Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Names

What Made Our Lady Great?

May 29, 2013 by encourageandteach

By: Deacon Marques Silva

Many of us spend most of our lives attempting to climb the corporate ladder. Most of us strive after money in order to live life on our own terms – let’s be honest, it is good to be in charge. Status has its privileges, but Our Lord desires something more from us.

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Holy Naming

Holy Naming

By: Deacon Marques Silva

vianneyThinking of names for your future children or grandchildren? How about considering a saint’s name? May is typically a busy month for baptisms – at least in my parish. Many are surprised to discover that the custom of given children a Christian saint’s name may be traced back to the infancy of Christianity. It seems that people of what are now modern day France and Germany were among the first to begin this practice, which quickly spread throughout Europe. The name of Jesus has typically been held in reserve by almost all cultures, with the notable exception of the Spanish.

Read More at Encourage And Teach…

The Holy Name of Mary

The Church, since 1684, celebrates today the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. This feast commerates the victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 during which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Holy League) liberated the besieged Vienna on the fields of Kahlenberg. For the history buffs, this battle is noted as the largest calvary charge in history (20,000 men).

The Roman Martyrology speaks about this feast in the following terms:

The Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a day on which the inexpressible love of the Mother of God for her Holy Child is recalled, and the eyes of the faithful are directed to the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer, for them to invoke with devotion.[1]

John III Sobieski, King of Poland prior to the battle placed his troops under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To commerate this victory,
Pope Innocent XI inserted the feast in the General Roman Calendar, assigning to it the Sunday within the octave of the Nativity of Mary (8-15 September).
The feast was taken off the General Roman Calendar after the Second Vatican Council but restored in the Second Typical Edition of the Roman Missal.
Mary is the mirror of the Church. There is nothing that we can say about the Mary that we cannot say about the Church, and visa-versa. Her name is also said to be the terror of demons. At the sound of the Immaculate they flee from the one who by her own free will chose not to voluntary sin during her life. She is the proof that grace overcomes all and that the human person is capable of living a life free of sin by cooperating with the grace(s) of redemption.
May her name always be on our lips!

[1] “Martyrologium Romanum” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)

Witness to Holiness…First in Speech

We are all called to be witnesses for the Gospel, it is the Gospel mandate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraph 2472 says it this way:

The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.

All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation.

As I continue to prepare for my God-willing Diaconate ordination, I am drawn to meditate on the following prayer that the Bishop admonishes the newly ordained Deacons to incarnate as he hands on the Book of the Gospel to them:

Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become.

Believe what you read,

teach what you believe,

and practice what you teach.

I think this admonishment is something we all need to inculcate into our daily lives. At the core of the prayer is the simple demand of becoming who we profess to be. St. Paul even gives a blueprint for success to the young (I pray I am still considered that):

Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Hopefully, we remember that St. Timothy was about 17 when this was written to him. So, we could say that he is a young adult or adult due to the culture and time in which he lived. The first step towards become a witness to those around us, according to St. Paul, is speech. St. James in his epistle, rather pointedly shares with us the importance of our speech:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. (James 1:13)

In fact, because of the sins of speech, he actively discourages those who want (or quickly volunteer) to be teachers (verbal witnesses) by proclaiming that if you cannot control your tongue, then you have no hope of controlling the rest of your conduct (Notice speech precedes and drives conduct):

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. (James 3:1-6)

Most of us think that this is just what we say. As every saint has taught, sins of omission are usually worse than sins of commission. This reminds me of Edmund Burke who once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We need to speak up,

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Today’s society uses words as  a tool. The very fact we have the sayings, “Words are cheap” or “I’ll believe it  when I see it” should scandalize the Christian. Remember what Michael Card wrote in his song, The Final Word?

When the Father wanted to communicate His love, He expressed it in one final word. The Final Word was Jesus, He needed no other one…

We live in a world of broken promises, trite comments and conversations that really communicate nothing. Oddly enough, the only words we typically trust in are those in our music. For some reason we many times allow them to manipulate our emotions into believing that somehow the artist understands us, what we are feeling, or where we are – I thought that was the definition of friends and family. From the beginning, the Lord intended words or speech to express who we are and to communicate His holiness and presence.

