Choosing a name for one’s child is an awesome responsibility. As the Catechism explains, “Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.” (No. 2158)
When we present our children for baptism, the minister of the sacrament will ask the name we give the child. This is not an insignificant part of the rite. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, explained on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in 2011 that, “Not by chance, in fact, does every baptized person acquire the character of son, based on the Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit gives birth to man ‘anew’ from the womb of the Church.”
Though we are not required to choose from a specific list of names, merely to make sure that the name is not foreign to a Christian sensibility (Canon 855), many Catholic parents look to the saints and blesseds for inspiration when choosing a name.
Naming my children
My grandfather, Thomas Francis, was born on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Dec. 3. I always thought it was cool that his name carried part of the saint celebrated on his birthday. Nearly a century later, when it came time to name my son, my husband’s family already had a middle name tradition – a shared one between grandfather/father/son – so I agreed to continue it. After all, these men, while not canonized, were examples of a lived faith. After going back and forth for weeks about my son’s first name, we landed on Nathanael. Six days after his due date, wouldn’t you know it, he just happened to be born on the feast of St. Nathanael.
Our second, Eleanor Grace, who goes by Grace, was born on my late grandmother’s (Eleanor) birthday and the Feast of the Coronation of Mary. At her coronation, the Holy Spirit proclaimed: “Grace shall be diffused in thy lips for obtaining all that thou wishest and ordainest in heaven and on earth, and everywhere shall angels and men obey thee; because whatever is ours shall be thine, just as thou hast always been ours; and thou shalt reign with us forever.” (from “The Woman in Orbit” and “The City of God, The Coronation”)
When our third and fourth were born, we realized a feast day name was officially a “thing” in our family, and committed to just looking at the Roman Calendar whenever one of our children came into the world. Virginia came on the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, and Philippa joined us on the feast of Ss. Philip and James.
Pope Francis reminds us, “Without a name, we remain unknown, without rights and duties. God calls each one of us by name, loving us individually in the concreteness of our history.” (April 18, 2018, during his weekly general audience.)
All you holy men and women for whom we name our children, Ora Pro Nobis.
What’s In a Name?
The members of the Milwaukee Catholic Mamas group shared their own children’s saint-inspired monikers.
We love giving witness to the gift we are given in the communion of saints. Not lesser known, per se, but our two youngest boys are Theodore Fulton (St. Theodore, as our sweet boy was a clear gift from God on the other side of the years of darkness and debility following my illness with meningitis), and Fulton after Ven. Fulton Sheen (we have been so blessed by the wisdom of Sheen and felt the world needed more wise, witty and thought-provoking witnesses for Christ, unafraid to boldly speak truth and love into the darkness of this world) and an Augustine Joseph — after St. Augustine, who God has shone mercifully through into our life, and St. Joseph, as my husband has great devotion to him. It was the year of St. Joseph, and I was born on his feast day.
We actually learned this from our priest at baptism. My daughter’s name is Thea, and we were told there is also a St. Thea Bowman.
Benedict Joseph Augustine
Benedict because of St. Benedict’s reputation as a strong intercessor in exorcisms/protection against the devil. With all the craziness in this world, we wanted that strong connection.
Augustine because he was conceived on the feast of St. Augustine and I’ve always had a strong devotion to St. Monica.
Joseph was really because of my husband’s relationship with his grandmother, Josephine, but it’s an added bonus that St. Joseph is the foster father of Jesus.
Maximilian Kolbe Machi
We named him after our deep love of St. Maximilian Kolbe after being consecrated to Mary doing 33 Days of Morning Glory. He is our all-time favorite saint for his deep love to our Mother Mary.
My daughter Rosalie, age 15 months, is named after St. Rosalia. St. Rosalia is one of the patron saints invoked during COVID-19, particularly in her hometown of Palermo, Italy.
Shelley Freng Burnett
Our Gabriella Marian was born on the Annunciation. It was between Gabriella and Emily, and when she was born on that day, we knew what the name had to be. Also Marian is after my grandmother. It was planned ahead of time, but so fitting given the date.
I feel like mine are all “known” saints, but we have special stories for each one, Gianna Dominic Maria and StellaMarie.
