New names for Brothers of two religious orders, and a question about religious name changes

Good morning! Happy Friday!!

I read on Facebook and Instagram yesterday the announcement by the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph of the upcoming Simple Profession of six Brothers on the feast of the Assumption. They listed them by name, and asked for prayers for them:

Br. Samuel Macarias
Br. Robert John Henry
Br. Leo Rocco Maria
Br. William Pius Mary
Br. Peter Micah Mary
Br. Daniel Raphael Mary

Of course, you know I’m so interested in their names — it seems clear that there are is least some partial taking-on of new names, but the middle name(s) seem the most obvious examples — are the first names new too? You know I love seeing Mary and Maria in there!

On the same topic, just the other day one of you readers, Mary, who has often sent me interesting name tidbits over the years, sent me a link to a podcast episode by the Servants of Christ Jesus (a community of priests and brothers “committed to advancing the new evangelization through the praise, reverence and service of God, our Lord … inspired to live the Gospel through the evangelical poverty of St. Francis of Assisi and the apostolic formation of St. Ignatius Loyola”) on the topic of religious name changes! In their community, each priest or brother is given a new name, which is composed of the name of an apostle and the last name of an Ignatian saint. The men listed on their web site have these names:

Fr. John Ignatius
Fr. Paul Kostka
Fr. James Claver
Br. Thomas Gonzaga
Br. Peter Xavier
Br. Andrew Brébeuf

The podcast was a discussion between the host and Br. Thomas Gonzaga and Br. Peter Xavier on religious name changes in general, and specifically in their community, and specifically to each of them individually. I listened to it this morning, and wrote down several things:

  • Br. Peter Xavier says ZAY-vyer, not k-SAY-vyer (ex-ZAY-vyer, ig-ZAY-vyer)
  • Religious name changes are “one of those curious aspects of Catholic religious life”
  • In Catholicism, there is “always a physical sign that symbolizes an interior reality”
  • Name changes are a way of “leaving behind the old man and putting on the new man,” as St. Paul says in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4
  • They have a small community, so it hasn’t yet been a problem that there are only thirteen apostles’ names to choose from (the original twelve, minus Judas, plus Matthias and Paul); they thought if they run out of apostles’ names they’ll go to other New Testament names, then Old Testament names, but not sure what happens after this. Naming in this way is their tradition, but they’re not bound by it, and their Superior will ultimately decide
  • When it comes time for them to receive their new name, their Superior proposes a name option that he thinks would be fitting, then he asks the man to bring it to prayer to discern it. “There’s always a discernment process after the offer” of a name
  • Each of the Brothers told the stories behind their new names — so interesting, and so personal! They both felt that Jesus showed them both at least part of their new names, if not the entire thing, before they were proposed
  • They both felt that, though they’re given the opportunity to discern the new name, they both had a sense of “trusting and obedience to the Superior’s will”
  • The new name provides them the constant opportunity to “willfully recall that Jesus has renamed me”
  • Fast food places are the hardest places to give their religious names!
  • Their legal names are still their baptismal names, which makes things like traveling and visiting the doctor somewhat complicated
  • There is a lot of emotion surrounding their new names on the part of family and friends, and especially parents. One said he feels “so loved” when he sees his family and friends stretch themselves to remember to use his religious name. To him, it’s a sign that they want to respect what Jesus has done in their lives, it’s a way of showing respect and honor for the Lord. Taking on a new name is not a way of trying to distance themselves from their family, but a way of trying to get closer to Jesus. “I want to identify myself with what Jesus has declared”; “Detachment is never easy, especially when it’s such a good in your life”
  • A new name provides the “grace of greater intimacy with Jesus”
  • Some communities allow the candidates to submit name options, but they both like the process in their community of accepting a name given to them by their Superior. Since Jesus gave them their new names, they feel Jesus’ love in their new names
  • “There’s so much hidden in a name”

These are just the things that jumped out at me — there’s lots more for you to discover, and I know you’d love to hear about each of their particular name story! You can find the podcast on their site, or on iTunes.

Finally, one of you tagged me in a tweet from Fr. Thomas Petri, OP (OP means “Order of Preachers,” which is the Dominicans), in which he said,

A friend’s daughter just had her 1st baby (my friend is now a grandfather). The baby is named Quinn Louis after St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Louis Bertrand. I have to admit that Quinn for Aquinas is very creative and now I’m wondering whether that could be used as a religious name.”

