If I were ever going to get a tattoo, it would be a toss up between St. Julian of Norwich’s “All will be well” or St. Julie Billiart’s “Live the Good.” Probably one of those script ones, either on the inside of my wrist or along the top of my foot or something. I feel like either of these two phrases would stand the test of time and would have something to say to me for years to come. However, I am also a chicken, so it also probably won’t be happening anytime soon! I have known about St. Julie for a while, having studied some of her writings in school. Only recently have I heard about St. Julie, her Order, and her story.
As with any pregnancy, I am frequently being asked the usual questions:
“How far along are you?”
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“What are you going to name them?”
I love how excited people are for new babies (even if I usually also receive somewhat concerned or confused looks when I explain that this is my 4th baby, not my 1st. It’s ok people, I know how this all works, *winks).
To update everyone, here are the current answers to those questions. As of today we are 25 weeks and 4 days along (thank you pregnancy app for keeping track for me). We decided to be surprised with this baby. We found out the gender for both John and Rosie. When it came time to decide about Clare, we chose to be surprised. It’s easier when you already have things from siblings. It was so much fun! We decided (and the Air Force decided, since we had to move before we were far enough along to find out anyway) to do it again with “Peanut” as we affectionately are calling this baby.
As for the name, even though we don’t know the gender we could still decide on two names. Every family does it differently. We decided back when we were pregnant with John 4 things.
We wouldn’t officially decide on a name until the baby was born. We have gone into labor with our top 2 or 3 options, but we wait until we get to see our new gift before we name them.
Family names are important to us, but we also didn’t want the confusion that inherently comes with family names. Personally, I have a brother Michael, an Uncle Mike, a Great-Uncle Mike and my grandfather’s name was Michael. The name Michael clearly runs strong in my family. In order to honor that, we chose to give John the middle name of Michael. We keep the name alive while preserving a little sanity at family gatherings. We have done this with all our children’s middle names.
Our last name is difficult. It is pronounced nothing like it is spelled and unless you happen to be from a small corner of Georgia where it is also a county name you are probably going to pronounce it incorrectly, then question my schooling when I correct you. It’s ok. We all deal and the kids will too. But, Ben and I felt strongly that because their last name will be problematic, their first name should be simple and easily identifiable. We only deviated from this a little bit when we named Clare because we wanted her to have the same spelling as St. Clare who doesn’t use the “i” usually found in the spelling. Sorry Clare!
We keep the name options secret. Sorry guys!
Clare is actually what prompted this blog post. Every night we say prayers together as a family. We share what we are thankful for from the day and then we saw a few form prayers. We conclude with a litany of the saints that all have a special meaning for our family. Well, a few nights ago during the litany, Clare started shouting “Saint Me! Saint Me!” She was so sweet. At 2 years old she is already treasuring in her own way her namesake while at the same time challenging all of us to think about our calling to sainthood.
It got me thinking about this new baby. Ben and I have talked back and forth about whether we should give all of our children first names after saints. So far, they all have middle names after saints that also happened to be family names and the middle names we have in mind for this little one are also saint names. John and Clare have direct saint names. Rosie is technically Rosemary and though there is no St. Rosemary, there is St. Rose which seems close enough.
There are two ways to go. Naming your child after a saint guarantees that they will have a patron. Of course if your name isn’t a specific saint’s name you can always adopt one as your patron, there are plenty after all. But, from my perspective at least, there is something special about carrying the same name as one of these great spiritual persons.
On the flip side, by giving your child a name that is not already a saint’s name you are opening up the opportunity for a new name to be added to these spiritual guides. I’m not saying that all of our children will become named Saints in the Church, but wouldn’t it be great if among our generation there is a St. Jessica, a St. Riley or a St. Jackson?
So we are torn. Our child will definitely carry a saint’s name with them through life in their middle name. But will they also in their first name?
What’s your opinion on the matter? I’d love to hear thoughts on both sides.
