Q. Does a Catholic need to be named after a saint?
A. This is a great question which is a privilege of all parents. Names throughout Judeo-Christian history have carried a great deal of power and privilege for the individual.
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 the child after a Christian saint or biblical hero is a concrete reminder for the child, and everyone else, that God is calling that child, like his or her Christian namesake, to holiness and heaven.
The Bible says a great deal about names and their purpose: e.g., Abraham, Genesis 17:5; Jacob (Israel), Genesis 32:28; Jesus, Luke 1:31; the 12 Apostles (called by name) Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16- 19; Luke 6:12-16 and Paul, Acts 13:9.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law says very little about this subject. The Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church is the system of laws and legal principles created and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church.
The only requirement in the Code of Canon Law (Canon 855) is that pastors should make sure the child’s name is not “foreign to Christian mentality.” For example, a Catholic would not name their child Lucifer.
Until recently, it was largely understood that Catholics would name their children after a saint, Biblical name or virtue. Some parents today want to name their children after popular entertainment figures or the most obscure or clever name they can find.
From a pastor’s perspective, I would recommend prospective and new parents do a significant amount of research before naming their children and know the reason why they are giving their children the name they’ve chosen and the consequences of that.
Since one’s name denotes everything about that person, parents might well consider choosing a name for a son or daughter from Catholic history that will assist the child in growing up to be a true missionary disciple of Jesus our Savior.
This question was answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.