!)

I’m a gestating machine at 36 weeks pregnant with baby number five. This one is our second boy and since we already have three girls, you’d think we’d have bountiful selection of boy monikers. However, my husband and I both struggle far more with coming up with names for the XY chromosome set than the girls. Our children’s names are all very classic, so we’ve joked that maybe we will throw everyone for a loop and slap on some eccentric name like Mango (to Gwyneth’s Apple) or Blade for this little one!

With our last baby, we didn’t find out the gender until birth. After three girls, I assumed we would be adding some more sugar and spice to our family (if truth be told, all of my kids add more spice than straight-up sweet sugar to my life). I had a whole list of girls’ names to choose from (Jane Clare being a top contender), but we had only one boy name chosen: Thomas Kemp. My husband’s dad had conducted extensive genealogy research for both his side of the family and my own, and then he put together an amazing book detailing our familial history (best gift ever!). We discovered my husband had ancestors who sailed on the Mayflower, and I’m distantly related to George Washington. The book was chock full of family names, and we perused it one day and both decided we liked Thomas (a name belonging to several of our ancestors). Kemp is a family name; it belonged to my husband’s grandfather who passed away from ALS before I had a chance to meet him. I also felt it was a solid Catholic name since the author of the Christian classic The Imitation of Christ was Thomas à Kempis. Well, lo and behold, we welcomed our first boy into the world, so Thomas Kemp it was. When we baptized him, the priest, a family friend, complimented the name choice and asked if it had anything to do with Thomas à Kempis. (I may have performed an imaginary fist pump in the air for my Catholic name-choosing awesomeness.) We always call him Thomas – no Tom or Tommy, please. My dad (a lover of nicknames) does sometimes call him “T,” which I like. Growing up, I was Katie-Did or M.L.M.D.M.T.D. (short for My Love, My Dove, My Treasure Divine; I was my dad’s only girl. J To this day, my dad gives almost everyone some sort of nickname.

As for all of our daughters’ names, I’d always loved the name of Madeline, but I also considered Clare for our first. We decided on Madeline Louise before she was born. I write journals during pregnancy to all of my babies, so it was beautiful being able to call her by her name in her letters. My mom’s mother sadly died when my mom was only a teenager and they had always had a very close relationship. My late grandmother’s name was Dorothy Louise; that’s where Madeline’s middle name comes from. I almost always call my daughter Madeline (she’s 12 now – sheesh!), but a lot of family and friends call her Maddy, and my dad sometimes affectionately refers to her as Maddy Lou.

We named our second child Rachel Marie, and we called her by that full name for awhile because it just rolls off the tongue so beautifully. But we eventually shortened it to Rachel or Rae. I love calling her Rae or even Rae-Rae, and the lullaby I sang to her when she was a baby was “You Are My Sunshine,” and I’ve always thought of her as my “Rae” of sunshine. My husband’s sister is named Rachel and his mom also had an aunt named Rachel, so it’s a family name as well. Marie is, too. My mom’s name is Eileen Marie, and I’m Kate Marie (just Kate on my birth certificate; it’s not short for anything, although my family refers to me as Katie most of the time). Marie is such a classic, lovely name, and it goes well with almost any first name! Rachel is 9 now. When she was little, we all called her Baby Rae since that’s what Big Sister Madeline started referring to her as. I still frequently call her Rae-Rae and suspect I always will.

Next up was Mary Elizabeth, also known as M.E. or just Mary. She was almost a Jane Clare. My husband liked the name Emmie, but we both agreed that we wanted her to also have a more sophisticated moniker for when she was older. We came up with M.E. (pronounced like Emmie) that could be short for Mary Elizabeth, a quintessential Catholic name. M.E. answers to any of these names – Mary Elizabeth, M.E., or Mary – but she’s told me recently she thinks she prefers simply “Mary.” Although when she was just learning to write, she loved how short the name M.E. was!

Both my husband and I definitely prefer to steer clear of overly trendy names and do tend to gravitate toward traditional names that run in our families. This go-around, as I mentioned, we have no solid picks for our baby boy (suggestions are welcome!). I like Joseph, but my husband isn’t as crazy about it. We all like William (kids included), but William Wicker makes me chuckle and think of the “Wuv, true wuv” line from The Princess Bride. James is a contender, but we’re not completely sold. We like the name John, but there are tons of Johns still alive and well on both sides of our families. I don’t tend to worry too much proprietary rights to names, but I know some parents take it very seriously. We did briefly consider Gerald since this is my husband’s father’s name, but then we realized people might accuse us of having a Tom and Jerry. No thank you.

