What Name Do You Give Your Child?


“What name do you give your child?”

Standing there at the baptismal font, holding my sweet baby, ready for her to receive new life in Christ, the priest looked at my husband and me, waiting for our answer. Next to the questions I was asked at my wedding, the questions asked at Baptism would probably be the most important ones of my life. And I was ready with my answers.

“Lucy Benedicta.”

Giving someone a name is a big deal. I think we know this innately as mothers, spending so many of those sleepless nights of pregnancy thinking about the child growing within, wondering what he or she will look like, sound like, be like, and what we’ll call them. Who are you, we wonder?

Image Credit: Megan Swaim, 2013

Image Credit: Megan Swaim, 2013

As Catholics, our relationship with scripture and the sacraments only serves to more firmly root us in the awareness that names are important….

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” – Luke 1:31

“He asked for a tablet and wrote, ‘John is his name,’ and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.” – Luke 1: 63-64

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1

“…the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” – John 10:3

“The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and his angels.” –Revelation 3:5

Want more proof? We are baptized by name, that name written into the Book of Life. In the sacrament of Confirmation we are sealed by name (our given baptismal name or that of a patron whose name we take as our own) and in the sacraments of vocation – Holy Orders and Matrimony – we are called and give ourselves in love by name. In the Rite of Christian Burial and in the Mass we pray for the faithful departed by name.

And as parents, we pray for our children by name, offering them back to God who entrusted them to us. It’s no wonder we spend so much time thinking about baby names!

Perhaps in part because I desired more meaning behind my own name than just “it was pretty,” it takes my husband and me a long time to settle on baby names. It’s really important to us that their names have strong meaning and good patrons, and help lead them to a deeper life of faith.

We have a couple of questions that we use to guide our baby-name pillow-talk: What are the feasts around the baby’s due-date/birthday? Who are saints or holy men and women who lived in a specific way (as mothers, as fathers, as martyrs, in service to the poor, as writers, etc.) who we hope our children can look to as a model? What are names we love? And what are the roots and meanings of those names (and do they have connections in scripture or the Christian life)?

For our first, we chose the name Lucy with the sweet little heroine of Narnia in mind. C. S. Lewis’ Lucy Pevensie is full of wonder, courage, generosity and an unwavering love and devotion to Aslan. She models for us the Church’s (and each Christian’s) faithful love for Christ.  We wanted our own daughter to someday read the Chronicles of Narnia and feel a special connection to this girl and hopefully, imitate her many virtues. We chose “Benedicta” for her middle name in honor of Pope Benedict and also because Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) — a great writer and philosopher who gifted the church with a deeper understanding of the feminine genius — is a perfect model for our intelligent, strong-willed girl.

As we anticipate the birth of our second child, we discovered that all of our favorite names for this baby are somehow connected to “mercy.” As we approach the Year of Mercy, we know this is no coincidence, but instead an invitation to reflect on God’s love for this child and this family in a particular way.

In the end, the responsibility of giving a child a name has been a delight and helped us to pray for our children and family. As we think of individual names and their meanings, it’s led us to think more deeply about what we want for our children, and our own vocation as parents to lead our children to heaven. It’s helped us to think of their names not just as the thing we’ll call them, but as one of the first gifts that we give them.

How do you choose a name for your children?


Copyright 2015 Megan Swaim.
Photo copyright 2013 Megan Swaim. All rights reserved.


About Author

Megan Swaim lives in South Bend, IN, with her husband, Josh, and daughters, Lucy and Mary. Together they are navigating the beautiful (and crazy) adventure of marriage, parenting, and ministering to the young Church. Megan is a high school youth minister and was one of the administrators of the My Year of Faith blog and app for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. You can read more from Megan at www.myyearoffaith.com.


  1. I loved this! Lucy Benedicta is a gorgeous combo, and I’m kind of dying to know what you’re considering for your baby on the way! 🙂

    My husband and I usually start with considering family members — who haven’t we honored yet? Most of our family names are saint names, but sometimes we do start with a favorite saint and save the family honor for the middle. The very best is when our favorite saint name is also a family name — jackpot! 🙂

  2. With our first I prayed for a name and received confirmation after confirmation on a name I wasn’t terribly fond of but have grown to love. Apparently I filled out the paperwork wrong for our second and he was officially Peter instead of Paul. The third, prayer again. After a few more kids, my husband and I would be sitting in the delivery room with the baby book desperately trying to find a name that we could both agree on. I am happy to say that all 11 of our children have great names! God is good 🙂

    • Oh I just love the story of your second! Some might call it the effects of postpartum exhaustion, but I think it’s more the Holy Spirit! And wow – naming 11 babies – that’s a feat! I know with certainty that there aren’t even ten names that my husband and I can both agree on. 🙂

  3. Thinking of and choosing a name was always one of my favorite parts about being pregnant. I had to laugh when with my 10th child, I was considering the name Raliegh. My cousin told me that Raliegh did not fit my pattern. “What pattern?” “All your children have Bible names!” (Actually, Veronica is not in the Bible, but a lot of good Catholics are surprised to realize that.) So #10 became Thomas, a name my husband has liked since #1 son, and while I love all the St. Thomases, as a teacher, I had too many Thomases who were hand-fulls! It is funny what all goes into a name.

    • Kelly, you are so right! My husband is also a teacher and that has come into play with several names that went into the “no” pile. Isn’t that a funny thing?

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