We Named Him Ignatius

Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, 16th century, artist unknown

Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, 16th century, artist unknown

“So what are you going to call him?”

And so it begins.  Round 2 in weird Catholic baby names.

When our oldest son Augustine was born, there was lots of confusion on the part of people asking what his name was.  Either they misheard (“Justin?  What a nice name.” or “Augustus?”) or they mispronounced it, especially if they were from a different faith tradition.  Many a nurse has called for Augusteen across a crowded waiting room.

Now this year on Christmas Day we welcomed a handsome almost nine-pound bundle (whose mother had become hooked on the Food Network show Cupcake Wars in the months preceding his birth, no doubt lending itself to his most scrumptious plump cheeks), and it was no sooner when he had been cleaned up when the staff began asking about his name.

My husband and I glanced at each other.  Were we sure?  We were, in fact, and had been for nine months.  For many years, we had greatly admired and felt a strong connection to St. Ignatius of Antioch, the valiant martyr of the second century, the man who simply could not wait to be eaten by lions for the love of Christ.  We even had had the opportunity to pray for the very new baby on board this spring when we were in Rome visiting the tomb of St. Ignatius.  A proponent of the real presence in the Eucharist, of unity among believers, of obedience to the bishop, we’ve felt strongly for a long time that St. Ignatius is a man for our times.  And for our baby—it feels as though he’s going to need a strong intercessor in these times to come.  But that was too much to tell the staff in the delivery room, so we simply said, “Ignatius,” and smiled at each other.

In the days following his birth, I tried not to worry about how other people perceived his name.  Everyone had been very polite and remarked on what a beautiful or interesting name it was.  No one actually said what they might have been thinking, “Are you serious?”  Filling out the birth certificate paperwork, I tried to banish thoughts of how our little guy might grow up to hate us.  With God’s grace, we pray that both of our little boys might learn to love their strong, courageous patrons, that they take comfort in knowing that they have their own superheroes praying for and watching out for them in a special way, and that someday—hopefully sooner rather than later—they might aim to imitate them.

In the meantime, we’ve got a tiny baby with a big name that can make casual grocery store exchanges awkward.  But lest I begin to doubt our choice of names, I need only to remember this Epiphany when our dear priest friend poured holy water over our son’s soft, fuzzy head and said, “Ignatius Michael, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and it sounded so right—I knew that we had picked a good name for our little boy.  And I think St. Ignatius agrees.

Copyright 2013 Meg Matenaer


About Author

Meg Matenaer is a wife and mom of four little people. She loves her faith, family, and friends—and coffee—and writes about the faith at heaven’s in your corner. Like heaven’s in your corner on Facebook to receive news, updates, and Catholic inspiration for your day!


  1. Congratulations on your name choice for your son! My name is Ignatius . My father went to Jesuit schools and named me Ignatius Loyola. Certainly I still get the “deer in the headlight “look at times when introducing myself but it has many advantages as people always remember my name, and it will build character and uniqueness in your son. I myself went to Jesuit High School, University and Medical School (Loyola and Georgetown) and have a great wife and family of my own now. We have a son and two daughters and named our son Gregory Ignatius.
    I have gone by the nicknames Iggy, Ig and Nate at various points along the way,but as I get older Ignatius seems to be more the name I prefer.
    Its a great name and I applaud you and your husband for your choice. Good job !!

    • Meg Matenaer on

      Hi, Ignatius! So great to hear from you! I laughed and read your message out loud to my husband. I’m so happy that things turned out just fine for you ;), and I’ll think of your story when I get funny looks about his name. A very blessed and happy Easter to you and your family!

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  3. Buenaflor Nicolas on

    Hi Meg,

    Our very first grandchild was born on April 8th. Throughout the whole pregnancy, my son (Elijah) and his wife (Shirley) did not want to know the gender of their child so they chose two names. I told them to keep the names secret too so that they will not be affected by people’s opinion. As we were watching a nurse cleaning up our new grandson from a window of the nursery, my son showed us from his iphone the name they have chosen for him – Ignatius! We were overjoyed. Elijah and Shirley chose the name because they met and fell in love when they were 16 at St. Ignatius College Preparatory. They continued to nurture their love until they finished high school, college, and graduate schools. The name Ignatius is quite special and for the years to come, it will surely be. The Bishop already volunteered to baptize our grandson on May 30th!

    • Congratulations!! And what an excellent name. I now know of two other families in our city who have an Ignatius. Tell your kids it’s trending :) Thanks for sharing!

  4. I just came across this and had to comment. We named our son (born in 2006) Ignatius, after St. Ignatius of Loyola. Although there are times when he asks me, “Why didn’t you choose a more common name for me?” (Mostly because he couldn’t ever find any personalized souvenir that has his name printed on it 😁), overall he is happy with his name. We call him Iggy at home, though most of his friends call him Ignatius which he prefers nowadays, being almost 9 and all 😉. The only thing he complains about is that not too many people can pronounce his name when they read it. He gets really excited when someone actually say it correctly! He usually comments with, “They must be Catholics!” 😄 I am very happy to hear that he is not the only Ignatius nowadays! 😊

    • Our Ignatius was also born in 2006, and also prefers his full name (he lets his baseball team call him Iggy but that’s it). Although our son was actually born in July, his patron saint is Ignatius of Antioch. If he thinks his name is uncommon, I should show him this article! Also, it helps that his brother is named Bonaventure – I still haven’t come across another one of those yet, so Ignatius is common by comparison.

        • Also, my Bonaventure has a second grade classmate named Augustine (whose parents are actually Bonaventure’s godparents). They go by Bono and Gus, but they are proud of their full names. :)

    • Love it! That’s so great that he’s proud of his name. Our Ignatius (Nayshuth, as he says) is two and half now, and his best buddy down the street is also Ignatius so it’s trendy in our neighborhood! Thanks for writing!

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