I’m thinking we will likely decide upon a name when baby number 5 makes his big debut! I’m due in early January, so stay tuned.

Kate, thanks so much for having me.

Aren’t these great name stories??! There are so many details I love — the family and faith connections in each name; the way Mary Elizabeth’s name started with a love of “Emmie” (M.E. for Emmie is so darling! As is the fact that M.E. currently prefers Mary, so sweet); and how Thomas Kemp immediately brings Thomas á Kempis to mind — it was my first thought when Kate announced his birth, and how cool that Kemp is a family name!

So … Kate said “suggestions are welcome!” for her little boy … you know I can’t not offer some ideas! So based on Madeline, Mary, Elizabeth, Rachel, Thomas, Jane, Clare, Joseph, William, James, John, and Gerald (and not knowing, of course, any family names, so I get it if none of these work) I would suggest:

(1) Charles
Thomas and Charles have a great gentlemanly feel together! I think Charles Wicker sounds great, and Charlie is an adorable nickname. There are also loads of other nickname ideas for Charles that I’m pretty swoony over (seeing as how I love a good offbeat nickname).

(2) Stephen
Like how Kate’s Thomas is just Thomas, I really love the full Stephen. Thomas and Stephen are great brother names!

(3) Daniel
Daniel always has a sweet, affectionate feel to me because of Danny Boy. It’s classic and biblical and just a great name.

(4) Benjamin
Benjamin is mostly inspired by Rachel — Madeline, Mary Elizabeth, and Thomas have a very traditional feel, and while Rachel is just as traditional, it has a little something different that I think Benjamin mirrors.

(5) Henry
Finally, Henry — one of the sweetest names ever, and having some great heavy-hitting patron saints. I love Henry with Kate’s other kids!

Two additional thoughts: One of the combos I’ve been loving recently is James Kolbe (I like the nickname Jake for it, but it’s great on its own), and it feels a lot like Thomas Kemp to me, with the unusual middle name that’s really saintly, so I thought I’d offer that as well. Also, while Kate and her hubs might not have any babies after this one, if they’re ever blessed with another girl, Jane won’t be usable if they use John this time. You know what a conundrum it can be in regards to saving a beloved name for later at the expense of this baby’s name now! But I thought it was important to note.

And those are all my thoughts/ideas! What do you all think? What ideas do you have for this little boy?

Thanks again to Kate for sharing all this fun info with us! Please keep her in your prayers as she nears the end of her pregnancy and gets ready to meet her Little Mister, and be sure to check out her web site, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more info about her books and her musings on motherhood and more!


Celebrity guest: Sharon from Baby My Love

I attended the Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference at the end of October and had the very great pleasure of meeting someone I’d only known by her handle — mommashaunie (and how hilarious is it when you’re meeting someone in real life that you’d previously only known online and you whisper self consciously, “Are you mommashaunie?” 😂) — who turns out is actually named Sharon, and she was selling the gorgeous wares from her Etsy shop Baby My Love (“Knit bonnets and hats, leather moccasins, diapers, wool covers, blankets, lovey’s, burp cloths, wipes, bibs, nursing covers, boppy covers, headbands, knit animals, and everything in between”) (on Facebook and Instagram as well) which, if I could have, I would have bought all of because they were

We also had a little chat about, um, names, and I loved her kiddos’ names so much I had to share them here! Fortunately she was game — I think you’re going to love all these!

Names…Names have definitely been something that Zeb and I enjoy when a new baby comes along. I truly believe that God has a name chosen for each soul He creates, and it’s our job to discover it. I take this job VERY seriously. 😉 

Our first, is Miss Gemma Agnes. I was determined to name my first girl after my grandmother, who was my world! Her name was Agnes Emma, but she despised her first name. So naturally I was going to go with Emma Agnes, BUT, one of my sister and Brother-in-law’s [named their baby] Emma 5 months before our baby was born. Zebulon suggested just switching to Gemma Agnes, and once I read St. Gemma’s story, I was hooked.

Our next girl was “going” to be Bernadette Marie, but I had a dream about a little blonde swinging at the park, and she did NOT look like a Bernadette, she looked like a Felicity (I ALWAYS loved the story of St. Felicity and Perpetua), so we went with Felicity Anne, and low and behold, she is a brunette. LOL!

