Out with the old (temporarily), in with the new

Happy Thursday everyone! There are some changes happening here at Sancta Nomina, which I’m excited about!

First: Starting today I’m going on hiatus from baby name consultations until probably around Christmas — some things are happening in my family (all good!) that I need to be able to focus on for the rest of the summer and through the fall, but I think things should even out by Christmas. That said, I won’t be off the blog entirely — I hope to use these next few months to clean up the blog a little (update old links and other housekeeping) and finally get some posts written from my list of topics that keeps growing and growing, and I’m always happy and eager to receive your birth announcements! I’ll still be posting those on the blog with parents’ permission (and as always, if you prefer to keep our email correspondences private, that’s totally fine!).

Second: Those of you who would like baby naming help will still be able to receive it! I’m happy to announce that longtime reader, Catholic mama, and baby namer extraordinaire Theresa Zoe Williams will be offering baby name consultations through Sancta Nomina! Theresa has told us about herself and her naming sensibility in the guest posts she’s written here over the last few months, and here she introduces herself as a our new baby name consultant:

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The New Baby Namer In Town

I have been naming things since the moment I could speak –– stuffed animals, pets, cars, characters in my stories, and even three children of my own (you can read about their names here and here). All of my children and pets have two middle names (the dog is Jackson Coakley Francis and goes by Jack) because I have two middle names (my parents wanted to honor both sides of their family while still using their favorite saint’s name). As part of a family tradition, I also took on my Confirmation name as part of my legal name, which is where the Zoe comes from. I have always been interested in finding creative ways to honor the people in my life, like my oldest daughter’s name being both my and my mother’s birthstone, giving each child a unique name but one grounded in their history. Kate has even called my style of naming spunky but grounded! Naming, for me, has always carried the weight of the sacred and it is a unique way to enter into the life of the Creator. I am pleased to announce that I will now also be offering baby name consultations to the public.

Just as I have experience naming things and people in my own life, I do come with experience of helping to name other people, too. The first time occurred almost four years ago. A woman I was acquainted with asked a group of Catholic moms that I was a part of for help in naming her third child, a boy. She set out all of her parameters and offered a gift card to the person who suggested the name they ended up choosing. The most important criterion was that the name had to be connected to the Passion in some way. We all had at it. I rattled off a couple suggestions but then one name hit me like a ton of bricks. I researched the name to make sure my perceptions of it were correct and then suggested it. Tristan means “sorrowful”, was not on their “couldn’t use” list, went well with another name they liked for a good first-middle combo, and wasn’t too popular nor weird. The woman and her husband loved it! They named their baby Tristan Oliver and I was awarded a $15 Starbucks gift card.

As far as naming goes, I tend to go off of my gut instinct and do research to back that up. I also look for creative and out of the box ways to meet criteria given by the parents. To practice, I asked a group of women if they would allow me to try to guess their naming styles. They gave me sibling names and maybe another detail or two about what they look for in a name and I would rattle off six to twelve guesses or suggestions. Many of them exclaimed that I had correctly guessed some names on their lists and many of those women also said that I’d given them more names to add to their lists!

Helping families find meaningful names they love for their children is a passion of mine and I’m so honored to help anyone I can. To kick off my tenure as the new baby naming consultant in town, I’m offering my first three consultations for free, provided you are okay with me posting the consultation on the blog. This offer is good for regular and mini consultations. Logistically, I will be offering the same two types of consultations Kate does and for the same prices. To get a consultation from me, you can email me directly at TheresaZoeWrites@gmail.com. Thank you for welcoming me into the family!

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“Naming, for me, has always carried the weight of the sacred and it is a unique way to enter into the life of the Creator” — isn’t that beautiful?! Theresa has such a great understanding of the awesome responsibility that parents have in naming — I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for you and your babies! As she noted, you can email her directly to request a consultation, and any requests that come to me will be forwarded on to her as well. Hurry to secure your place as one of her first three FREE consultations! The free consultations will be posted on the blog in order that you can get a feel for Theresa’s style and expertise. (I still have a few to post, so Theresa’s won’t post until July.)

If you’re not one of the first three free clients, you can use the Sancta Nomina PayPal buttons to pay for your consultation — the Mini is still $25 and the Ordinary is still $50, however the buy-my-book-and-get-a-discounted-consultation deal that I’ve been offering will be suspended until I return to consultations.

I know you will all be as gracious and lovely to Theresa as you have been with me all these years! And even though I have put an automatic away message on my email, I’ll still be checking email regularly and will reply to your non-consultation emails when I can.