I do love Quinn Louis for St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Louis Bertrand! While I’m sure the question was meant lightheartedly, being the crazy Catholic name lady I am, I’d be interested to know if Quinn for Aquinas would be considered okay for a religious name change. My sense is no? That’s it’s a bit too informal/not etymologically related/not obvious enough? Do any of you know?

Have a great day and weekend!


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!

Names of some of Bl. Solanus’ confreres

I posted recently about the names of Bl. Solanus’ siblings, as included in the biography of him I was reading; today I want to share some of the names of his fellow priests and brothers. We don’t hear about religious name changes for men as much as we do for women, so I’m always excited to discover priests and brothers who have taken (or been given) new names! These are some that were included in Bl. Solanus’ life story (last names included if they were in the book):

Fr. Cajetan (this is up there with Joachim as one of my favorite unusual Catholic names)
Fr. Benno Aichinger (I believe this is related to Bernard; there are a couple saints by this name)
Fr. Innocent Ferstler (I think this is such a sweet name for a man; also a papal name)
Fr. Marion Roessler (I know this is not that unusual for men — it’s John Wayne’s given name)
Bishop Frederick Xavier Katz (an F.X. that isn’t what I’d assume!)
Fr. Bonaventure Frey (one of Bl. Solanus’ brothers had Bonaventure as a middle name)
Fr. Damasus Wickland (Damasus is related to Damian, and was the name of a pope!)

I don’t know for sure if they were all religious names — it’s possible some of them were given names — but their weightiness made them seem more likely to be religious names.

I’m also fascinated by Bishop Frederick Xavier Katz! I’ve long held the belief that separating Francis and Xavier is a more recent innovation, simply based on what I’ve seen of older records and newer naming conventions. My own grandfather’s name was David Xavier, and since his dad was Francis and his brother was Francis, I’d come up with the (totally unsubstantiated) theory that his dad must have been Francis Xavier, and had given his first name to his son Francis, and his middle name to his son David. (We have no records to confirm this — my great-grandfather and great-uncle don’t have their middle names listed in the census records I’ve seen). Bl. Solanus’ dad did something similar: his name was Bernard James, and he named one son James and another Bernard (Fr. Solanus).

And absolutely I’d be 100% certain that anyone with the initials F.X. was Francis Xavier! But then, Bishop Frederick Xavier Katz! Wow! Do any of you have any insights about Xavier being paired with names other than Francis?


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!

Spotlight: Callixtus

I really wanted to post a name spotlight today, and could not for the life of me think of a name to spotlight! I have a running list of names I’d like to feature, but I can’t put my hand on it at the moment (and if any of you are waiting for one that I’ve promised, maybe shoot me an email to remind me! So sorry!). So I asked my oldest, who I had to pick up early from school because he wasn’t feeling well, what some of his favorite names are, and was surprised that Callixtus was in the mix! So that’s today’s name!

My son was like, “I’m not sure you’ve heard of this name,” and I was like, “Do you even know me, boy?!”, but beyond being a collector of Catholic names (although I admit I’ve been surprised a time or two by new-to-me names), I knew a friar/professor in college with the variant Callistus (his religious name), and I’ve actually given it some thought, mostly because of the nickname Cal, which I love (the friar went by Fr. Cal).

Behind the Name gives Callixtus as a variant of Callistus, “the spelling perhaps influenced by Latin calix ‘wine cup.'” Callistus is from the Greek Kallistos, meaning “most beautiful,” and the feminine name Callista is from the same. I just said to my son, “Callixtus is from the Greek for ‘most beautiful'” and he said, “Oh! I thought it came from ‘chalice.'” What a smartie! Our “chalice” comes from “calix,” so he really did know more about the name than I did!

There are a bunch of Sts. Callistus, including two Popes (Pope St. Callistus I and Pope St. Callistus II), and funny enough, when I searched CatholicSaints.info for Callixtus, only Pope St. Callistus I comes up — he’s got an interesting story. I kind of like the X spelling — X is a hot letter right now, and I really do like the connection to “chalice.” I also looked up Calix because I thought I’d remembered seeing that name on a child before, and it does seem to be mostly given as a short form of Callixtus, though a calyx is also the “chalice-shaped” part of a flower. I’m loving all these connections to the chalice! Callixtus is such a meaningful name!

What do you think of Callixtus (or Callistus)? Would you name a boy so, or have you? What nickname would you tend toward (Cal or Calix), or would you use a different one?