My husband had requested the name, Nicodemus, for his first son, from almost the moment that we first met. Our next conception was a 13 week miscarriage, though we didn’t know the gender, we chose Baby Nic to be for either girls or boy (Nicholas or Nicole).

Next, we were blessed with a son, and he is our Nicodemus Joseph.

Our next conception was our dear, sweet, earth side saint. This little one was a sweet princess and at 30 weeks, I had still NOT pinned down a name, I was thinking Gwendolyn for a while, but it just wasn’t sticking. I had gone through the Butler’s Saint books, and still, nothing felt right. I kept badgering my husband and telling him that I NEEDED a name for the sweet little one growing within me. One night, when he had had enough of my nagging, he told me to grab the Bible, he kept perusing and mentioning different names, about 5 mins in, he said, ” Miriam” and I jumped on it! It was PERFECT! I was in love with it. We chose, Rose, as the middle name because her two sisters wanted it desperately. On Valentine’s Day, 2009, my water broke at 36 weeks. I delivered our sweet, Miriam Rose, unfortunately, she was only on this earth for 11 hours before God called her home. Her death was caused by septis, Strep Pnuemo that was not from me. She was baptized before passing, so, our sweet St. Miriam Rose has won the prize!

Next, our little Maximus Michael Patrick. He too was named with the help of a dream. We had planned on Francis, but I had a dream at 12 weeks that I was holding a little boy named Maximus, and that is how we rolled. 

Our next little one was an early miscarriage that we named Joy, we actually had already started calling the baby Joy when we found our about her/his coming.

Now, the next was our sweet, little Quintus Edmund. I was stuck on Edmund ( I loved the name AND the saint), but being that he was #5 here, and the fact I had once mentioned the name to my husband, he said it was too ironic that such a name fall on #5 (Quintus), SO….that is how we came to choose that one. 

Our next was Francis Fulton. Again, we loved the name Fulton, but since we had started the “-us” trend [for boys], we felt bound to it. 😉 Francis is a family name, one of our favorite saints, and since it’s also the name of the Holy Father, we felt it perfect. 

Evangeline Marie. For the life of me, even though she is the most recent, I can’t remember what moment or instance we received the prompting for her name. I had been wanting our next girl to be “Eden Marie”, but Evangeline Marie it was, and fitting as well, as Evangelist means, “Bearer of good news”. And being the first girl, since our Miriam Rose, her coming was definitely welcome news. 

Each child’s patron is the saint they are named after, (Francis is St. Francis of Assisi) (Evangeline, John the Evangelist).”

What beautiful names!! And such a beautiful family:

On the left: Sharon and Zeb with Gemma, Felicity, Nicodemus, Maximus, Quintus, Francis, and Evangeline. On the right: Sharon and Zeb with Miriam Rose.

Thank you to Sharon for sharing her babies’ beautiful names with us!! And with Christmas coming, please consider visiting her shop! She’s got a coupon code running right now: ZelieChristmas will get you 10% off your total purchase.


Celebrity guest: Hope from *Hope and Justin*

Happy All Saints’ Day!! And I’m so sorry for totally not even remembering it was Halloween when I posted yesterday’s consultation — I hope you and all the little goblins you know (children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, godchildren, friends’ children, cousins, students) had a great day! 🎃 My boys had a blast, and my very favorite part was my littlest guy — at 2 1/2, this was the first Halloween he could walk up to each door and say “Trick or Treat!” and I just died over his cuteness every single time.

I have a special treat for you all on today’s special feast day! Ages ago readers Colleen Harlan and eclare alerted me to Hope and Justin Schneir of the band, yes, Hope and Justin, because of their amazing taste in names and eclare said, “I’m thinking they might need to be profiled on Sancta Nomina!” So I ran right over to Google, but wasn’t able to find out anything about the kids’ names — there was their band’s web site (including songs to listen to and a music video to watch of them and albums and merchandise to buy) and their Instagram and Facebook, but the kids’ names weren’t mentioned at all … there was this amazing Miraculous Medal story, written by Hope, but again — no mention of the kids’ names.

I figured I must just not have done a thorough enough search, so occasionally, every few weeks or so, I would search again. Finally, I just recently had the brilliant idea to just email them! Seriously, what’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I just do that to start with? I don’t know, all I can think is that now must be when God wanted this beautiful family profiled here. He’s funny like that, with His timing sometimes being mysterious but always perfect.

