Hooray for Poland!

Today marks the 100th birthday of St. John Paul II! In honor, here is a post I’ve referred to often in consultations with parents: Patron saints for Caroline and Charlotte (one guess who one of my favorite patrons for girls with those names — and boys with the masculine variants — could be! 😉 ). And here are all the posts I’ve tagged “JPII” — a lot of good ones!

I also wanted to share this wonderful news that I know everyone with Polish heritage will love! As the official Divine Mercy page on Facebook put it, “On the 100th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s birthday, and on the birthday and feast day of St. Stanislaus Papczynski [founder of the Marian Fathers — my book’s publisher!], the Vatican has announced that St. Faustina’s Oct. 5 feast will be entered into the General Roman Calendar.” 🎉🎉🎉 Read all about it here! Happy Monday!

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: Lolek Augustine!

A couple of years ago, a mama messaged me asking about the name Lolek — the nickname St. John Paul II had gone by as a child. She and her hubby had almost decided to use it for their baby-on-the-way, if they had a boy, and just needed a little encouragement, which I was happy to give!

After last week’s post about saintly nickname names, I got this message from her:

Your post today reminded I forgot to tell you we did indeed name our son Lolek Augustine. He’s 2 now!

Ahhhh how fun to get this update, and about such a great name!! I asked about it a little more and she said,

We love the ‘aha’ moment when people realize who his name is a nod to. The people who get it right away are few and far between, and it feels kind of like an underground code name. We love it!

An “underground code name”!! That’s so fantastic!! I’m so glad for you all to see a real-life Lolek — maybe he will “encourage a surge of Loleks,” as his mama put it!

Congratulations to this little guy’s parents and big brothers Jude Maximilian and Eli Sebastian, and happy (belated!) birthday Lolek!!


Lolek Augustine

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: Helena Faustina James!

I spotlighted Amy’s beautiful family almost a year ago, and I’m thrilled to share that she’s had her TWELFTH baby — a baby girl! (Bringing the total to six boys and six girls!) She’s been given the gorgeous, meaningful name … Helena Faustina James!

Amy writes,

[Hubby] and I wanted to keep with the theme of John Paul II [like their previous child]. I liked Karol and Karolina. Ryan did not. Being frequent visitors and going to the JP2 shrine, we decided to learn more about St. Faustina, as she was also a Polish saint and JP2 canonized her and instituted Divine Mercy Sunday. I liked Faustina! Ryan did not. 😂 After researching a bit more we found out her name before becoming a nun was Helena Kowalska. Finally a name we both liked and I felt strongly about Faustina being her middle name. 2 weeks before she was born we lost my dear father in law. We decided to honor him and include his name in Helena’s as she was the only grandchild who never got to meet her beloved “Poppy”. Now he will always be with her. ❤ “

This is such a great name story! I love the connection to St. John Paul II in a way that both Amy and her hubby could agree, and I love that they were able to work in Ryan’s dad’s name. Perfect, all around!

Congratulations to Amy and Ryan and big sibs Ray, Josie, Brady, Sean, Evan, Bennett, Mary, Finnian, Charlotte, Sloane, and John Paul, and happy birthday Baby Helena!! Check out her sweet face over on Amy’s Instagram!

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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

CatholicMom articles–December and January

Happy Friday everyone! I wanted to be sure to share the links to my December and January CatholicMom articles. Enjoy!

Here’s December’s: The Most Famous Reindeer of All

And January’s: The Special Things Women Are Given


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Celebrity guest: Amy, mom of 11!

Don’t forget to enter the Mother’s Day giveaway I announced at the end of my previous post! You have until midnight (Eastern) on Saturday (May 19) to email me your entry. And if you haven’t listened to my interview on Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary on Mater Dei Radio, you still can!

