Birth announcement: Elanor Josephine!

I just published a post in honor of St. Rita that I don’t want you to miss — today’s her feast day! She’s been a powerful intercessor for me and others I know, and writing about her is my little way of fulfilling my promises made in the novena to her I often say.

I did a private consultation for Keri and her husband a few months ago, and I’m delighted to share that their baby girl has been born and given the gorgeous name … Elanor Josephine!

Keri writes,

Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know our little one arrived a few weeks ago (on big brother Gabe’s birthday). We named her Elanor Josephine.

We took your advice and used Tolkein’s spelling — I have always loved that the story didn’t end after the ring was destroyed — that the hobbits had to go back to Hobbiton and still had to deal with the after effects of the ring’s influence — I like the symbolism that life goes on, even amidst the battles we must fight, but there is always hope. She was also named after Eleanor Donnelly — a Catholic American Poet from the Civil War era who I discovered when I realized that Elanor was a strong contender — this was a gift! She was highly revered during her time, and I feel that she needs to be reintroduced to our generation — her poems written during the Civil War are haunting but infused with hope as well. Her poems for children are simple, but pack so much in them that I discover something new each time I read them. Her books are free online.

[Hubby] wasn’t thrilled with Josephine at first, but with your prompting and after the coronavirus pandemic began, he warmed up fast — While Maisie Ward is unquestionably one of her namesakes,* we felt that having St. Joseph as her patron, especially during this time of unpredictability, was a fitting tribute to the great saint who guided his own family during times of uncertainty. It’s also a family name on my side: my grandmother’s middle name and my great grandmother’s name — I have the rosary both women were given for their Confirmation, so it seems fitting to have one daughter as their namesake for whom to gift the heirloom.

We thought when we brought her home she would go by Posie, but the kids overruled us and Ellie is her nickname, except for our feisty 5 year old who insists on Posie.”

I’m so excited that one of my suggestions — the Tolkien spelling Elanor — was helpful to Keri and her hubby! I absolutely love the combination Elanor Josephine, and how meaningful it is to her parents, and how it gives a little nod to “this time of unpredictability” in a pretty perfect way. And I’m thrilled to be introduced to Eleanor Donnelly! I know a lot of you will likely be, too!

* Keri really wanted to nod to Maisie Ward, wife of Frank Sheed — they were members of the Catholic Evidence League in London and created Sheed and Ward, a publishing house that specialized in Catholic authors. Among their friends (who they also published) were GK Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Marigold Hunt, Daphne McCloud, and Caryll Houselander who were all part of the winding down of the English Catholic Literary Revival. Maisie’s given name was Mary Josephine, hence the mention of her in regard to this baby’s middle name.

Congratulations to Keri and her husband and big siblings (all the heart eyes over these beautiful names!!):

Isabel Eden (Izzy)
Gabriel Crispin (Gabe)
Elijah Bryce (Eli)
Lydia Quinn (Quinn)
Aurelia Triss (Raya)
Madeline Grace and Mary Grace (in heaven)

and happy birthday Baby Elanor!!

Kids Portrait

Elanor Josephine with her big siblings ❤


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!

 

The power of names in literature and the bible

Hubs and I are reading Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea — we’ve only gotten through the first couple of chapters, but already there have been some interesting mentions and discussions of names. My husband specifically commented on these:

The doorkeeper answered, ‘Say your name.’  … Then again Ged stood still a while; for a man never speaks his own name aloud, until more than his life’s safety is at stake.” (37)

For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.” (50)

Thus, that which gives us the power to work magic sets the limits of that power. A mage can control only what is near him, what he can name exactly and wholly” (55)

Hubs commented on how interesting it was, this idea that knowing someone’s or something’s name gives you power over that person or thing — it was something he’d seen in other books (fiction) he’d read. I immediately remembered this from Island of the Blue Dolphins:

I am the Chief of Ghalas-at,’ he said. ‘My name is Chief Chowig.’ … I was surprised that he gave his real name to a stranger. Everyone in our tribe had two names, the real one which was secret and was seldom used, and one which was common, for if people use your secret name it becomes worn out and loses its magic. Thus I was known as Won-a-pa-lei, which means The Girl with the Long Black Hair, though my secret name is Karana. My father’s secret name was Chowig. Why he gave it to a stranger I do not know.” (5)

