What’s in a Name? The Christian Tradition of Naming

What is the significance of your name? Did your parents name you after a beloved saint? A family member? A favorite character from a book or show? Or is your name unique, giving you the chance to be the first saint or family member with that name? No matter how you got your name, it is likely something deeply personal, a part of your identity.

Recently on Trending with Timmerie, Timmerie discussed the significance of names, and how Scripture and Sacred Tradition show us the value that names have.

“We’re working through what name we will choose for our baby girl who is coming to us this Advent,” she explained. “And it’s fascinating to hear the ways that various people have chosen to name their own children. I really do respect the response I received on Instagram the last week about how you have named your children.”

Timmerie shared that although she loves her first name, she always struggled with the middle name she was given. She told listeners, “I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but my middle name is Christian. And I used to always hate it as a kid growing up because I’m not a boy so why would my middle name be Christian? I could not understand it.”

“Then there was one day in a theology class in college when they were talking about how Christian has this meaning of ‘anointed one.’ And I thought, ‘OK, that’s kind of cool. I want to be anointed for God.’ It is Christian after Christ, so even though I have a boy’s name for a middle name I guess I’ll accept it.”

Realizing the meaning and significance of her middle name helped Timmerie embrace it. And Christian tradition shows how a person’s name can be a significant part of their identity and mission.

Timmerie pointed to the Gospel of John when Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds it empty. She speaks with Jesus, who she thinks is the gardener, asking where the body of Jesus is.

“As they are engaging in this conversation she is still not recognizing him,” said Timmerie. “And he looks at her and he says, ‘Mary.’ He calls her by name, and it is in that instant that she realizes that it is Jesus Christ. Because he called her by name. He knew her. This encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene always reminds me that names are so personal.”

Names can also signify a change, a new mission, or a new identity. In Scripture God changes the name of Abram to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah when he entered into a covenant with Abraham. He changed Simon’s name to Peter when he gave him his authority as the first pope. And Saul’s name was changed to Paul when he converted and began his mission as an apostle to the Gentiles. Even today, monks when they enter a monastery often take a different name, because it signifies new birth and taking on a new mission from the Lord.

“So when we talk about names, names have a great significance,” Timmerie said. “And I think that’s something that we’ve lost slightly in the West. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really trendy, cool, hip, new names. But we forget the value that names have. When we talk about names there is this power and beauty in God calling us by name, and knowing us so personally and intimately.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

Trending with Timmerie airs weekdays at 6:00 p.m. Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.