The greatest offenses of speech today is blasphemy. The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines blasphemy as:

Speaking against God in a contemptuous, scornful, or abusive manner. Included under blasphemy are offenses committed by thought, word, or action. Serious contemptuous ridicule of the saints, sacred objects, or of persons consecrated to God is also blasphemous because God is indirectly attacked. Blasphemy is a grave violation of charity toward God. Its gravity may be judged by the capital punishment in the Old Testament, severe penalties of the Church, and in many cases also of the State for blasphemous speech or conduct. In order for a person to sin gravely in this manner, he must use blasphemous expressions and realize the contemptuous meaning of what he says or does.

To toss our Lord’s name around casually, or using His name as an exclamation in a text or IM would be grounds for being stoned in the Old Testament. Today, the penalty is well, hell (deliver us oh Lord!). We also need to remember that we participate in another person’s sin by choosing to ignore, confirm and/or allow the sin to continue. In other words, we incur the guilt as well. Example, what was the language like in the last movie or television show you watched? Did you encourage others to watch it and tell them it was a good/great movie if you just “overlook the language?” As a good priest friend also shared with me, being desensitized is not an excuse. It just means you choose to live with terminal cancer unless, of course, you take radical action.  For those who have no idea how to discover what is in a movie before you contribute to the profit: – fantastic service.

Let’s commit ourselves to recovering holy speech. To help us this Friday in our meditation on the Passion, the following is a quick list of offenses against truth that deal with speech- CCC 2463-2487.

Offenses against truthfulness:

  • False witness and perjury. When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness.276 When it is under oath, it is perjury.
  • [R]ash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor
  • [D]etraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them
  • [C]alumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
  • Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct.
    • Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.
  • Boasting or bragging is an offense against truth. So is irony aimed at disparaging someone by maliciously caricaturing some aspect of his behavior.
  • [L]ie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.
    • Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

Have a great weekend and may the Lord bless you and your endeavors in recovering, rediscovering and building a Catholic culture for the glory of His name.

What’s in a Name

Names in today’s society are treated like a dime a dozen.  Scripturally, however, names are not just what you call someone or something but a revelation of whom or what you are addressing is – it is the special meaning of the “thing”.  For a person, this is more important.  Traditionally, a person’s name has been broken up into three parts:

  • First name – This name is chosen by the parents.  It is the Christian and person name of the individual.  We should remember that in Genesis, The Father gave Adam the responsibility of naming those things which he was given authority.
  • Confirmation name – This name is chosen by oneself.  While a pious tradition it is technically not required.  The choice is a reflection of the ideals and virtues the individual desires to live by.  Tradition also holds that it helps the individual understand their mission and invokes the intercession of that saint.  Sometimes it means choosing the given baptismal name.
  • Last name – This name is chosen before one is born.  The Catholic Source Book on page 280 states: “The family name is over and above the Christian name. The use of a surname originated in the late tenth century, though it became common practice only much later. Its purpose was to specify an individual, usually according to parentage (patronymic: Johnson, Ivanovich, MacCallum, McDonald, Novinski), trade/occupation (Baker, Taylor, Schumacher, Smith), personal/physical characteristics (Short, Strong, Klein [small]), or place of residence (York, Westerfield, Berg [mountain]).”

The Catechism of the Council of Trent mandated that the name given to child during the Sacramental Rite of Baptism is to be taken from a person whose sanctity has been recognized. This was a challenge for the Gaelic Christians who did not like to name their children with sacred or holy names.  As a result, a number of permutations have appeared in our name lexicon.  For instance, variations of Mary or Muire in Gaellic became Maire.  In present time, the 1983 Code of Canon Law states,

Parents, sponsors and the pastor are to see that a name foreign to a Christian mentality is not given. #855


From the earliest times names were given in baptism. The priest is directed to see that obscene, fabulous, and ridiculous names, or those of heathen gods or of infidel men be not imposed. On the contrary the priest is to recommend the names of saints. This rubric is not a rigorous precept, but it is an instruction to the priest to do what he can in the matter. If parents are unreasonably obstinate, the priest may add a saint’s name to the one insisted upon.[1]

A name of a Christian saint really should be given to the child, either as a first or second name, or both. This saint then becomes the patron saint of the child. Not only out of Christian sentiment but to encourage the intercession and patronage of the saints.

Information about Christian names and saints is available at the following sites:

[1] Fanning, William. “Baptism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 4 May 2010 <>.

