By: Deacon Marques Silva
Thinking of names for your future children or grandchildren? How about considering a saint’s name? May is typically a busy month for baptisms – at least in my parish. Many are surprised to discover that the custom of given children a Christian saint’s name may be traced back to the infancy of Christianity. It seems that people of what are now modern day France and Germany were among the first to begin this practice, which quickly spread throughout Europe. The name of Jesus has typically been held in reserve by almost all cultures, with the notable exception of the Spanish.
Additionally, the Spanish-speaking countries also brought the veneration for Mary into family names by using liturgical titles and qualities like Asuncion (Assumption), Concepcion or Concha (Immaculate Conception), Cosuelo (Our Lady of Good Counsel), Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) Gracia (Our Lady of Grace), Luz (Our Lady of Light), Paz (Our Lady of Peace), Pura (Virgin Most Pure), Stella (Star of the Sea) and Victoria (Our Lady of Victory).
Other cultures have also chosen to honor Our Lady through translations or variations of the name of Mary including: Maire (Irish), Manon (French), Manette (French), Mara, Maria (Latin, Italian, Hungarian German, Spanish), Marie (French), Maretta, Marette, Marella, Marietta, Marilla, Marilyn, Mariquita (Spanish), Marita (Spanish), Marla (Bavarian), Marya, Maryse (French), Maureen (Irish), Marya (Slavic), Miriam, Moira or Maura (Irish), Muriel (Irish for Star of the Sea), and Marianne (Marian in Italian), a name honoring both Mary and St. Anne. Among the popular Marian nicknames for the above are: Mame, Maie, Mayme, May, Mari, Moll, Mollie, Molly and Polly.
Just so the guys do not feel left out, and yes, some have taken obvious Marian names, e.g. Saints Jean Marie Vianney and Alphonsus Marie Ligouri, here are a few masculine forms: Gilmary, Gilmore, Melmore, and Myles (all deriving from “servant of Mary,” as do the surnames Gilmartin and Kilmartin), and Marion.
Naming can be controversial within families as not to offend revered relative or even repeat common names. Sometimes names can bring about bad memories due to unfortunate experiences in the past. For the Church, the name of a child is important too. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us:
In Baptism, the Christian receives his name in the Church. Parents, godparents, and the pastor are to see that he be given a Christian name. The patron saint provides a model of charity and the assurance of his prayer. (CCC 2165)
In this crazy world of ours, knowing that my children have a guaranteed intercessor can only be a plus. And, who better than our Lady to guard and guide us through life.
Oh, my four children, they are named for the saints whose feast days are the same as each child’s birthday… I’m trying to walk the talk.