I’ve followed Amy Laddbush on Instagram for a while, and as I told her, I just love seeing the joy that comes through the pictures of life with her six boys (like me) … and five girls! (Not like me! Wow!) Yes, ELEVEN children! And they all have amazing names too! Though I’d picked up some of their names here and there through various posts, it wasn’t until I read this article about her and her family that I was able to see them all. Ever since then I’ve wanted to contact Amy to see if she would mind telling me about the namesof her kiddos so I could share with you all here, and I’m so glad I finally did! I know you’re going to love reading this. 🙂 ❤

Photo credit: Annie Norton

Our oldest, Ray, is 20. His full name is Ray Tucker Shourds Laddbush. We had him when we were young. We were both 20 when I was pregnant, and 21 when he was born. I remember I had a baby name book that we looked through. After finding out we were having a boy, I wrote down all of my top boy names in the book. I let Ryan pick out of those choices. Ray is a family name, my great grandfather was named Ray — not Raymond. I let Ryan pick the middle name Tucker. He liked that name a lot, and I thought it was cute. Shourds is my maiden name. Because we were unmarried at the time, at birth, I named him Ray Tucker Laddbush Shourds. After we were married less than a year later, we had his name legally changed to Ray Tucker Shourds Laddbush. (Confirmation name St. Padre Pio).

Josie is 17. Her full name is Josie Layne Laddbush. We liked the name Josie from the song “Josie” by Steely Dan. Layne was just something cute we came up with. I don’t know why we spelled it that way! Like Ray, it’s just Josie — not Josephine. (Confirmation name St. Joan of Arc).

After Josie is our daughter, Brady Ann. She is 14. I liked the meaning of Brady because it means “spirited”. She was very active in the womb. She is still a very active young lady. The name suits her, even though it is predominately male. Ann is a middle name/family name on Ryan’s side of the family that we thought sounded cute. (Confirmation name St. Patrick).

Next is Sean Patrick Whetzell, age 12. I liked Sean because it was the Irish form of John. Patrick just had to go with a Sean. Whetzell is my husband’s second middle name (he is Ryan Francis Whetzell Laddbush). We wanted to pass down the Whetzell name which is Ryan’s grandfather’s last name. He has 3 daughters (one being Ryan’s mom), and Ryan was the only grandson in the whole family. This was a nod keeping with the theme of the men/boys having 4 names (2 middle names). Also keeping with somewhat of a theme of having last names as middle and first names! (like Brady).

Next is Evan Matthew, age 10. At this point we decided 2 names was enough. I liked the name Evan, I can’t remember why, and Matthew is my brother’s middle name. I thought it sounded good so we went with it.

After Evan is Bennett Francis, age 9. He was supposed to be Francis Bennett. Francis after Ryan’s middle name and I don’t know where we got Bennett, but we liked it. After he was born, I thought he looked more like a Bennett, so Bennett Francis it is.

Number 7 is Mary Catherine, age 8. Mary is named after Ryan’s grandmother Mary Laddbush and Catherine is his other grandmother Catherine Whetzell. Easy peasy. At this point we realized I guess we are one of those big Catholic families, so we had better have a Mary.

Number 8 is Finnian Fritz, age 6. We call him Finn. Ryan came up with Finnian after researching saint names and found a St. Finnian. Fritz is named after Ryan’s grandfather, George, nicknamed Fritz.

Number 9 is Charlotte Jones, age 5. I don’t know how we got Charlotte, but we loved it. Jones is my grandmother’s maiden name. We thought we would call her Charlie Jones, or CJ, or something cool like that. Somehow she got the nickname Kitty and we’ve been calling her that since she was a baby. We try to call her Charlotte but she likes the name Kitty.

Number 10 is Sloane Stewart (Mary), age 3. I remember being pregnant and watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and hearing the name Sloane. I thought it was a cool name. Stewart is named after Ryan’s grandmother’s maiden name. Her name on her birth certificate is Sloane Stewart. When she got baptized, our associate pastor at the time, Fr. Lewis, asked if he could throw a Mary in there, so we said sure. Her baptismal name is Sloane Stewart Mary.

And finally number 11 is John Paul Nicholas, age 2. When I was pregnant with him, I read the book Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. Saint John Paul became my best friend after that, so I had to honor him by naming my son after him. The December before he was born, there was a tragic car accident involving in my cousin’s best friend’s death. His name was Nicholas Cassidy (Nick). He was only 22. Also at this point we had a family devotion to St. Nicholas.

Unfortunately we have not been able to get pregnant since John Paul. We will be 42 this summer, it’s been a good ride. If we are blessed with another baby, I like the name Karol Józef, named after my good friend, Karol Józef Wojtyła.”

