Choosing a baby's name is never an easy task. First, parents have to decide on what's paramount. Is it the way the name sounds? The popularity--do they want a common or more rare name? Does it need to reflect family history or heritage? Does it need to have a special meaning? Is there a trait they want to emphasize or honor?
And then you both have to agree on it, unless you flip a coin with each kid or something. (Way too adventurous and risky for my taste!) Choosing a name that is from history and specifically religious history, with the name of a saint certainly emphasizes a certain type of trait or traits. Faithful, perhaps. Or maybe brave and stouthearted. How about kind and merciful?
Many saints are honored for their martyrdom, a special type of fearlessness few possess. Others are primarily known for their miracles or charitable works among needy populations, such as children, sickly or dying people. Saints have certain qualifications to be recognized by the Catholic Church. For instance, canonization as a saint requires 2 miracles to be performed or associated with the person. Beatification requires just one miracle. One must lead an exemplary, but not sinless, life. It should be apparent that the person had goodness and virtue and was a good example. A heroic or martyr's death helps the cause, and those who lived immoral lives but made dramatic changes are also welcome to join the legion of saints.
So here are 25 names inspired by saints in history who possessed some, if not all of these traits.
English saint Thomas Becket was born in 1118 and became Archbishop of Canterbury. His father was Sheriff of London and he grew up rather well off. He was well educated, and eventually met and came a close associate of King Henry II. Unfortunately for Becket, this closeness and appointment would ultimately lead to his demise when he refused to bend to the king's will, and instead stand for the church. After a bit of a legal standoff over a particular case, Becket went into exile in France for 6 years. Thinking they had mended their disagreements, he returned only to eventually be killed by the king's orders by knights.
However, his murder apparently haunted the king, who four years later walked barefoot through Canterbury while being flogged by 80 monks, then spending the night in Becket's crypt while wearing sackcloth. Miracles were said to be observed at the saint's tomb and it was made into a shrine. The name Becket actually means, "beehive." It ranked #216 for boys in 2016. It could also be used for a baby girl.
The patron saint of music, Cecilia was born in either the 2nd or 3rd century AD to a wealthy Roman family. A Christian, she was promised in marriage to the pagan, Valerian. She fasted, wore sackcloth and prayed, as she believed she was to remain a virgin pledged to her Lord. She revealed that to her husband on the wedding night, and apparently an angel appears and the couple was crowned. Her pagan husband converted, and became devoted to burying Christian martyrs properly.
Cecilia was eventually ordered to be drowned in the bathhouse, but survived. She was then ordered to be beheaded, and after 3 failed attempts, her executioner ran off. She died three days later, and more converts were made, many soaking up her blood with sponges and cloths. People became quite devoted to the saint over the Middle Ages, and she became associated with music, poetry and paintings. The name Cecilia means "blind" and it ranked #204 in 2016 for girls.
Saint Thaddeus was one of Jesus' 12 apostles, and mentioned in both the books of Mark and Matthew. Somewhat confusingly, the Bible seems to refer to the same man as Jude, so he has become known in some circles as Saint Jude Thaddeus. St. Jude authored an eponymous book of the New Testament as well. Thaddeus was actually related to Jesus, and was also the brother of Saint James. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia, and is believed to have been martyred there. Saint Thaddeus is the disciple credited with asking Jesus at the Last Supper "Why won't you manifest yourself to the whole world after Your resurrection?"
He is sometimes depicted holding a carpenter's ruler or a scroll. His body is said to have been brought to Rome and left in a crypt in St. Peter's Basilica. The name Thaddeus means, "gift of God," and ranked #829 for boys in 2016. The usual nickname for Thaddeus is simply "Thad."
Kateri was the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church, and was an Algonquin-Mohawk woman living in New York state in the 1600s. Kateri, also known as "the Lily of the Mohawks," was born to a Mohawk father and converted Algonquin mother. Kateri was 4 when she was the only member of her family to survive smallpox. She lived with a non-Christian uncle, and at age 11 met 3 white Jesuit priests who greatly influenced her. She became a convert and studied religion at age 20.
