In a millisecond, the Google search engine on the topic of “how to name your child” churns out 761 million responses, give or take a couple of million.
So, let’s narrow it down a bit.
For Christine and Chris Baglow, the search for a meaningful name for each of their four children actually grew out of their Catholic faith and experience.
The Baglows decided to use their love of the saints and the compelling examples of saints’ lives to help them not only pick a name for their children but also provide them with a lifetime connection to an icon of the Catholic faith.
“I would say honestly that everything we do, whether we do it well or not, is because our deepest desire for our children is that they be Catholic – dynamically Catholic and authentically Catholic,” Christine Baglow said. “We want them to live their lives in union with God and his church. There are no better hero stories than the saints.”
The Baglows have four children – Margaret Jane, 13; John Trevor, 10; Peter George Trevor, 6; and William Edmund, 11 months old.
Trevor is a family name that was used as the middle name for their first two sons. The other names all were chosen because of a special tug that the Baglows felt toward Catholic saints. Dr. Chris Baglow is a professor of systematic theology at Notre Dame Seminary.
Love for Reformation martyrs
Even before the Baglows married in 1995, they had decided that if their first child was a girl, they would name her Margaret. Christine has a devotion to St. Margaret Clitherow, a martyr of the Reformation who was put to death on Good Friday in 1586 for the crime of harboring Catholic priests in her home for the celebration of secret Masses.
“Both Chris and I also have a devotion to St. Thomas More, and his daughter was Margaret More,” Christine said. “Chris had this vision of having the kind of relationship that Thomas and Meg shared. We knew that Margaret was etched in stone for the first girl.”
John was named for both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist; Peter George is the anglicized version of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frasatti, who was dedicated to charitable works and died in 1925 at the age of 24; William is named for the 56 Williams of the Reformation who are declared blessed, including printer William Carter and Welsh priest Father William Davies. William’s middle name, Edmund, is for St. Edmund Campion, a Jesuit martyr of the Reformation.
So, what’s in a name?
Christine Baglow says as the children grow up and learn the reasons for their names, they will grow to appreciate the holiness of life that the saints exhibited. It will become a talking point, especially during preparation for first Communion and confirmation.
“As a family, we share the stories of the faith,” said Christine, who home-schools her children. “For one thing, they know they are not alone – ever. I can remember when Margaret was making her first Communion, I talked to her about St. Margaret, who would coordinate covert Masses even if she couldn’t go herself. She was that committed to the Eucharist and to the priesthood. We talked about St. Margaret walking alongside of her when she was going to Communion. She has this companion.”
The name John was special to Christine because of her devotion to St. John the Baptist. She made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, which she said changed her life. The apparitions at Medjugorje began on June 24, the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Her husband loves the Gospel of St. John the Evangelist.
“And now that John has gotten older, of his own volition he has a great devotion to St. John Bosco, so that name has really stuck to him,” Christine said. “When the relics of St. John Bosco came here two years ago, we got to visit them.”
The name Peter George also has an interesting twist. In 2006, the Baglows took a trip to Rome with the refurbished Hope Monstrance from St. Dominic Parish, hoping to have it blessed by Pope Benedict XVI as a sign of recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Msgr. Christopher Nalty, who was working at the time in the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, gave his New Orleans visitors a tour of the Scavi, the excavation site of St. Peter’s tomb below the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. Christine was in her first trimester of pregnancy but did not know if she was carrying a boy or a girl. Secretly, she was hoping for a girl so that she could name her Mary.
“We always joked that I was kneeling in the presence of St. Peter, so how was I going to have a Mary?” Christine said, laughing. “I’m still praying for my Mary.”
Their son Peter now has a poster of Blessed Pier Giorgio over his bed, and Margaret has a statue and an image of St. Margaret Clitherow in her bedroom.
“And anytime I see John eating, it’s like he’s eating locusts and wild honey,” Christine said.
Many of Christine’s close friends are having babies, and they are following through with saint-related names, as well. Among the recent births have been Caeli Rose (for Regina Caeli), Samuel Benedict and Peter Ignatius.
For those young families who may not be well versed in Catholic saints but are interested in finding a saint’s name for their child, Christine suggests visiting a Catholic bookstore and asking questions. She said the Daughters of St. Paul at Pauline Books and Media on Veterans Boulevard are extremely helpful.
She also recommends several books: “57 Stories of Saints” by Daughter of St. Paul Sister Anne Eileen Heffernan; “Saints and Heroes for Kids” by Ethel Pochocki; “Butler’s Lives of the Saints”; and “The Saints and Our Children” by Mary Reed Newland.
Making history relevant
In home-schooling her children, Christine teaches world history chronologically, and she looks for saints that correspond to that specific era.
“Any family can do that just by looking for things on the computer,” Christine said. “If your kids are studying the American Revolution, you can find out what saints lived during that time to make it relevant. Very shortly we’ll be discussing the French Revolution, and we can talk about St. Vincent de Paul and what he means to the story.
“Our history is universal, and God is acting all over the place, all at the same time. We may only see one little snippet, but something good is happening over here or over there to bring about a conversion or impact the church. We’re trying to make it very alive.”
One of Christine’s favorite Catholic websites for young children is www.catholicicing.com.
She also offers a word of experienced advice: while the input of parents and in-laws can be nice, it’s best if the couple decides on the name together and doesn’t ask for affirmation or confirmation.
“Our life is definitely not without snafus, and we’ve definitely had some pushback at different times,” Christine said. “But typically speaking, Chris and I have really strong personalities. When we say, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ most people leave it alone.
“I hope we’re not goofy, holy-roly, ethereal beings. We’re real people. We’re pretty fallen, but the children are attuned to what has a deeper meaning in their lives, in large part because of the discussions we have.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.