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Catholic Activity: Baptismal Names

It is an ancient tradition that children be given the name of a saint whom later they should come to know, to love, and to venerate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church still encourages this:

The sacrament of Baptism is conferred "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." In Baptism, the Lord's name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The "baptismal name" can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. "Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment." (no. 2156)

DIRECTIONS

It is sad to behold how many parents overlook the importance and great meaning of this religious tradition. Of all things a person can acquire in this life, his name is the first and closest possession; in a way it is himself. When our Lord was to be born, God did not leave the choice of the name to human beings. He Himself chose the Savior's name and considered it important enough to send an angel to announce His choice to St. Joseph.

Today a child's name is given in a similar supernatural setting. When the sacred liturgical ceremonies of Baptism come to their peak, at the very moment the sacrament is performed, the priest solemnly announces the name of the child. As the light of a heavenly beacon, originating together with baptismal grace, this name accompanies you through life. If you are a woman and marry, your last name will be changed; but your baptismal name remains forever, a beautiful symbol of the sacrament's lasting mark on your soul.

Our children should be instructed from their earliest years about the meaning of their names. Mother can explain to them who the saint was whose name they bear. They should be taught to pray to him every night, to love him and to consider him a special heavenly friend and protector.

The great advantage of this familiarity with the personal patron saint lies in the fact that children thus acquire a lasting, deep and solid spiritual relation to saints. There is no danger of mere emotionalism or sentimentality as often happens later if they make their first acquaintance with saints in the Catholic school. This early relation to the patron saint is based on the bedrock of objective realities, not on mere sweet feelings. For what is more real to a child than his own self, identified by his own name? And if this name presents to the little one the figure, life and story of a great saint of God, it is easy to see what influence it will exert on him.

Activity Source: Year of the Lord in the Christian Home, The (reprinted as Religious Customs in the Family) by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., The Liturgical Press; reprinted by TAN Books and Publishers, 1964

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