Names for Catholic babies from mythology, science, and literature

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I was tagged in a conversation on social media recently where a couple was trying to come to a meeting of the minds and an understanding of faith requirements regarding baby names. The husband was particularly interested in knowing why they had to use saints’ names and not names from mythology, for example — couldn’t their daughter be the first St. Athena?

Setting aside for the moment the fact that his wife declared that she doesn’t like the name Athena, saint or not, I was glad to do my small part for the Church by sharing with them the Church’s actual teaching on baby naming, which doesn’t preclude using names from mythology (as long as they’re not “foreign to Christian sensibility“). And in fact, many names from mythology are also the names of saints! (The Orthodox Church actually reveres a St. Athena, though she’s not recognized by the Catholic Church.)

"Names for Catholic babies from science, mythology, and literature" by Kate Towne (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Peter Paul Rubens, “Mars et Rhea Silvia,” (1617), Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

The underlying issue here, though, is one that modern Catholic parents sometimes grapple with. Personal taste and style is arguably more important to today’s namers than ever before, and the traditional “Catholic names” like Mary, Clare, Joseph, and John don’t always fit into a couple’s name aesthetic. Additionally, a couple might like to incorporate personal or professional interests into their children’s names, which might not seem to them to fit into the idea of “Catholic baby naming.” I’ve even seen individuals and couples get mad at the Church for having “yet another rule that feels stifling.”

"Names for Catholic babies from science, mythology, and literature" by Kate Towne (CatholicMom.com)

Saint Silvia, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fortunately, names that conform to a person’s taste and interests can also fit in well with the practice of giving one’s children names of our faith. I’ve done some really fun blog posts and consultations for couples in this vein, which might inspire some of you who struggle with this.

"Names for Catholic babies from science, mythology, and literature" by Kate Towne (CatholicMom.com)

St. Gemma Galgani, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

You might like to check out these posts, which contain ideas for names from science and/or nature:

If math, computer programming, science fiction, and fantasy are more your style, these name ideas are for parents who owned the fact that they “are HYUUUUUGE geeks … Names with a geeky connotation are a plus.”

This name selection was for a little one whose father loves philosophy and wanted to incorporate a philosopher’s name into his baby’s name.

I’ve done several posts on literary names, including

In my book of Marian names, I provide names ranging from the familiar to the unexpected and spanning cultures and languages in order to appeal to as many kinds of namers as possible.

Though I haven’t yet written about these, other areas that could provide really good fodder for baby naming that can still tie into the faith include superhero or comic book names (Peter Parker’s a great example), and names from mythology, as mentioned at the beginning of this piece (like Apollo from Greek mythology, Silvia from Roman mythology, and Brigid from Irish mythology — all of which are names of saints as well).

"Names for Catholic babies from science, mythology, and literature" by Kate Towne (CatholicMom.com)

Cristian Bortes / bortescristian [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, to the husband’s question about the possibility of his child being the first saint with his or her name, that, too, is something to keep in mind. St. Gemma Galgani, beloved by many, was given a first name that her mother believed to be without saintly precedence; in fact, an Aleteia article shares that when St. Gemma “was baptized, her mother reportedly feared that the child would never get into heaven without a saint’s name. The priest reassured her, saying, ‘Let us hope that she may become a gem of Paradise.'”

And one canon lawyer explains the Church’s naming requirements, ending with, “Perhaps if we all raise our children as committed Catholics, names like ‘Ashley’ and ‘Jennifer,’ ‘Curtis’ and ‘Todd’ may some day in the future indeed be the names of saints.”


Copyright 2019 Katherine Morna Towne

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About Author

Kate is a writer, wife to a really good man, and mama to their seven boys ages 4 months to 14. She shares her thoughts on Catholic baby naming at Sancta Nomina, and her first book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018) can be found at ShopMercy.org and Amazon.

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