So without further ado, I’m beyond excited to introduce you to the Schneir Family! Hope wonderfully agreed to answer all my questions about the names of her children — I’m sure you’ll all enjoy this as much as I did!


Kate: I saw on the Soul Gardening journal web site (after reading your beautiful post about the Miraculous Medal and your friend Tree—ohh my, what an amazing story!) that you have seven children, and one of my readers said she thought one of your girls’ names is Indigo Madonna, which gives me all the heart eyes! I’m so eager to know all your kiddos’ names, and the “story” that goes with how you chose each one, if you don’t mind sharing! Any faith connections—saints, devotions, Our Lady, etc—that inspired you would also be great! Also, any nicknames that you might use (I’m a big fan of nicknames!).

Hope: Ask a woman (or at least this one!) to discuss names she’s chosen and you’ll get an earful. I hope I don’t go on too long or bore you or your lovely readers. Feel free to edit it down to whatever you think they will find interesting!

[My note: I didn’t edit anything! I loved it all!]

Ready for the lineup? We actually just had baby number 8! I’ll get to her at the end.

Our first born is Elijah Anthony. My husband Justin is a Jewish convert and he loved Elijah the Prophet from childhood, and wanted our firstborn son to bear his name. We chose Anthony after my father Bruce Anthony, and because I’ve always loved St. A. When he was born, a family friend came to the hospital and affectionately called him Elijah Blue (an ornamental grass), and it stuck. It’s sort of his pretend middle name and I call him that when I love him dearly and when I’m mad at him. But he’s awesome. So that doesn’t happen a lot. 

Second in line is Henry Tobias. I was raised in Vermont; up the road from me lived a friendly dairy farmer with a red beard named Henry, and since then I’ve always found the name endearing. Tobias was also in the runnings, and while I was praying about his name I opened the bible, and the first thing I saw was the word TOBIAS, so we were sure to include it. Henry is just such a sweet, honest, name. I don’t think I would ever feel like it was too popular, it’s just that great. 

Third is Triona Mary Wilder. My best childhood friend had the name Triona Wilder Marno-Ferree (she went by Tree.) She passed away in 2000, and we wanted to honor her, plus we both love the nickname Tree. Triona is a form of Catherine,  particularly meaningful because St. Catherine Laboure was the Saint of the Miraculous Medal, and my childhood friend and I exchanged Miraculous medals both as children and grown-ups, even though she was not a Catholic. I don’t know if I could have named a daughter Tree if I hadn’t grown up knowing and loving one personally, but I’m thankful Justin encouraged the name, even when I was nine months pregnant and considering Madonna.

Number four is Indigo Madonna. 🙂 I just love the title of Madonna for Our Lady, and I’ve always wanted Catholics to take it back after it’s been so pop-culture secularized. I also love the name (and word, and color) Indigo, and I couldn’t believe my husband liked it enough to go for it, but he did, and we did, and we call her Indi.

Next in line is Morey. Justin’s grandfather is Maury, and we wanted to use that name, but to give him a patron, so we officially named him Thomas More, (such an awesome saint!). Our son is weirded out when anyone calls him Thomas, but he loves the name Morey, and so do we! It’s also a boogie board brand, and it’s always fun when someone says “Oh, like Morey Boogie?”

Years before she was born, Justin and and I were sharing a cigarette at night and he started talking about the name June, with a big smile on his face. At that point she was literally a glimmer in her father’s eye, now she is Juniper Rose, but she usually goes by June or Junie. Juniper is a type of Cypress tree, also the name of the first canonized Californian, Saint Junipero Serra. Rose (Mystical Rose) is a title of Our Lady, and also a nod to her date of birth, December 12, (feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe). On the day she was born I opened my Magnificat to my favorite hymn, “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming”, and I cried. It’s become her special song and I sing it to her all year long. She’s a spunky little girl with two braids and the nickname”Junie” really suits her. 

Next is Wren Priscilla-Marie. My grandmother Priscilla (Pinky) had 13 children, and remains one of my heroes. We almost chose this name/nickname combo as her first name, but chickened out, or maybe just preferred, Wren. I think it’s so pretty, especially written out! I’ve always loved the name Gwen, and it’s got that feeling for me but with the bird reference. When deciding, I applied my sister’s test of “What would you rather YOUR name be?”, and we decided to put Priscilla second. Another thing that made this name special for me was this quote by St. Therese. “O Jesus, your little bird is happy to be weak and little. What would become of it if it were big? Never would it have the boldness to appear in your presence, to fall asleep in front of you.” I had just discovered the Theresian book “I Believe in Love”, and was very moved by this quote and her message of littleness; with this in mind, she was named. If you can’t already tell, I’m big into the Church Calendar. Her birthday (October 3) is the old feast of St. Therese, and the eve of St. Francis, and I think the name Wren goes well with the spirit of both of these Saints. 

