Thursday, August 26, 2010

Each of us should have a special saint

Pope Benedict encourages everyone to have devotion to a particular saint, maybe our namesake.
The Holy Father said that it is important "to have 'travel companions' on the journey of our Christian life: I am thinking of a spiritual director, a confessor, persons with whom we can share the experience of faith, but I am also thinking of the Virgin Mary and of the saints."

"Each one," he said, "should have a saint that is familiar to him, to whom he feels close with prayer and intercession, but also to imitate him or her. Hence, I would like to invite you to know the saints better, beginning with the one whose name you bear, by reading his life, his writings. You can be certain that they will become good guides to love the Lord ever more and valid aids for your human and Christian growth."
(See Zenit for further details.)

Many people now do not have names that have any reference to saints. It used to be the case that Christians were given a saint's name or names at Baptism, and would take another saint at Confirmation. But names like 'Autumn', 'Bristol', 'Chelsea' while not being in any way anti-Christian and therefore not contrary to the provisions concerning batismal names contained in the Code of Canon Law, do not, I feel, help children to grow up with the idea of seeking the protection of a particular saint, or seeking to imitate the example of that saint.

I happen to know that I was named after St John the Evangelist and I therefore have particular devotion to the Beloved Disciple. My second baptismal name is Joseph, and therefore St Joseph is a particular friend of mine. I chose Francis of Assisi to be my confirmation patron. I have no doubt that these saints have helped me considerably throughout my life.

Maybe parents should be encouraged to always give a saint's name to their child immediately when they are born and these names be registered on the birth certificate. It's always a bit awkward suggesting a saint's name when the birth certificate has already been issued.


  1. I was lucky enough to be confirmed before the time the government was requiring parents to get their infants social security numbers. So I was confirmed young enough to be able to include my confirmation name on all my important stuff such as SSN, passport, Driver's license, sheepskins, etc. - and I always sign my name with initial for both my middle name and my confirmation name.

    My mother had a funny story about one of my cousins, Jeffrey, for whom she was Godmother. The from-the-old-country Eastern Rite Catholic priest inquired "JEffrey? What kind of a name is Jeffrey?" He had to be reassured that indeed there was a saint Jeffrey. Perhaps when priests set up a baptism they can suggest the parents add a baptismal middle name if the parents don't ahve one in there?

  2. Yes Father, it is a pity that more emphasis is not placed on giving newborns a saint's name. We do call it the 'Christian' name after all.

    While my first name is not that of a recognizable saint (it was my paternal grandfather's name), it is a derivation from a name that has two saints. Being Irish of course, I have two middle names, John and Joseph (from my father and maternal grandfather). So both sides of the family were accommodated.

    On a related subject can I put in a plug in for devotion to one's Guardian Angel? Here too, I think it helps if we give him/her (were angels created male and female...?) a name. Some years ago I did and his name (I think of him as male...) is Marcus. I talk to him a lot and do feel he has indeed guarded me in many circumstances...

  3. Growing up as a non-Catholic, I didn't pay much attention to the whole name thing. But since my conversion to the Catholic Faith and having children it's been wonderful learning about saints and picking wonderful saint names for them!

  4. Love this article, Father - Your blog is just so good that it is hard to avoid commenting on all your articles.
    O the Saints - they are wonderful, so active in heaven and they work so fast.
    I couldn't have got this far in life without their help.I take this opportunity to thank our saints and (our favourite ones) for their inspiration and all their help and to ask them to continue to pray and intercede for all of us.

  5. I was lucky enough to have two names at baptism which were both of saints - the first a fairly unusual one, whom I can therefore safely assume listens to me at least occasionally !
    However, when I was received and confirmed - and with the consent of the one receiving me - I took two more names, which are the ones I use on the web, and which probably say quite a lot about my homecoming . . . but the number of people, even Catholics, who think that it's odd for a man to be called after Our Lady (still less to have chosen to do so) is phenomenal !


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