The Baby Name Buff: Catholic Saints Edition

This Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day. In secular American society, this holiday is at best a day to celebrate Irish heritage (in a largely well-intentioned but bizarrely-caricatured and borderline-offensive way) and at worst a day when people get wasted to the point of illness. Don’t get me wrong: drinking is fun, and most modern-day Catholics probably wouldn’t look askance at people enjoying some libations from time to time. But I once saw a guy pee in the middle of a hotel lobby during the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Scranton, PA…and it was only about 10 in the morning. Not cool, bro.

But for America’s approximately 51 million (adult) Catholics, St. Patrick’s Day is a sacred celebration of a man whose great missionary work in Ireland caused him to become the patron saint of that country (even though—fun fact!—St. Patrick is actually originally from Scotland). In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to search for unique names among the other canonized Catholics in Patrick’s company, and I was not disappointed! Below are my top 16 picks (8 girls’ names and 8 boys’ names), but it was honestly very hard to narrow this list down with so many amazing Catholic saint names to choose from.

Girls

Scholastica
St. Scholastica (pronounced Sko-las-tick-a) is the saint of nuns and education. People also pray to this saint to prevent or abate storms, most likely because of lore that says Scholastica’s fervent prayers once caused God to create a storm so Scholastica’s brother would stay by her deathbed. In Latin, the name Scholastica means “scholarly.” The feast of St. Scholastica is February 10th. I like Chola, Asti, and Tica as possible nicknames.

Euphrasia
I couldn’t easily find a source that directly states what St. Euphrasia (pronounced You-fray-zhuh) is the saint of. But, based on reading various versions of her life story (from sources like Life of the Saints and Catholic Saints.Info), I think that she would likely be the saint of manual laborers (since she was known to do penitent labor to avoid temptation) and healing (since she is reputed to have performed many healing miracles). The feast of St. Euphrasia is March 13th (or July 25th in the Greek Church). I like Phrae or Rasia as possible nicknames.

Zita
Having worked most of her life as a servant in a wealthy Italian family’s home, St. Zita (pronounced Zeet-uh OR Zeed-uh OR Seeth-uh) is the saint of those who serve others, including maids, other domestic workers, and waiters. She is also known for caring for marginalized people, including impoverished, ill, or incarcerated individuals.  Catholics often pray to St. Zita to help them find lost keys or to keep them safe when crossing bridges (though I can’t really figure out why, on either count). The feast of St. Zita is April 27th.  I think either Zee or Ita would be nice nicknames.

Crescentia
It is unclear what, precisely, St. Crescentia (pronounced Cruh-sentch-ee-uh) is the patron saint of, but since she was herself a nurse, my best guess is that she would be the saint of nurses, doctors, or other types of healers. I am also unsure what, if anything, the name Crescentia means, but the root word crescent always makes me think of the moon, so this name could be a nice alternative to more popular moon-related names like Luna or Diana. The feast of St. Crescentia is June 15th. I like Cress, Escent, and Tia as possible nicknames.

Hyacinth
St. Hyacinth (pronounced Hi-uh-sinth) is the patron saint of “Lithuania and those in danger of drowning,” as well as pierogis. (Now that’s my kind of saint—a saint of food!) Elsewhere, St. Hyacinth is noted as the saint of weightlifting. And while St. Hyacinth was a male, I actually like this name better for a girl, probably because I first encountered Hyacinth as the name of a female character in a romance novel—don’t judge me. The feast of St. Hyacinth is August 16th. Probably my favorite nickname for Hyacinth would be Cinth.

Seraphia
St. Seraphia (pronounced Sir-off-ee-uh OR Sir-aff-ee-uh) is another saint for whom I could not find a clear indication of what she is the patron saint of. Based on her biography, I would guess she was a patron saint of the poor, since she sold all her belongings and gave the money to those in poverty. In Hebrew, the name Seraphia means “fiery ones” or “burning ones;” this meaning is morbidly appropriate since those who attempted to (and eventually did) execute Seraphia for being a Christian first attempted to burn her at the stake, but it is reputed that the flames did not hurt her in any way! The feast of St. Seraphia is September 3rd. I especially like this name as an alternative to the much more popular Seraphina, and some great nickname options are Sera, Seraph, Raph, Raphi, and Phia.

