Why You Need To Adopt A Saint’s Name During Baptism

Naming a child after a Saint is not new in the Catholic Tradition. If there’s one event that inspires a Christian to take on a name matching the solemnity of the occasion, Baptism is certainly that event just as it is also very important to take up a saint’s name at the sacrament of confirmation.It is important as St. John Chrysostom strongly stated in the 4th century,  encouraging parents to choose for their children names of holy men and women known for their strength and virtue. In this case, the children might look to them as role models.

Even earlier, St. Dionysius of Alexandria observed that there are many who also took names as the Apostle John, who on account of their love for him adopted his name and because they also admired, emulated him, and desired to be loved by the Lord as he was. These people took to themselves the same name, just as most children of the faithful are called Paul or Peter.

The Tradition of Giving Children Christian Names (canon law)

Many Catholics choose a saint’s name for their child’s first or middle name or even both. In the past, Canon Law required that parents have a Christian name for the child at Baptism. However, this is no longer a hard-and-fast requirement. In the current code of Canon Law, number 855 simply states:“Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given.”

For example, it would be very disturbing for a Catholic to present the name “Lucifer” or “Zeus” for an infant at his baptism, and the priest might question what intention the parents had in giving their child such a name.

However, there is a long and beautiful tradition as to why Catholics should present a saintly or biblical name for their child at Baptism, and why those who convert to Catholicism should choose one too during baptism

According to the Bible:

The Bible Provides us with many vivid examples of significant circumstances bringing about a change in name, especially in regards to moments of spiritual conversion

1    When God chooses Abram to be the father of the Chosen People and asks him to be circumcised as part of this new covenant, He gives Abram a new name: Abraham.
2   After wrestling with an angel and receiving the angel’s blessing, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel.
3  The name changes of Simon to Peter and Saul to Paul in the New Testaments are deeply significant

In each of these cases, an important encounter with God led to the choosing of a name which reflected the solemnity of that event. When a child is baptized, he or she becomes a son or daughter of God the Father, a co-heir of Heaven through Christ the Son, and a sharer in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Catholic parents may choose a saint’s name as the child’s name when they have a child and present that name at the infant’s baptism. For those who receive baptism later in life or convert to Catholicism may choose a name to reflect his or her new status as a Christian, and this name stands as a beautiful and strong symbol and a reminder of spiritual conversion.

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