WHAT’S IN A NAME

When I was young, I would always pretend I had some other fantastical name—Anastasia, Felicity, Eloise. I was never satisfied with just plain old Theresa. Which is funny, because as common and simple names go, Theresa isn’t really one. 

As I grew in my faith, I started to wonder who my patron saint was. Theresa with an “h” must be for St. Therese of Lisieux. But it’s Theres-A so is that St. Theresa of Avila? I naturally went to my parents and asked, “Who did you name me after?” Turns out there wasn’t a specific patron in mind. 

But God knew. God knew I was a studious little girl. A girl with a knack for finding patterns and a love for studying history. A girl who would strike out on her own, with (sometimes over the top) self confidence, but search for meaning and camaraderie. And this searching and studying and longing brought me to the book The Four Teresas By Gina Loehr. The book focuses on the four best known canonized Teresa’s – St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and St. Teresa of Calcutta. It’s a beautiful reflection on each of their lives and spells out clearly the qualities of these women worth emulating and the lessons they can teach us to this day. I could identify with each of these saints and see where I fell short of them as well. We may all be named Teresa, but we are all very different and we all bring something great and worthwhile to the table. My parents may not have intentionally named me after one of these great women, but I hope to be patient and selfless like St. Teresa; contemplative and feisty like St. Teresa of Avila; relentless and accurate like St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and compassionate and bold like St. Teresa of Calcutta. God placed that name on the hearts of my parents, for just a girl like me.

About seven and a half years ago I was blessed to be able to name a child of my own. And when it comes to naming a child, there is no shortage of opinions and input. There are online suggestion lists, family names, the way names sound, who if anyone has already used that name or if you’ve had a bad interaction with someone with a specific name, and of course, possible patron saints. And as I sat trying to determine what moniker to place on my first born, the little girl that wanted a fantastical name named after a holy saint, decided she wanted to choose a simple, traditional name, that, while there is a saint with the same name, it didn’t much matter. I just liked how it sounded. 

This was the pattern for my first two kids. Both of which have fallen in love with their patron saints and have fully embraced their names (although my daughter still often wants to be Josephine when playing). Names meant a bit more after we lost our third child at five and half months gestation. His name was Benjamin—meaning my beloved son—a name we have put into prayers and artwork to never forget him. With my second daughter (fourth child), we named her after her great-grandma…of whom there is not a recognized canonized saint.. I’ve watched her try to find her “favorite” saint—sometimes choosing her middle name, sometimes choosing a variation of her name, and sometimes just choosing St. Agnes because she likes lambs.

I highly encourage you, if you have children, to encourage them to look into their patron saint, even if that wasn’t why you chose the name. Sometimes there are many different saints of that name to choose from, sometimes there are none. But you can jump to middle names, or patrons of their favorite sport or hobby.  It’s a fun exercise to see what it means to live a holy life and how a lot of times, those saints aren’t much different from us.

As a parent it seems so important to get the name right. After all, when God revealed Himself to Moses, He gave His name. This is how Moses—and generations to come—would know who He was. It explained so much about Him. But we must not get too anxious. If there’s one thing God has demonstrated over the millennia, it is that He can call anyone, with any name.  He can even change a name to show a new covenant (Sarai to Sarah, Abram to Abraham). A myriad of different people with different names live holy lives and become saints. As I tell my fourth born: “There’s no saint with your name? How about you become the first?”

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At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

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