Nickname issues, and name discernment/being “at odds with the Holy Spirit”

I had a really interesting email from a reader, and she’s eager to hear what you all think! She writes,

I’ve read your post on name regret, and I was wondering if you had ever considered doing a post on name discernment. My husband and I have a name we both like for our first child (due in 10 weeks!), except I cannot stand the nickname variant! Bad associations I guess. There are many great reasons to use this name, and it feels right in so many ways with all the connections we have with it, particularly when compared to our other frontrunners (which we both like quite a bit, but don’t feel as right). However, we cannot get over the nickname impasse with this original name — he doesn’t like the idea of using the full name or alternate nicknames on a regular basis, and I don’t think I could see using the traditional nickname. Have people ever run into this type of situation? Did they go with the name that felt most right, even if they didn’t like it, per se? Trust in the Holy Spirit and hope you grow to like it? With this being our first, I’m just not sure what to think.”

Interesting questions, right? I really see it breaking down into two questions: (1) How do we handle using a formal name that we both love that has seemingly inevitable nickname issues that we can’t agree on? And, as this mama put it later in her email, (2) What did you do if you ever had a time when your “preferences were perhaps at odds with the Holy Spirit”?

I gave this mama my own thoughts to No. 1, which were basically along the lines of “if you go with the name they both like — which seems to be, from her email, just what they’re feeling called to — the rest of it will shake out.” Do you agree? Do you have experiences of your own like this?

As for No. 2, I’m interested to see what you all will say! I’ve had experiences myself where things happened that seemed to make obvious what the baby’s name was *supposed* to be, things just fell in place in a really providential way, and it was kind of thrilling to really feel like we’d done it — we’d found the name that was meant just for him! And we know there are times when God actually does say, “This is what the baby’s name will be.” (Jesus.) But at the same time, I also think that God uses our preferences and tastes and styles for His purposes, so that second question gets kind of tricky, and I can totally see it setting up a situation where name regret might occur. And it’s all based so much on feelings — which name feels right and which doesn’t — and feelings can definitely be helpful, but they can also be wrong and/or misleading. Also, being “at odds with the Holy Spirit” sounds very grave, but in regards to naming one’s baby, I don’t think it’s quite as heavy or binding. After all, as Pope Francis said in Amoris Laetitia, “For God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity.” (166)

So lots to think about here, and we’d love to hear your thoughts! I’ve done a few other posts that kind of swirl around this topic as well and which might be helpful — they’re listed in this post.

Updated to add: How timely! I was just catching up on email, and one of you wonderful readers sent me the link to this article: One in five mothers say they chose wrong name for their child, poll finds. It was definitely an interesting read, and my biggest takeaway was that sometimes name regret happens and there’s not much that can be done about it (e.g., little girls named Isis and Elsa just before those names took on huge obvious associations, or kids that grew up to dislike their names), which I feel like might help reduce the stress associated with picking the *right* name, since sometimes it’s taken right out of your hands, no matter what precautions you take. Rather than being a terrifying thought, it’s kind of a soothing one to me! So just pray and do the best you can.


A kiss from Pope Francis

A Sancta Nomina baby was kissed by Pope Francis in Philadelphia!

Jenny’s baby Luke had the amazing blessing of being kissed by Pope Francis, and an amazing picture was taken of it, and I’ve seen it on social media about a THOUSAND times since, between just the regular Pope Francis coverage while he was here and Jenny’s constant sharing and resharing of it (which I would totally do too, Mama! And maybe a bigger-than-life-size print made and framed and hung on the front of the house. Discreet like.), but it wasn’t until one of you wonderful readers emailed me a link to the story to be sure I’d seen it and said, “One of your consult babies got kissed by the pope in Philadelphia!” that I thought about it in that way.

One of our consult babies got kissed by the pope in Philadelphia!!

Well. Between Grace sharing her PF story and photos with us and Jenny’s baby being kissed by him, Sancta Nomina did pretty darn well during the papal visit. 🙂 ❤

#PopeInUS: Sancta Nomina represented!

Our faithful reader Grace had the great blessing of being able to see Pope Francis in New York City! She emailed me with her impressions, and some photos:

Hi Kate!!    

