Do Catholic Parents Have to Name Their Babies After Saints?

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Naming a child after a saint is one of the popular traditions parents follow when choosing Catholic baby names. Picking a name for your baby is an exciting and maybe even challenging responsibility so careful thought must be put into it.

As Catholics, do we have any special considerations to keep in mind when naming our child? Are we required to name our child after a saint or can we name them with anything we want? What are the reasons why parents choose the name of saints as Catholic baby names?

Here are some of things you need to know about the naming conventions in the Catholic Faith. 

What Canon Law Says About Catholic Baby Names

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The issue of picking a child’s name should be examined in light of the sacrament of baptism. For this reason, we need to look back to the rules and regulations associated with the administration of this sacrament if we want to understand naming conventions in the Catholic Faith. 

According to the Code of Canon Law of the Vatican, “Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given.” This canon does not specifically require that a child be named after a saint. In fact, the canon does not specify that a child be given a particular name at all during baptism.

Canon Law only restricts us from choosing names that are “foreign to Christian sensibility.” These names are those that are charged with negative connotations and which go against our faith and Catholic convictions, for example, “Satan,” “Death,” “Lucifer,” and so on.

If a parent picks a questionable name, the priest who is to baptize the child not only has the right but the responsibility to intervene. The priest a well as the child’s godparents will need to object to the choice of name and ask the parents to select another name instead. The baptism cannot take place if the parents insist on their offensive choice of name. 

Why Parents Choose to Name Their Baby After Saints

Many parents choose to name their baby after saints even though it is not a requirement of the Catholic Faith. The following are some of the reasons why they do this: 

Personal Expression o​f Faith

When we recite the Apostle’s Creed, we say that we believe in the “communion of the saints.” This means that we acknowledge being united spiritually to those who have passed on and are in heaven. Naming our child after a saint is one way of reaffirming our faith in this said communion of saints. We proclaim to the world that we believe in the saints and their power enough to let them become a part of the lives of our children. 

​I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered​ under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

An Example for Your Child

One of the most common reasons why parents name their children after saints is that they want to help their child grow in their faith. Saints are known for leading exemplary lives and their extraordinary faith. When we name our child after a saint, we are giving them the opportunity to learn more about the saints and their inspiring stories. 

In today’s world, it can be difficult to find good role models for our children and the lives of saints are an excellent source of insight into how we can practice our Catholic Faith. Through their namesake saints, our children can find inspiration in the way they behave, make choices and live as Christians. 

Inspiration for Difficult Times

The saints lived lives that were far from easy. Many of them faced seemingly insurmountable hardships and had their faith tested numerous times. Ultimately, their stories teach us that we can endure great odds as long we put our faith in God.

Naming our children after saints is a good way to remind them to pray when they encounter something difficult in their life. Also, we must remember that the saints are our intercessors and so we can teach our children to invoke them for help whenever they experience challenging obstacles. 

Opportunity to Evangelize

Giving our children the name of a saint is not just personally significant. We could use this naming convention to reach out to others and lead them to a life in Christ. For example, some people might ask us why we picked the name Jude Thaddeus for our child. From there, we could share the inspiring story of St. Jude Thaddeus and why he is considered the patron saint of desperate situations. 

Keep in mind that evangelization is one of our duties as members of the Catholic Faith and reaffirming our faith in our day to day choices is one way of practicing this.

Popular Catholic Baby Names 

Boys include: Jacob, Michael, James, Daniel, Elijah, Benjamin, Matthew, David, and Joseph. 

Girls include: Sophia, Elizabeth, Mary, Grace, Evelyn, Abigail, Zoe, Anna, Leah, Sarah, Naomi and Faith.

Are you named after a saint? What is the story behind your name?