January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus.
Today, January 3rd the Church celebrates the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
I want to write about names since they are connected to this month.
I’ve become very interested in this topic. So much so, I keep an ongoing list of names that I like. (It’s a long list!)
I enjoy learning the meaning of names. I also enjoy hearing how they are chosen.
First, I’ll briefly explain the feast.
Then, I’ll share an explanation of the importance of names.
Finally, I’ll provide personal tips for choosing names.
In an article from the Arlington Catholic Herald, Fr. William Saunders explains:
Reverence for the Holy Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, arose in apostolic times. St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians wrote, “So that at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord” (2:10-11). Just as a name gives identity to a person and also reflects a person’s life, the name of Jesus reminds the hearer of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Keep in mind that the name Jesus means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.”
Traditionally, the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus was observed on the Sunday between January 1st and January 6th, or otherwise on January 2nd.
In 1969, changes were made to the liturgical calendar and the feast was removed.
Later, Pope Saint John Paul II placed the feast on January 3rd.
On September 12th, the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary.
This feast parallels the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
We honor the name of Mary because she is the Mother of God and holiest of all creatures.
Because the names of Jesus and Mary are sacred, they must be reverenced at all times.
One significant way to honor them is bowing our heads when we hear or say their names.
The Roman Missal instructs us to bow our heads during Mass whenever their names are said!
The Importance of Names
Below is a brief explanation of the importance of names from Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance by Neal Lozano.
In the Scriptures a personal name speaks to one’s identity and destiny. Abram, which means “father of many,” had his name changed as God revealed his destiny. He would now be called Abraham, which means “father of nations.” Simon would be called Peter, which means “rock.” The name Jacob literally means to “grasp the heel” ; this represents Jacob’s struggle to overcome among men. God changed Jacob’s name when he wrestled with the Lord begging to be blessed. His name became Israel, which means “he struggles with God,” pointing to the source of blessing for his life and the people of God that would be known as Israel.
Names are very important. […] God sent an angel to make sure His Son was named Jesus, which means “the Lord saves.” In some cultures children are not named until after they are born, which makes some sense, as the name has to do with a person’s identity.
[…] God has assigned meaning and purpose to your name. It represents you. He loves your name. He loves to speak it. He knew your name before you were born, even before your parents spoke it. There is meaning to your name, and your life gives your name meaning. Let God speak your name to you.
Questions for Reflection
- Do you know the meaning of your name?
- Do you know how your name was chosen?
- If you share your first, middle or Confirmation name with a saint, do you pray to them regularly?
If you don’t share a name with a saint, see if your name is a variation or related in some way.
For example, Saint Anne as the patron for a woman named Grace because Anne means “grace.”
If there’s no connection, choose a saint to be your patron.
If you’re responsible for choosing a name for a child, the Sacrament of Confirmation etc., here are some tips.
- Ask God to reveal the name He wants you to choose.
- Don’t rush the process. Start early and give it time.
- Read the Bible, the lives of the saints and about names connected to Christianity.
- Think about relatives or loved ones who are Christian role models.
- It adds an extra level of depth to a person’s life when their name has a story.
- Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady by Katherine Morna Towne is a helpful source.
- If you’re naming a child, make the final decision after the birth.
- Knowing the actual date of birth is important. If a baby is born on a saint’s feast, a holy day or during a special liturgical season, the name can connect to this.
- Meeting the child first helps with choosing the name that fits the child.
- Look at feast days and holy days that are around the due date. This will help you create a list of several choices.
- Choose a real, Christian name. If you want to be unique, it is possible for a name to be creative while still being meaningful and reflecting our Faith.
- The Church gives guidance on this topic. Canon 855 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states: “Parents, sponsors and parish priests are to take care that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment.”
Choose a Patron
- It’s of great value to be named after a saint, holy person and/or loved one. They become the person’s patron and have a connection from the start.
- When someone is named after a canonized saint, they automatically have a special friend in heaven to pray to. The patron saint’s feast day can also be celebrated each year.
As you can probably tell, I care deeply about this topic.
If anyone is ever looking for suggestions for names, feel free to ask. I’d be happy to help.
+ Blessed be the Name of Jesus +
+ Blessed be the Name of Mary +