I just thought that you would like to hear about my experience seeing Pope Francis today! First off, I’ve never felt so blessed to wait 4 hours in line to see someone. I would do it again right now even though my feet are killing me. I have to say, one of the best moments happened before Pope Francis drove by. I ended up talking to some strangers in the crowd, which is something I NEVER do and I met one of the most amazing women ever. Her name is Margaret Therese and my word, she is just a woman of God. She just shines this light to you when she talks. She told us about an experience she had when she truly felt the presence of God and it brought me straight to tears. I just want to be her when I’m older. She ended up giving me a medal that was blessed by Pope John Paul II. I don’t think I’m ever taking it off from the chain around my neck (I’ve attached a picture). When Pope Francis finally drove by, my heart stopped. I started crying immediately. I was far away, as you can see in the pictures, but that didn’t matter. This was one of the most amazing moments of my life. My goodness, the light of God that shines through Pope Francis is just crazy. I still can’t believe that I was so blessed to get to see him while he was here in America and get to see surrounded by such amazing people!
God bless you, 

Can’t you just hear it? The enthusiasm, the love, the grace that’s so often the marker of pilgrimages, holy events, or other similar encounters with, as Grace said, “the light of God” shining through. If there’s a thin veil that separates us, it’s almost as if it’s made extra-sheer in those places, with those people. I’m moved to tears myself for Grace, for her experience.

Check out her pictures:

The beautiful medal given to Grace by her new friend Margaret Therese, which had had been blessed by St. John Paul II
I love the lady climbing up the lamppost in this one.

Thanks to Grace for sharing her experience and her pictures with us, and if any of the rest of you were in DC, NYC, or today/tomorrow in Philly and have experiences and/or photos to share regarding Pope Francis’ visit, feel free to send them on to me!

#PopeInUS: Family saints, Mother Mary, Jim Gaffigan

That Pope Francis. ❤ To Congress: “Thank you for the lunch invitation! But I’ll be eating with the homeless.” To the Little Sisters of the Poor: “I’m with you, Sisters.” To John Boehner: “I’m gonna make you CRY.” To America: “Let me refer to you as the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’ Let me refer to your important and beloved people.” To the United Nations: “In all countries, in light of all issues, real people need to come first, with a special care needed for the poorest.” That man. ❤

Name-wise, did you see that the World Meeting of Families, which Pope Francis will be attending in Philadelphia tomorrow, has a listing of Saints for the Family? So many of our very favorite saints and very favorite names:

Pope St. John Paul II
St. Gianna
Mary, Undoer of Knots (Pope Francis has a special devotion to her)
St. Joseph
St. John Bosco
St. Anne (our very own)
St. Joachim
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Raphael

Speaking of Mary, Undoer of Knots … I’m dying to talk about that other Marian name we were all atwitter about yesterday: Maristella! Several of you said you’d never heard of it before, and I hadn’t either until someone suggested it for Simcha’s baby. (I don’t agree with that commenter’s husband though — despite the fact that it’s technically an Italian variant, as I actually shared with the mama of Maristella “one of the things I love about [the Irish] naming style, especially historically (perhaps less so now), is their heavy use of saints’ names of all cultures/ethnicities.” I know of Irish girls/ladies named Maria (read that only if you want to cry your eyes out), Jacinta, Lucia, Gemma, Philomena … and there’s not a huge amount of difference between Maristella and Isabella, which is used by all sorts of Americans=diverse ethnic backgrounds … anyway. Rant over!) So of course it’s a version of Stella Maris=Star of the Sea and — so cool! — the UK’s Apostleship of the Sea has Stella Maris Masses several times right around now! The pic I posted to Instagram for Maristella is a particularly lovely one too.

And speaking of five children (because our Maristella is one of five, nice segue right?! 😉 ) … Jim Gaffigan (who has five children–>there’s the connection!) is performing at the World Meeting of Families for an audience of over a million people that might possibly include Pope Francis. Wha??? Jim’s got great, solid, saintly names for his kids in real life:

Marre (very intrigued by this one … a user-submitted entry on Behind the Name says it’s a Swedish diminutive of Maria, Martin, and other Mar- names, and that it’s pronounced MAHR-ah … do any of you know anything more/different?)
Katie Louise

And for his kids on his show:

Daniel (? not sure on this one; I know it’s also the name of an adult character)

(If anyone knows Jim or his wife Jeannie, feel free to point them in my direction — I’d LOVE to chat with them about their names!)

And that’s my name-related Pope Francis wrap-up for today! (I know you love how I made a whole big name post out of the Pope’s visit. 😀 )

#PopeInUS: Siblings and a new saint

So yes, I’m going to be posting a lot of Pope stuff in the next few days!

The first exciting thing is: Today’s the day Blessed Junipero Serra will be canonized! Woooo!!!! You can read his name spotlight here.

Second, my mom was telling me about Pope Francis’ siblings’ names the other day, and I love them all:

María Elena
Alberto Horacio
Oscar Adrián
Marta Regina

And of course he himself was Jorge Mario. His parents were Mario José and María Regina.