Her baptismal name was Catherine, which translated to Kateri in the Mohawk language. Her birth name was Tekakwitha. She was persecuted in her home village because of her Christian faith, and was stoned, harassed and threatened with torture, she she fled to over 200 miles to a mission outside of Montreal. Her life of kindness, prayer and faithfulness in the face of suffering made her a candidate for beatification. The name from Catherine, means "the pure."
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was born in 1894 in Poland, when it was still part of the Russian Empire. He became a Franciscan priest, and had grown up the poor son of weavers. His father did operate a religious book store and fought for Polish independence. He was later hanged by the Russians as a traitor. Maximilian was an ornery child whose life changed when he was 12 and saw a vision of the Virgin Mary.
Despite poor health due to TB, he became a missionary to Japan and India. Returning to Poland, weak, Maximilian started a monastery and radio station. He was arrested by the Nazis, and while in Auschwitz he was targeted for brutal beatings and work details. He continued to conduct Mass and hear confessions. When a young father was ordered to die because of another prisoner's escape, Maximilian Kolbe died in his place. Kolbe is pronounced "Coal-bee."
The name Raphael means, "God has healed." The part "Rapha" means doctor, and "el" refers to God. Raphael as a saint is revered in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He is one of the archangels. Many experts believe it is Raphael that is being referred to in the Bible, in the book of John, as "the angel of the Lord." Stories of Raphael reveal an angel disguised in human form protecting various believers in situations including the angel binding a murderous demon who had killed 7 already. Raphael is usually mentioned alongside Gabriel and Michael.
He is said to be a guardian of travelers on their journeys and is often shown carrying a staff. The name Raphael ranked #423 for boys in the US in 2016. There are many works of art depicting the archangel Raphael, and not to mention, a pretty illustrious Renaissance painter shared the name of the archangel.
Monica ranked #943 in 2016 among American girls, and means "advisor." Saint Monica was also known as Monica of Hippo, and is revered as the mother of Saint Augustine. She was born in 331 AD, and married off to a pagan Roman, Patricius. Monica had 3 children with her husband, and faithfully prayed for whole family's salvation. Her husband converted before his death. Her son Augustus she sent for education and his wayward paths are famous today, but she didn't give up on him. Monica and her son, once baptized, believed they were to spread the Good News to Africa, but Monica fell ill and died in 387.
In 1945 ancient tablets were found with her epitaph, reading "Here the most virtuous mother of a young man set her ashes, a second light to your merits, Augustine." Many miracles have been attributed to Monica, and the city in California, Santa Monica is named for her.
Saint Blaise was born in present day Turkey, and is the patron saint of Dubrovnik, Croatia, wild animals and the patron of sufferers of throat diseases. He died in 316 AD as a martyr, who when the Roman emperor Licinius began persecuting Christians and arrested the then Bishop of Sebastia. While imprisoned he saved a boy from fatally choking (thus the connection to throats) and then was tortured with wool combers' irons, then beheaded.
Some later texts claimed Blaise was a physician with miraculous healing powers. In the 16th century, a ceremony honoring the saint became tradition. In it 2 candles are consecrated and touched to the throats of the faithful. His emblems are iron combs, wax and tapers. The name Blaise means "firebrand." It is fairly unusual, ranking only in the 800s for boys in 2016 here in the US. Blaise could also work as a feminine name if desired.
Saint Joaquin is said to be the father of the Mary, the mother of Jesus. Joaquin is pronounced WAL-KEEN, and what we know of him is not from the Gospels, but rather by the unendorsed apocryphal book of James. It is tradition that Joaquin along with wife Anne were aging parents to Mary, and that each received a visitation from an angel telling them of their upcoming parenthood. Supposedly Mary was brought to the temple to be raised at age 3.
His image appeared on many European coins, and he is often shown wearing green, and holding a shepherd's staff. Joaquin and Anne's traditional tombs were rediscovered in Jerusalem in 1889. Joaquin means "God prepares," or "God will establish." Joaquin ranked #319 for boys in 2016. Joaquin Phoenix is a popular American actor, too.
