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How Saints' Names Became Popular

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Protectors at Work and Home

What's in a Name

Honoring saints has been part of Christianity from the beginning. The practice comes from a long-standing Jewish tradition of honoring prophets and holy people with shrines.

What's in a Name

St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) is recognized as one of the great mystics of all time. His writings, including Dark Night of the Soul, penned while he was in prison, rank among the world's greatest spiritual classics.

Alphabet Soup

Saint names are also known as hagionyms, from the Greek hagios, meaning “holy or saintly,” plus -onym, a suffix meaning “name.”

Over time, the protection that saints could give became closely associated with certain professions as well, often based on the circumstances surrounding the original bearer of the name. Andrew and Peter, two of the 12 disciples, were commanded by Jesus Christ to be fishers of men, so it only made sense that they would become the saints that protected fishermen. The beloved Old Testament psalmist David was clearly a gifted poet, and thus became the patron saint of poets. Matthew was a tax collector before he became a disciple, so he became the patron of accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, and tax collectors. Gabriel was the angel who trumpeted from heaven. While I'm not sure why he became the patron saint of postal workers, his role as the protector of broadcasters is a perfect fit!

Some of the saint names listed below, like Adelard and Cecilia, date back to very early church history; others were later additions. Do these names merely provide protection or could they be a clue to a child's destiny? You be the judge!

For more in this tradition, see Saint Names, which lists the names to be used according to the Roman Catholic calendar.

Saint Protector Of
Adelard gardeners
Andrew fishermen
Apollonia dentists
Archangel Barbara architects
Brendan sailors
Cecelia musicians
David poets
Eligius jewelers
Elizabeth of Florian firefighters
Francis de Sales authors, journalists, writers
Francis of Assisi ecologists
Gabriel broadcasters, postal workers, radio workers
Genesius actors, musicians, teachers
Gregory of Hungary bakers
Jerome librarians
John Bosco editors
Joseph carpenters
Luke artists, glassworkers, painters, physicians
Martha cooks
Matthew accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, tax collectors
Michael grocers, police officers
Peter fishermen
Sebastian athletes
Stephen bricklayers
Thomas Aquinas philosophers, theologians, scholars
Thomas More lawyers
Vincent Ferrer builders
Vitus comedians, dancers

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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