I was cleaning out my emails today, a never ending task it seems like, when I stumbled across an email from my mom. She had sent it a few weeks ago, but I have no memory of actually reading what it said (sorry Mom!)! I must have clicked on it with the intention to read it, most likely from my phone, and got distracted by something and never went back. I’m so thankful that I found it today.
My mom was telling me about a book she is reading called The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Bloom. It is about a Dutch family who bravely hid Jews and others during World War II. Here is what my mom shared with me:
Corrie and her dad were alone on a train and she asked him what ‘sexsin’ was. First of all I never heard that word but clearly it was not something a very young girl should know about.
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with watches and spare parts he had purchased this morning. “It’s too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It is the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
A couple of things. First – WOW, what an awesome Dad! How many of us, when presented with a question like that, get some kind of deer-in-the-headlights, defensive, uh, oh dear Lord what am I going to say to that, kind of face? It’s like we have some kind of fight or flight response when our children ask us questions about the human body, why people mistreat one another or to explain words and concepts that are beyond their comprehension or appropriateness.
Second, I love how physical this response is. Corrie’s dad didn’t explain to her something that was too old for her. Nor did he yell at her for asking about something she shouldn’t know anything about. He didn’t tell her it was a grown-up thing and she couldn’t know. He wasn’t awkward, anxious or upset. Instead he was calm and deliberate. He gave her something physical that she could relate to, the large traveling case. It’s contents were important for the family (her father was a watchmaker and repairer) and would one day be important for Corrie. But not yet. She was still young, too young to shoulder the burden. Her dad gently relates the heaviness of the case to the weight and responsibility of knowledge.
Third, does this sound like any other father’s you might know? God, our heavenly Father, has been telling us from the beginning of time to take care, because knowledge comes responsibility and consequences (literally, look at Adam and Eve). Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t learn anything because with knowledge comes responsibility and consequences.
As babies we learn how to talk. The consequence is that now we can express ourselves, our needs, desires, thoughts and emotions. That’s great! As we mature in our speech, we learn that we are responsible for our words. We learn that there are things we should say like please and thank you. We learn that there are things we should not say. Our knowledge of speech gives us great freedom, but we must accept both the consequences and responsibility for that freedom. The same comes with learning to walk, learning to read, learning to ride a bike, learning how to cook and job skills. This knowledge is wonderful, when learned at the right time and at the appropriate speed.
And so with God. Think about some of the great saints – St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Bl (soon to be Saint) Mother Teresa, and many others. Something incredible about each of their journeys of faith is that they all went through a period of darkness, a dark night of the soul. They were permitted to participate in the darkness and emptiness of the Cross, the intense feelings of abandonment and aridity that Jesus experienced for our salvation. Both Mother Teresa and St. Faustina share experiencing the unquenchable thirst of Christ for the love of souls. Why is it these saints experienced this kind of backwards union with Jesus when the rest of us don’t?
I believe it is for the simple reason that God knew it was a weight they could carry. God does not shoulder all of us with the same spiritual experiences indiscriminately. The joys and burdens we experience are equally unique gifts from our Father who works all things for our good (cf. Romans 8:28).
Are there things in your life that you do not understand? Are things not timing out the way you want? Are you struggling to understand a piece of theology or mystery that seems to elude you? When this happens to me, I usually inevitably start to think in a negative way that God is keeping something from me or that I’m not smart enough/strong enough to handle it. And maybe that’s exactly right. Maybe I’m not ready to handle something or God knows that a deeper understanding of a mystery will not be good for my faith at this time. It’s hard to not only admit but embrace our weakness. But rather than getting defensive and letting my feathers be ruffled that God is keeping something from me, I’m going to turn the attitude around. God, as a loving parent, is sheltering me from knowledge that I am not ready to handle. He will not keep it from me forever and I trust His timing.
After all, Jesus didn’t start his ministry with his death. That would have been too much, too soon, to incomprehensible. He made sure the disciples had a good foundation, he formed them and helped them grow, so that when the incomprehensible happened, they survived (it wasn’t pretty or perfect, but with help from the Holy Spirit, they were able to change the world).