New CatholicMom article, and info on Chinese and Japanese names

Happy Thursday everyone! A few things of interest today:

My January CatholicMom article is up! “Naming Your Baby After St. Joseph” was informed by a couple of blog posts I did recently to help expectant parents (and Confirmation candidates?) work St. Joseph into their babies’ names (or their own) during this year devoted to him.

Please share with anyone who think might be interested!

And I read two interesting articles recently:

Why 1.2 billion people share the same 100 surnames in China” on I was surprised to find that, though language and limited racial diversity play a role, technology is actually a huge reason why there are, currently, as few surnames in China as there are:

“… people with rare characters in their names, which aren’t compatible with existing computer systems, can get left behind — pushing many to change their names for the sake of convenience, even if it means abandoning centuries of heritage and language.”

“Abandoning centuries of heritage and language” is such a painful thing to read!

And there was this, which I found shocking:

Japan asked the international media to change how we write their names. No one listened” (also on CNN). I’m amazed that in this day and age, when there is more sensitivity than ever to one’s personal preferences about his or her name (whether it’s one’s given name, or a new name chosen later on), and that aside from names, cultural insensitivity is completely unacceptable, English-language media sources are refusing to switch to writing Japanese names with the surname first, as is their local custom and request.

For now, most media outlets are unwilling to make a change if no one else is, creating an inertia loop whereby inaction begets inaction. CNN Business could not find any major publication which refers to the Japanese prime minister as “Abe Shinzo,” and no outlet which responded to a request for comment suggested such a switch was imminent.”

There are some other factors at play — like the fact that Japan itself switched to the Western style of “family name (surname) last” in the late 19th century when communicating in English — but even still, wow.

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!


New post up at Catholic Mom!

My January column at Catholic Mom posted today! Japanese Catholic Naming Customs.


You’ve probably already guessed that it’s a slightly enhanced version of this recent post (I included one of your comments from that post in this article — your feedback is always so helpful!).

All three images associated with the article (the feature image above and the two within the article) are various representations of the 26 Martyrs of Japan. The feature imag0e above is actually of the Memorial to the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan in Nagasaki. So moving!

As always, I’d love to know what more any of you might know about this topic!

“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!