Leocadia
St. Leocadia (pronounced Lee-oh-kay-dee-a OR Lee-oh-cod-ee-a) is the patron saint of Toledo (in Spain). The name Leocadia  means “splendid brightness” in Spanish. The feast of St. Leocadia is September 9th. Variants of this name are Liocadia, Leokadia, and Laocadia, and there are many great possible nicknames, including Leo / Lio, Cade / Kade, Cadi / Kadi, and Cadia / Kadia.

Emiliana
St. Emiliana (pronounced Uh-meal-ee-ahna OR Eh-mill-ee-ahna) is the patron saint of “single laywomen,” so I feel like this saint is probably my favorite of all time. The name Emiliana means “rival” and is an Italian version of the name Emily. Some Catholic calendars have the feast of St. Emiliana on December 24th (shared with her sister, St. Thrasilla), while other calendars list St. Emiliana as having a solo feast day on January 5th. Emiliana is not only a great alternative for the extremely-common name Emily, but it is also a more unique option versus similar but more popular names like Emmaline or Amelia. This name also has some great nickname possibilities: Emili, Millie, Milia, Iliana, Lia, Liana, or Ana.


Boys

Casimir

St. Casimir (pronounced Caz-ih-meer OR Cass-ih-meer) is the saint of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.  In Polish, the name Casimir means “destroyer of peace.” (At first I thought this was a terrible name for a saint, but perhaps this meaning is actually religiously positive, along the lines of what Jesus says in Matthew 10:34.) The feast of St. Casimir is March 4th. I really love Caz or Cass as possible nicknames for Casimir, though Simi would also be a cute option.

Benezet
Because St. Benezet (pronounced Ben-uh-zay OR Ben-uh-zet) was inspired by God to build a bridge, he is the patron saint of bridge builders (which one can interpret both literally and symbolically). Benezet was originally a surname meaning “blessed.” The feast of St. Benezet is April 14th. Possible nicknames: Ben, Bene, Nez, Ezet, or Zet.

Anselm
St. Anselm (pronounced Ann-sulhm OR Ann-cellm) was another tricky saint to pin down in terms of his areas of particular piousness. But, based on his biography from several sources, like this Franciscan Media article, he sounds like the saint of scholars, philosophers, and theologians, as well as a saint known for service to the poor. Anselm means “with divine protection.” The feast of St. Anselm is April 21st.  I like Selm / Zelm as a nickname for Anselm.

Paschal
St. Paschal (pronounced Pass-cal) is the patron saint of “Eucharistic Congresses and Societies and shepherds.” Assuming that the meaning of the name Paschal is the same as its more common variant, Pascal, this name means “of the Passover; Easter.” The feast of St. Paschal is May 17th. I like Cal as a nickname for this one.

Symphorian
St. Symphorian (pronounced Sim-for-ee-in) is the patron saint of Autun (in France). In Latin, the name Symphorian means “to bring together,” which is similar to the symbolic meaning of the name Benezet, discussed above. The feast of St. Symphorian is August 22nd. Either Symph or Phorian would be a cool nickname, though I think I like the latter nickname slightly better.

Cyprian
St. Cyprian (pronounced Sip-ree-in OR Sipe-ree-in) is the patron saint of North Africa. Cyprian means “man of Cyprus,” and the name Cyprus means “fair or fairness.” I am unsure of the exact date of the feast of St. Cyprian; I’ve seen September 11th, 16th, and 26th as feast dates associated with this saint. Other spelling variations of this name are Ciprian and Cyprien, and I like Cypri or Prian as possible nicknames, though I prefer the former nickname option.

Callistus
St. Callistus (pronounced Cuh-lis-tis OR Cuh-lis-tus) is the patron saint of cemetery workers. The name Callistus means “most beautiful.” Two cool variants of this name are Calixtus and Callixtus. The feast of St. Callistus is October 14th. Based on this name and its variants, possible nicknames are Cal and (my favorite) Calix.

Odo
St. Odo is the patron saint of rain, which is a super-cool thing to be the saint of. The name Odo means “possessor of wealth,” though St. Odo’s wealth was of course not in worldly possessions or money but in spiritual riches like wisdom, grace, and peacekeeping abilities. The feast of St. Odo is November 18th.  And while I don’t actually like the sound of this name as much as many of the others on this list, Odo made the cut because I love the changeling character Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  

Which of these is the most righteous name of them all? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Miguel Mendez