A LOT! In fact, our name is supposed to constitute our full identity. It’s not just something legal or social. When we die and face our divine judge, each one of us will be called by our own name and not any other. Our name is not only for a time. It’s for eternity! It certainly demands great respect. Who and what we are as well as who and what we are supposed to be are summarized in our own name. That’s what makes our name dynamic, not simply inert. There is something alive in it, precisely because it refers to us, a living person.
And more than a living person, we are children of God called to be like God. Our name should somehow capture this dynamic character of our nature. As the Catechism teaches, our name is “the icon of the person” bearing that name. It is the person in his actuality and in his potentiality, created by God in his image and likeness and called to be holy like God. Our name should, therefore, be respectful of this truth, if not be actively reaffirming it. That’s how significant our name is! We should not play around it, taking it lightly and dragging it to the pits of triviality and banality. We have to be more wary of a creeping trend to degrade the true value of our name. Sad to say, we are witnessing many cases of this anomaly these days. We have to be wary of the danger of nominalism, for example. It is the mentality of considering our name as simply a matter of words with hardly any relation to the dignity of the person.
With that mind-frame, we make ourselves vulnerable to missing the true significance of our name. From there, we can easily misuse our name. We, for example, may just be fanciful and capricious about our name, or we may simply choose one or use it mainly for commercial purposes, etc. We can even use names that are contrary to basic human, if not Christian sentiments. We need to purify and fortify our attitudes to resist this spreading tendency regarding the issue of our names. In fact, there is something very holy about our name, since our Christian faith and liturgy show us that when we are baptized, we are given a name that is sanctified “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Somehow our name reflects God’s name which a divine commandment tells us not to use in vain. Therefore, when choosing a name for a child to be baptized, we should choose one which can help the child and everybody else to affirm and reinforce the true character and purpose of our name. The proper choice of names can greatly contribute to keep a spiritual and supernatural tone of our life and of the world in general. It can help to undo the gripping secularization of the world, where God is practically ignored in our earthly affairs. This, again, is sadly happening in many parts of the world today. This, of course, does not mean that our name should require solemnity all the time. The sacredness of our name does not erase our human condition that needs also to have fun, to get involved and dirtied by our secular and temporal affairs. It can sit well with the excitement associated with games and adventures. We have to overcome that false dilemma of equating the proper attitude toward our name with having to be serious and solemn all the time. Yes, we may have to do some adjusting and tweaking in our attitude toward this matter. But it will be all worthwhile.
This is again another instance where we need to consider the fundamental inputs of our faith in our life. We need to be theological, and not just creative, inventive, fanciful, commercial, legal, fashionable, etc., in our attitude toward our name. There certainly will be some resistance in this direction. And that should not surprise us. It’s part of our human condition, limited as it is by our nature in relation to our supernatural destiny, and worse, wounded and weakened by our sin. But that situation is precisely the occasion to make the necessary adjustments so that we can conform ourselves better and more closely to what is proper and ideal for us. Awareness of this need can be heightened, and we can hope to see a future when our name is taken more seriously as it should. That’s because our name is our whole being!