The Importance of Names and The Communion of Saints

As most know by now, I have chosen to take on a new name, one that I connect with and has meaning for me seeing as I am estranged from my family I was born into and have subsequently had the blessing of choosing my own family, and then creating our non-nuclear family for me and my children. Yes, I’m the single mother with four kids in a red state whom people look down on, but God loves us all, and God created all kinds of families. Apart from my children, all of my family is chosen, and I love them dearly. You won’t be allowed to talk shit about them in my presence, you may, however, trash-talk my family of origin if you please.

I knew that I was going to use the name Mary as my first name, both for St. Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of God. I wasn’t sure about a middle name and I tried one out that didn’t work. The surname of St. Benedict is pretty obvious. It used to be that parents chose saint names or Biblical names for their children because they wanted to call good things on their children, not evil things. While that tradition has gone by the wayside, it’s an interesting take and naming is still important.

When I met St. Teresa of Avila, I knew immediately that she was going to a part of my own personal canon of saints (others in my canon are St. Mary Magdalene, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Benedict, St. Jude, St. Peter, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Josephine Bakhita, St. Dymphna, and I know there will be more). I connected with her immediately. I’ve learned that I tend to find God in places that may or may not work for other people. But I’ve been finding God in the lives of the saints, in horror stories, rap music, and 12-step meetings. This woman is someone I would totally be friends with if she were alive today.

The communion of saints, includes those saints canonized by the Catholic Church and also other Christians who have gone before us. St. Teresa was canonized by the Catholic Church, but I’m interested in anyone who had a kind of rocky relationship with God but still ended up being faithful. I also give some of the canonized saints different designations than the church does about what they might be the patron saint of. For me, St. Mary Magdalene (my patron saint) is the patron saint of trauma, and my transgender daughter’s patron saint is St. Joan of Arc who queer theologians have designated as the patron saint of transgender people.

St. Teresa was quite the spunky woman who followed her own intuition on her own relationship with God. The kind of woman I really want to be. I was attracted to her for many reasons: she spent time in solitude and introspection, honest about her faith and doubts. She had honest but sometimes irreverent conversations with God, which sometimes end up being the best ones. She walked in authenticity despite people trying to silence her. While polite religious society ordered her around, she still developed her own relationship with God while also respecting the perceived authority of the spiritual leaders in her life. Her family life was fraught with tension, and she had her own inner turmoil, having to choose between marriage and religious life.

A cool thing about St. Teresa of Avila is that she was canonized by the Catholic Church on my birthday, except that since she was canonized on March 12, 1622, then I suppose that in reality, I was born on her canonization day. So I’ve finally settled on a name. I am Mary Teresa St. Benedict. It breaks the ties to both my family of origin and my ex-husband whom I don’t hate but still don’t want his name. I’m glad that I’m finding faithful companions for my life, my friends that I love and for the companions who have gone on before.

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