Abigail is a 5th century saint from Ireland who is known for using herbal medicine to heal people. She was also a beekeeper and is credited with saving her village from a deadly plague. Her brother was the saint, Abban. She was known in Gailic as Gobnait, and in England as Deborah. Her order went about healing people, using herbs and honey.
Abigail is also a woman from the Old Testament, a wife of King David who earlier was married to Nabal. She saved David and later married him and bore him the son, Amasa. She is one of a few of female Celtic saints from medieval times. She is the patron saint of beekeepers and bees. Abigail as a name means "father's joy." Abigail from the Bible was said to be beautiful and intelligent, and described herself as her husband, King David's handmaiden. Nicknames include Abi, Abby, Abbi and Gail.
The name Xavier means "savior," and it ranked #87 in 2016 for US boys. Saint Francis Xavier was born in 1506 Navarre (now in Spain). He is one of the priests responsible for creating the Jesuit order. He's the patron saint of missionaries, and traveled to Asia to spread the Gospel, including to India and Japan. He died on an island of China at the age of 46. Born into nobility, Francis Xavier studied in Paris in 1525 and was eventually converted there by Ignatius of Loyola.
The two men along with 5 others, devoted themselves to celibacy and poverty, and vowed to travel to the Holy Land. They together founded the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. His work as a missionary is said to have been greatly aided by his devotion to the poor and his commitment to live and work among those he sought to convert.
Alongside Patrick and Columba, Saint Brigid is a patron saint of Ireland. She is also known as Saint Brigid of Kildare. She was under St. Patrick's tutelage and lived in fifth century Ireland. She is recognized for her work with the poor, and healing acts. She is known for miracles involving milk and fire. Some refer to her as Saint Brigit. She is said to have been a devout follower of Christ from childhood, and was said to possess the ability to generate food, and therefore, feed the poor whom she worked with.
She is credited with founding a monastery in Kildare on the site of a pagan temple dedicated to the Celtic goddess, also named Brigid. Confusing, yes? February 1 the Irish celebrate St. Brigid. She formed 2 religious communities in Kildare, one for each gender, and was a groundbreaker in setting up a community for women of faith. Kildare became a cathedral city in no small part due to St. Brigid's influence and life work. Brigid means "strong."
Dominic means "belonging to God," which is quite the apt name for one who attains the title of saint. He founded the order of the Dominicans, called "the order of preachers." He was born in 12th century Spain and sought to undo the confusion of a heretical sect popular at the time. He realized the cult was successful for living among the ordinary people, instead of as a class of nobles. Therefore, his order lived a common life then too.
His ideal was to pass on the fruits of contemplation and to "speak only of God or to God." He is patron saint of astronomers and the Dominican Republic, naturally. His designated day is August 8, his birthday. Saint Dominic died August 6, 1221. Dominic is a fairly popular name, coming in at #64 for US boys in 2016.
Born into a fine family in Milan in 1378, Felicity was raised by her parents to be a pious child. She became orphaned early, and entered a convent in Milan at age 12. There she made a vow of chastity. When the head of the convent died in 1425, Felicity was overwhelmingly the choice for her replacement. The name Felicity means "happy," and ranked at #389 for girls in 2016. Nicknames for Felicity are numerous and include, Flick, Fliss, Lissie and City.
Saint Felicity's feast day is November 23, and she is patron saint of parents who have lost a child to death, widows, sterility and martyrs. She doesn't leave a great deal of material to know much more about her life. The word felicity also means "the ability to find appropriate expression for one's thoughts." Felicity was also the name of a popular TV series running from 1998 to 2002 starring young Keri Russell as a new high school graduate following her crush to college.
The name Victor, not surprisingly, means "conqueror." It comes from Latin roots and ranked at #189 for boys in 2016 in the US. Saint Victor's feast day is July 21. Saint Victor of Marsailles was a soldier in the Roman Imperial Army, yet was a Christian. He was put into prison in Marsailles when he refused to worship pagan gods, and while locked up he converted other prisoners. He was later executed. He is patron saint of cabinet makers, millers, and torture victims, and is said to protect against lightning.