September CatholicMom column up! And research for my next one

My September column at CatholicMom posted today: Honoring St. Rita!

In the novena to St. Rita I frequently say (almost exactly the same as this one), there’s a part that says, “We promise, if our petition is granted, to glorify, thee by making known thy favor, to bless and sing thy praises forever.” This article (informed by this post) is my little way of trying to do that.

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Additionally, last month I wrote about religious name changes for women, and I’d love to do a similar one for men. I’ve written about some here, here, here, and here, and I’d love to know what you all know about this practice. Do you know any brothers or priests who changed their names? Can you share any information about the process of choosing or receiving a new name? Thanks for your help!

Talking about religious name changes for women at CatholicMom

My August column at CatholicMom.com posted today! Religious Name Changes for Women.

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It was such a fun piece to pull together! I drew from the content and comments of these posts here, here, and here when writing it, and I have a few more posts on the topic of religious name changes if you want to read more, which you can find by clicking the Religious name change link under “Tags” in the sidebar. If you have any stories or info to add, please do so in the comments! I love finding out these beautiful traditions of our faith, and how they differ from Order to Order.

The legality of Confirmation names, and going by a different name than your legal name

I was going through some paperwork of my father-in-law’s yesterday and found the court order legally changing his last name from the consonant-heavy surname his father brought with him from Poland to an English surname that shares enough sounds with the original Polish surname to make sense of the change. Though my FIL died when my husband was small, we’ve always known that he and his siblings legally changed their surname, so that wasn’t a surprise — but what was a surprise was that, in the documents, I read that my FIL had been using this new English surname his whole life. He’d been registered under it in school and had it on his high school diploma, and according to the document, “All records of employment, registration under the Selective Service Act, and voting records” had already, always, been under the new English surname, despite the fact that he didn’t apply for the legal change until he was 25. So interesting, right?!

One question that my husband and I have had that wasn’t answered by this document, though, is when and how he took his Confirmation name as his legal middle name (he hadn’t been given a middle name at birth). This document has his full name as including the Confirmation-as-middle, but no mention of making it so legally, so I assume it had already been done. Or not? Maybe it didn’t need to be? This was back in the 50’s, and also, even now, in New York State anyway (which is where I am and where my FIL lived his whole life), you can go by any name you want without getting a legal name change. According to the New York State Unified Court System,

In New York State, you have the right to adopt any name you wish by using that name for everything in your life. This does not apply to children or prison inmates. But, it may be better to legally change your name because most government agencies will not accept your name change without a court order.

You can ask the court to legally change the name you were given at birth, adoption or marriage.”

And indeed, in my FIL’s application for legal name change, he wrote that having his surname legally changed to the surname he’d always used “will prevent confusion and possible legal difficulties for me in the future.” So I wonder if his usage of his Confirmation name as his middle name was just one of those things — he just started using it, and that was fine, and no one bothered about it, and it became so established as his middle name (or it was such a common practice for people to do that kind of thing) that he didn’t even feel the need to explicitly mention it in his application for his surname change? (In preparing to write this post this morning, I re-read this article I’d written for CatholicMom on middle names — I found it so interesting all over again! Haha!)

Anyway, that reminded me of something I read recently about Confirmation names actually having usage in real life that I’d wanted to share with you. This is from the Christian Names entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) on New Advent:

The practice of adopting a new name was not limited to baptism. Many medieval examples show that any notable change of condition, especially in the spiritual order, was often accompanied by the reception of a new name. In the eighth century the two Englishmen, Winfrith and Willibald, going on different occasions to Rome received from the reigning pontiff, along with a new commission to preach, the names respectively of Boniface and Clement. So again Emma of Normandy, when she married King Ethelred in 1002, took the name Ælfgifu; while, of course, the reception of a new name upon entering a religious order is almost universal even in our day. It is not strange, then, that at confirmation, in which the interposition of a godfather emphasizes the resemblance with baptism, it should have become customary to take a new name, though usually no great use is made of it. In one case, however, that of Henry III, King of France — who being the godson of our English Edward VI had been christened Edouard Alexandre in 1551 — the same French prince at confirmation received the name of Henri, and by this he afterwards reigned. Even in England the practice of adopting a new name at confirmation was remembered after the Reformation, for Sir Edward Coke declares that a man might validly buy land by his confirmation name, and he recalls the case of a Sir Francis Gawdye, late Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, whose name of baptism was Thomas and his name of confirmation Francis (Co. Litt. 3a).”

