Friday, June 22, 2012


There is perhaps no topic so personal as naming your child.  Everybody has an opinion – even the Church.  Mrs. Fenner has much to say though some of her advice has become politically incorrect – which is exactly why most of it should be followed.

There is the general custom among Catholics that a child be named after a saint.  At least part of his name should be after a saint.  It is an ancient custom stretching back to the early Church.  It gives the child a patron, “a protector and intercessor in heaven,” as Mrs. Fenner states.  Though I doubt God leaves a child unprotected who does not sport such a name.  But why not take advantage of such an opportunity?
Mrs. Fenner points out that when choosing a saints name, know which saint you are choosing.  This is so true.  For a long time I thought I was named after St. John the Baptist but as it turns out I found a medal with an eagle on it that was placed around my neck when I was born so apparently I was named after St. John the Evangelist.

So you want to name your child after St. Francis or St. Therese; which one of the many Francises and Thereses is it?  What an opportunity, during those story telling years, to tell your child about the saint after whom he was named.  Bearing this in mind you might want to carefully review the stories before naming him or her.  There’s no point in naming a child after a saint who caused too much of a raucous and then having them, after hearing the saint’s story during their formative years, become just like them much to your consternation.  “You are just like St. George!  Always going around slaying dragons!”  “But Moooooooom . . .”

I remember the (probably apocryphal) story of the man converting to Christianity and on his way to being baptized was questioned by the priest about his name.  “That certainly is not a saint’s name,” said the priest.  “Not yet!” replied the man.

There is the sole spiritual criteria for naming a child.  But, “on the question of taste in selecting a name, one could write volumes!” reports our hostess.  And she did write volumes.  “Parents should give consideration to the fact that a name is perhaps one’s most intimate possession, and that its suitability, or lack of it, is believed to exercise a profound influence upon the child.”

“Care should be taken that no name is chosen which could be used to ridicule.”  No matter how hard you try this might not be avoided.  My next door neighbor hid his middle name from us for years and years.  It was Kernin.  Why he hated it so is hard to tell.  Perhaps because it was so different.  In any event he later became quite proud of it as it was his mother’s maiden name.  But at least we can try not to add gas to the fire.

Mrs. Fenner abhors names such as “Iva” or “Ima” particularly when combined with last names that are also common nouns such as “Coward” or “Post.”  “’Rose’ as a second name is sometimes awkward; one should remember that ‘rose’ is also a verb.”  Monsignor Manners likes the name Rose however.


We are warned to review the initials we may be giving a child.  Watch what they spell!  “Carol Ann Thomas is a sensible name, but any girl so named will be called a “C.A.T.” by her teasing friends.”  Actually that seems rather a lovely nickname to me.  I’ve known some CATs and they were sweet ladies.  Other words to be avoided however are W.O.W., and P.O.P. and so on.

I Googled, “Unfortunate Initials” and found a whole stash of angry people.  People with names like “ETC” and “BLT.”

Monsignor Manners suggests a further step.  (Think things are hard already?  We’ve not yet begun to make the process difficult!)  Remember when your son has cufflinks or your daughter has embroidered towels that the initials will be mixed up.  Who wants to have Ulysess Holden Grant’s guest bathroom towels say U.G.H. to you every time you use them?

Even worse, remember we are in the unfortunate age of texting which brings together a whole new set of unfortunate initials.  William Theodore Fredrickson will never live down his initials.

Of course whatever this have to do with Catholic specific manners slips past Monsignor other than the command by God to love others.  I think Mrs. Fenner simply had to get out her opinion on such things.  But you are sticking this kid with something that will last a lifetime so it is wise to choose well.  Remember, these are the people who will be picking out your nursing home. 

There is more to come next week to complicate matters even further so don’t settle on a name yet!


Anonymous said...

Mmm...BLT. Yummy. That last picture is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

...not to mention Aaron Steven Smith's hand towels...sorry, I probably shouldn't have gone there.

lgreen515 said...

My mother's married initials were unfortunate no matter which way they were listed: B.A.R. or B.R.A.

Anonymous said...

On a related note, I have always felt sorry for the Priest who works hard to get his Doctorate in Sacred Theology, then finds his name forever will be followed by the initials "S.T.D."

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