Sacraments in Focus: Confirmation

What is this Sacrament called Confirmation?

In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ entrusted to the Church for the conferral of sanctifying grace and the strengthening of the union between the individual and the Blessed Trinity.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in its paragraphs 1302–1303 states:

It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

  • it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15);
  • it unites us more firmly to Christ;
  • it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
  • it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
  • it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.

Confirmation in the Latin Rite

According to canon law for the Latin or Western Catholic Church, the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise (canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law). The number of Episcopal Conferences that have set a later age, usually between 14 and 16 years of age, has diminished in recent decades, and even in those countries a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537–540).

In the Latin-Rite (i.e., Western) Catholic Church, the sacrament is customarily conferred only on persons old enough to understand it, and the ordinary minister of confirmation is a bishop. Only for a serious reason may the diocesan bishop delegate a priest to administer the sacrament (canon 884 of the Code of Canon Law). However, a priest is not only by law empowered (canon 883), but, in the absence of a bishop, is obliged[7] to confer the sacrament, if he baptizes someone who is no longer an infant or admits a person already baptized to full communion, or if the person (adult or child) to be confirmed is in danger of death. Baptism and confirmation of an adult would normally occur at the Easter Vigil.

In Eastern Catholic Churches, the usual minister of this sacrament is the parish priest, using olive oil consecrated by a bishop (i.e., chrism), and administering the sacrament immediately after baptism. This corresponds exactly to the practice of the Early Church and the non-Catholic Eastern Churches.

The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ’s Church.

History on the  Rite of Confirmation in the West

The main reason why the West separated the sacrament of Confirmation from that of Baptism was to reestablish direct contact between the person being initiated with the Bishop. In the early Church, the Bishop administered all three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist), assisted by the priests and deacons and, where they existed, by deaconesses for women’s Baptism. The post-baptismal chrismation in particular was reserved to the Bishop. When adults no longer formed the majority of those being baptized, this chrismation was delayed until the Bishop could confer it. Until the twelfth century, priests often continued to confer Confirmation before giving Communion to very young children.

After the Fourth Lateran Council, Communion, which continued to be given only after Confirmation, was to be administered only on reaching the age of reason. The 1917 Code of Canon Law, while recommending that Confirmation be delayed until about seven years of age, allowed it be given at an earlier age.  Only on 30 June 1932 was official permission given to change the traditional order of the three sacraments of Christian initiation: the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments then allowed, where necessary, that Confirmation be administered after first Holy Communion. This novelty, originally seen as exceptional, became more and more the accepted practice.

In the mid-twentieth century, Confirmation thus began to be seen as an occasion for professing personal commitment to the faith on the part of someone approaching adulthood. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1308 warns:

Although Confirmation is sometimes called the ‘sacrament of Christian maturity,’ we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need ‘ratification’ to become effective.

The present (1983) Code of Canon Law maintains the rule in the 1917 Code, stating that the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is danger of death or, in the judgment of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise. The Code lays down the age of discretion also for the sacraments of Penance and first Holy Communion.

The number of Episcopal Conferences that have set a later age has diminished in recent decades, and even in those countries a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537–540).

Effects of Confirmation

The Catholic Church teaches that, like baptism, confirmation marks the recipient permanently, making it impossible to receive the sacrament twice. It accepts as valid a confirmation conferred within Churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose Holy Orders it sees as valid through the apostolic succession of their bishops. But it considers it necessary to administer the sacrament of confirmation, in its view for the only time, to Protestants who are admitted to full communion with the Catholic Church.

One of the effects of the sacrament is that “it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1303). This effect has been described as making the confirmed person “a soldier of Christ”.

The same passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions, as an effect of confirmation, that “it renders our bond with the Church more perfect”. This mention stresses the importance of participation in the Christian community.