My father lay on the beach and the waves were already washing over him. Looking at his body I knew he should not have told Captain Orlov his secret name, and back in our village all the weeping women and the sad men agree that this had so weakened him that he had not lived through the fight with the Aleuts and the dishonest Russian.” (23)

It’s also a very biblical idea! I’m reading Bishop Barron’s Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith to my three older boys this Lent; we’re in chapter three, and just read this bit, about Moses and the burning bush:

When Moses asked for the name of this mysterious speaker, he received the following answer: ‘I am who am’ (Ex 3:14). Moses was asking a reasonable enough question. He was wondering which of the many gods — deities of the river, the mountain, the various nations — this was. He was seeking to define and specify the nature of this particular heavenly power. But the answer he received frustrated him, for the divine speaker was implying that he was not one god among many, not this deity rather than that, not a reality that could, even in principle, be captured or delimited by a name. In a certain sense, God’s response amounted to the undermining of the very type of question Moses posed. His name was simply ‘to be,’ and therefore he could never be mastered. The ancient Israelites honored this essential mysteriousness of God by designating him with the unpronounceable name of YHWH.” (61-62)

And a while ago, I read this reflection on the story of Jacob wrestling with God by Pope Benedict XVI, which included a note about the biblical view of names:

His rival, who seems to be held back and therefore defeated by Jacob, rather than giving in to the Patriarch’s request, asks him his name: “What is your name?”. And the Patriarch replies: “Jacob” (v. 28). Here the struggle takes an important turn. In fact, knowing someone’s name implies a kind of power over that person because in the biblical mentality the name contains the most profound reality of the individual, it reveals the person’s secret and destiny. Knowing one’s name therefore means knowing the truth about the other person and this allows one to dominate him. When, therefore, in answer to the unknown person’s request Jacob discloses his own name, he is placing himself in the hands of his opponent; it is a form of surrender, a total handing over of self to the other.

(That article has really interesting insight about Jacob’s surrender actually being a victory, and his new name being both a positive counterpart to the negative meaning of Jacob’s previous name and a nod to the fact that God was, in fact, the victor.)

I’ve read that this idea of knowing a person’s name equals having mastery over them may even be why the Church discourages us from naming our guardian angels, and was part of this discussion regarding naming aborted babies. Heavy stuff!

What other literary works have similar perspectives or storylines about names? Do you know of other Catholic writings that discuss this idea?

(The book links are Amazon affiliate links.)


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!

Baby name consultant: Baby boy needs a name with great faith connections that also has sci-fi/science/literary ties

Krista and her husband are expecting their second baby, a little brother to:

Elizabeth Marie

Such a fantastic name — a beautiful, timeless combo that’s biblical, saintly, and Marian — a perfect trifecta! You can even add in the Visitation for a rosary connection! Love it.

Krista writes,

I had the hardest time with names the first time around and seem to be continuing the tradition this time. Part of the issue is my husband will only suggest one name and then become upset if that is not something I agree to. He did give in to Elizabeth with the first (which was one of my first names) but only after she was born and after I had tried to give him MANY options. [He enjoys the connection to Pride and Prejudice.]

He seems to be stuck on naming children after Sci-Fi movies which is a turn off to me (he likes Star Wars and Firefly) … as a recent convert, having a strong Catholic name with a good meaning is important to me. When I looked up Elizabeth it meant “God is my oath” or “sworn to God” … I wanted Marie to honor Our Lady.

His family has a tradition of using John as a middle name for the oldest son which I am okay with but he wants the first name Malcolm (after the lead in Firefly) which I don’t approve of due to the Mal- beginning.

I enjoy Augustine and Luke … but he doesn’t seem open to any of my suggestions that aren’t his ideas (or rather idea) … my husband also studied paleontology (dino paleo) and loves science. Maybe common ground could be found in a famous scientist name that is also a good Catholic name?

I was so happy that Krista allowed me to post this consultation, as I know some of you have been in similar situations! As I told Krista, I have often seen God use our interests and inclinations for His purposes, whether we realize it or not, so maybe her hubby’s affinity for sci-fi and literature will end up drawing him closer to Him! I really wanted to find names that might appeal to his sensibilities while also having great, holy connections that will please Krista. In fact, one of the reasons I started Sancta Nomina was to show that names of all kinds can have saintly connections or other connections to the faith, no matter if parents originally like a name because of it being in a movie/book/video game, etc. I think that the fact Krista’s hubs likes Elizabeth because of the P&P connection is a great start! How wonderful that this name that caught his attention through a work of literature is ALSO a great saintly name! 