Have a great rest of the week!


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Expectation vs. Reality When Naming Children

Theresa Zoe Williams wrote a guest post for Sancta Nomina back in January, and I’m happy to share another piece by her! Theresa is a longtime member of the Sancta Nomina community and mother to three amazingly named children (read about her older two here, and the birth announcement for her youngest here). She is a freelance writer whose work can be found online at EpicPewCatholicSingles, and Where Peter Is, as well as at her personal blog Theresa Zoe Williams. Theresa has also contributed to the books The Catholic Hipster Handbook: The Next Level and Epic Saints: Wild, Wonderful, and Weird Stories of God’s Heroes. She hosts the comedy podcast Up Too Late and is writing her own book on fairytale princesses and virtue. Find her on Twitter @TheresaZoe

I have loved names since I was a little girl and named everything I could –– pets, stuffed animals and dolls, characters in my stories, our family’s vehicles, future children. Names meant possibilities and I loved all of the combinations, meanings, and styles. Suffice it to say, by the time I married, I had a long list of names and name combinations for our future children. Some names on this list were ones I loved on my own, like Chiara, Lux, Milo, Carmine, and Basil, and some were ones my now-husband, Jess, and I liked mutually, like Irrianna, Patrick, and Jack. Jess didn’t have nearly the history of loving names like I did but that doesn’t stop him from being opinionated! Even though I had a long list of personal favorites, none of these names ended up being the names of our three children, Ruby, Peter, and Penny.

Peter was an easy choice for us. We had both always liked the name Peter and so we knew that would be our first boy’s. His middle names, Leon and Gerard, are names of our fathers, so again, an easy choice. We never did agree on a second boy’s name, though. Girls’ names were much harder for us. When we were pregnant with Ruby, before we knew if she was a boy or a girl, we had two competing girl names: Ruby Mae Anastasia and Chiara Lucy Jeannette.

I am part Italian and I always wanted to give my children beautiful, flowy Italian names. I first heard Chiara when I was studying abroad in college and fell in love immediately. I later learned of Bl. Chiara Luce Badano and fell in love with her, so Chiara Lucy was my homage to my Italian heritage and to this beloved holy teen. Jeannette is the name of my mother who passed away before I met Jess. So, altogether, that name carried a lot of weight and meaning for me.

 Ruby and Mae were names I had once offhandedly said I liked and my husband fell in love! I reminded him that we agreed the children would all have two middle names like me (I was given two at birth and now legally have three, as I added my Confirmation name as another). Without hesitation, Jess said, “Ruby Mae Anastasia,” Anastasia being a name he liked and the Confirmation name of one of his sisters. It didn’t seem, at first, like this name had as much weight for us and, initially, I rebelled against using it for our first daughter. But it just wouldn’t leave us alone and we finally agreed that Ruby should be her name. We later discovered how rich in meaning for us Ruby Mae Anastasia really is and then it was clear why that was to be our daughter’s name. Our second daughter’s name, Penny Annalise Mariae, was less of a tribulation to choose, but was a whole different journey.

Both stories of my daughters’ names illustrate how different expectation versus reality really can be. Ruby and Penny are neither Italian nor flowy and nowhere near the spectrum of names I considered previously! And I have been sad that I’ve needed to pass on Chiara twice now, but that doesn’t negate how wonderful I think my children’s names are and how perfectly they fit them. If I had full reign over naming my children, they’d be named Chiara, Peter, Milo, Liliana, Sofia, Basil, and someone would have had the middle name Giuseppe. As wonderful as those names would be, they would represent only part of each child’s family and history. My personal naming style can probably be called “heavy-handed Italian” but when you add my husband and his family history and style into the mix, we come out as “grounded but spunky.” My proclivity for off-the-beaten path names with my husband’s for familiar but not overused names combine together to make this new, cool style that’s completely us.

Us. That’s really the long and short of it. Having children is an “us” endeavor and a beautiful sign of the inner reality of two lives becoming one. The names of our children should reflect that, also! There are all sorts of ways to do this, including finding ways to combine your styles (like we did), compromising (one style for first names and another for middle names, for instance), picking the names of favorite saints regardless of style, or asking for outside help (Sancta Nomina is fantastic at bridging styles and finding names with deep meanings for families!).

Do you and your spouse have this problem? How do you solve it? Are there any names you wanted to use but then didn’t for your children?

Copyright 2021 Theresa Zoe Williams

Will Giving My Child a “Sorrowful” Name Mean She’ll Grow Up in Sorrow?

