Feb 23, 2009

What's in a name?

When we receive Confirmation, we take a Confirmation name. I think it's common to take the name of a Saint with whom you identify, and whom you wish to declare as your Patron. Each week at my RCIA class they give us little fact sheets on different Saints of the Catholic Church. But I think I've chosen my Confirmation name from my own discovery.

First, the honorable mentions:
Saint Luke - in addition to my name, the books which I enjoy most as literary works are Luke's Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles.

Kolbe - Maximilian Kolbe to be precise. The most amazing story of a Saint I've yet heard. During WWII, he hid 2,000 jews from the Nazi's. When they caught and arrested him, they sent him to Auschwitz. While there, a prisoner escaped, and the practice of the time was to starve 10 prisoners for each escapee - to deter further escape attempts. When one of the 10 selected prisoners lamented for his family, Kolbe volunteered to take his place. During 3 weeks of dehydration and starvation, he led the other 9 prisoners in songs and prayer. Finally, he was killed with an injection of carbolic acid. Wow.

Augustine was a great philosopher and theologian, and he influenced Thomas Aquinas (see below). He is also a patron saint of brewers!

Not a very serious consideration, but Arnold of Soissons is another patron saint of brewers. His connection to brewing is a little more explicit - he brewed beer for the monks of his monastery. In his depictions he is even shown with a mash rake (the thing that looks like a trident.)

But I can only choose one name, and there are a couple of Saints named Thomas I really like.

First and foremost, I think, is Saint Thomas the Apostle - yes, the doubting one. Actually, it's exactly the reason I identify with him. I don't hide the fact that the physical elements - from Cathedrals to Rosaries and candles - of the Catholic Church are one of the biggest attractions of its Tradition for me. I feel like Thomas - I want to see and touch; to fully experience with my senses. I guess I just feel more aware of God's real and incarnate presence when I sense it in "ordinary and earthy" means. I love this passage from Scott Hahn's "Swear to God" ...

Why would God manifest His power by such ordinary, earthy means?

He did not need to become a man in order to work miracles. God can and He does work wonders from heaven. It was not for His sake that He took flesh, but for ours. He made us, and so he knows that we human beings learn through sensible signs, sensory data. You know the old saying: Seeing is believing. It is possible, of course, to believe without seeing, but God is willing to accommodate our human condition to a remarkable degree. (Jn 20:24-29) [as He did for Thomas]

I really depend on God's provision of the "ordinary and earthy" means by which He presents Himself to me.

(In addition, Thomas the Apostle was a twin, like me - though we don't know anything about his twin. Sometimes I feel like that's true of my own twin too.)

I don't so much identify with Saint Thomas Aquinas as I respect, admire, and want to imitate him. Thomas was a profound philosopher, apologetic, and theologian - especially and particularly in the field of natural theology - "theology based on reason and ordinary experience, explaining the gods rationally, as part of the physical world" - again my allure to the physical and natural aspects of the faith. Though I have to admit almost everything I've read of his is second-hand thru quotes or citations from other sources, all his positions to which I've been exposed have rung very true with me. Inspired by him, I think I emphasize a couple Spiritual Works of Mercy - "instruct the ignorant" and "counsel the doubtful" - primarily my own ignorance and doubt. ;)

Saints Thomas Becket and Thomas More are similar and I think I relate with them in regard to their mix of spiritual and political ideas, opinions, and actions; I have a keen interest in political philosophy, though not as much as theological philosophy.

Becket was involved in political disputes with King Henry II (of England) over, like most of the Catholic/English disputes, the religious authority of the King. It really was something of a precursor to the recognition by our First Amendment that government has no authority over religious establishment or practice.

From what I've read about More, he seems like quite a character - the kind of guy who would be fun to debate politics over a pint or three. He reminds me a bit of my dad, and I know my dad loves A Man For All Seasons - a movie about More. Oddly enough though, I think I would probably disagree with More about many of his political positions and ideas - though not all. Politically, I'm a Libertarian; so More's authoritarian politics don't sit well with me. Again - reminds me of my dad.

It's really amazing just how much personal history is available in the Catholic Tradition, as compared to the relatively short view of Christian history I received growing up Evangelical. No wonder that the Communion of Saints is another of the appealing Catholic doctrines for me. I enjoy being able to ask all great men and women of faith to pray for me.


Kristi said...

Surely one of those Thomas' brewed his own at home as well!

luke said...

Yeah, I'm sure many of the saints have brewed at home. But there's only a few list as patrons of brewers ...


Kristi said...

In older/other cultures, your name was part of your destinty. Some cultures allowed people's names to change based on their experiences. In ours, you get one and you are stuck with it (unless you legally change your name). I think it's pretty cool to allow someone to adopt a name of their choosing--to change their destiny so to speak. Or to find a name with a history that better fits them.

Monk-in-Training said...

I am pondering my name in Religion, and am seriously considering James Patrick.

St. James' feast day is my late wife's birthday, and St. Patrick is the patron of my Parish, and (as I am of Irish descent) has always been someone to emulate to me.

May the Spirit illumine your choice.

Matt C said...

No love for Isidore of Seville, patron saint of programmers?

luke said...

Dang, didn't even think about that. He'd have to be an honorable mention too.