I recently opened up on Instagram about my experience with my name. In short, when I was a very small child, my mother told me that my name was the ugliest name she could possibly think of. I remember asking her again, when I was about six or seven, hoping that somehow the answer had changed, that she had been joking. The story stayed the same. My name to her remained the ugliest name she could conceive.
Why does this hurt so much, to be told by one who named me that my name is ugly? Names are baskets in which we carry identity: our own identity and the identity of others. When you hear someone’s name, don’t you picture that person’s face? Hear that person’s voice? Relive memories with that person? Feel in that moment, even in the absence of the named one, all that person makes you feel?
I was taught from a very young age that the name chosen to reflect who I am was the ugliest name possible.
These painful memories came to mind at the dawn of this, January, the month of the Holy Name of Jesus. This name, Jesus, is one I say at least fifty-four times a day when praying the Rosary with my family. I bow my head when I say it. I bow my head when I hear it said at Mass or in other prayers, or when I read it in the Liturgy of the Hours.
It’s also a word I thoughtlessly let fly when I’m angry, frustrated, demanding — and I’m not letting that word fly in prayer.
I hold the story of my “ugly” name in one hand, next to the reality of all the ugly ways I use the name of my Lord and Savior. How I misuse the name of God, the one who is, slowly but faithfully, setting me free from the emotional and spiritual shackles placed on me by the person who taught me my name is ugly, by the other people who taught me that my identity is ugly. I’m not alone in hearing that my name is ugly; Jesus hears it, too, often enough from my lips.
This month of the Holy Name, I am seeing the Family Rosary as a sort of spiritual roundabout in which I can undo all the ugliness thrown at me and, I admit, coming out of me. Most nights when we gather after dinner, Rosary beads in hand, is our first moment to really see each other (without the distraction of food to hungry teen and tween bellies). Lately, we’ve taken longer to get started on the actual prayers, because we are first taking time to catch up. How did that chemistry test go? Yes, tell us that funny story from Latin class. Your ballet class is learning which dance for the May performance?
My kids expect Rosary time. They know we will be there for them in those moments. They are discovering that there is sweetness in family time, not rejection. They see that we bow our heads at the Holy Name. They are, hopefully, learning that God’s personality is important, and that their identities are important as well. What my family of origin gave me, I bring into that Rosary roundabout, and God sends me off, with my husband and children, along the path that leads to Him.
Our God calls us by name. Sometimes, we call him by name rightly. Others, we take his name in vain. We act like it’s worthless. We act like it’s ugly.
Thankfully, acting so doesn’t make it so. There is no sin that can obliterate all the good and glory in the name of Jesus. By calling us his own, he shares that glory upon us, a glory that outshines all the ways sins — our own and those of others — have trashed our identity.
And that’s just a tiny sliver of what the name of Jesus can do in the Rosary.
Examine your own story of identity alongside how you identify the power of Jesus in your life. How can honoring the name of Jesus bring you greater peace and healing?
Copyright 2020 Erin McCole Cupp