St. Elizabeth the Unspecified, pray for us

One of my regrets (and man, I have a million) is that I’m not doing a great job introducing my kids to the saints. We have made a few stabs and this and that, but I’m not hugely devoted to any particular saint myself, so it just doesn’t come naturally.

We had a few saint biography collections when I was growing up, and I did read them repeatedly; but I think they ended up doing more harm than good, and I ended up with a bunch of ideas that were hard to shed. Namely: (a) saints were born that way (“before she even learned to talk, tiny Wiffletrude used to weep at her mother’s breast because it made her think of how Jesus thirsted on the cross.” That kind of thing) and (b) if I did become a saint, it was only a matter of time before the demonic attacks would begin, with bed shaking and foot clawing and stuff, and that did not sound great.

I also worried a lot about how poorly I would do when the Romans gave me one more chance to renounce Christ before cutting my skin off. I did figure that, if, because of my great beauty, I became unwilling but gentle queen of the land, I would definitely be the one who distributed bread to the peasants, like, 24/7.

I ended up with two patron saints: Unspecified Elizabeth and Michael the Archangel. And also a guardian angel. Do I remember that I have these holy ones watching over me? No, I do not. I’m just a lonely loner on a lonely road. Alone.

Terrible religious art also had a lot to answer for. Only very weird kids think, “Oh yeah, I can picture myself holding a palm branch with three fingers, with my eyeballs rolled up and a bunch of wispy roses framing my person at all times. Yep, that’s me. ” The state of religious art is definitely improving, and it’s also immensely helpful to learn about saints who are recent enough to appear in photos. Hagiographies have also gotten much better in recent years. Saints come across much more like actual, specific people, rather than goopy spirituality dolls.

Anyway, this gap in our family’s spirituality always comes into focus when one of my kids is preparing for confirmation. (In our area, they’re transitioning to restored order of sacraments, so confirmation happens when a kid is in his early teens.) They have to choose a confirmation patron saint and write a short essay. IS CATASTROPHE. I make some feeble suggestions which are met with floppiness. I point them toward some books which promptly slither into the couch crack. Wishing to appear hip and cyber, I suggest Jen Fulwiler’s Saint Name Generator; then I get distracted by Facebook and forget about the whole thing until the emails from the DRE get really insistent. And that’s what they mean when they say parents are a child’s primary educators.

However! They always end up choosing a bona fide saint with an actual biography attached to them, and no one has chosen a patron who clearly just got called up for the cool name. Not a St. Désirée or St. Gaspar de Bufalo or St. Lawdog in the bunch. Whether any of my kids have formed any kind of meaningful devotion to their patrons, I do not know.

But it occurs to me that, even if they never learned a single real fact about their saint, or said a single prayer to them, much less formed some kind of genuine spiritual friendship or devotion, the patron saint is still devoted to the confirmandi. And the same would be true even if some kid chose a saint purely to annoy their parents or solely so their new initials would spell out F.U.N.K or something. Right? You choose a patron, and they’re in, and that means they’re praying for you for the rest of your life, whether you think about it or not.

I don’t think it’s necessary to believe that you have been somehow spiritually nudged without your knowledge in the direction of the saint that’s just right for you. It’s possible, and I’ve heard plenty of stories where someone chooses something randomly, and it ends up being devastatingly relevant. But in either case, a spiritual friendship is a real thing, even if it comes about by chance and only goes one way; and a saint is, among other things, someone who’s always willing to try to bring someone closer to God.

That’s all I got. Like so many other things in Catholicism, it’s far less about our own efforts and merits than we realize, and it works out to be a pretty good deal for us. Salut! I mean, ora pro nobis.

Gender Reveal Parties and the Discernment of Amoral Issues

Baby_boy,_one_month_old

A reader writes:

I cannot understand why some practicing Catholics that I know do not agree that referring to a child by his/her gender and name before birth (as soon as it can be known) is MORE life-affirming than not doing so, and is clearly a moral issue because of the inherent dignity of the unborn.

Read my response at the Register.

***

Help me name my baby!

Oh, fun! Sancta Nomina is a blog devoted to Catholic baby names, and the author has devoted an entire post to our dear Shrimpy, who is still known as Shrimpy, even though my due date is Feb. 26. Which is soon.

I love talking about names! Check out the blog and leave a suggestion. I’m not even kidding; we really need help.

What did you almost name your kid?

The other day, my groceries were scanned by a woman whose nametag said “Alma.” I almost told her that I wanted to name my daughter that; but then I realized that, if she’s anything like every other Alma I’ve ever met, she just wants me to take my receipt and go away.

Anyway, when I come across someone with a name we decided against nine times, sometimes I’m relieved (“Whew! Dodged that bullet”) and sometimes I’m wistful (“Just think, that could have been ours . . . “). Truly, I feel like all my kids have the perfect name for them. For a few of our kids, it’s almost uncanny: Clara, for instance, turned out to be remarkably clear-eyed and fair skinned, unlike all the other kids. But I supposed people just grow into names, so it’s hard to say if a name is really ideal, or just very familiar.

A few of the names I pushed for, and my husband didn’t like: Ada, Delia, Beryl. A few of the ones I’m pretty glad he didn’t go for: Oceania, Moselle. (Look, I was young, okay?) He also liked Edith, which I could never warm up to, although Edie is a sweet nickname.

Of course, nothing can beat my husband’s own dodged bullet. His mother had a boy’s name picked out when she first got pregnant, but she had a girl first, so she couldn’t use the name. Then she had another girl, and then another girl. By the time he was born, she realized that she really oughn’t name him . . . Huckleberry John.

 

 

PIC baby aghast

HA. How about you? What’s in your discard pile? Do you know what you almost got called?