Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Name Days


 
A child is to be given Christian name (at least as a middle name) -- the name of a Saint -- when baptized (and is to take a Saint's name when confirmed, also). This was once written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law: Canon 761, "If the parish priest cannot induce the parents to do so, he should add the name of some saint to that suggested by the parents and enter both in the baptismal register."

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 855, doesn't specify that a Saint's name be given, but does state: "Parents, sponsors and parish priests are to take care that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment."

In any case, receiving a Saint's name at Baptism is the ancient practice of the Church, as witnessed by St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) in his Homilies on First Corinthians, XII verse XIII , in which he complains about those who don't follow the practice of the "ancients":
Then after the marriage if perchance a child is born, in this case again we shall see the same folly and many practices full of absurdity. For when the time is come for giving the infant a name, caring not to call it after the Saints as the ancients at first did, they light lamps and give them names, and name the child after that one which continues burning the longest; from thence conjecturing that he will live a long time.

So, why do we name our children after Saints as "the ancients" did? Because when a child is named after a Saint, he is given a patron, a protector, and someone to model himself after. Naming a child is no small matter! When naming a child, have a specific Saint in mind. For example, if you name your child John, there are a thousand "St. Johns" (St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, St. John of the Cross, St. John Bosco, etc.), but only one "Saint John" who will be your child's special patron. Then teach your child about his patron, teach him to ask for his prayers, give your child statues or other icons of his protector, etc. And celebrate that child's Name Day.

A Name Day is the Feast Day of a Saint for whom one is named. In some families, Name Days are treated as more important than birthdays -- or are celebrated instead of birthdays. If at all possible, the family should attend Mass on a family member's Name Day.

Among adults, Name Days are informal get-togethers celebrated like an adult's birthday party, and they most often center around dessert. It is customary in Eastern European countries to decorate the door of the person whose Name Day it is, and to decorate the chair he will sit at at table, with flowers. He is made to wear a sash over his shoulder, tied at the waist, with his Saint's name on it, and is lifted up in his decorated chair three times. For the entire day, he is generally fussed over, fêted, and spoiled.

For children, Name Days are usually celebrated in the same way one would celebrate a child's birthday -- but with a focus on the child's Saint and the child's relationship to him or her.

Cakes and/or cookies (see recipe below) are baked in shapes symbolic of their Saint (lamb for St. Agnes; musical notes for David, Pope Gregory the Great, or Cecilia; chalice or eagle for John the Divine, wolves for Francis, etc.). A laminated Holy Card of the Saint (wiped with alcohol or bleach, then cleaned well in soapy water) can be placed on a cake, secured by icing piped around its edges and decorated further with flowers and symbols of the Saint made of icing or marzipan (see recipe below). The card will serve as a nice little keepsake afterwards.

Decorations can reflect Saint's symbols, colors (blue for Mary; green for Joseph; red for martyrs and Cardinals; white for virgins and Popes; purple for Bishops; black and white for a Dominican patron; black for priests, brown for a Franciscan patron, etc.), mottoes, affiliation with a religous Order, ethnic heritage (fleurs-de-lys for French patrons; provincial coats of arms for Italian patrons, etc.), etc. It would be very nice if at least one special item (e.g., a small statue or icon, a specially decorated candle, a special plate, 1 etc.) could be brought out only on the child's Name Day; this helps make the day special and gives to the day a sense of continuity and family tradition, in the same way that many families have that "one special Christmas ornament" that "must" be put on the Christmas tree or it's "just not Christmas." Pinatas in the shape of one of the Saints' symbols can be made, too.

Music, entertainments, food, and drinks relevant to the patron's life, heritage and historical era could be used, too. Use your imagination! Some Saints have foods or drinks "built-in" to their story -- e.g., the wine blessed on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist called the "Love of St. John," Speculaas cookies on St. Nicholas's Day, Lussekatter on St. Lucy's Day, the foods of the "tavola di San Giuse" on St. Joseph's Day, etc. (read about some of these customs in the Seasonal Customs section of this site). For other Saints, you might have to free-associate a little more; for ex., St. Barbara is associated with the custom of "Barbarazweig" -- of bringing the branches of cherry trees indoors so they will blossom. So, for a child named Barbara, a dessert made of cherries would be nice! "Angelfood" cake for a child name Michael or Gabriel would work. St. Matthew was a tax collector, so cookies cut into coin shapes and decorated like ancient Roman coins would work... There's even a Sicilian cookie called "Nun's Sighs" (recipe below) for all those girls named after a woman religious. You get the idea.