So I think trying to find a name that appeals to Krista’s hubby through his human interests, that’s also got some great faith connections, is the perfect way to go! Just like she said about his love for paleontology/science: “Maybe common ground could be found in a famous scientist name that is also a good Catholic name?” And with that in mind, my first goal is to try to convince Krista of Malcolm! It’s actually an awesome Catholic name!! She said she doesn’t approve of the name because of the Mal- beginning, but in this instance the Mal actually doesn’t refer to “bad”! Mal in Latin does, but Malcolm doesn’t derive from Latin; rather, it’s an Irish name meaning “servant [or disciple] of St. Columcille” (also known as St. Columba) — the “mal” refers to “servant/disciple” and comes from/is an anglicization of the Irish maol (Maolcholm). I’ve written before about patron saints finding us through our interests/talents/hobbies/jobs, etc. — perhaps St. Columba/Columcille is pulling Krista’s husband close through his love of the name Malcolm! (As an amazing side note, Columcille means “dove of the Church”! I love that! Columba is a shortened form — it means “dove.” He’s credited with the conversion of Scotland to Christianity; you can read more about him here.) Malcolm was also the name of the husband of St. Margaret of Scotland, who was pretty great. Malcolm John is a really handsome combo.

Even if Krista can come around on the idea of Malcolm, I can see how using Mal as a nickname might continue to feel problematic. The Firefly character goes by Mal, but that doesn’t mean her Malcolm has to (and perhaps this can be a point of compromise for her husband — he gets Malcolm as the given name, but Krista gets to choose the nickname). Mac can work as a nickname, as can Max (which can also allow her to think of St. Maximilian Kolbe as a secondary patron). Colm itself has usage as a given name, as an even further shortening of Columcille (–>Columba–>Colum–>Colm), so they could use Colm as an everyday nickname, which further highlights the saintly connection. Going off of Colm, perhaps Cole can also work as a nickname.

Krista’s ideas of Augustine and Luke are both ones I love as well — Luke in particular seems like one that would be a good compromise for them both, since it’s such a huge Star Wars name!

I also did quite a bit of research trying to find other names that might interest Krista’s husband from his sci-fi perspective while also appealing to Krista from a faith perspective, and I’m pretty happy with what I found! My research included looking up the names of the Firefly characters and their stories (to be sure I wasn’t suggesting names of bad guys), as well as the Star Wars characters (I’m much more familiar with them, we love Star Wars in my house!), and I also looked up notable names in paleontology (I love that connection!). Additionally, I’d done consultations in the past for a family who wanted nature and/or scientific names, and a couple who referred to themselves as “HYUUUUUGE geeks” and had found their children’s names in sci-fi literature first before backfitting them into patron saints (both those consultations contain links to other resources I used, which might be helpful to Krista and her hubs, and some of you) — I found both consultations helpful in coming up with ideas here. (You all know that I usually start with the Baby Name Wizard when doing a consultation, but it didn’t seem appropriate here.)

Okay! Without further ado, these are my additional suggestions for Krista and her husband’s baby boy:

(1) Benjamin or Benedict nicknamed Ben
Star Wars fans know Ben Kenobi as an alternate name for Obi-Wan Kenobi, so Ben can have a nice Star Wars connection without it being too in your face (similar to Luke). Also, Kylo Ren’s good-guy name is Ben Solo! Paleontologist B.F. Mudge, who discovered the Ichthyomis, was Benjamin Franklin Mudge, and I love that Benjamin is biblical like Elizabeth; there are also some Sts. Benjamin that Krista might like to consider as patron. Its definition isn’t that inspiring (“son of the right hand”), but its overall meaning includes all these other wonderful things! (I’ve written before about “definition” vs. “meaning” of names.) Or Krista might be able to convince her hubby of Benedict, which has more of the same feel as Augustine (heavy duty Catholicky Catholic), but was also included on a Nameberry list of Geek Chic Names for Boys because of one of its variants being used by Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing and also actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict means “blessed” and is an entry in my book of Marian names because of it! And of course it’s super saintly. I definitely think one of the Ben names would be great for this family!

(2) Stephen
Another notable paleontologist was Stephen Jay Gould, who was described in his New York Times obituary as “one of the most influential evolutionary biologists of the 20th century and perhaps the best known since Charles Darwin.” I thought Krista’s husband might really appreciate that a little Stephen John would initial to Stephen J., which mirrors Stephen Jay Gould. And of course, for Krista, there’s St. Stephen, the first martyr, and many others.

