Now, I have a question. My daughter and I are being received into the Church very soon, and since we were both already baptized in a protestant church we can take a baptismal name when we enter (we live in Japan, and names are taken at baptism here, rather than confirmation). She is an artist and a big animal lover. Would it be alright for her to take St. Francis of Assisi or St. Luke even though she is a girl? And, of course, we would love to hear if you have any other suggestions!
Yes, it's fine.
Your question certainly got me to thinking, though. I was just going to point out to you that there are many nuns, our own Sister St. Aloysius among them, who have taken or been given male saints names. If it's alright for them, it's clearly alright for her.
But I was trying to think of some examples of nuns I knew with male saint names, like Sister Mary Ignatius or Mother Frances Cabrini, whose full name was Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, and I ended up with more questions than answers.
For example, Mother Cabrini was named after Francis Xavier, but why change to the female spelling of Francis?
Then I remembered nuns whose names I have always taken for granted that they were named after some obscure saint of which I had never heard and just never gave the matter another thought. Sister Mary Arthen? Who is Arthen? It wasn't her last name. I distinctly remember her telling me that she was so thrilled to have a new name when she became a nun. Back then nuns were being allowed to return to their actual names if they chose. Sister Arthen remained ever Sister Arthen because her name had been Flossie.
Or Sister Mary Marillia. Never thought about where she got her name, although it recalling her name brought forth a flood of memories.
Let's step aside for a moment, us old people, and talk among ourselves. These young folks have only ever met lovely, sweet Kumbaya nuns, and good for them. But we know better, don't we? We had nuns that could wither you with a glance, because you knew behind that glance was a ruler with a metal edge that might soon find the palm of your hands or worse, your knuckles. She might make you stand in the corner, put your nose in a circle on the blackboard or kneel on dried peas in the cloak room. She might just put you in the cloak room, period, where eventually the coats all looked like ghosts or dead people hanging there in the dark.
Sister Marillia was the poster nun for this type. She looked the part, tiny old and shrivelled, her chin and nose hooking together like a wrinkled old witch. You would have been afraid of her even if you had never heard of her reputation.And what a reputation it was. At the beginning of the school year, when we would eagerly line up to read the room rosters to see "who you got this year", every incoming fifth grader was holding their breath in the clutches of fear of the worst case scenario. One by one we heard the whispered fear when the verdict was read aloud: "Marillia." "Oh! Marillia."
I survived my year with Sister Marillia somehow. But there were many frightening days. Many close calls and near misses. Shock and awe. Once, there was a particularly homely boy who slid up to her desk with his $2.00 for his school photos that year. She said to him, "You mean your parents are going to pay $2.00 for a picture of that mug?"
Kum Ba Ya.
Right, old people?
For some reason that seems to be acceptable to all for which there is no actual explanation, it's fine for woman to take male saints names, but utterly unacceptable for men to take women saints names. You'll never meet Father Lucy. It just doesn't happen.
I have my own theory about that, although I find it a bit sad. There are many ways to insult women. And while there are also many ways to insult men, there is only one sure-fire way: insinuate in some fashion that he has feminine qualities. Sissy, "you throw like a girl", etc.
That's a bit sad to me, that the worse thing I can say about a man is that he is something like me.
As long as he isn't like Sister Marillia........