If your child's Saint is celebrated in the Liturgy, you can use the feast day's Collects as a prayer at the day's celebrations (see your Missal). If the Saint doesn't have a special liturgy, use one of the Collects below:


If the Saint is:

A Man and...

A Pope

Eternal Shepherd, regard graciously Thy flock, and keep it with an everlasting protection, by the intercession of blessed N____ thy Sovereign Pontiff, whom Thou has constituted Shepherd of the whole Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Martyr Bishop and his feast falls outside of Paschaltide

Look down upon our weakness, almighty God; and since the weight of our own deeds bears us down, may the glorious intercession of blessed N____, Thy Bishop and Martyr, protect us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Martyr Bishop and his feast falls during Paschaltide

O God, Who dost gladden us by the annual feast of blessed N____, Thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that we who celebrate his heavenly birthday may also rejoice in his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Martyr Not a Bishop and his feast falls outside of Paschaltide

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we, who celebrate the heavenly birthday of blessed N____, Thy Martry, may, through his intercession, be strengthened in the love of Thy Name. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Martyr not a Bishop and his feast falls during Paschaltide

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that through the intercession of blessed N____, Thy Martyr, we may be delivered from all adversity that may happen to the body, and may be cleansed in mind of evil thoughts. TThrough our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Confessor Bishop

Hear our prayer, we beseech Thee, O Lord, which we present to Thee, on the feast of the blessed N____, Thy Confessor and Bishop; and by his interceding merits, who was found worthy to serve Thee, absolve us from all our sins. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Doctor of the Church

O God, Who didst give blessed N____ as a minister of eternal salvation to Thy people, grant, we beseech Thee, that we, who have had him for our teacher on earth, may deserve to have him for our advocate in Heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Confessor not a Bishop

O God, Who dost gladden us by the annual feast of blessed N____, Thy Confessor: mercifully grant that we may follow the example of his life, whose heavenly birthday we celebrate. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

An Abbot

May the intercession of blessed N____ the Abbot, commend us unto Thee, we beseech Thee, O Lord: so that what we may not have by any merits of ours, we may obtain by his patronage. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.
A Woman and...

A Martyr, Virgin or not

O God, Who among the other marvels of Thy power, hast granted even to the weaker sex the victory of martyrdom: mercifully grant: that we who celebrate the heavenly birthday of blessed N____, Thy Martry, may, be her example draw nearer to Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Virgin not a Martyr

Hear us, O God, our Savior: that as we rejoice in the feast of blessed N____, Thy Virgin: so we may be taught by its devotion towards Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

A Holy Woman not a Martyr

Hear us, O God, our Savior; that as we rejoice in the feast of blessed N____, so we may learn therefrom loving devotion towards Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.


If you weren't christened with a proper Christian name, you can use the name you took at Confirmation.

If your Baptismal name is not strictly a Saint's Name, chances are it is a derivative of one or of a Marian Feast's name, etc. For ex., my name is "Tracy," which is a derivative of "Teresa," so St. Teresa of Avila is my patron. "Dolores" means "Sorrows," so the Feast of the 7 Sorrows would be Dolores's Name Day. "Loretta" is a derivative of "Loreto," so Our Lady of Loreto's Day would be her Feast Day. "Betty," "Bette," and "Lizzie" are derivatives of Elizabeth, etc.


 
Recipes


Sugar Cookies to cut into shapes, with various options for decorating

This is a good, all-purpose cookie for Name Day parties, a basic sugar cookie that can be cut into wonderful shapes:

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 egg
3 teaspoons of vanilla or almond extract
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2/3 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup commercial sour cream

For decorating:

Option 1: Colored Granulated Sugars to use before baking:
Granulted sugars of various colors

Option 2: Matte Cookie Paint to use before baking:
1 egg yolk for each color
1/4 tsp water for each color
food colorings

Option 3: Stained Glass Cookies formed before baking:
Lifesaver candies, separated by color, crushed inside plastic baggies

Option 4: Glossy Cookie Paint to use after baking:
2 Tbsp corn syrup for each color
food colorings

