Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Catholic Baby Names at the Playground

About a month ago in Ottawa before we moved, my husband was preparing for his second year exams.  It was the weekend, and he had to study.  The kids and I headed for our neighborhood playground.  It wasn’t long before my three-and-a-half year old son spotted a youngish dad like his dad and made a beeline for him. 

“Oh yeah, I like your shirt,” my little guy said to the dad.

The dad, taken off-guard, responded, “Oh, thanks,” looking a little amused.  He continued pushing his small child in the swing.

My little guy continued, “Yeah, I have a blue shirt, too.  It’s a Brewers shirt,” he said enthusiastically to the bewilderment of the Canadian dad.

“Cool,” he said, starting to look for this little person’s parent.

The baby was in the middle of a difficult maneuver on the equipment, making it impossible for me to claim—and redirect—the boy, who continued happily in his guy chat.

“My name’s Thor,” said my little guy, deep in a super hero phase.

The dad started to smile, then caught himself, unsure of the veracity of his little friend’s statement.  Just then, my four-and-a-half year old daughter arrived on the scene to set things straight.

“Nuh-uh,” she said, “his name’s Augustine.”

The dad was completely confused at this point, as both choices seemed unlikely.  He was really searching for their parent, and by then I didn’t want to identify myself.   Fearing more family disclosure, though, I scooped the baby off the equipment when she wasn’t looking and ran over to the group.  As she fussed, I tried to smile and shoo everyone away while trying to appear completely normal.  The dad smiled faintly in return, and I tried to hide behind the playground steps.

Later, I wished that I hadn’t felt so strange, that I didn’t mind if someone may have mistaken my Catholicism for insanity or worse.  But when it came to my son, I did.  I wanted to explain it all to that poor dad who had simply wanted to be left alone with his child at the park.  I wanted to explain how my husband and I had chosen someone who had dearly loved God to be a close and constant intercessor for our son, how we hoped that he would emulate his patron in some way and that some day, he, too, might love Our Lord as much as St. Augustine did.  I wanted him to understand and affirm us in our faith and parenting.  But he didn’t.  And I had to rely on God and not the dad in the playground that we were approaching parenthood in the right way.  And some days, that feels so impossibly hard.

To be fair, though, I never caught the name of his son.  It might have been Polycarp.


  1. Hi Meg, I've enjoyed poking around your blog. I couldn't find an email address, so I'll introduce myself in your comment box.

    My name is Jenny and I have been blogging at for a couple of years. God has recently led me to start to communal website for Catholic Women called Suscipio which is Latin for: to raise up, support or maintain. The website address is

    I was led to start an encouraging place for Catholic women, not to catch up on the latest Catholic news, although important; no, I wanted this be like an old fashioned coffee clutch, or a sit on the front porch swing visiting as the mood stuck or just enjoying the presence of each other. We will read the Scriptures together and discuss books that encourage us in our vocation as a Catholic woman.

    I would love for you to stop by.

  2. Hi, Jenny! What a great idea for a site! Thank you so much for the invitation--I can't wait to check it out. And how often during the day I yearn for a little mental respite--thanks so much, and God bless you and your blog!

  3. I'm curious... why did he say "thor" to start? That is a super cute name and I bet he had a blast saying it:) I loved the story and yes, hold your head high that you chose a Catholic name for your son... A friendly suggestion... follow the name up with what it means... names are sooo powerful and beautiful. The old testament, a name was believed that when you spoke the name, you invoked it's power ...that is why at first they did not speak the Lord's name... You can teach your son to introduce himself as "My name is Augustine, it means "magnificent"! It will not only teach others, but also reaffirm your son's dignity in how careful you were to choose a name for him!

    FYI: The boy and girl name Augustine is of Latin origin, and its meaning is great or, magnificent.

  4. Love the Catholic names!!! My middle son is Augustine and we purposely did not nickname him because I want people to ask him or us why we picked that name. He is 6 and loves exclaiming that he is named after St. Augustine. The then goes on to tell whomever that he will be St. Augustine II...haha! We also have a John Bosco Pio whom we call Bosco. People think we named him after some chocolate milk or cheese sticks -- Our oldest has a saintly middle name, Jude, and I SO wish my husband and I had been strong enough in our faith to make that his first name, but we weren't there at the time:). I stumbled upon your blog yesterday reading about the Temperaments (I am a melancholic myself). Thank you for your writings!!!