WHAT’S IN A NAME?
“Do you remember Shakespeare’s romantic love tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’? In a famous scene Juliet says, ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet?’ Juliet means that a name is an artificial and superficial convention, and that she loves Romeo regardless of the name given to him.[…]
For us Christians, however, there is another aspect to consider. A name is not just for a birthday, but is an audible personal symbol that is meant for a lifetime, nay, for eternity. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of this a couple of years ago when he captured international headlines for reminding Catholic parents throughout the world that they should be choosing Christian names for their children.
CHOOSING CHRISTIAN NAMES
The choice of a name, Benedict emphasised, should not be done ‘by chance’ or whim, but should reinforce and communicate to the growing children and those around them one of the essential realities of the sacrament of baptism and the Christian life. The Christian name – in contrast to a non-Christian one – signifies that in baptism ‘every baptised child acquires the character of the son of God,’ and is ‘an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be born anew in the womb of the Church.’
RAISED TO THE SUPERNATURAL ORDER
A Christian name manifests that through baptism a child is raised to the ‘supernatural order’ and ‘placed in communication with God,’ who then calls that child by that given name. Naming a child after a Christian saint or a Biblical hero is a concrete reminder for the child and everyone else that God is calling that child, like her or his Christian namesake, to holiness and heaven. Moreover, a Christian name concretely indicates that there is, and is meant to be, a connection and continuity between one’s natural and supernatural life, and between earthly and eternal life.
THE NAME IS THE ICON OF THE PERSON
‘The name is the icon of the person’ the Catechism teaches, and will accompany us into eternity ‘where the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God’s name will shine forth in splendour.’ (2159)
Then Shakespeare was wrong about names, wasn’t he? Well, although in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ he suggests that names are theoretically arbitrary, in another play, ‘The Tempest’, he theorizes that names are used to define us and that we don’t own our names, we risk not owning ourselves. After all, he was a poet, not a theologian.”
– This is an excerpt of an article published in the “Messenger of Saint Anthony” issue September 2013. For subscriptions please visit http://www.saintanthonyofpadua.net (external link).