What is so important about names?

By Pat Wettstein | For The Compass | January 19, 2017

“I have called you by name, you are mine” are words from Isaiah 43:1. The text from the first chapter from Jeremiah reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Both tie in well with today’s readings as God calls us, often by name, to ministry in the church. This is evidenced in today’s First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians when Paul specifically greets his congregation “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” recognizing that we are all named and part of the universal church.

Paul specifically mentions a disciple by the name of Chloe. I was blessed with a new grandchild almost a year ago whom my daughter named Chloe. What is so important about names? Is there rhyme or reason behind the names we give our children at baptism?

Direction can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “In baptism, the Lord’s name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The ‘baptismal name’ can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue” (No. 2156).

The Catechism also states, “Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it” (n. 2158).
We know that there are many saints’ names to take into consideration, some more obscure than others, but saints nonetheless. There are also many worthy biblical names.

Can you see the baptistry from your pew? If there is a baptism going on, can you see the expressions on the faces of the parents as they offer their child to God? When we are named and baptized in the church, we believe that we are brought out of darkness and into the light of salvation. It is heartening that many families today are now using more biblical and saintly names, some of which are names I associate with much older generations of families.

As I pondered the origin and meaning of names, I researched Chloe and discovered that it meant “green shoot” in ancient Greece, where the New Testament Chloe originated. Current use of other biblical names turned up the following: Ariel in Hebrew means “lion of God” and David in Hebrew means “beloved.”

The next time you witness a baptism take note of the name. Congratulate the parents and welcome the newest member into your parish. For they too are called by name from the darkness and “the land of gloom” and “have seen a great light.”

Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.

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