Names are an important thing, a truth that becomes all the more obvious as a parent trying to choose a name for your child the first time.
Some have had names picked out for years. Others simply open a Note on their phone and scroll through the list of names they have been compiling overtime to discuss options with their spouse. For others though, the task of choosing a name can be extremely difficult, especially when parents’ tastes and preferences clash.
For better or worse, names make an initial impression, which is often why choosing a name for a new baby is always a hot—and exciting—topic.
Names are Important to God, Too
My love of nomenclature arose from my love of Scripture, which is where I initially learned the depth of meaning that can exist within a name. Within Scripture, names are not merely identifiers; names always reveal something about the very essence of the person (or place).Within Scripture, names are not merely identifiers; names always reveal something about the very essence of the person (or place). #BISblog // Click To Tweet
For instance, take David, the youngest son of Jesse who became the great king of Israel. David’s name means “beloved” in Hebrew. David was the youngest of eight sons and not even considered important enough to invite to the family dinner when the prophet Samuel was the honored guest. Yet from there, God raises David up to become the most beloved king in the history of the Jewish people.
Another good example is the patriarch Abraham. God changed his name to mean, “father of multitudes” because He was going to give him descendants that were as numerous as the stars in the sky.
In the New Testament, there is Simon, “the listener” who recognizes the Messiah because of this skill and then becomes Peter, “the rock” on whom the Church will be built.
Lastly, there is Jesus himself whose name literally tells us that “God [is] with us.”
God Knows the Essence of Your Baby
Unfortunately, most of us do not have the capability to know the essence of our children before they are born. If we did, it might make the job of naming them a whole lot easier.
Thankfully, Scripture also tells us that God knows each of us intimately before we are conceived. Since He knows our children before us, and we know Him, why not make things simpler by turning to Him for direction?
How to Name Your Baby (Catholic-Style)
God made our hearts and minds unique, and often our ways of approaching monumental occasions (like naming a child) can be just as particular. It goes without saying, there is no one “right” way to choose a baby name.
However, if you are stuck, the following are some things for you to analyze in prayer to aid in this process. You may consider all of them, or perhaps you will find an answer after only praying through one or two.
Think back to the month when baby’s life first began and consider the events that were taking place. Was it near a funeral or a special feast day? Perhaps you could name your child after that soul. Were you reading a book or watching a series that had a profound impact? Scrutinize the characters, the theme, or the author for inspiration for a good name.
What was taking place for you spiritually at that time? If you were completing a Bible study, praying a specific novena, spending more time in Adoration, or had just returned from a pilgrimage, look for corroborating names. A little girl conceived during or after praying a novena to the Sacred Heart could be named, “Reese” which means “ardor”—a word which certainly describes the love of Christ.
Similarly, a boy conceived during a time of increased visits to adoration might be named something traditional like, “Christopher,” or could be called, “Thomas” or “Aquinas,” the Saint who composed the majority of the Eucharistic hymns sung during Benediction.
Baby’s Due Date
Looking ahead, if your child is to be born during a particular Liturgical Season, perhaps a name inspired by that time would feel right.
For instance, Advent is a season of Hope. A baby girl born during this season could be named, “Nadine” or “Nadia,” variations of the same name that both mean “hope.”
Similarly, a little boy born during Lent could be named, “Asher,” “Ashton,” or “Dustin” (emphasis on the ash and dust).
Similar names could be derived for every Liturgical Season by simply prayerfully considering details of the season and then looking up names with congruent meanings or sounds.
In addition, you could wait until the baby makes his or her appearance and then consider the same things from above at the time of their birth (the feast day, a particular book or novena, etc.).
Chances are you have already considered naming your child after your favorite heavenly patron. This is perfectly respectable and one of the traditional ways we choose baby names as Catholics.
However, sometimes you may love a Saint, but not their name. In those cases, you could consider a name inspired by that person instead. For instance, perhaps Saint Catherine of Siena has played a role in the relationship between you and your spouse. You would like to name your child after her, but you know you’re expecting a boy. “Catherine” or “Siena” would not exactly be appropriate. However, you could consider the name “Flint” inspired by her quote, “If you are who you should be, you will set the world on fire.” Or the name “Urban,” the Pope who revelled in her advice and welcomed her reprimands.
A child can be named after a Saint without donning their specific, literal name. All it takes is a little studying and thinking.
Another obvious consideration is to examine your favorite books, characters, and places from Scripture. These names can be literal (like Noah, Hannah, or Eden), or you could think outside the box and find names associated with those things.
For instance, if Noah is a favorite character but you do not love the name, consider “Olive,” “Olivia,” or “Oliver” as an alternative (since the Olive branch plays an important role in that story).
You could also consider a name inspired by one of your favorite passages. Parents who find comfort in the words of Psalm 119:105 (“Your word O Lord is a lamp unto my feet, a light to my path…”) might consider naming their son “Brighton.”
Your Prayer Life
Aside from discerning a baby name, what does your personal prayer life look like during this time?
If you’re going through a spiritual desert, perhaps you should investigate Saints who understand your plight. Saints like Anthony of Egypt and Josephine Bakhita who spent years in the literal desert (one as hermit, the other as a slave), and Saints like Teresa of Calcutta and Alphonsus Rodriguez who experienced prolonged periods of spiritual dryness. You could also go to specific places in the Bible where people are in the desert and find inspiration there.
Again, you can use literal, traditional names from these stories, or you can find names inspired by them.
You can do this same thing if you’re experiencing an outpouring of consolation and graces in prayer. Look for stories from Scripture and the lives of the Saintssz that correlate with your personal experience.
Names From Your List
Most of us approach the task of naming a child with some favorites already in mind. This is a good thing! God works goodness through the things to which we are attracted.
Take those names that you already like and look up their meanings. Then reevaluate them based on all the considerations above.
Take, for example, the name “Ava” which has been on the Top 100 baby names list for about a decade. It’s a Latin variation of the name “Eve” and means “life.” This name could be used with Eve in mind, or in honor of Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” It would also be particularly appropriate for a baby born around Easter, when we celebrate our inheritance of eternal life.
Another appropriate example would be the name “Lincoln,” which has grown in popularity these last couple of years. An English name which means, “town by the pool”; at first thought, it seems as though this name might not have any spiritual tie. However, it brings to mind the healing of the crippled man beside the pool called Bethesda (John 5:1-16).
Since our God is omnipresent, it makes sense that there can be a spiritual meaning to coincide any name. All it takes is a little investigating.
An Original Duty
The practice of naming anything has always been reserved for the creator or inventor of the creation, but in the book of Genesis, God shares that privilege with mankind.
After the creation of man, God walks alongside Adam as he names all the magnificent creatures that He Himself created. He does this because since we are made in His image and likeness, and part of living that out means being a co-creator.
Today, one of the most tangible ways mankind continues to co-create with God is through procreation. For this reason, when it comes time to discern a baby name, it would be most appropriate to once again, walk alongside God in prayer as you use these tools to discern a name for your baby. Then hopefully, continue that pattern as your child grows, asking God to walk alongside you and guide you as you raise them to adulthood.
What were your considerations when naming your child(ren)? Share your process with us in the comments below!
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