Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Oh, but McKenzie is such a lovely name……
Yes, McKenzie is a lovely name, no matter how one spells it, so I don't want anyone to think I'm being rude criticizing it. I am not. It's also a name that, I'm certain, has graced a great many Certificates of Baptism in Catholic parishes across the U.S. So what's the big deal? Therein lies the heart of the matter.
When I was growing up, I didn't know very many Catholic families with children. The ones I did know, though, usually had 4 or 5 children who were generally my own age and, regardless of religious sentiments, we all had the same names: Lisa, Debbie, Kimberly, David, Mark, and Brad. Every now and then, a new student would show up in school with a name like Lady or Scooter, but for the most part it was pretty boring. I suspect young parents in the 60s chose names that either belonged to someone they had a fondness for or for some name they heard in a song or movie. I suspect they thought they were being original. I also suspect, if the family was unusually Protestant, as long as the name came from the Bible, they thought they were doing well.
I never really gave to much thought to onomastics until I was pregnant with our first child. We considered all sorts of names, from Biblical to exotic, in search for the "perfect" name for our first born. The only condition that had to be met was one of popularity. We didn't want our son or daughter to experience life in school, as we had, being known as David W. or Sarah W. because there were just so many. Finally, we agreed on something short, simple, without nickname potential.
We have never regretted naming our son in that fashion. He has a name that he's always been happy with and there has never been another classmate, or schoolmate for that matter, to share his name. We accomplished what we set out to overcome. However, if we had been Traditional Catholics and not secular people, we definitely would have taken a different path.
I know quite a few elderly Catholics born in the 30s or so. They almost all have a name like Mary Ann or Josephine, Albert or Leo. These names bring to mind the Saints that bore them, as I am sure their parents intended. I've also met a few Catholics born in the last few years and baptized at some parish or other. Many of them have names quite familiar to Catholic ears, but there are also many more Jennifers and Haylies and Chances and Zanes.
For a time, we fit squarely into the modern Catholic naming trend I just mentioned. We named most of our children while we were attending a "modern" Catholic Church. We didn't receive any counsel on choosing a name for our wee ones, and if we had, we would have been directed to this passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was published in 1992 which says: "In Baptism, the Lord's name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The "baptismal name" can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. "Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment." Due to lack of guidance in this, we chose names that we liked and chose a saint for the middle. I'm fairly certain this was common practice because I have been at their baptisms.
It was with this understanding that I searched the baby books last year when I was pregnant with our 7th child. When we discovered we were pregnant, we had just left the "modern" Catholic Church for our Traditional SSPX one. We didn't know many people at all and I am really terrible with names anyway. The names of the children there escaped me. But the more we kept going, the more it occurred to me that the expectations regarding the Baptism of our new daughter just might be a bit different.
Since I had begun homeschooling in the middle of my pregnancy, I received a Baltimore Catechism as part of our religious education curriculum. When I got to the section on Baptism, I concluded that my suspicions were correct. Here is what that Catechism, published in 1885 and used until after Vatican II, says: 163. Q. Why is the name of a saint given in Baptism? A. The name of a saint is given in Baptism in order that the person baptized may imitate his virtues and have him for a protector. The saint whose name we bear is called Our patron saint. This saint has a special love for us and a special care over us. People take the names of great men because they admire their good qualities or their great deeds. So we take saints' names because we admire their Christian virtues and great Christian deeds. We should, therefore, read the life of our patron saint and try to imitate his virtues, and the day on which the Church celebrates the feast of our patron saint should be a great day for us also. The Church generally celebrates the saint's feast on the day on which he died, that is, as we believe, the day on which he entered into Heaven. The realization that this expectation had someone "changed" was startling. Needless to say, our list wouldn't do.
Eventually, we agreed on a saint's name for our daughter. It is, however, not an ordinary one. Our priest had a hard time saying it during our daughter's Baptism and my mother still mispronounces it. I am not certain, but I believe it sparked a really harsh sermon from our priest on choosing appropriate baby names. But it is a saint's name nonetheless. We like it and it suits her. I hope she grows in virtue and is able to battle her way through this pagan world and bring it some light, just like her patron saint.
I, for one, would like to see the practice of naming children after saints return to the Church. Catholics would be better off leaving the Harpers, Harlows, Rivers, and Orions to the celebrity Teen Moms. The world could use more Josephines, Seraphinas, Felixes, and Dominics.
In an effort to help Catholic parents, I hope to begin a list of super Catholic saints names for our babies.
St. Gerard Majella, pray for us that we may bestow upon our children the name of a saint to emulate in character.
St. Monica, pray for us that we may be good parents to our children and strong in Christian virtue.