Option 5: Creamier-type Cookie Frosting to use after baking:
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter
5 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 tsp almond extract
food coloring (optional)

Option 6: Royal Icing added after baking (dries hard so cookies can be stacked):
4 egg whites
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon or two of lemon, vanilla, or almond extract
food coloring (optional)

Cream butter. Gradually add sugar and beat until light, creamy, and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift together flour, soda, salt and baking powder. Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Chill dough overnight. Roll out half the dough 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth. Keep remaining dough chilled until ready to be rolled. Cut the dough into symbolic designs (to keep them uniform, use cookie cutters or make a cardboard template you can cut around).

Now choose one of the options above and follow directions below:

Option 1:
Sprinkle with colored granulated sugar, then bake (see below).

Option 2:
Mix Cookie Paint ingredients in different cups for different colors, and paint on to cookies with clean watercolor paintbrushes (Cookie Paint will produce a matte finish). Then bake (see below).

Option 3:
Cut cookies into shapes. Lay the cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cut smaller shapes and patterns out of the insides of the cookies on the sheet. Fill the spaces cut out from the cookie with the crushed lifesavers. Bake as usual (see below).

Option 4:
Bake first (see below), then cool totally. Mix Option 3 ingredients -- once in different cups for different colors -- and apply with watercolor paintbrushes, letting each color dry throroughly before applying the next color. Let sit to dry overall before serving.

Option 5:
Bake first (see below), then cool totally. Cream together the confectioners' sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in the milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about 5 minutes. Add coloring, if desired. Use more milk if not soft enough.

Option 6:
Bake first (see below), then cool totally. Beat egg whites in clean, large bowl with mixer at high speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar and extract. Beat at high speed until thickened. Add coloring, if desired. Spread, or pipe on to cookies using pastry bag (Caution: this icing dries quickly; keep bowl covered while icing cookies).

To bake off the cookies: Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes.



 
Nun's Sighs

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 pound ground hazelnuts
4 egg whites
grated zest of one lemon
Butter and flour for cookie sheet

Whip the whites to firm peaks, then fold in the remaining ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls on a buttered and floured cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.



 
Marzipan


2 cups of confectioners’ sugar
½ pound of very finely ground blanched almonds or prepared almond paste
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of almond extract
Food colorings (see recipe)

Blend all of the ingredients but food colorings together until smooth and completely blended together. Wrap or cover tightly and chill until firm. Let come to room temperature, then divide dough as needed, add any liquid coloring, if using, a very few drops at a time to desired color. Knead until blended and then form into shapes. Or form into shapes before coloring, then paint with liquid food colorings added to water. Or, form into shapes before coloring, and then use powdered food coloring, let dry for 6 hours, and then set the colors by holding the marzipans over steam for a few seconds (this method is said to make the best-looking marzipan).

Tips:

Shape into roses and other flowers, Saints' symbols, liturgical symbols, Christmas symbols (stars, ornaments, trees, wreaths, poinsettia, Christmas Roses), Easter symbols (eggs, bells, lilies), fruits, vegetables, letters, numbers, etc. Alternatively, roll flat and cut using cookie cutters.

Use toothpicks to make creases, dimples or designs.

Gently roll shapes against graters, mashers, tea strainers, toothbrushes (reserved for the purpose, of course), etc., for textural effects.

Cloves can be used for stems top or bottom on fruit shapes.

Cocoa powder works well for making the color brown.

Marzipan shapes or balls can be dipped in mixture of 16 oz. Hershey's special dark chocolate and 5 squares unsweetened chocolate melted together (in double boiler or microwave).


 
Footnotes
1 You can get plain plates (clear, white, or one-colored) that are able to withstand being heated to around 300o F, decorate them using paints made to use on porcelain or ceramics, and bake until the paint is set. These sorts of paints are available at crafts stores (one example is a paint called "Porcelaine," made by the Pebeo Company). Paints that are baked onto the surface of the plate will be more durable than those that are air-dried. Make sure that any paints you use are non-toxic and able to come into contact with food. If you use clear plates and lack artistic talent, you can place a design underneath and trace it on the top surface. You can also get chemicals with which to etch glass. Just visit your local craft store and look for "Armour Etch" or a similar product.

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