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.”)