I think maybe Alberto Horacio isn’t quite ready for a comeback (but soon! I could see Albert being the new Arthur, which is getting some love recently. And there was a Horatio in my boys’ school for a few years — definitely ahead of the curve, as he’s in high school now), but the others are definitely not only Sancta Nomina style but broader-society style too I think. I mean, yes, they definitely have a Catholic spin — I can’t see just anybody choosing Regina for their daughter — but I could see Maria, Elena, Oscar, Adrian, Marta/Martha, and George (Jorge) on a whole bunch of different kinds of people. Mario too, while it *can* have a religious/Marian connotation if you want it to (and I want it to!), comes across as less Catholic and more ethnic (Italian or Hispanic) I think. (Mario Puso, Mario Lopez [who’s a Pope Francis fan! And he did name his son Dominic, so …].)

I love how PF’s mama gave her first name to one daughter and her second name to another, and I love that he has his dad’s first name as a middle name. But I’m kind of shocked — given their faith AND Papa Bergoglio’s middle name — that there’s no José among them!

What do you think of the Bergoglio sibs’ names? Which would you consider for your child, if any?

A gift for Pope Francis

I’ve mentioned before about my mom’s book and blog about the adventures of Finney the Leprechaun (who loves God and teaches the faith to little ones through rhyme). Today’s post had me dying with laughter, and it’s so appropriate to share it here because (1) it’s about Pope Francis’ U.S. visit, which begins today!! (2) It mentions names!

If you have little ones and can read it out loud to them, I know they’d love it (as will you). And it has fun and hilarious pictures too!

Do any of you know Pope Francis? (!!) Or do you know someone who does? I KNOW he would LOVE this post, please pass it on to anyone who may be able to point it in the right direction! It’s called “Papa!” ❤

Papal paraphernalia

Are any of you participating in any of the events connected with Pope Francis’ upcoming visit? I know you all know, but just in case: Ten days til he’s here!!! He’s arriving September 22 in Washington DC; traveling to New York City on September 25; heading back down to Philadelphia on September 26; and leaving America for Rome on the 27th (full itinerary here). What I wouldn’t give to meet that man! And how blessed we are to have him walking on our soil!

The Catholic Company has some amaaazing (and, honestly, some of them are hilarious) Pope-visit-themed items that I was drooling and laughing over the other day. Like this one:

I Heart Pope Francis T-shirt
I Heart Pope Francis T-shirt [XL]

Ahahaha! I love that man! There are a lot of other great t-shirts too — I love this one (Jesus [IHS] [which is the Jesuit symbol] and il Papa at the same time!):

IHS Pope Francis USA 2015 T-Shirt

IHS Pope Francis USA 2015 T-Shirt [XL]

And some good ol’ patriotism — our Pope and our flag. God bless America.

Pope Francis USA 2015 American Flag T-Shirt
Pope Francis USA 2015 American Flag T-Shirt [XXL]

Then there are these:

Exclusive Pope Francis Bobblehead Statue
Exclusive Pope Francis Bobblehead Statue

It even has its own hashtag: #WhereIsPopeBobblehead! haha! It’s a nice little conversation piece especially in a secular environment (like work) where a little humor can be a great evangelizing tool. This one too:

I Love Pope Francis Mug
I Love Pope Francis Mug

I also loved these:

Pope Francis Devotional Candle

Pope Francis Devotional Candle
Pope Francis Commemorative Coin

Pope Francis Commemorative Coin
Pope Francis Rosary Card

Pope Francis Rosary Card

Pope Francis Commemorative Magnet

Pope Francis Commemorative Magnet
Pope Francis Medal 25 Pack

Pope Francis Medal 25 Pack
Pope Francis Round Keepsake Box

Pope Francis Round Keepsake Box

Mary Undoer of Knots & Pope Francis Rosary Pouch

(I love that Our Lady under this title is a special devotion of his)

Mary Undoer of Knots & Pope Francis Rosary Pouch

Pope Francis USA 2015 Prayer Card

Pope Francis USA 2015 Prayer Card

There are a couple great things for kids:

Pope Francis Tiny Saint Charm

Pope Francis Tiny Saint Charm

Pope Francis Plush Doll

Pope Francis Plush Doll

Pope Francis Holy Bear

(I just need to note that when my oldest, who has always said he wants to be a priest, was about to make his First Holy Communion, he was flipping through the Catholic Company catalog and saw a similar bear as this but the Holy Communion version and fell in love with it and requested it as a First Communion gift. When he received it, he named it Benedict, and it’s still got a place of honor in his room.)
Pope Francis Holy Bear

Lessons from Pope Francis for Children

(This will be on my children’s Christmas list)
Lessons from Pope Francis for Children

Jorge from Argentina: Story of Pope Francis

(This also)

Jorge from Argentina: Story of Pope Francis

Praying with Your Five Fingers Laminated Card [English]

(We have this and I love it)

Praying with Your Five Fingers Laminated Card [English]

There are so many great things! And I haven’t even really gotten into the publications (books, pamphlets, etc.)! Like his encyclicals Light of Faith: Lumen Fidei and Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, or the intriguing Pope Francis: Life in His Own Words, or the much-needed Pope Francis Speaks to Families. And so meaningful to have them connected, actually or emotionally, to his most likely once-in-a-lifetime visit to our country. Viva il Papa!! ❤

This post contains affiliate links brought to you by The Catholic Company – The World’s #1 Catholic Store.