I’m excited to share Sancta Nomina’s first ever Guest Post! Please welcome Theresa Zoe Williams, a longtime member of the Sancta Nomina community and mother to three amazingly named children (read about her older two here, and the birth announcement for her youngest here). Theresa is a freelance writer whose work can be found online at EpicPew, CatholicSingles, and Where Peter Is, as well as at her Patheos blog Contemplatio Culture and her personal blog Principessa Meets World. Theresa has also contributed to the books The Catholic Hipster Handbook: The Next Level and Epic Saints: Wild, Wonderful, and Weird Stories of God’s Heroes. Follow her on Twitter @TheresaZoe 

My oldest child’s name is Ruby Mae Anastasia. Even though there is a saint Anastasia, since Ruby’s name doesn’t easily evoke a particular saint or patronage, my husband and I decided to choose someone for her, independent of her name. When I said I wanted Our Lady of Sorrows to be her patroness, my husband’s response was, “But I don’t want our daughter to grow up sad and emo.” I insisted that Our Lady of Sorrows really had nothing to do with being sad or depressed, and, also, there were so many signs and connections to this title of Mary for us including my own devotion to her, Ruby’s initial due date being her feast day, and my beloved Gram’s death date on her feast day (there is more and it’s detailed in the name story Kate posted of my kids’ names). Through these things and a lot of prayer, I convinced my husband Our Lady of Sorrows was to be Ruby’s patroness and then consecrated my unborn daughter to her.

While there are many words that describe my now eight year old Ruby (feisty, determined, and compassionate come to mind), sad, depressed, and emo are not among them. Was my husband’s fear unfounded, though? Probably. While there are plenty of people without this patronage that live lives of great sorrow, there are certainly also people under this patronage who have lived sad lives. My great-grandmother, Mary Dolores (whose name means “bitterness and sorrow” and is a common way to honor Mary under her title of Our Lady of Sorrows), certainly had a life punctuated by great sorrow.

Mary’s life took a sad turn almost from the get-go. Her mother, Annunziata, died when Mary was about ten years old. Mary and her two surviving younger siblings, Minnie and William, were then sent to an orphanage to be taken care of while their father, Pasquale, an immigrant, worked. Sadly, William and Minnie died in the orphanage. Mary was sent back to her father and they were then inseparable until his death. But that time in the orphanage and of losing most of her family affected her for the rest of her life. Family –– and the sacrifices you make for them –– were always her first priority.

Once married, Mary and her husband Lewis (Luigi) had six living children but they also lost two daughters, Eleanor and Beatrice, before their first birthdays (and possibly a third child was stillborn). Later in life, when Lewis was out of work, Mary took a job unloading railroad freight trains. It was hard physical labor and it kept Mary from Lewis several days each week, but she never complained. She always thanked God for being good to her and leading her to a job that could support her family.

Interestingly, as an adult, Mary’s parish happened to be Seven Dolors and she, Lewis, most of their children, and many of their grandchildren are all buried there (my mom, though part of this family by marriage, is also buried there and my dad will someday be buried there, too).

This, I think, perfectly illustrates who Our Lady of Sorrows is and a Catholic view of sorrow. It is hope, instead of despair, in the face of tragedy. It is fortitude in the face of upset and chaos. It is trust in the midst of darkness. And it is gratitude in the midst of hardship. When you look at it this way, naming a child for this title of Mary or in connection to the Paschal Mystery (like my great-great-grandfather Pasquale) is a fantastic way to set your child up for a solid, and even joyful, Catholic life. There is something strengthening in having such a connection to the deepest mysteries and wonders of our Catholic faith, the darkest parts and the most life-giving parts, that undergirds a person’s life in a powerful and invigorating way.

So, will naming your child something connected to sorrow doom her or him to a life of sorrow? Not at all! Just as the name Mary may mean “bitterness” yet we have no problem naming our daughters Mary and do not fear that they will be bitter, so we shouldn’t fear names connected to sorrow. While the meaning of a name can give depth to a person’s life, it is not the only source of identity for the person. Why you choose a name is even more important than the meaning of the name! There are even more reasons why we choose names and these are what give our children breadth and depth of connection and meaning, not only the literal meaning of his or her name.

Here are a few of my favorite names with meanings connected to sorrow: Tristan, Brennan, Lola, and Deirdre.

What do you think? Would you give your child a name connected to sorrow? Why or why not?

Copyright 2021 Theresa Zoe Williams