Name story: Porter Joseph

Please note that this may be overly difficult for some to read, e.g., those who are pregnant, as it’s about stillbirth, and includes photos at the end.

This latest installment in our Name Story series is from a mama with a story that I’m sure will simultaneously break your heart and cause you to marvel at the mystery of God’s unceasing and unfailing love and goodness, and the fact that we can always trust Him, even when we don’t understand His plan. At least, that’s what it did for me! I’m confident that you will be touched by the story of Baby Porter — a tiny baby with a big impact.

His mama writes, in an email with the subject line “A naming story about Solanus Casey,”

Through you, I first heard of Blessed Solanus Casey. As I read about him, I became so intrigued. Both of my parents were born and raised in Detroit, and I was born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, so he felt so ‘real’ to me! I slowly developed a devotion to him. I remember reading once about your suggestion to name a child Porter as a way to honor Fr. Solanus and thought it was a neat idea.

My husband and I were married in June of 2017, and after nearly two years of trying, praying, seeing doctors, etc., we were shocked and thrilled to discover I was pregnant on Mother’s Day 2019.  As the weeks went by, we talked about many girl names we loved but couldn’t find any boy names. I was so sure I wanted a girl! Then one day, I heard the name ‘Porter’ come to me and knew it was God giving me this baby’s name. God used it to change my heart, and for the first time, I was happy thinking about having a boy. I suggested Porter to my husband, and he immediately loved it. Sure enough, in August, we found out we were having a boy!

Everything with my pregnancy was textbook and complication free. Then, on January 17, the day before my due date, I went to the hospital to get checked out because I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off.  An ultrasound revealed there was no heartbeat. The next evening, at 6:30 PM, I gave birth to the most beautiful little boy, already at home in Heaven

We hadn’t decided on a middle name, but had a short list of names we were considering and had planned to decide once he was born. After I delivered him, the nurses asked his middle name, and I looked to my husband, who said ‘Joseph’. Joseph had been on our list because we have a particular devotion to him, as I’ve worked for the past ten years at a Catholic school named for St. Joseph, but I never really thought we’d use it. The next day, my husband told me he chose that name because Joseph is the ‘silent saint’, and though we don’t have a single recorded word from him in the Bible, his intercession and impact is so powerful. In the same way, he said, Porter never spoke a word, yet we believe his life can be a powerful witness.

I knew God was giving me Porter’s name all those months ago to honor Fr. Solanus Casey. But now I see how fitting his name truly is. Fr. Solanus’ life was simple and humble, and from the outside looking in, seems like a ‘small’ life. But it was anything but. Porter is the same — his life was ‘small’, yet the impact we have seen already is truly overwhelming. His funeral was standing room only, with more than 500 people in attendance, many of whom have never set foot in a Catholic church, or hadn’t in years. In the months since, we have heard so many stories of how his little life has touched others. A scholarship fund to support our poorest students has been set up at my school in Porter’s memory. So many people have thanked us for introducing them to Solanus Casey. Not to mention how his life has changed my husband and me, healing wounds in our family, softening our hearts, and making me braver, more vulnerable, and more compassionate.

It’s also not lost on me that a porter opens doors. It is our hope and prayer that Porter’s life will open doors for people to allow Christ in. We believe that is his purpose, and though my husband and I are unbelievably sad at the life we will never share with him, we wholeheartedly believe that God does not allow any evil from which He cannot bring a greater good. In my times of deepest pain, I am comforted by the thought of just how GOOD that good must be to be greater than the pain!

I was just so blown away by the tremendous faith and trust this mama and papa have, to remember, in the face of the death of a child — the worst sadness that a parent can experience — that “God does not allow any evil from which He cannot bring a great good” and “just how GOOD that good must be to be greater than the pain.” This beautiful story was such a reminder to me to trust always, and that God’s ways are not our ways.

I also loved the Fr. Solanus connection! I’m so pleased that God allowed my little blog to introduce Porter’s parents to him, and the mama shared even more great information:

One last note: As I had learned about Solanus Casey over the years, I discovered I had family connections to him. My great-aunt (my grandmother’s sister) had been a friend and frequent visitor of his in Detroit. As a little girl, my dad’s older sister once visited him in Huntington, IN on a trip with my great-aunt. Apparently he made her a peanut butter sandwich on a hot dog bun! Then, a few weeks after Porter was born, my parents were looking through a box of papers to find some information to renew their passports, and they found a membership card for the Solanus Casey Guild belonging to my grandmother (my dad’s mom), who was a lifelong Catholic and died when I was a teenager. My dad had never seen it and never knew she belonged. I love to think how Fr. Solanus was weaving his way into the fabric of our story long before I was even born.

Thank you for introducing me to this humble man, who forever changed the course of my family’s life. I believe our family’s journey with Fr. Solanus is just beginning.” 