I’d never heard a story like that about Confirmation names before!

You know I’m always interested in hearing personal, real-life, interesting name stories, so feel free to share!

Religious names: One community’s tradition

You guys. Three of my boys had the amazing opportunity to be part of a week-long Vacation Bible School with two of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville), finishing up today. I can’t even. It was so amazing. Not least because my boys LOVED it, and they started out not loving the idea of having to go to school in the summertime. But mostly because the Sisters were awesome. I know a lot of you have the opportunity to be around Sisters, but we don’t, and this week has just been such a gift. Check out a photo here.

But! What I really wanted to write about was their names! The Sisters we had this week are Sr. Mary Celeste and Sr. Vincent Marie, and I was dying all week to ask them about how they chose their names. Joy of joys, today they let the kids ask any question they wanted, and one of them asked about their names, and they shared that, in their community, on the day of their profession they receive their habit and their new name. They can give three ideas to Mother Superior of names they might like, and she might choose one of them, or she might choose a totally different one. I was so interested by that! I just assumed you got to choose your own!

I would have loved to have chatted with the Sisters about their particular names, but alas, we all wanted to be with them every second, and there’s only so much of them to go around and so many minutes in a day, so I didn’t have the opportunity. I know there are some of you here who have contemplated religious life, even having spent time in the convent as a postulant and/or novice — please tell us about the name traditions you’re familiar with! And please pray for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia!

Naming after women

I spent a few minutes in the Baby Name Wizard discussion forums this morning as I ate my breakfast, and saw a comment containing a sentiment that I see with some regularity over there and that kind of irks me every time I see it:

I think it’s totally lovely to honor a mother with a name for a change (I know lots of men who name their sons after themselves, either as juniors outright or using variant forms or middle names, but very few women who do so).”

I don’t even disagree with the comment! I know it’s more common for a dad to have a son named after himself than for a mom to have a daughter named after herself. And the commenter herself is one I highly respect, as her thoughts are *always* well balanced and fair. But I feel testy and defensive when I see things like “honor a mother with a name for a change” and “lots of men who name their sons after themselves” — probably because I feel like it’s a tentacle of a whole “down with the patriarchy!” thought process that usually includes the “old men in white hats in Rome.” Blah.

Anyway, my contrarian Rome-loving self immediately thought of lots of examples, old and new, of people (babies and olders) being named after women. My mom, for one example, was half named for her mom (I saw “half” because her mom’s name was Anne, and my grandfather wanted to name my mom Anne — imagine that! A man! Wanting to name his baby girl after his beloved wife! But my grandmother wanted to name her one of the names-of-the-day: Susan. So they compromised with Susanne). My sister has my mom’s name as one of her middle names. My paternal grandfather was given his mom’s maiden name as a first name. Before I had so many boys, I’d always planned to work one or more elements of my name into one or more of my daughters’ names.

Moving farther afield from moms naming daughters after themselves, my youngest son’s first name is for my mother-in-law and his middle name for my mom. Julianamama shared that she knows a dad with a great devotion to St. Margaret who named his son Garrett after her! (I died when I read that! Brilliant!)

I’ve done two posts (On my bookshelf: A Dictionary of English Surnames and Girl names turned surnames) highlighting how various surnames are originally metronymics (identifying a person by his or her mother), or diminutives of female first names that became surnames, or perhaps arising from religious devotion to a female saint — like Marriot (from Mary), Ebbetts (from Isabel), Scollas (from Scholastica, specifically for St. Scholastica, according to Reaney & Wilson), and Emmett (from Emma). All of these would be fine and interesting for a child to be named, and they’re all feminine in origin (even if the parents don’t realize it or it wasn’t their intent). And I did a couple posts on current men religious who took their Mother Mary’s name as part of their new religious names: Eleven new Dominican priests and Men Who Love Mary: MFVA (a whole Order of men who take Mary as part of their new name! And one had Therese as well!), never mind all the male saints with Mary in their names: St. Clement Mary/Maria Hofbauer (depending on what you’re reading), St. Maximilian Mary/Maria Kolbe, St. Anthony Mary Claret, St. Jean Marie Vianney, St. Josemaria Escriva … who else?

I’d love to know what stories you all have of moms naming their daughters or sons after themselves or similar family stories, and whether you know any Brothers or Priests with female saints’ names, or boys who have taken a female saint’s name for a Confirmation name. It’s not all oppression, people. (I’m done ranting now. 🙂 )