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

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