Carrie Bischel Jensen
Our youngest two are Kolbe Nicholas and Kateri Philomena. They are now 13 and 11 years, respectively. Kolbe was named after the great Polish saint and Nicholas for the patron saint of children. Kateri was born 18 months before St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized but we had already fallen in love with her and her courageous witness in the midst of great adversity and pressure to conform. Our then 11 year-old son chose her middle name. Our family had just listened to a CD about St. Philomena and were amazed at how her powerful story had stayed hidden for so many years, and then an explosion of miracles occurred once she was made known. We were also moved at how St. Damian of Molokai had named the first church on Molokai after her.
Josephine Eileen was named after St. Josephine Bakhita. But we were doubly swayed to name her Josephine because she was born during the year of St. Joseph.
We have a Blaise. St. Blaise is well-known, but the name is not that popular for little kids. Yet. My husband saw the name of an alum from his Jesuit high school while I was pregnant, and we both loved the name, and then we realized my husband’s mom had died (when he was 12) on the feast of St. Blaise, so it was decided.
Jessica Robinson Geurts
We named our little Zelie Marie after Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux. We were able to visit Lisieux during a pilgrimage before we had kids and fell in love with St. Therese and her parents. Zelie and Louis Martin are relatable saints who were faithful lay people, spouses and parents. They are remarkable in that they endured the loss of several children, and their surviving five daughters became religious sisters, including one saint (so far). Zelie is a beautiful yet currently uncommon name and a good saintly role model, so that’s what we named our fifth daughter.
Pio, named after my husband’s grandfather.
Monica Wigchers O’Brien
My daughter is Gemma Grace after St. Gemma of Galgani. My daughters and I all look like the saint, too.
I’ve always liked the name Bridget/Brigid, so I scheduled my planned C-section on Feb. 1, St. Brigid of Ireland’s feast day.
We named our daughter Vibiana after St. Vibiana. There are two early Christian martyrs named St. Vibiana, but our daughter is named after the one who resides in the cathedral in Los Angeles. Her body was found in the catacombs in Rome and sent to Los Angeles, where she became the patroness of that city. Both towns (LA and Rome) have significance for my husband and I, so it seemed like a fitting name for our daughter.
All of our children have a saint name or religious name, but the one specifically named for a saint is our third, Abbe. Her name was chosen for Aebbe (the Elder) of Coldingham. She was daughter of the King of England and converted to Christianity while in exile in Scotland. She was the abbess of a monastery to both monks and nuns. Her feast day is Aug. 25, which was my due date.
My older son is Benedict Augustine (two of our favorite saints) and my younger is Edmund Felix, named after St. Edmund Campion, an English martyr. I liked the name Felix, plus bonus points that it’s a saint name.
Parent of multiple kids
Adeline Caeli (regina caeli) is our most unique of the kids. We also have a feminized St. Michael: Amelia Michaela.
My daughter is Lucille, patron saint of eyes and light. She was named after her grandmother. Her middle name is Regina (“Queen of Heaven”), which is after her great grandmother. Our boys are Noah and Gabriel.
Kathleen Jurkiewicz Kirchner
Anastasia. I saw the name as a little girl in a book and fell in love, and then as I heard the Roman Canon prayed as I got older, I learned more about St. Anastasia. We struggled with mental issues and secondary infertility and a very difficult pregnancy. I prayed to St. Anastasia throughout.
Our miracle daughter is Catherine Therese, named after St. Catherine of Siena (because she was such a strong woman) and St. Therese, the Little Flower, who is my absolute favorite saint. I have had a devotion to St. Therese since I was 3 years old. In 2009, before St. Therese’s feast day, I prayed a Novena to St. Therese for a spouse and I asked for a white rose with pink tips (my favorite). On Oct. 15, 2009, I met my now husband for our first date and he brought me a single white rose with pink tips. I nearly fainted. We were engaged the following Easter and got married April 30, 2011 (right after St. Catherine of Siena’s feast day). We are so thankful for our miracle daughter. Her name truly suits her.
Maristela (named after Mary, star of the sea), Teresa (named primarily after St Teresa of Kolkata, but she also considers Ss. Teresa of Avila, Therese of Liseux, and Edith Stein her patron saints as well), Faustina (named after St Faustina).
Her name is Gianna, for St. Gianna and all of what being pro-life is and should be. And the furry child behind her is Stella Maris.
Bethany Welnak Maranowicz
I have Lucy (named after the saint and my grandmother) and Francesca (I liked the name and her namesake is St. Francesca Romana, or Frances of Rome); we call her Frankie.