The “soldier of Christ” imagery was used, as far back as 350, by St Cyril of Jerusalem.  In this connection, the touch on the cheek that the bishop gave while saying “Pax tecum” (Peace be with you) to the person he had just confirmed was interpreted in the Roman Pontifical as a slap, a reminder to be brave in spreading and defending the faith: “Deinde leviter eum in maxilla caedit, dicens: Pax tecum” (Then he strikes him lightly on the cheek, saying: Peace be with you). When, in application of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,[18] the confirmation rite was revised in 1971, mention of this gesture was omitted. However, the French and Italian translations, indicating that the bishop should accompany the words “Peace be with you” with “a friendly gesture” (French text) or “the sign of peace” (Italian text), explicitly allow a gesture such as the touch on the cheek, to which they restore its original meaning. This is in accord with the Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation, 17, which indicates that the episcopal conference may decide “to introduce a different manner for the minister to give the sign of peace after the anointing, either to each individual or to all the newly confirmed together.”

Information on other effects and broader matters concerning this sacrament can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285–1321.

Heaven help us: Confirmation name

In many English-speaking countries and in German-speaking lands, in Poland, and in Lithuania, it is customary for a person being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church (and some Anglican dioceses) to adopt the name of a saint whom that person admires or feels a special affinity with, thus securing an additional patron saint as protector and guide. This practice is unknown in many other countries (including the Spanish-speaking countries and French-speaking lands, and in Italy), and is not mentioned in the official liturgical book of the Rite of Confirmation. Obviously, the custom prevailing in a country influences, often decisively, the practice of immigrants from another country, even if they keep their own language.

The saint’s name is often used in conjunction with the confirmee’s middle name, but is without effect in civil law, unless, of course, the confirmand pursues the appropriate legal avenues.

The Seven Names of God

The name of a person is sacred.  By knowing someones name, you are able to exercise a certain amount of power over them.  For example, if you are walking down a hall and your name is called out you turn around.  The person who called your name caused you to stop and change direction by the mere utterance of your name.  If our names are sacred, how much more is the name of God.

Exodus 20:7 mandated the special care over the name of God – which the Scribes exercised diligently.  The Jews, out of respect for the holiness of God did not pronounce the tetragrammaton YHWH meaning the “Eternal One or Eternal Lord”.  In the Holy Writ, the revealed name of God is often replaced by the divine title of “Lord” (Adonai in Hebrew or Kyrios in Greek).  The title of Lord is also ascribed to Jesus which is a proclamation of His divinity.  Due to the sacredness of the name of God, and the vigilance to respect His name, titles were given so the Name would not be spoken.  i

Below are the traditional Seven Names of God.  For this reason it was sometimes common in the Middle Ages to refer to God as The Seven:

  • El
    • This is the most common Semitic stem in forming the words about God.  it is most often translated as God or God of power (etymology is uncertain).
    • Common names that use this stem include: Michael, Who is like unto God; Gabriel, The power of God; Raphael, The healing of God; Israel, One who wrestled with God; etc.
  • Elohim
    • This name appears several thousand times in the Old Testament.  It is the Hebrew plural form of El and is usually used to denote the plural of gods of the other nations or groups.  Using a shortened form of this it can also be used as an address to the Father i.e., Jesus’ cry from the cross “Eli, Eli…” (Matthew 27:46) is an example.
  • Adonai
    • In English, it means Lord.  It is also recognized in the Latin – Dominus and Greek – Kurios.  It is the most common substitute for the unspeakable NAME.  Jesus uses this title to proclaim his divinity.
  • Yahweh
    • This is the English rendering of the unspeakable NAME.  It is first used in Genesis 2:4.  The mistaken Protestant form is Jehovah.
    • Out of respect for our Jewish brethren, Catholics have been asked not to use the English form or the unspeakable NAME except in the rare need of biblical studies.
  • Ehyeh-asher-Ehyeh
    • This is the sole answer given to Moses when God is asked who He is.  Literally, “I AM WHO AM.”  it speaks of the simplicity of being.  Ehyeh means, “I will be” which is the imperfect tense in Hebrew to underscore an action that has not been completed.  It is a circumlocution of the tetragrammaton (way around the four-letter word).
  • El Shaddai
    • Usually translated as the Lord of the Mountain or Mighty God.  It is usually translated as the Pantocrator in Greek according to Genesis 17:1, 35:11 and Exodus 6:3.  This is the title that God used to Abraham and Jacob.
  • Zebaot
    • The typical translation is “Heavenly Host”.  When used as an action towards people it is translated as war.

As we can see there are many names for God in Scripture.  When you think of the New Testament what title for Jesus is closest to your heart? One of my personal favorites is Lion of the Tribe of Judah.