He is also patron saint of 2 cities; Marsaillles and Davoli, Italy. He is often depicted knocking down a pagan altar, with a millstone or by a windmill. The Abbey of St Victor in Marsailles was founded by St. Cassian and built over the crypt of St. Victor, which dates back to the 5th century.
Saint Faith of Conques was born in 303 AD in France, who is believed to have died a young woman, a virgin martyr of Rome. It's believed she was born in Agen, France. She is said to have been before her accusers in Rome when she boldly made the sign of the cross and said, "I have served Christ from my infancy, and to him I have consecrated myself." When threatened with death, she steeled herself and said she was ready to suffer everything for Christ, and longed to die for him. Which she did, by being burned to death on a grill.
Legend says as she died, a snow blanketed her body, covering her modestly until she succcumbed to death. She was a popular saint in medieval Europe. She was part of the persecuted of Diocletian. The name Faith means "faith or trust." It is a fairly popular name in the US, coming in at #117 in 2016 for girls. It can be alternatively spelled as Faythe. It comes from Latin roots.
The name Adrian comes from the Latin, and means "the dark one." In 2016, it hit the boy's chart at number 66, so it's pretty familiar and well-used here. St. Adrian of Nicomedia was a Herculian guard of the Roman Emperor Galerius Maximian. At that time he was still pagan, but became touched by the faithfulness and bravery of the Christians who were tortured and martyred by the regime he served.
He along with his wife, Natalia, converted to the faith. He was imprisoned with the Christians then, and tortured severely, while his wife stayed by his side comforting him. She reportedly recovered one of his hands after his death and carried it to nearby Constantinople. Saint Adrian is the patron saint of soldiers and oddly enough, butchers. Adrian can also be used as a baby girl's name, but typically would be spelled as Adrienne.
Saint Zita was born in Tuscany, Italy in a village called Monsagrati, in 1212 AD. At 12 years old she became a servant, and unfortunately was treated very poorly, even abused at the hands of her employers. Nonetheless, she bore it all with grace, forgiveness and kindness. Over time, she showed such virtue in the face of abuse that she became respected by her former abusers and eventually was put in charge of the household. Her religious piety impacted her employers in such a way as they became faithful servants of God.
She always rose hours before work, to devote herself to prayer and to attend daily mass. She became a saint due to miracles and signs that appeared after her death, including the appearance of a star over the place in the home where slept. Her body was exhumed in 1580 and had not decayed at that point. Her feast day is April 27. The name Zita means "young girl," "saint" or "seeker," depending on the language.
The name Aidan means "fire," and ranked #151 for US boys in 2016. It's much less popular as a girl's name, coming in at #2340 in 2016. Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne was an Irish monk who died in 651. He was the first bishop of Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, off the coast of Northumbria. Earlier he was a monk at Iona, Scotland, and King Oswalde of Northumbria requested he go to Lindisfarne and serve as bishop.
He was revered for his life of learning, as he had established a school for the training of ministers, and also for his charity and simple, humble lifestyle. He also founded monasteries and churches. He is often depicted in art as giving his horse to a beggar, calming a storm, and putting out a fire with his feet. He is often seen in art as having a stag at his feet.
The name Rosalia comes from the Latin for "rose garlands," a lovely image for a baby girl, indeed! Saint Rosalia was born in 1130 into nobility, and supposedly was a descendant of Charlemagne. So devout and religious she eventually came to live in a cave on Mount Pellegrino as a hermit. It was said she had been led there by two angels. Her saint status was secured during a plague in 1624 that hit Palermo.
During the sickness, she was said to appear to villagers, and told them where to find her bones. A hunter followed the directions and brought back her remains, and they walked around the city three times. The city was spared from the ravages of the plague. After this, she was revered as the patron saint of Palermo and a sanctuary was erected in the cave where her bones were found.