Isn’t that just perfect?! “I love to think how Fr. Solanus was weaving his way into the fabric of our story long before I was even born” — that gives me “holy bumps” (as my mom calls them)! Heaven is so close to us — truly, “it’s a thin veil that separates.”

I asked the mama for information on how to contribute to the scholarship fund that has been set up in Porter’s name — such a wonderful cause! If you’d like to donate as well, checks can be made out to St. Joseph’s Catholic School, with “Porter Miros Fund” on the memo line, and mailed to:

St. Joseph’s Catholic School

Attn: Advancement Office

100 St. Joseph’s Drive

Greenville, SC 29607

Please also keep this family in your prayers!

Scroll down to see photos of Porter with his parents, his great-grandmother’s membership card in the Fr. Solanus Guild, and Fr. Solanus himself. ❤️❤️❤️

Porter Joseph and his parents

Bl. Solanus Casey, and Baby Porter’s great-grandmother’s membership card in the Fr. Solanus Guild


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 (not an affiliate link) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

We have winners! And happy feast of Bl. Solanus Casey!

Congratulations to the winners of the St. Anne giveaway: Kristen, Samantha, Anna, Thalita, and Anne!! I emailed you all — please let me know if you didn’t get it!

Thank you to all who entered! If you’d still like one of these beautiful prints (available in a variety of sizes), you can purchase one at Delphina Rose Art. And don’t forget that Rebecca has generously added a $2.00 off coupon code for any order over $2.00 for all Sancta Nomina readers, which you can use for any coloring page of your choosing (they’re $2.00 each) — they’re all gorgeous! Lots of our favorite Saints, including one of the Immaculate Conception (St. Anne and the child Mary)! The coupon code is sanctanomina, and it’s valid through August 7. (Rebecca is also running a Summer Coloring Contest for all ages, starting today! Go check it out!)

Today is my mom’s birthday AND the feast of Bl. Solanus Casey — it would be such a gift if you would say a prayer for my mom, and if you could invoke Bl. Solanus’ intercession for her, all the better! This is what I wrote on Instagram at the end of the several photos I posted during Bl. Solanus’ beatification Mass, which was attended by my parents and my sister (and my sister was part of the procession):

Today was all about #BlessedSolanusCasey, and for my family it was also about my sister, but a shout-out to my mom @irishnannie is a must: she painstakingly compiled all the information pertaining to the miracle of my sister’s life, gathering materials from thirty three years ago from her own notes and hospital records; she tracked down the neonatologist who cared for my infant sister and got him on board (it didn’t take much convincing! And he’s not even Catholic!); she secured the enthusiastic support of our bishop; she kept up continuous communications with the vice postulator; and most of all, she has never ever wavered in her conviction that her baby’s life was given back through Fr. Solanus’ intercession. So I was so happy for her that this beautiful Irish music was played during the Mass, as a nod to Fr. Solanus’ Irish heritage (my mom’s a first generation Irish-American and prouder than proud of it!) AND that his feast day has been set as July 30 — which just happens to be Mom’s birthday. #MollyandFrSolanus #FrSolanusCasey @albanydiocese

I was amazed at God’s generosity in allowing Mom’s birthday to be chosen as Bl. Solanus’ feast, after all her unwavering faith and focused hard work in pulling together the necessary materials to submit my sister’s story to his cause for beatification. (A different miracle was accepted as the required miracle for Fr. Solanus’ to be beatified, but my sister was invited to be part of the procession because of her special connection to this special priest. I recently read this biography of him, which I highly recommend.) (Fr. Solanus died on July 31, so it’s a truly unexpected gift that his feast day was set for the day before.)

So many things to celebrate today! I hope you all have a great day!!


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Names of some of Bl. Solanus’ confreres

I posted recently about the names of Bl. Solanus’ siblings, as included in the biography of him I was reading; today I want to share some of the names of his fellow priests and brothers. We don’t hear about religious name changes for men as much as we do for women, so I’m always excited to discover priests and brothers who have taken (or been given) new names! These are some that were included in Bl. Solanus’ life story (last names included if they were in the book):

Fr. Cajetan (this is up there with Joachim as one of my favorite unusual Catholic names)
Fr. Benno Aichinger (I believe this is related to Bernard; there are a couple saints by this name)
Fr. Innocent Ferstler (I think this is such a sweet name for a man; also a papal name)
Fr. Marion Roessler (I know this is not that unusual for men — it’s John Wayne’s given name)
Bishop Frederick Xavier Katz (an F.X. that isn’t what I’d assume!)
Fr. Bonaventure Frey (one of Bl. Solanus’ brothers had Bonaventure as a middle name)
Fr. Damasus Wickland (Damasus is related to Damian, and was the name of a pope!)

I don’t know for sure if they were all religious names — it’s possible some of them were given names — but their weightiness made them seem more likely to be religious names.

