Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Names

They told us in theology classes years ago that, in the Hebrew tradition, names are a big deal. That God renaming Abram Abraham was significantly more than just a nickname. That God's revelation of His Name to the Chosen People through Moses marked a covenental intimacy that no other people had with their God. That even still, when one writes the Name of God in the original Hebrew, he is required to break the pen (or whatever writing implement) he used, because it has written the greatest thing it is possible to write. That at the Name of Jesus, every knee must bow.

But names still never seemed like anything to write home about, other than these sacred Names. Making connections at a new place here has reminded me how normal it is to name-drop - not even to impress people, but just to find common ground, whether it's people you personally know or perhaps those with a bit more notoriety that you mutually follow. I'm sure my fellow Steubie grads who read this are well aware of the moment when you introduce yourself and identify your background, and the Catholic you're talking to immediately throws out names of others who attended our school. It's just a natural way to put ourselves at ease with others.

So when I'm now meeting awesome people who are headed to my alma mater, I think nothing of telling them to send my best to those people still there whom I most treasure and/or whom they're likely to meet.

There is one particular professor whose class I recommend as worth nearly as much as the entire rest of one's education there; naturally, I tell these new student friends of mine to seek him out and take his class at all costs. Turns out at least one of these friends made it in to his already overfilled class specifically because he told this prof that I told him he had to take the class.

That brought it home: My name is important. Perhaps that's just me developing notoriety, but it was a strange feeling, to know that my name alone - not my presence, my email, or anything else I directly did, but just my name - was enough to influence such a decision.

Growing up, I always called the Mother of God simply "Mary." That was her name, so that's what I called her. When I began to meet other Catholics my age who practiced their faith, I noticed that most of them called her the Blessed Mother. As I grew to learn bits and pieces of other languages, I saw that in Polish, she is usually called Mother of God; in French and Spanish, Our Lady. Whenever a Marian priest said Mass, his homily always tied in Our Lady.

My point? After a time, it became clear to me that those people with great devotion to the Immaculate Virgin called her by different titles, and almost never by her name. So I intentionally switched from referring to her as Mary to our Blessed Mother. As time continued, I found myself desiring a deeper love for Our Lord's Mother, so I thought I'd do what everyone I know with strong Marian devotion does: intentionally refer to her as Our Lady.

And, wouldn't you know it, my love for her has soared. And all I've done differently is change how I refer to her. Not even how I address her; that's the same as it's been since childhood. Just calling her "Our Lady."

Because of which, I've unconsciously begun to refer to Jesus as "Our Lord," rather than simply as Christ. It's a title that radiates both loving affection and submissive intimacy. And I love it.

I pray that Our Lord bless you and Our Lady watch over you and all those whom you hold in your heart.


  1. You should change your profile name to "Claire of the Blog" and see if your readership increases.

  2. I've always called Mary the Blessed Mother. I couldn't her Mary just like I couldn't call my mother Barbara.

  3. Anonymous8:20 PM

    I know, I'm way late --

    -- I am totally the cradle Catholic who showed up to Steubenville saying "Jesus" and "Mary" almost deliberately, as if to prove I could be Catholic and not traditional (ha, oh the irony), and felt slightly weird whenever someone referred to the pope as "the Holy Father."

    -- Come to think of it, in my family we referred to the pope as "Viva il papa!" As in, "The Viva il papa is on EWTN!" But maybe that's not saying anything :o)

    -- I'm reminded of Fr. Peter remarking once how sometimes people resort to calling Christ "Christ," instead of "Jesus," to the point of almost dehumanizing Him...focusing so much on this Messianic figure and forgetting the miracle -- that He became Man. Anyways. Of course, there's a time and place for different names and titles of Our Lord, but I thought it was an interesting point...a reminder that names do matter.


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