How Saints' Names Became Popular
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.
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!
|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|
|Luke||artists, glassworkers, painters, physicians|
|Matthew||accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, tax collectors|
|Michael||grocers, police officers|
|Thomas Aquinas||philosophers, theologians, scholars|
More on: Choosing a Name
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.
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