A quick pop-in (& Laudato Si’ reflection at

I hope you all had a great week! Our vacation is best explained by the fact that my boys are counting the days until we go back (we’re tentatively planning a similar trip in Summer 2017 so they have a lot of days to count). We actually did really great! And it was basically as I’d thought — we needed the same things for the week as we do for an overnight (pack and play, diapers and wipes galore, bathing suits, beach towels, sippy cups, clean clothes, paper/crayons, etc.), with the sole addition of a few more clothes and underwear.

I’ll be spending the next few days catching up on email, and I had some really fun name convos (thank you sisters and sisters-in-law and Mother dear!) and spotted some great names (a couple of which I posted about on Instagram), and encountered some sobering name info, all of which I’ll tell you about in upcoming posts. I’ll have a consultation posted tomorrow morning as usual, and some birth announcements to share as well. August is off and running!!

But my real reason for breaking my Sunday blog-fast and popping in here is to direct you to the Laudato Si’: A Community Conversation reflection on Chapter 3, which I’d mentioned recently. Every Sunday for eight weeks two writers will offer short reflections on their assigned chapter. This week is Chapter 3, and I have the privilege of being one of today’s writers. It’s not name-related, but I hope you’ll hop over there anyway, and maybe even leave a comment. Reading my one chapter — which is all that I’ve read of Laudato Si’ so far — was amazing; as I told friends, it was hard for me to imagine what Pope Francis could have possibly written about in the other chapters, so chock-full was Chapter 3.

Alrighty, I’m signing off until tomorrow!


A break in regularly scheduled programming …

I’m hopping out of name mode for just a second to make sure you know about‘s ongoing series on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ — every week a couple of writers will be offering brief commentary on one of the chapters. So far there’s been an intro by a geologist and environmental consultant, and commentary on Chapter 1.

Look for the new chapters each Sunday! And keep a special eye out on August 2 … you might be familiar with one of the authors … she may or may not write a Catholic baby names blog … 😉

Reading round-up

Swistle posted an update today to a fun dilemma that could easily have fit in here: Baby Boy or Girl Seewald-without-the-S, Sibling to Urban, Charles, Levi, and Matthias. Those are some great Catholicky names! I especially like how there are the more unusual, like Urban, Levi, and Matthias, right alongside the more common, like Charles and new baby Thomas. That’s Catholic naming for you — all part of one big family. 🙂

I liked this article over on The Power of Names. Totally agree with this: “But I find it a daunting prospect each time, to name another person. To shape the beginning of identity by vowel and consonant. To help mold their life by the meaning of what they are called.” But totally disagree with this: “Sometimes I wish the perfect name would be dropped in our laps, so we wouldn’t have to worry about choosing the right one.” (Um, no. The list-making and sometimes-heated “discussions” and worrying that the baby will never have a name are some of my favorite parts of choosing a name. For real.) I also love considering that “Mary and Joseph probably had their own pet names for their young son.” That’s a mind blower.

Then there’s this article, from Pamela Redmond Satran: The Pope, My Catholic Girlhood, and Baby Names. Some fun points, like: “Nuns got to pick new names for themselves when they entered the convent. That itself was appealing enough, but what was really amazing was that their choices were not confined by ethnic background, historical period, or even gender,” but in general a sad bummer of an article:

  • “I couldn’t wait to hear who the new pope was going to be, not because I’m a practicing Catholic any longer or because I cared which Cardinal got elected. No. As usual, I was in it for the name”
  • “… sites as Catholic Online, Which sends out a Saint of the Day newsletter that I get for — what else? — the names”
  • “What was most appealing about Catholicism was the ritual of renaming, which extended far beyond the nuns to include pagan babies, popes, and even yourself … The only thing more exciting than naming the pagan babies was getting to pick our own Confirmation names. Not strictly a renaming, this meant adding a second middle to our own lineups. My choice, I’m chagrined to admit, was the pedestrian Mary, but for very name nerdish reasons: Combined with Pamela Ann, it made my initials P.A.M. Brilliant!”

I’m pretty sure we all here get the excitement she’s talking about when she swoons over Sr. Miriam Gervase’s and Sr. Jacinta’s names, but please, Catholic namers, be in it for more than the name. As Jen commented over on our FB page, “There’s more to a saint than just his/her name. But I thought everyone knew that.” Amen sister.