Mercy Shawn-Pauline is the newest one! When Indigo was born we had considered the name Mercy, but I’m glad we shelved it because it was really special to have a daughter named Mercy in the Year of Mercy. I found out I was pregnant for her on the very first day of the Year of Mercy, December 8, (feast of the Immaculate Conception). I took a pregnancy test that morning because I thought that on that feast I could brave facing the truth about another baby (it frightens me every time!). My heart was filled with only joy at the positive test results, which is a mercy for me! Shawn-Pauline is a feminine form of John Paul; it’s also the professed name of one of my dearest friends who is now a Carmelite nun. We almost named her Mercy Vianne, because she was born on the feast of John Vianney, but kept with Shawn Pauline for the above reasons. She was baptized on the feast of the Queenship of Mary ([August] 22), and at her baptism the priest began his homily with “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of MERCY!” which was so profound and touching to Justin and me. One thing I love about this name, is the deeper meaning and message it relays. I’ve really loved having the name Hope; it’s been a privilege to share this word, this message, each time I introduce myself. I have seen people light up when I tell them my name, as if God were trying to tell them something (and I like to think he was!). I hope Mercy feels the same way about her name, and she is able to bless others with the message of mercy throughout her life.

Kate: Based only on Indigo Madonna, I’m guessing you have pretty bold taste (which I LOVE!). Have you seen your taste in names changes over the years? Were you bolder with your younger kids’ names than with your older kids, or vice versa?

Hope: My favorite names are unique but easy to remember. I have a hard time remembering names that are words I am unfamiliar with, so those sorts kind of drive me crazy until I get used to them. You wouldn’t know it, but I also love traditional names, they’ve really grown on me over time! John, Daniel, Margaret, and Anne are some of my favorites in that genre. However once we started going down a non-traditional road with names, it was too fun not to keep at it. My middle name is Mary, and I have always felt a special protection of Our Lady because of it, so we try to do something Marian for each girl. 

Kate: I’m sure you have lots of family, friends, and fans who are Catholic and love the names of our faith—has interacting with them and hearing what they’re naming their kids influenced you in terms of which names *feel* popular (even if they’re not popular in the general American namescape)? Does the popularity of names in the circles you run in influence the kinds of names you choose for your own kids? (Basically, do you shy away from names that you feel are very well represented among the children you know?) Do the Social Security name stats affect you when choosing names?

Hope:  I admit that if names are climbing the charts, I’m less likely to want them, but it’s impossible to predict trends, so I try to make sure I like the name enough to choose, even if it were to become the number one name.

Kate: How has your music career influenced your taste in names? Do you feel like you bring the same creativity and artistry to naming that you do to your music? Have you ever encountered names while on tour, for example, or among your fellow musicians that you love and add to your list?

Hope:  I have a musical career? 😉 I write songs in my living room, with babies crawling around me and babbling into my voice memo recordings. With all the mothering and fathering we do, Justin and I haven’t been able to go on an official tour, but we do record locally and perform at select venues when the season is right. Each time we make an album it feels like another baby, and we obsess over its name just as if it were one. Like many people, especially writers, I really just enjoy words in general; the beauty they can call to mind, the pictures they can paint, the heavenly protecters they pay tribute to. Getting to name a child is such an honor, it’s the first real gift you give to them, and it’s a gift they will always have, even after you die.

Kate: I’d love to know if there are any names you considered that you ended up feeling were not quite right for you, for whatever reason? Any names that are on your “guilty pleasure” list that are just too far out there or not unusual enough or whatever?

Hope: Heck yeah! I love thinking about all of my hypothetical children! Micah Cloud is my favorite imaginary child; that would have been Indigo’s name had she been a boy. (Cloud is a Saint, by the way!) The last two girls would have been either John Paul (there are a million I know but still!) or Woody (Woodrow), just because we like it. Woody is a little bit of a guilty pleasure for me… we’ve gone back and forth on that one quite a bit. I also love the names Lawrence, Iris, Cyril, and Bruce, after my father, but neither of them go well with Schneir. My childhood friend Tree had a little sister named Linden (what is it with us and tree references?) and I love that name too.