(3) Charles
Speaking of Charles Darwin, his name has impeccable faith credentials! Many people have named boys Charles in honor of St. John Paul II, whose birth name was Karol (the Polish form of Charles). He was actually named for Bl. Karl of Austria (who is also referred to as Emperor Charles), who is awesome, and provides another great patron. St. Charles Borromeo is also a favorite of mine, and there are many others. I could see Krista’s hubby really liking the Charles Darwin connection, and there’s also Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time and Charles Xavier from X-Men (I bet he’ll love that connection! So cool!). Another great literary figure is Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited, which is considered a great Catholic work!

(4) George nn Geo or Geordie
Fr. George LeMaitre was the priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory and was the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for six years until his death in 1966 (yay for priest scientists!), which makes this name both faithy and science-y! (There are a lot of Sts. George as well.) The nickname Geo can also strengthen the tie to science (as in its meaning of “earth,” like geology), and Geordie (said like Jordy) is a traditional Scottish nickname for George, and also a character on Star Trek! (Geordie LaForge.)

(5) Simon
Okay, moving onto other Firefly names — I haven’t watched it, but I know it’s got some pretty rabid fans, so I’m not surprised Krista’s hubby has latched onto one of the characters as inspiration for a baby’s name. One that I thought would work is Simon, as in character Simon Tam. It doesn’t have the potentially problematic Mal beginning, and he’s a main character as far as I can tell, so the connection to the show should be pretty solid for her husband. As for Saints, there’s Simon Peter and St. Simon Stock (of the brown scapular) and others.

(6) Montford nn Monty
Monty’s a good character in Firefly — friend of Mal’s — which made me think of the name Montford, which I have as an entry in my Marian names book for this reason:

Montford is the surname of St. Louis de Montfort, whose first name is also included in this volume, by virtue of his deep devotion to Our Lady and his classic Marian works True Devotion to Mary, The Secret of Mary, and The Secret of the Rosary. One of my blog readers recently suggested Montfort as a first name with the nickname Monty, which I thought was brilliant.”

Maybe Montfort with the nickname Monty is just the kind of name Krista’s hubby might go for?

(7) Shepherd
Another Firefly character whose name caught my attention is Shepherd Book. If I understand correctly from reading his description on Wikipedia, Shepherd is actually his title (religious ties!) rather than his name, but the fact that he’s called Shepherd makes the name really connected to him. I did a spotlight post on the name Shepherd a while ago, in which I draw some pretty great connections to Jesus. I also did a consultation for a family who has a son named Shepherd, named for a few faith reasons. Could be a great option for this family! Shep is a really cute nickname.

(8) Francis nn Finn
Moving back to Star Wars, Finn has risen in popularity over the last few years, in good part because of the character of Finn in the new Star Wars movies. I’ve suggested it on the blog to a few families as a fresher, more unexpected nickname for the super Catholic name Francis — maybe something like would appeal to Krista and her husband? Her hubby might also appreciate that Renaissance scholar Francis Bacon was “best known for his promotion of the scientific method.”

(9) Cassian
My last suggestion for them is probably a bit more offbeat than the others, but I was kind of amazed that Cassian showed up in my Star Wars research — Cassian Andor was in the movie Rogue One, and was on the rebel side (the good guys), though I don’t think he was a huge character (I haven’t seen Rogue One yet). But Cassian is also the surname of St. John Cassian, so Cassian John would be an amazing nod to him! There are two families I know through the blog who have sons named Cassian: here and here. Cash is a great nickname too.

Those are my “official” suggestions for Krista and her hubby, but others that I considered and ultimately left off my final list for various reasons include: Owen (for Uncle Owen on Star Wars and the amazing St. Nicholas Owen; some take it as a variant of John, so that wouldn’t work too well), Pascal (for Blaise Pascal and the many Sts. Pascal, including St. Pascal Baylon; also Pascal means “Easter”), Caspian (from Narnia), Thomas (for Thomas Edison, and any of the great Sts. Thomas [Aquinas, More, the Apostle]), and Tycho (for astronomer Tycho Brahe, and there’s also St. Tycho of Amathus).

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother of Elizabeth Marie, son of a sci-fi/science/literature fan and a recent convert on fire for the faith?


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!

Reading round-up (including a birth announcement!)