Saint Matthias was the replacement disciple chosen by lots cast by the remaining apostles of Jesus. He replaced the traitorous Judas Iscariot. Matthias was the only disciple not personally chosen by Jesus Christ as a follower, as Jesus had already been crucified and resurrected. Matthias died in 80 AD, and is the patron saint of alcoholics, carpenters, smallpox and tailors, as well as hope and perseverance. The name Matthias is of Hebrew origins and means "gift of God."
Matthias was present with the other disciples at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on them. He preached the Gospel to present day Georgia, and also reportedly in Ethiopia. The reports of his martyrdom vary; some say he died in Georgia, others in Jerusalem. Some report he was stoned to death, others that he was beheaded. Since 12 is an important number in Biblical tradition, it was important for a 12th disciple to be chosen, although the Lord wasn't directly the one who chose him.
Saint Alena was born into a pagan family in present day Belgium, where she was secretly a Christian believer. She is also referred to as Alena of Forest, or Alena of Brussels. She was baptized without her parent's consent or knowledge and when her father discovered she was worshipping as a Christian, he had guards bring her home. He believed she had been tricked or bewitched. She fought furiously and that resulted in her losing an arm, and later dying of her injuries while imprisoned.
She became as saint because of later signs and miracles, such as a Duke having his vision restored after praying to her, and supposedly her severed arm was brought by an angel to the place of worship she attended. The miraculous signs convinced others, including her parents, to convert. Alena is the Greek form of the name Helen, which means light or bright one. The name listed at #601 in 2016, but there are many variations on the spelling and pronunciation. Alyna, Aleyna, Alina and Alleena are just a small sampling of the choices.
Simon the Zealot, was one of Jesus original 12 disciples. His nickname the Zealot came from fellow apostle, Luke. Simon the Zealot is not the same disciple as Simon Peter, who is considered the first Pope. What he did after the New Testament is somewhat hazy, but it is believed he possibly went to Egypt and then joined Saint Jude Thaddeus in Persia.
According to Apocryphal books of the Bible, Acts of Simon and Judas, he was martyred most unpleasantly by being sawed in half. That's why one image commonly portrayed with him is a saw, while the other is a book. According to the 4th century St. Basil the Great, Simon died a natural death in Edessa. Simon as a name for a boy is somewhat well-known, ranking at #257. It means, "he who hears." That is a great trait for a saint. He was also known as Simon the Cananean.
This lovely, modern sounding name is Irish and means, "dark haired." Actually, there are a number of versions of her name, including St. Cera of Kilkeary, or Cail, Ceara, Cere, as well as Ciar, Ciara and Cyra. Other variants (yes, even more) include Kaila, Keara and Kera. Whew! Most of these have a decidedly modern sound. The saint lived in the 7th century and was a bit of a gamechanger for women in Ireland, working under a priest she was eventually given a former monastery for a religious habitat for solely women serving the Lord, and went on to found another in Ireland.
Her miracles including supernaturally stopping a fire in a village. The village is Kilkeary is actually named for her. Unlike many saints of this time period, she did not die a martyr, but actually from natural causes. She had been born in Nenagh, County Tipperary. She was a follower of Saint Fintan Minnu.
Saint Justin was also known as Justin Martyr, and was born about 100 AD in Italy. He died in Rome, where he was a perpetual student, always seeking truth. He had followed pagan ways initially, before finally becoming convinced of Christianity. He at first was a follower of Plato. Saint Justin is known as the first Christian philosopher and apologist. He defended the Christian faith and two of his greatest arguments were addressed to the Roman Senate and the other to the Emperor.
For his unbending devotion to Christ, he was martyred by beheading in 165 AD. His feastday is celebrated on June 1. The name Justin means, naturally, "the just or fair." It is from Latin roots, the same as where we get our word justice. In 2016, Justin ranked #147 for boys in the US. Girls are sometimes being given the name as well now, and it ranked #3541, so in that precise form it's far less popular as a feminine name.
Sources: Britannica.com, FrancisCanMedia.org, Catholic.org, Biography.com, History.com, BabyCenter.com