Kate: Again, please don’t feel constrained by these questions! They’re only meant to inspire, and I LOVE tangents when it comes to names!

Hope: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share all of this! One final thought on names that comes to mind….When naming a child, we can hem and haw over it and ask God what he wants the name of the child to be, but I think it’s good to remember that God gave Adam the freedom to name the animals whatever he wanted. Sometimes God intervenes, as with John the baptist or Jesus, but most often he lets us pick the name, like Adam, and how cool is that!? It’s also interesting to note that in Scripture, Jesus occasionally changed people’s names, as with Peter. In Revelation there is a reference of a white stone, secret message, or name, that He will give to each one of us. I think it’s possible that when we get to heaven, we might receive a new name, if God wants to give us one.  My mother had a dream that God gave her the new name “Eartha”! I find this an interesting thing to think about.

I’m just blown away by everything Hope had to say — she’s such a great example of what’s *possible* in naming! (And motherhood and music!) A great many thanks to Hope for sharing all this info with us (and to Justin, for being an amazing naming partner!). And be sure to check out their site! (Hope said, “We are just starting to play and record again after this last baby, but don’t have any shows scheduled.”)


Celebrity guest: Katheryn, expert on naming and adoption

Last month I told you that I’d received a request to write about names for adopted children, and so many of you gave great feedback with your experiences — I intended to put it all together along with some of my own research into a post or article (and I still might), but then one of you wonderful readers — Katheryn from the blog Bucket and Roon and Etsy shop Juniper Plum (gooorgeous icons and other beautiful things for children!) — emailed me because she has extensive experience with adoption: two of her sisters and her four children all came to her family through adoption (both international [sisters] and domestic [children]).

I already followed Katheryn on Instagram because her kiddos’ ah-MAZ-ing names had caught my attention (and also their general cuteness and amazing style! 😍), and so I was absolutely thrilled to hear more about their naming, and that of her sisters as well. I know you’ll love what she has to say!


Kate: You said you have open adoptions with all your kids. In your experience, what role does the birth mom/birth parents play in the naming of the child?

Katheryn: Generally, in domestic infant adoptions, the birth parents choose a name to go on the original birth certificate at the hospital. This is the child’s legal name until the adoption is finalized, usually at around six months of age. When the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents are issued a new birth certificate with them listed as the child’s parents, and it is at this time that the child’s name is also legally changed to the name they have chosen. Sometimes birth parents will chose a name that is special to them, sometimes they love the name the adoptive parents have chosen so will write that name on the original birth certificate from the beginning, or sometimes they might decline to write a name at all.

Kate: Relatedly (and maybe this is answered in the first question), do you consider the birth mom/birth parents when choosing a name for your children? For example, giving the birth mom’s first name as your daughter’s middle?

Katheryn: It often means a lot to the birth parents if you try to include them in the naming somehow. I’ve heard of several adoption stories where both the parents and birth parents had picked the same name separately on their own! Some parents will offer to let them chose the middle name, or some will share a list of the names they are deciding between and let the birth parents have the final pick. Sometimes parents choose to honor their child’s birth heritage in other ways, either by naming them after a birth parent, using a name in the birth family tree, or using an initial that is the same as the birth mother’s.

Kate: Have any of your children been older when you adopted them, having already been given a name that they’ve become attached to? If so, how do you handle naming?

Katheryn: All of our children were adopted at birth, so we haven’t dealt with this, but while most families who adopt older children will choose a brand new first name, others will keep the name they have, choose a variant of that name, or choose a name that is close in sound to their birth name to help with this.

Kate: In terms of international adoption, as you said you have twin sisters who were adopted from another country, what considerations did your parents give to their cultural heritage, if any?

Katheryn: My twin sisters were adopted from Vietnam at 9 months old. My parents chose to honor their birth heritage by giving them middle names with the same meaning as the meaning of their birth names.  My sisters’ birth names meant “river” and “rose” in Vietnamese. So my parents chose the names Camille Sabrina Pia and Zellie Rose Pia for them. With international adoptions, a lot of the time parents will get very little information about their child’s background, and sometimes all the child really has of their birth history is their name.

