Late last term I was relieving in a class at our school, doing the roll call with the children at the beginning of the day (yep – it's just like you remember it from your school days – except we do them on computers now). I was struck by the children's Christian names as I read them out.
Firstly there were the names which reflected the changing diversity of New Zealand – those that were Indian, Filipino, Samoan and many other nationalities.
Then there were those children named after pop culture icons, or cars, or rugby players etc. No comment!
Then there's all the rest of the names that are intentional misspellings of well known names (I seemed to miss that contest whereby you attempt to name your child with the longest possible word, avoiding vowels at any cost).
Then lastly there's a small group who have the more "traditional" names (traditional as viewed through an NZ European worldview). But you'd be suprised how small this group is- I reckon it's about 25-30% in most of the classes I've been involved in over the last few years.
While on one hand these changes are not necessarily "bad", it did make me ponder the identity that a person gains through their name – what that name might signify or honour.
It made me think of the well-known Saints of the church and why they no longer feature amongst the popular names we give our children. The playgrounds of today don't have little Peters, Johns, Vincents, Elizabeths, Margarets, Michaels or Agathas running around in them. I certainly haven't seen a rush of little Benedicts in the last five years, and don't expect to see many Francis' in the foreseeable future (although Teresa remains popular). You'll get the odd Luke, Justin, Lucy or George but thats about it.
In my extended family the naming of children has always been carried out with careful thought – to reflect our Catholic faith, and/or to honour family members who have passed, and/or our Irish heritage. There are no Britneys, D'Zyahs or Sonny Bills in our family, and it's unlikely there ever will be.
In the Catholic tradition, taking on a confirmation name is a significant decision - taking on not only the name, but with the intention to also take on some of the character of the chosen Saint. Sometimes the name may be chosen with a different motive – because it looks or sounds cool, or sounds good in conjunction with other names- but the name is there regardless.
As Catholics, should we be concerned at this societal shift in the naming of our children away from faith roots? Or is it no big deal?