I’m also fascinated by Bishop Frederick Xavier Katz! I’ve long held the belief that separating Francis and Xavier is a more recent innovation, simply based on what I’ve seen of older records and newer naming conventions. My own grandfather’s name was David Xavier, and since his dad was Francis and his brother was Francis, I’d come up with the (totally unsubstantiated) theory that his dad must have been Francis Xavier, and had given his first name to his son Francis, and his middle name to his son David. (We have no records to confirm this — my great-grandfather and great-uncle don’t have their middle names listed in the census records I’ve seen). Bl. Solanus’ dad did something similar: his name was Bernard James, and he named one son James and another Bernard (Fr. Solanus).

And absolutely I’d be 100% certain that anyone with the initials F.X. was Francis Xavier! But then, Bishop Frederick Xavier Katz! Wow! Do any of you have any insights about Xavier being paired with names other than Francis?


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Irish family names from a certain era

I’ve been reading a biography of Bl. Solanus Casey to my older boys, and loved some of the namey things I discovered — I know you will too!

Father:
Bernard James (Barney) (born 1840, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan); sister Ellen and brother Terrence

Mother:
Ellen Elizabeth (née Murphy) (born 1844, Camlough, Co. Armagh); mother Brigid (née Shields), sister Mary Ann and brothers Patrick, Owen, and Maurice

Barney and Ellen came to this country, separately, around the time of the potato famine (in fact, Ellen’s father died during it), which was from 1845-1850. They met here.

Children (Fr. Solanus and siblings) (middle names weren’t included in the book — I found them via a google search):

1. Ellen Bridget (referred to as Ellie at least once in the book)
2. James Michael (Jim)
3. Mary Ann (died at age 12 of “black diphtheria”*)
4. Maurice Emmett (would become Fr. Maurice Joachim! Sometimes called “Fr. Maurice J” ❤ )
5. John Terrance/Terrence
6. Bernard Francis (Barney, referred to as Barney Jr. in the book, born 1870) (would become Fr. Francis Solanus Casey, OFM Cap. [Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin — the OFMs are the Franciscans; the Capuchins are a branch of Franciscans], after St. Francis Solano)
7. Patrick Henry (Pat)
8. Thomas Joseph (Tom)
9. Martha Elizabeth (died at age 3 of black diphtheria, just a few days after Mary Ann) 10. Augustine Peter (Gus)
11. Leo McHale
12. Edward Francis (Ed, would become Msgr. Edward Casey)
13. Owen Bonaventure
14. Margaret Theresa Cecilia
15. Grace Agatha
16. Mary Genevieve (Genevieve)

These are pretty amazing names (you know how heart eyes I was over discovering Maurice’s religious name was Fr. Maurice Joachim! Augustine Peter and Owen Bonaventure particularly jumped out at me as somewhat surprising, given what I know of Irish naming at that time), but one of the things I was amazed by was how much overlap there was with both sides of my Irish ancestry (my paternal grandmother’s line and my maternal grandfather’s line). Check this out:

My paternal grandmother’s line (came here from Ireland mid-nineteenth century, specific place unknown but we think they sailed from Waterford):

James and Mary–> Patrick and Anne–> Patrick Francis and Mary Cecelia (nee Ward)–> Leo Ward and Mary Agnes (nee Sweeny) (her mother was Bridget Casey! Same last name as Bl. Solanus!) –> Mary Loretta (my grandmother, born 1920)

My maternal grandfather’s line (he and his siblings were all born in Ireland — Cobh [then called Queenstown], Co. Cork):

Francis (Frank) and Anne (Annie) (nee Lawless)–>
1. Francis (Frank)
2. Mary (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Mae)
3. Ellen (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Eileen)
4. William (Will)
5. John
6. Michael
7. David Xavier (my grandfather, born 1904 and worked his way to American on a ship in 1920)
8. Maurice (said mo-REECE, though I know MO-ris [like Morris] is a common Irish pronunciation, and the way I said it when I read Bl. Solanus’ brother’s name, because I think it sounds better with Joachim)

All three families (Bl. Solanus’ family, and my grandparents’ two families) can be roughly placed in the same time period (latter half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century), and all three were Irish (Fr. Solanus’ parents were both from Ireland; my paternal grandmother’s family came here from Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century; my maternal grandfather and his siblings were all born in Ireland, and came over here after WWI). Names in common include:

Ellen
James
Mary
Patrick
Francis
Maurice
Patrick
Leo
Anne
John
Brigid/Bridget

I know they’re not crazy-out-there names, but I was kind of amazed by how much overlap there was! Especially with names like Maurice and Leo — I don’t think they’re names that people typically think of as having a lot of usage in Irish families? But if these three families are decent representatives of the naming patterns at that time (especially since they were from all over Ireland and not concentrated in one area), Maurice and Leo aren’t unusual at all!

