Monday, February 17, 2014

What's in a name?

I started writing this post a few days ago and finished it while here in the hospital recovering from Katherine's birth. I was excited to read that Kathryn is hosting a link-up for baby name stories over at Team Whitaker! So here goes...

I think all parents will agree that baby naming is one of the hardest, but most fun, parts of pregnancy. I always loved choosing baby names and still have a name book that I got in late elementary or middle school, because I had so much fun learning about different names and dreaming about having children one day!

As preteens, my best friends and I created books with magazine photos called "My Future Family" in which my children were named things like Crista, Chloe, Caitlyn and Cory. In college I started to like names that were more traditional like Madeline, Isabella, and Emma. Now those have become some of the most common names of my children's age and I've become a fan of names that are a bit more classic. 

Steven may be more picky about names than I am! He definitely prefers traditional names, he has a lot of names that bring up negative connotations, and he doesn't like girl names that end in -a. So we have ended up reusing a lot of family names because they're classic, traditional, Catholic saint names that we can agree on. I think we're both happy with the classic names we have chosen so far for our kids. 

Mary Clare
Elizabeth Ann Marie
Steven Joseph, Jr. 
Thomas William
Katherine Maria Grace

For a long time we knew we wanted our first daughter to be named Mary. We just had a hard time deciding on her second name, and we both now regret not giving her a third name as well. But we figured she might want to go by "Mary" one day and so we just gave that as her first, and Clare as her middle name. She's named after the Blessed Mother Mary. Her other patron is St. Clare of Assisi, who was an Italian noblewoman who became a follower of St. Francis and founded an order of nuns now called the Poor Clares. We visited Assisi on our honeymoon and the Basilica of St. Clare, which has special memories for us. Steven also liked how it rhymes with my name, Blair, and our little family of three became Steven, Blair, and Mary Clare. Mary means "bitter" and Clare means "light" so her name could be said to mean "bitter light" which I think is a good description for our oldest daughter!

Ellie's patron is St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton who was the first native born American to be canonized. She was a Catholic convert, a mother of six, a widow, a teacher, opened the first Catholic school in America, and was also the foundress of a religious order, the Sisters of Charity. St. Ann is the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus, and Ann is also a family name. We added Marie to her name in honor of the Blessed Mother. Her first two names mean "My God is my oath has favored me" and Marie is "bitter sea." Elizabeth is also my own middle name and patron saint, so I'd always hoped to use it as the name of a second daughter. Elizabeth Ann Marie is a mouthful, so she has always been "Ellie," although I like to call her by the full name too. 

Many of you may remember that Steven Joseph's name was Peter during most of my pregnancy. We couldn't decide on a middle name and so a few days before his birth we started toying with the idea of changing his name and naming him after his daddy. It was quite a surprise to many people when he was born and we did name him Steven Joseph, Jr!  His patron is St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, whose stoning was documented in the Acts of the Apostles. Joseph is for the humble St Joseph, head of the Holy Family. Steven Sr. was born on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker before it was moved, so that's why he was given that middle name. As a baby and toddler, SJ (no we never call him by those initials, nor MC, they're just easier to write) used to be called Stevie, Joey, or JoeJoe, but as he got older he began to state his preference to be called Steven like his daddy! Often I call him by both names so it doesn't get so confusing! His names mean "crowned one, God will increase."

Thomas William was our first baby where we didn't find out the gender ahead of time. And we had learned our lesson with Steven about not sharing the name way in advance in case we changed our minds again! We had a boy and girl name picked out ahead of time but didn't share them with many people. Thomas William is named after Steven's dad Thomas and my dad William, and his uncle (Steven's brother) is also named Thomas.  William is also popular as a middle name in our extended family.  Thomas has long been my favorite boy's name. I'm not sure we really talked about his patron, but there are several wonderful St. Thomases for him to choose as he gets older. There's Thomas the Apostle, who needed to touch Christ's wounds to believe. There was St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and Doctor of the Church, one of the greatest theologians of all time. And St. Thomas More is another favorite. He was an English lawyer, philosopher, and statesman who opposed the Protestant reformation and was beheaded for treason because he wouldn't accept King Henry as the head of the Church of England. There are also quite a few St. Williams that Tommy will be able to learn about. I do use Tommy and Tom, but we all call him Thomas most of the time. The names Thomas and William mean "twin and resolute protector."

Our brand new baby is Katherine Maria Grace. Katherine was one of the few classic girl saint names we could agree on! It is also a family name on Steven's side. He has a sister and an aunt Katie. We wanted to add a form of Mary and decided to use Maria since we've used Mary and Marie for her sisters. Grace is also in honor of Mary, Our Lady of Grace, and is one of my favorite girl names. It's also the given name of my dear friend who is now a Dominican Sister. Steven wants to call her only "Katie" but I love all the options of her full name, Katie, Kate, or Katie Grace. We chose the K spelling of Katherine so that her initials wouldn't change with the nicknames. There are many wonderful St. Catherines, particularly the popular Catherines of Alexandria and Siena, as well as Catherine Laboure. But I was most inspired by St Katharine Drexel who is an American saint from Philadelphia who grew up in a wealthy family but became a religious sister and foundress who was devoted to the education and service of Native Americans and African Americans. The names Katherine Maria Grace mean "Pure, wished-for child of grace," and that is most certainly what our baby girl is!

I hope you've enjoyed these (long!) stories of our children's names, and hopefully they can look back and read this one day, too. Visit the link-up at Team Whitaker ( for some more fun name stories!


Unknown said...

No matter what way you spell it, Katherine is beautiful. I'm only *slightly* biased :) I'm so happy for y'all and excited to meet you in July. Enjoy the babymoon!

Ellen Johnson said...

Congratulations Blair & family! I loved reading about your babies' names. I love St. Katherine Drexel too, and she's my daughter's patron said (her middle name is Kathleen).

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