Happy Saturday! There a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you, so I’m putting them all here in this post!

First up, Blythe (whose consultation posted back in October and whose baby was born in March — check out her Instagram @blythefike! [which I can’t link to here for some reason, darn computer]), posted yesterday all about her little guy’s name! I loved the first+middle combo ever since I first saw her announcement on IG, and I love the story of how they chose it! It’s a great example of a great nickname being the tipping point in favor of a name.

This post on the Blessed Is She blog was fun to read: Not-So-Typical Unique Catholic Baby Names. I jumped right to the boy list (for obvious reasons) and was pleasantly surprised by Drexel — I don’t think I’ve ever once thought of Drexel as a first name for a boy or a girl! I also loved the idea of Sully as a nickname for Solanus (Sonny had been my previous go-to, and I’d thought of Solly, but I like Sully even better), and in the comments, someone shared that she knows a little Charlotte, named in honor of JP2, whose nickname is Lola as a nod to Lolek! LOVE IT!

I just read this morning that the Schwandt family, who had thirteen boys and was expecting again, had their baby — another boy!! Congratulations to them!! And the name story is pretty funny!

Adding to our posts on literary names, this article on famous novelists deeply influenced by their Catholic faith is a good resource.

I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did! Have a blessed day! (My 11yo has been saying that to everyone, every day, at home and at school, he’s the sweetest.)


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady, is now available to order from ShopMercy.org, and should be available on Amazon soon!

Some more literary stuff

I’ve loved our recent literary conversations — you all had great additions to the Catholic Literary Names post (both book recs and name ideas), and it was fun to spotlight Meghan’s girls’ literary names. Little Lewis’ birth announcement fit right in as well!

Abby from Appellation Mountain re-posted her Imaginary Place Names post yesterday, and I love so many of the ideas. I’d be interested to see if you have any additions to her list — the only one I could think of was Tara, which isn’t quite right, since it’s the name of an existing place (Hill of Tara in Ireland), but sort of fits, since I’m sure it entered baby-naming consciousness as a result of Gone With the Wind and Scarlett’s plantation home, Tara. In fact, Tara didn’t even appear on the SSA’s annual list of names given to five children or more until 1939 — the book was published in 1936 and the movie was released in December 1939 after a two-year-long production process that included the pursuit of Clark Gable and a public search for Scarlett.

This would probably have been more helpful before Christmas, but I also wanted to share with you all the books we’ve gotten for my husband’s elderly great-aunt, in case you might be interested (it’s on my mind because we just got her some new books, and I’m feeling like we’re running out of ideas). She’s a good Christian (though not Catholic) lady who loves love stories (but nothing too spicy!) and dislikes murder mysteries (which rules out Mary Higgins Clark, which I’d initially thought would be perfect — so many books! Set for life!). These are some that we’ve gotten for her:

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (this is bordering on too spicy for her, though I loved it)

Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (this is a series, and I think we only gave her the first one — I’m adding the rest to my list for her now!) (the first is free with Kindle Unlimited!)

Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Emma by Jane Austen

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series (one of my personal favorites) by Alexander McCall Smith

And a bunch from the large-print fiction section of ChristianBooks.com (The Amish of Apple Grove series by Lori Copeland was our gift this year, and it sounds like she’s enjoying it. I’ve never read them, I’m just trusting that any romance novels from ChristianBooks.com aren’t inappropriate!)

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! She loves to read, but can only read large print books and won’t consider Kindle or similar, nor audio books.

Finally, since we’re talking about books, guessss what was under the tree this year for me?? A new Baby Name Wizard!! I totally needed one!! It’s my third copy — my previous two fell apart over time through use! Having a brand new one is such a pleasure!

I hope you’re all enjoying this Christmas season!


Amazon affiliate links used in this post.

 

So sorry for the blog silence!

My laptop is misbehaving! I dropped it over the summer, and ever since then it’s been funny sometimes, but this week it’s been awful and every time I open it up I try to do whatever I need to do really fast before it poops out on me. I’m hoping to get it fixed this weekend and be back to cracking next week!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this fun piece: do you know the blog Tea with Tolkien? One of you readers made sure I saw yesterday’s post, and I loved it: Tolkien-Inspired Baby Names. It’s a great add-on to our recent names-from-Catholic-literature conversation (here and here)! (Check out Francis on the list — new info to me!)

Happy Friday y’all! Have a great weekend!