Monday, June 29, 2009

What's in a Name?

Growing up, I had no idea who my patron saints were. In some sense, I chose who mine were when I realized it would be nice to have saints to pray to that shared my name. For my middle name, Rose, I took Rose de Lima. Although I knew just about nothing about her at the time, she was the only Saint Rose I knew. I've since learned much more about her and had no idea how amazing a Saint I had chosen. As far as my first name, there are several Saint Catherines with various spellings: Catherine Laboure, Catherine of Alexandria, Catherine of Siena, Catherine del Ricci, Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Sweden, Kateri Tekakwitha, Katharine Drexel, etc. But the one I was most familiar with was Catherine of Siena, so I chose her. I've since learned more about her and have, again, been amazed at what I had not known about her.

When I first considered the possibility of ever having to name my children, even before I got married, I knew I would want them to have names that would give them a connection to a Saint. James agreed with me. And so began our foundation for searching for baby names during my first pregnancy.

Cecilia is named for Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music and one of the seven virgin martyrs 5513057mentioned in the Roman Canon. It is actually quite cute when she hears the priest say her name during Mass and she says, "That's me!" James and I have been so fortunate as to visit Saint Cecilia in Trastevere, a beautiful church, that tradition holds is built over the saint's house. Here is a picture of the interior. Cecilia's berna2middle name is Bernadette after St. Bernadette Soubirous, to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared at Lourdes. James and I have also been so fortunate as to visit not only Lourdes with the Grotto, shrine and house of Bernadette but also her convent in Nevers where we prayed in her gardens and chapel and before her incorrupt body.

Felicity is named after another of the seven virgin martyrs mentioned in the canon, Saint Felicity, who has had my undying sympathy ever since I learned she was imprisoned while 8 months pregnant, mocked while in labor, and martyred just after having given birth and giving her newborn daughter up for adoption. Felicity's middle name is Catherine for St. Catherine Laboure, whose feast day she was P9272527born near. Catherine was a french nun to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared and asked her to spread devotion to the Miraculous Medal. James and I have also been so fortunate as to visit the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal and pray before Catherine's uncorrupt body. If you are in Paris, it is worth the visit.

VisitationElizabeth is named after the Blessed Virgin's relative whom she visited after learning of the conception of Jesus. It was to Elizabeth that Mary spoke that beautiful prayer, the Magnificat and it was John the Baptist who rejoiced in her womb. Considering Elizabeth was born on John the Baptist's Birthday and will be Baptized on the feast of his martyrdom, Elizabeth honors her birthday patron by honoring his faith-filled mother. I am also fairly partial to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, an American saint whose house, tomb and shrine is not far from where we live and we have visited several times. She is also considered one of the patrons of homeschooling. Elizabeth is also the name of my maternal grandmother and, as a little perk to myself, is also the name of my favorite literary heroine, Elizabeth Bennet of Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth's middle name is Agnes after Saint Agnes, another P1000341.JPGof the seven virgin martyrs mentioned in the canon. She was martyred in Rome and every year on her feast day in the Church of Saint Agnes in Agony, which was built on the site of her martyrdom, the Circus of Domitian, two lambs are blessed and then their wool is woven into the palliums that the pope will bestow on new archbishops.

You may have noticed some themes running through our name choices. Besides the obvious use of Saint names, each daughter bears the name of one of the seven virgin martyrs. I love knowing that, whenever the Eucharistic Prayer I is said, we all pray to their patron saints. Other than the Blessed Virgin, the seven virgin martyrs are the only female Saints in the canon. The other theme pertains to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each daughter's other name bears the name of a saint who the Blessed Virgin visited with a special message and purpose.

Cecilia's names mean "Blind Brave as a Bear." Felicity's names means "Pure Happiness" Elizabeth's names means "Lamb Consecrated to God."

Would these themes continue if we ever have another girl? Would any boy names have any themes? Honestly, we don't think that far ahead. But I thought it might be nice to explain to family and friends a bit of why we have chosen the names we have and have it nicely written out for ourselves. But each of our daughters should have plenty to explore, ponder and meditate regarding each of their own names.

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