How wonderful is all this?? There’s so much here that I love! I love how Amy and her hubs just chose names they loved, I love what an eclectic bunch of names they used, and how many family names are woven into the first+middle combos. I love that they were like, “At this point we realized I guess we are one of those big Catholic families, so we had better have a Mary.” I love that Finn’s middle name is “after Ryan’s grandfather, George, nicknamed Fritz” (I love those kinds of name stories! I’d love to know how George came to be known as Fritz!) and that Charlotte has always gone by Kitty (and prefers it). I love that Sloane has Mary added on her baptismal certificate. And of course, I love that St. John Paul II is Amy’s “best friend.” ((sighing with happiness))

Thank you to Amy for such a lovely, intimate look at her beautiful children’s names!

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 Amazon! It’s a perfect for expectant mamas, baby showers, and just because. 🙂 If you feel moved to leave a review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated!

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!

Birth announcement: Wendy Emilia! (And a St. Gerard story!)

Do you all remember last year when I posted about the priest who’d done a mission at our parish and told us about his great regard for St. Gerard’s intercession in helping couples conceive? And how he would encourage couples to pray to St. Gerard and then let him know when they were expecting a baby, because he was so confident that St. Gerard would come through? I just got the most amazing email the other day!

Evva (who I follow on Twitter) writes,

I found your blog about a year ago and started following you on twitter. At that time my husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for a little while and reading about and talking baby names was so fun and loved all the name information you had! After some more time passed I was started to get discouraged we still weren’t getting pregnant and around that time you posted something about St Gerard and his intercession for anyone who wanted a baby. After that I decided my husband and I would pray a saint Gerard novena. My husband is not catholic so it was his first time praying one. Anyway that very next month I found out we were pregnant!! I couldn’t believe it. I just wanted to reach out to you and say thank you and share our story, My baby girl was born on the feast of the immaculate conception!

OHMYGOODNESS!! What an awesome story!!

So of course I had to ask all about this baby girl! Evva explained,

Like I said before my husband isn’t catholic so the real catholicky names he wasn’t going for haha. We had a real tough time picking a girl name for some reason we just couldn’t agree on anything so settling on one was a lot of back forth but we finally decided on the first name Wendy for no reason aside that it was one we could both agree on. And for her middle name we went with Emilia. I read on your blog that it was Saint Pope John Paul II’s mom name and I loved it plus I thought it flowed nicely with the first name. 

Here’s a few pictures of her with a St Gerard medal I bought soon after we completed our Novena.”

Wendy Emilia

Isn’t this all so wonderful?! Congratulations to Evva and her husband, and happy birthday Baby Wendy!! (And if any of you have St. Gerard stories, I’d love to hear them!)

Birth announcement: Caroline Sophia!

A mama I did a private consultation for has let me know her little one has arrived, a sweet little girl with the beautiful name … Caroline Sophia!

She writes,

Sorry this has taken so long, but I wanted to share with you that our little Caroline Sophia was born on September 12! Even though we didn’t actually use any new names you suggested for us, we loved doing the consultation through you! Seeing so many different choices really solidified for us why we loved the name ‘Caroline Sophia.’ 🙂

We decided that it would really mean a lot to my mom to have a child named after her. She is super sentimental, and although we really didn’t love ‘Sophia’ as a first name, somehow it was beautiful for a middle name. It was very providential, because my mom was at the birth for our first child, and not the next three. She was always watching our older kids while I was in labor at the hospital. For Caroline, our fifth child, the other four were all in school during the day, so Grandma got a break. She ended up being born at 9:30am, and after my mom dropped off all the big kids at school at 8am, she was able to come to help and witness my crazy fast and intense labor and birth. We didn’t plan it that way, but since it was my fastest birth, I really did need another person there to help besides my husband. And, when Caroline came out and we told her the name, Grandma just lost it! 👍😂 it was perfect!

JP2 has always been someone we loved, but I just have really gotten to know him a lot more the past five years. So, after ‘trying’ out other names on the Baby in utero, we just couldn’t go with anything else besides naming Caroline after him. 😁❤️

She is just about two months old now, completely perfect and gorgeous, and smothered by siblings and everyone else constantly. 🙂 “

I love this name story so much!! I love how meaningful both the first and middle name choices are, and I love that “Grandma just lost it” upon hearing that her name is the baby’s middle name. So wonderful!!

Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Caroline!!


Caroline Sophia on her baptism day this past weekend, with her blanket and St. JP2 doll her godparents made for her

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. I.love.babies!), 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: http://weekly.pass.us/katie-1

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: 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.”)