Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).
Every year on Sept. 12 since 1683, the Catholic Church has celebrated the feast of the Holy Name of Mary.
Officially instituted as a feast day for the universal Church by Pope Innocent XI, the celebration dates back to the early 1500s when Catholics in Spain began commemorating Mary’s special graces, intercession, and mediation.
For newly expectant parents, what better way to celebrate than by considering the plentiful ways to honor the mother of Our Lord in your baby’s name?
Catholic baby-naming service dedicated to Mary
Two Catholic mothers have dedicated their vocations to doing just that. Sancta Nomina — Latin for “holy names” — is a uniquely Catholic baby name consulting service founded by Kate Towne, mother of seven children and author of Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018).
Towne’s company, run completely online through a blog format and social media channels, is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and the blog’s patron saint, St. Anne.
With the help of Theresa Zoe Williams, who joined the Sancta Nomina team last year, the service helps Catholic parents choose their child’s name in a meaningful way that honors Mary or other saints.
Over 250 ways to honor Mary in a child’s name
In an interview with CNA, Williams said that her work at Sancta Nomina has fostered an even deeper devotion to the Blessed Mother.
“I’m often reminded in this work that Mary didn’t get to choose the name of her only child, it was told to her,” Williams said. “I try to help parents listen to God when naming their children, just like Mary did. In this way, Mary greatly impacts and watches over my work and I am closer to her for it.”
When requests for help come in, Williams and Towne share duties in guiding parents through the process of finding a meaningful Catholic name for their baby.
Often, parents desire to honor Mary in their child’s name but may not realize just how many options they have.
Towne’s book details more than 250 ways to honor Mary in a baby’s name — and some options may not be what you’d expect.
Sancta Nomina specializes in finding names that are deeply connected to Mary yet might not be immediately obvious at first glance.
In one consultation, for example, one couple asked for advice in naming their baby boy, who was conceived in answer to prayer through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes.
“We both want a Marian devotion for this baby’s name,” the parents wrote, asking if there was a masculine name for a boy that honored Our Lady of Lourdes.
Williams recommended Laurence, the name of the bishop in the region at the time of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, and Pius.
“[Three] popes have connections to Our Lady of Lourdes,” Williams wrote in the consultation. “Pope Pius IX approved the veneration of the apparitions at Lourdes, Pope Pius X announced the feast of the Immaculate Virgin of Lourdes, and Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical on Lourdes on its 100th anniversary.”
Naming is the ‘greatest act’
Sancta Nomina takes the stylistic preferences and personal stories of families into account when conducting name consultations. This gives parents a chance to honor Mary in their child’s name in both implicit and explicit ways.
“God works within our personal situations, even in naming,” Williams said.
Parents could use a derivative of Mary’s name or an uncommon connection to her, Williams explained.
“It doesn’t have to be Maria, May, or Mary; it doesn’t even have to be Miriam, or Maren,” she said. Parents can ponder a Marian place name, title, feast day, or even certain characteristics of Our Lady.
Williams says that one of her favorite suggestions from Towne’s book is to name a daughter “Ave,” as in “Ave Maria.”
“Likewise — for boys — I love ‘Carmelo’ for Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It’s unique and not used very often.”
Williams says that a feminine version could be “Carmine.”
“No one’s going to look at ‘Carmine’ and think, oh, Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” she said. “But you’ll know and you get to tell a story then. And what better way to share the faith than with stories?”
According to Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholics are called to venerate the name of Mary “because it belongs to her who is the Mother of God, the holiest of creatures, the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of Mercy.”
“To honor [Mary] in some way in our children’s names is the greatest act we can give to our children,” Williams concluded.
You can follow Sancta Nomina here. Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018) is available on ShopMercy.org and Amazon.
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