My twin sisters are only ten — I am the eldest of 12. My parents had ten bio kids before they adopted the twins after I was married. But at the time we hadn’t met anyone else named Zellie. My parents spelled it that way to help with pronunciation issues. It’s wonderful how it seems to be booming in Catholic circles now though!

Kate: If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to know the stories behind the naming of each of your children—both how/why you chose their names, and also what role the birth moms/parents played, if any.

Katheryn: Our oldest is Verity Majella Judea Hawthorne. Her first name is a combo name “Verity Majella,” like “Mary Elizabeth,” but we call her Verity most of the time. We fell in love with Verity because of its meaning, “truth.” Majella is after St. Gerard Majella, patron saint of mothers, to whom I grew to have a special devotion through all my years of praying for a baby. Judea is after my deceased Grandma Judy. Verity was due on her birthday and when my Grandpa found out he asked if we would consider naming Verity after her. I also loved the biblical symbolism of Judea. Hawthorne is her connection to her birth history. She was born in Missouri, and the state flower there is the White Hawthorn Blossom. She is also named after the remarkable Rose Hawthorne, daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Our second daughter is Gethsemane Juniper Anne. Gethsemane has been the name dearest to my heart since I was a girl. Back when I thought I might have a vocation, I hoped I would be able to pick it as my religious name someday. I love it because it is the name of the garden that Jesus would retreat to, a place where He would seek solace and peace- we tell our Gethsemane that it is the name of His favorite garden. I also think of it as a symbol for the beauty of choosing God’s will over our own, since it is there when in His agony Jesus prayed, “not my will, but Thine be done.” Gethsemane also means “peace,” so she is also named after Mary, Queen of Peace. Juniper is after St. Junipero Serra (my husband and I both grew up around the Missions and were married at Carmel Mission) and also Servant of God Brother Juniper, known as “the renowned jester of the Lord.” When we were matched with her birth mother, we agreed on naming her together. She wanted to choose a middle name, so she picked Anne, because it was a family name on her side and it just so happened to be a family name on my side as well.

Then came our Bosco, whose full name is Bosco Willis Yard. I was so sure that we would have another girl that we hadn’t talked about a boy name, but Bosco had been both my husband’s and my favorite boy name for many years. Can there be a better patron for a little boy than St. John Bosco? Willis Yard is the name traditionally given to the first born son on my father’s side of the family, so we knew we wanted that somewhere in his name. Bosco’s birth parents wanted his naming left completely up to us, but Will is a family name on his birth father’s side as well.

Our latest blessing is Hyacinth Clemency Veil. With our three previous adoptions we had short adoption waits, ranging from 6 weeks to 4 months. For Hyacinth we waited almost three years. Some days, the only thing that kept me believing that we were doing God’s will and that He really did call us to adopt again was her name written on my heart. Even before we adopted Bosco, one day out of the blue, God spoke the name Hyacinth to me. It had never been on any of our name lists, but just like that it was tattooed on my heart and I just knew that our next daughter was to be named Hyacinth. She is named after St. Hyacinth of Poland. Clemency is after the Divine Mercy. I am passionate about the Divine Mercy devotion, and knew I wanted to name our next child after it in some way. Hyacinth was already born when her birth mom contacted our agency, and just guess whose feast she was born on — St. Faustina’s. Her birth mother originally wanted a closed adoption, but we are forever grateful that she changed her mind and met us at the hospital. When we asked if she wanted to chose a name with us she declined, but one of the few things she shared about herself with us was that she loves the color purple. When we told her that the meaning of the name Hyacinth is “purple,” the biggest grin broke out on her face. Before that, one of the only things I didn’t like about the name Hyacinth was its meaning, since purple seemed like such a lame meaning, but it ended up being just perfect. Veil is after the Holy Protection of Our Lady, since Mary’s veil is known as a symbol of her motherly protection and care. We felt like our whole adoption process and journey to Hyacinth was wrapped in Mary’s veil of love and protection and wanted to honor her in our daughter’s name. Traditionally the image of Mary, Mother of Mercy is one of Mary shown with her veil spread out over her children. We thought that was a very special connection between Clemency and Veil!

Wasn’t this all just so beautiful? There was so much love and respect and prayer that went into each name choice! I hope you all learned as much as I did about the naming of children who come into families through adoption — thank you so much to Katheryn for sharing her experiences!


♥♥♥♥ Gethsemane Juniper Anne, Bosco Willis Yard, and Verity Majella Judea Hawthorne holding Hyacinth Clemency Veil ♥♥♥♥