LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
“Every breath you take and every move you make every bond you break, ever step you take …every word you say. . . every game you play...” either enriches your faith or it does not.
As Catholics, we are called to make choices so that we are in a favorable position to meet Christ and to have Christ meet us. Anything less than that is just a game one plays called …spirituality. It is the process through which we experience Christ: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization that allow us to encounter Him. There are no short cuts.
I’ve playfully borrowed the words from the popular love song written by the Catholic raised musician, Sting, to focus on just how intentional Catholicism really is and needs to remain.
Ours is a purpose-filled faith. There is a reason for everything we are asked to do. And we must trust in that premise. Catholic traditions and practices reinforce our belief in God because they keep the quest for holiness and God foremost on our minds. These rituals and Catholic ways soften our hardened hearts to Christ’s message; they enable us to exercise (literally, as though working a muscle) our Faith. They ultimately fortify the very foundation of the Church and our own belief system. So that is why we are instructed to do what we do.
That being said, if we are honest and look around, we can see what happens when people choose to disregard traditional Catholic practices (or teachings) so that they can have it their way. The problem with the I want it my way Catholic, is that by not acknowledging the vital connection between action and faith the Body of Christ as Church is weakened. It is not enough to say we believe…we must act like we believe. We must invest ourselves in our faith in order to meet Christ where He is. We must sometimes give up what we want for the greater good and that is to fervently become a witness to Christ's real presence in our lives.
Again, ours is a purpose –filled faith and it starts with our baptism. The choice a parent makes to baptize a child and raise that child as a faithful Catholic is not one to be entered into lightly. The ultimate goal of a parent is to provide the child with every opportunity to grow in holiness.
So, I have to wonder, what sense does it make for parents to give their children bizarre, unchristian names like Autumn or Pebbles at the time of Baptism. How do these types of names share a family’s commitment to the Church teachings? The Apostles Creed, a faithful summary and ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome, states clearly that we: “...believe in the communion of saints….” (From the Catechism of the Catholic Church; 194.)
Of course parents have the opportunity to choose any name they like, since the 1983 Code of Canon Law changed the rules. Prior to 1983 a newly baptized baby was offered the gift of a Christian name. For sixty-six years one was given a Christian name at baptism to mark, as it happened in the Bible, a change in one’s life...from Abram to Abraham...from Saul to Paul. These men acquired a new name, just as the newly baptized are given a name to signify a new life in Christ Jesus, a new mission.
Now, the only requirement for choosing a baptismal name is that the pastor makes certain that the child’s name is not “foreign to a Christian mentality.”
My question is: How are these unchristian names helpful? Remember saints are not born, they are made. How are these parents truly acting like they believe when they ignore Communion of Saints?
Once upon a time, a common practice when naming a baby was to choose a meaningful name, a name that passed on a noble legacy, a name a child could grow into and strive to become the definition of. Children were give strong names…the name of a person who was a good and just and admired. And so if you were baptized after 1917 you were given a saints’ name with the intention that it would be your guiding light. How often I remember hearing proud Catholic children sharing the abbreviated biography of the saint their mother chose to name them after!
I myself have the middle name of Frances. I never related to the either St. Frances of Rome or St. Frances Cabrini, albeit they were remarkable women. I was more of a tomboy and wanted to be akin to their male counterpart. So instead, I chose to misspell my baptismal name as a young girl; I ignored any connection to the feminine saint I was assigned and identified my patron saint as the extraordinary St. Francis of Assisi. As child, the more I read about the saint that prayed with the birds and animals, who called the Sun brother and the Moon sister, who wrote the first Italian poem, the more curious I became-- until my appetite for the details of this Jesus-like character’s life sent me in search of him. I knew that if I could only resemble something of who he was I would be in good shape. We all need role models. I found St. Francis and his influence in my life to be a gift. And that is the whole reason to introduce a saint into a child’s life at baptism.
Think of this...every time he or she signs her full name on a document…Ellen Monica…August Paul… God is made present through that saint’s witness of His love.
Fr. James Martin, Jesuit priest and associated editor of America magazine writes: “…the saints of the Catholic Church are intimate companions. They pray for me, offer me comfort, give me examples of discipleship, and help me along the way.”(My Life with the Saints. Loyola Press,2006)
Author Rick Riordan reminds us: “Names have power. Names have power.”