What’s in a Name?

Children in the Catholic faith are given the name of a Patron Saint to look up to.

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The Captain first day 2012I don’t use my children’s real names in my blog, ever.  There’s a good reason for that:  When they’re 25 and applying for a job, I don’t want their prospective boss to Google them and find out they couldn’t spell in first grade or something.  Ditto their prospective mate!  But to every rule, there is an exception.

We are Roman Catholics and our tradition is to give our children the name of a saint or a virtuous Old Testament Character.  Similar to other naming traditions, this process gives them both a name rich in meaning and also someone of character to look up to as they grow.  This person becomes their “Patron Saint.”  I am a convert to the faith but was quick to embrace this tradition.  Dear Hubby and I also tend to name our kids after family members (who conveniently often have saint names) so most of our kids have double patrons.

The exception to that last bit is The Captain.  ”The Captain” is named Gabriel Stephen.  ”Gabriel” after the archangel who foretold the birth of Jesus and “Stephen” after my hubby’s confirmation saint.    No one (that we know of, anyway!) in our families have these names and, in fact, we had something else picked out for him.  Yet as Adoption Day approached and the time came to make it official, the name just seemed to suit him.

In Hebrew, “Gabriel” means “God’s able-bodied one” or  ”God is my strength.”  [I don't read Hebrew so I had to rely on some research here.]  Gabriel is commonly thought of as the messenger.  So an able-bodied messenger who gets his strength from God.

It’s an interesting contrast to the little boy so often at my knee.  Gabe has been a slow talker; he’s had speech therapy since the age of two and is still behind his peers in speech.  His lack of confidence in speech makes him quiet in groups; his friends and teachers think he is shy.  He is silenced, in effect, by this lack of ability.

He is strong and able-bodied but so hurt by his years of separation and neglect that he is very, very tender-hearted.  He stubbed his toe a day ago and has required four healing kisses and still limps any time he remembers it.  He is able-bodied but doesn’t know it, yet.

I was reflecting on all of this on the walk to school today.  Indeed, he is a quiet, serious boy, easily hurt and even more easily frightened, but day by day, I see him growing into his name.  It was a name that “found us” in a way, and I have every confidence that one day, it will describe him perfectly.  His name reminds me that for now, it’s my job to hold that place open for him, and invite him to grow into it fully.  It’s all in a name.