Choosing a Third Order Dominican Name


Naming children is really fun. But it’s also super difficult.
This post is not about how we named our daughters (maybe more on that later), but rather about choosing a name for oneself, which seems to me an even more difficult task.

When I received the Sacrament of Confirmation, I chose St. Joan of Arc as my patroness.  My middle name is a variant of Joan, so it seemed fitting. Also, I was so pathetically unaware of the great multitude of saints, that choosing someone I had heard of and knew at least a basic biographical sketch of seemed a smart move.


Since that day, I have constantly been puzzled by my decision.  I believe that God led me to choose her and that she watches over me in a very special way, but sometimes I wonder why/how.  I wait to see what she and God have in store for me. 🙂

Now, I have before me another great opportunity: choosing a religious name.

I don’t know how it works with other groups, but the Lay Dominicans allow a novice to select a religious name.  Though our group doesn’t commonly use “Sister X” or “Brother X” during meetings, I have seen a few newsletter writings or other references that suggest some Dominicans actively use religious names for any business pertaining to the order. Neat, right?

However, I’m a little stuck. I find myself slightly paralyzed by the thought of such a great gift.  Taking someone’s name means asking for their patronage and prayers in a very meaningful, deep way.  It means choosing someone whose life you intend to emulate to a certain degree. It means committing to a name– and even though I do have to submit names for approval by my superiors, it is my desire that eventually I will be fully received into the order and so I feel that I must operate as if this decision is final.

So guess what? You all get to hear about it, because I’ve been praying and I keep getting confusing answers. Maybe I just need to get the thoughts out; or perhaps one of you will be moved by the Holy Spirit to say something seemingly random that helps me! So here goes:

I thought I had decided on Cecilia.

This is a very fitting name for me for multiple reasons. First, I am a singer and a musician. So are a lot of my friends. I don’t think I could even count the number of kids named “Cecilia” from our group of college friends. I also love Cecilia, though, because my first encounter with real, flesh and blood Dominicans were the Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville. I don’t need to go on and on about how great they are, because if you are reading this, the chances are that you already know. The short end of a long love story with them is that I had health issues at the time I made formal inquiries about joining, so I was turned away. Curious that since marrying my husband, many of these issues have gone away…
Finally, I love the idea of Cecilia because Bl. Cecilia Cesarini was the first woman to receive the Dominican habit and she received it from the hands of Dominic himself.  She was a dear friend of his and bequeathed to us a series of recollections about him and the impact he had on her life. Her closeness to Dominic is something I desire, for I feel that I have much to learn about him and the charism he let loose on the world through his Order of Preachers. 
Competing with Cecilia, though, is a woman whose state of life is closer to my own. Though she is rightly associated with the Carmelite Order, Bl. Zelie Martin has grabbed my attention over the past couple of years and she has been a constant prayer companion of mine for various reasons.  
Image Source

First of all, “Sister Zelie” just sounds soooooo cool. It’s a total hipster name, no? Not to mention, she had a lot of daughters and all of them were blessed with religious vocations. Plus, it seems like she’s kind of nagging me…in a loving, motherly sort of way.

Finally, I’ve been wondering about Rose. My grandmother passed away recently and with her funeral came the unexpected revelations that I knew so very little about her amazing life, but also that I had absorbed some valuable lessons by her example that I never thought much about before.  The connection? Her middle name was Rose. My great-grandmother (her mother) was also named Rose, and many of my cousins share the family name.  Recently, my younger girl has latched on to a beautiful image of Rose of Lima in her saints book– a saint who happened to be a Third Order Dominican. 


How can I not think of “Rose” when dear little E keeps running around the house with her book yelling, “Ros-a-lima pay uh us!!!”

Of course there is also Catherine, which links two great saints with Dominican ties: Catherine of Alexandria (patroness of scholars and visitor to saint Dominic in a mystical vision) and Catherine of Siena (a Third Order Dominican and Doctor of the Church). 
Catherine of Alexandria, Lotto
Catherine of Siena
Catherine of Alexandria (I am tempted to say “coincidentally,” but I know better than that) was also one of the counsellors to.. Saint Joan of Arc. Hmmmmmmmm.
Plus, there’s always Thomas Aquinas. If I were to take his name I think it’d be in conjunction with a female name; e.g. Rose Thomas, Zelie Thomas, Cecilia Zelie Thomas Rose… you know. 
So what do you think? But even more fun: 
If you were to choose a religious name, what would you pick???
How would you choose?


  1. i really want karol in my name but sr. maria karol is already taken so lately i've been loving sr. karol joseph or sr. karol therese. but that might be a mouthful…polish + french names combined?!

    i also really love latin names. Cora Christi for the sacred heart!

    that's so cool lay dominicans take names, i didn't know that. and the wannabe hipster in me is filing zelie in my cache of potential names…i don't think there's any sisters in nashville with zelie in their name!

    okay. thanks for the opportunity to fangirl over OPs and religious names 😉


  2. I'm probably no help because the thought of choosing a religious name is so overwhelming to me. All the choices you listed here are great for different reasons. BUT, I had no idea you liked Bl. Zelie Martin so much! We just got to venerate relics of her, her husband, and St. Therese a couple weekends ago! I plan to write about it on my blog soon. I think Zelie is such a beautiful name (and of course I love that she and Louis are one of I think only two married couples to be beatified). How soon do you have to choose??


  3. OH P.S. You should come visit us sometime during the first weekend of a month. On the first Sunday of each month the Carmelite monastery is open to the public so you can venerate the relics I mentioned! They don't know if the relics will remain here indefinitely but I was told that this first Sunday of the month thing will remain true for the rest of 2014. 😉


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