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What’s in a Name?

Quite a bit, really, if you’re one of our kids.

As promised, here is a little post explaining Liam’s name and the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind giving our poor children a million names each.

We chose Liam because it means “resolute protector,” and we entrusted our first son with this role. He is the third (and so far the youngest) child, but as the first male we hope and expect him to be the resolute protector of his sisters, and of his family in general if anything were to happen to his father. We also really love the name Liam, in and of itself. The way it sounds, the way it’s spelled, the way it looks…it’s a great name. Plus, Liam Neeson. Need I say more? (My husband insists that I put in a disclaimer saying that he is not in love with Liam Neeson… that’s all me.)

We had already decided on the name Liam but were having a terrible time agreeing on middle names when I woke up one morning with the name “Liam Xavier Bede” running through my head. It was a really weird experience, and the first thing I said to the Ogre was, “I think our son just named himself.” When I told him the name, he agreed, and that was that.

So that day I got online and googled St. Francis Xavier. He was a Spanish Jesuit priest who was a missionary to many different places, most notably India and Japan. He also co-founded the Society of Jesus with St. Ignatius. To tell you the truth, though, I was left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth after reading his history. Apparently rather than using the already-established idols and rituals of the pagan lands to create a nativised church (ike Matteo Ricci and other Jesuit missionaries), St. Francis Xavier did away with all the pagan nonsense and got straight down to business. I have mixed feelings about this approach, but what really got me was that he requested the Goa Inquisition.

Inquisition = badness. Dark times for the Church.

Nevertheless, he is credited with converting more souls than anyone since St. Paul, which is awesome. Additionally, he took a special interest in restoring moral relations between Portuguese men and Indian women, and catechizing their illegitimate children, which (as many of you know) strikes a special note in my soul and makes me very, very fond of St. Francis Xavier.

As for Bede, the venerable Bede was a 7th-century historian, scholar, and teacher. He is considered the father of English history for writing The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and was made a Doctor of the Church in 1899. We thought it was appropriate, given my husband’s vocation as a scholar and teacher. Additionally, the name “Bede” means prayer, taken from the Old English word “bed” (there should be a dash above the e, but I can’t figure out how to do that).

I’m not going to walk you through the rhyme and reason for all of our childrens’ names, but generally the first name is the one we choose because we like it and we like the meaning, the second name is chosen to honor a particular saint, and the third, for Sienna and Charlotte, were chosen to honor family members. With Liam we couldn’t agree on someone so we cast off that shackle and man, did freedom feel good. We may resume the honoring of family members next time, but no promises.

Also, because we’re total English major dorks, Liam and Charlotte’s names are in dactylic meter (my favorite meter) with a trochee at the end (we can’t help our last name.) Poor Sienna’s wasn’t as well thought out. It doesn’t scan very well, but the best I’ve been able to do is to call it hypercatalectic with four feet of alternating iambs and anapests. I’m expecting to be lambasted by my father-in-law for such a poor job of scanning, but hey, it’s been five years since Junior Poet. I’m a little rusty.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08260104473490125658 Lesley

    I love that you named him after Bede! The metaphor from Ecclesiastical History about the sparrow flying through the mead-hall in winter is kind of a foundational image for me spiritually. It's very cool that all your kids' names are so meaningful.


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