Another thing I loved seeing was how the family names got passed down (grandparents and aunts and uncles showed up in the names of the grandchildren and nieces and nephews) and *how* they got passed down (both first and middle names were made use of, and maiden names were given to sons).

What are your reactions to reading this? Are you are fascinated by this overlap as I am, or do you think I’m making a lot of not much?

I have more info to share (this book is a treasure trove of beautiful names of our faith!), but it will have to wait for another post!

* The description of “black diphtheria” was eerily similar to what I’ve heard of the respiratory symptoms of Covid-19:

“A highly contagious disease seen often in this era, diphtheria was common in the United States and Western Europe. The upper respiratory system was typically affected, with a thick membrane forming up and down the air passages. Victims — usually children — ran high fevers, had sore throats, and sometimes died when the deadly membrane literally shut down their ability to breathe.”


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

A May Crowning story 🌹

Don’t miss the consultation I posted last night! The baby’s arriving next week!

As this month of Our Lady winds to a close, I wanted to share this happy story with you all:

I’ve written before about my sister Molly (whose first name is a Mary variant, and whose middle name is Anne — Sancta Nomina’s two special-est ladies!) — you can read the story of her stillbirth and miraculous life here, and see photos of her participation in the beatification ceremony for Bl. Solanus Casey here (and swipe right). As noted in the article at that first link, she works at our parish school, which is the perfect place for her — it’s safe and sweet, and all the kids know her and get excited when they see her out of school, like at the grocery store (back when we all used to see each other at places like the grocery store).

The May Crowning at school is always done by the second graders, just a couple weeks after they receive their First Holy Communion. They wear their First Communion clothes to school, participate in the May Crowning, have a little reception hosted by the third grade parents, and are dismissed early from school on that day. It’s so special! It was so sad for our school that we couldn’t have the May Crowning in the same way this year! But our principal and pastor were determined to have a May Crowning anyway, and they asked Molly to be the one to crown Our Lady.

Oh my. Molly was totally wrecked over this request — in the best way! When she was telling me about it, she was all choked up and emotional over how this was the first time in her life she’d ever been given this honor. Lucky girl! May we always be so thrilled to love Our Lady! Happy Friday to you all!

Molly crowning Our Lady, and a better photo of her from Bl. Solanus’ beatification ceremony <3🌹


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

 

Birth announcement: Paxton and Porter!

I did a private consultation for Lauren and her husband back in the fall — they were expecting twin boys, and Lauren has let me know that they’ve arrived! They’ve been given the awesome and significant names … Paxton and Porter!

Lauren writes,

Our babies were born on Friday, January 26, via planned cesarean. In the days leading up to delivery we became more anxious about not having settled on names, but eventually decided to wait until they were born and see what felt right. Upon arrival at the hospital, everyone asked what we’d chosen for names and we told them we were still undecided. In desperation, we told the nurses to take a poll amongst themselves and let us know what they liked best.

For so long, we’d shared name possibilities with just a few people, so speaking the names out loud didn’t happen very frequently. Once we started speaking the names aloud to the hospital staff, it became apparent how much of a tongue-tie it would be to go with Paxton and Payton. The names just sounded so similar and I kept getting confused every time I talked about the choices out loud. For me, it was starting to become obvious that Payton just wasn’t going to work.

After the babies were delivered, saying the names out loud continued to be confusing. Baby A turned out to be nearly a pound smaller than Baby B, which pushed me more toward the Paxton/Porter choice. Baby A was always the one that seemed less active in the womb and seemed generally more content even after delivery (that still holds true today). It became apparent that Baby A was to be named Paxton, leaning heavily on my desire to have a “peaceful” child. Since Baby B was so much larger, and also apparently more vocal (plus disliking the complexity of a Paxton/Payton combination), he became Porter. So while my husband was concerned about the “porterhouse” label, it actually held true at the time of delivery and even became a running joke between us.

These days, Paxton is still SUPER chill — he only cries when hungry and sleeps allll the time (the cyst in his brain may be to blame, but we’ll go with it). The gap in size is closing, but Porter still remains obviously larger than his “older” brother, and is certainly more demanding (though he happens to be breastfed while his brother is not … the two issues are related, perhaps?). As a family, we have found the transition from one to three much easier than zero to one, likely because our first was super high-needs and this time we are not combating that with the lack of experience as parents in general.”

I’m sure Lauren won’t mind me sharing that I’d suggested Porter with Bl. Solanus in mind, since he was the porter (doorkeeper) at his monastery, so I’m extra delighted that they named Twin B Porter! And Paxton, with its pax=peace connection, is so meaningful.

Please also pray for both of the boys — they both have medical concerns that are being addressed by doctors, and I know Lauren and her hubs would love be assured of your prayers.

Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Paxton and Porter!!

Paxton and Porter with their family ❤