I am Fr. Meinrad Brune. I'm a Benedictine priest monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. It happens to be located in St. Meinrad, Indiana.
And I know it is surprising when people, when I would be in the college and have to order an airplane ticket or something or reservation. They said, "Name." They said, "Will you repeat that and would you spell that for us. We've never heard of that." And I would spell it out and then they said, "Where are you from?" And I would tell them the monastery. And, "Where's that located?" And then I would tell them the town. They said, "Oh you're kidding!" They can't believe I would have the name of the monastery and the name of the town.
Br. Joel: I am Br. Joel Blaize.
Nov. Tony: I'm Novice Tony Wolniakowski.
Nov. Tony: And this is our podcast, Echoes from the Bell Tower. Stories of wit and wisdom from Benedictine monks who live work and pray in Southern Indiana.
Nov. Tony: This week's episode is about monastic names. We talked to a lot of monks in the community about the stories behind their names, so you will hear a lot of voices in this episode. Hopefully, you will find the stories as interesting as we did.
Br. Joel: I spent a year discerning whether monastic life was right for me. I professed first vows back in January with three other classmates and during our year as novices, we discussed what names we were thinking of so we didn't take anyone else's name.
Br. Simon Herrmann: And each of us had names that fluctuated a little bit but I think for the most part we all had maybe our at least top name choices in mind.
Nov. Tony: This is Br. Simon Herrmann. He is one of Br. Joel's classmates.
Br. Simon Herrmann: It was fun just here and there just to talk about names with them. And I think that helped us grow in intimacy. We got to know our classmates a little bit better and their reasoning behind the names they were thinking about and…
Br. Joel: The process of taking a name varies from abbot to abbot. Archabbot Justin, the current leader of our community, has novices submit three names and then they meet with him. Here's Archabbot Justin…
Archabbot Justin: I like to hear from them why they put down the choices that they put down. It helps me understand why they would choose this name or that name for themselves, and I always tell them, "You better put down three names that you like and that you can live with."
Nov. Tony: The abbot doesn't have to choose one of the three names submitted either. He can come up with one of his own. But there are some rules about choosing and receiving names.
Br. Joel: Rule 1 is there can only be one person in the community with a name, but it wasn't always like that.
Archabbot Justin: In times past, when there was a greater degree of separation in the community and the brothers had almost[laughs]a different sort of lifestyle than the fathers, we could repeat names. So you might have a Father Robert and a Brother Robert. But from about the 1960s on, the custom had been not to repeat names. So if someone had the name in the community, then it would not be available as a choice to a novice, and that rule continues.
Nov. Tony: The second rule is the name has to be based off of a saint. The saint can come from Church history, monastic tradition or from an Old Testament figure. Like Br. Joel chose the prophet Joel as his patron.
Br. Joel: A patron saint serves as a sort of spiritual role model for the monk, someone for him to emulate.
Nov. Tony: In the monastery, we do not celebrate birthdays, but we do celebrate the feast day of our patron, which is normally the date of their death.
Br. Joel: The third rule is once the novice finds out his new name, the name is kept secret and revealed or first announced to the community during the profession. So before the profession, only a handful of people know the new name.
After the novice submits his three names and meets with the abbot, the abbot puts a note in the novice's mailbox indicating the new name.
Br. Simon: My three classmates and I were like, "Oh, we're going to be checking the mailbox all morning because he said he would put it there in the morning." We didn't know when. So I think I checked it three or four times before I finally saw the note in the mailbox.
Br. Nathaniel Szidik: Yeah, it was a really interesting experience.
Nov. Tony: This if Br. Nathaniel Szidik. He also made his first profession in January.
Br. Nathaniel: Because when we submitted the names, we submitted them on a sheet of paper to Father Abbot with just our three decisions. And when we received our name, we received that same sheet of paper back. And there was a note from Father Abbot for me that said, "Nathaniel will be your name." And to read that in a certain sense, you realize wow, this is a command. It's not saying, "Your name will be Nathaniel" or "I want your name to be Nathaniel," or anything else. No. It says, "Nathaniel will be your name." So, in reading that, there's something that kind of that struck the heart and says okay, uh, this is it, this is this is who I am. This is the name that I will have.
Br. Jean Fish: Yeah. Getting the paper back, it makes it a little more tangible. When I got mine back, I taped it to my door. That way kind of it was in my face like - it's here. This is who I am now. And it made it all that more real.
Br. Joel: That was Br. Jean Fish. He is my third classmate who took vows in January. So there was Br. Simon, Br. Nathaniel, Br. Jean and myself who submitted names to the abbot.
Archabbot Justin: I think very seriously about it because I'm giving someone a name whom theoretically they would keep for the rest of their lives here in the community. I am conscious, too, when I do that that if they have submitted names, for example, that have been what we might call traditional "house names," names that have been repeated or associated with monks who were well known in the past, that gives it a little more weight in my mind, that it has a more of a local flavor for us, Saint Meinrad tradition behind it.
So I do think it's, for myself, a serious responsibility.
Br. Joel: And then after we received our new names I don't know if we were supposed to but we told each other what we got.
Br. Simon: So at lunch we each held up our fingers indicating which choice we got. Because we each knew each other's choices. So it was fun to "oh, okay, you got that one - cool."
Br. Nathaniel: Yeah. I think the bigger relief, at least for me, was finally submitting the names, because there was a lot of thought into what the three submissions would be. And then after the meeting was done and everything was turned in, it was like oh, okay, I can breathe now.
Br. Jean: It took a year to come up with names, and then after you submit it, it's like okay, I don't have to think about names anymore.
Br. Simon: I was happy he picked Simon and, of course, right after that is when I started practicing signing Simon, because at vows we have to sign our new name on our vow chart. But then I thought, "Oh, my name is Simon. Now this is, this is, this is different. This is new." And I'm still getting used to my name as Simon.
Nov. Tony: As we mentioned, the name stays secret until the night of the profession. That's the first time the monastic community and our friends and family hear our new name.
Br. Joel: We stand at the podium, at the ambo, and then read from our vow chart.
Br. James: "In the 2013th year of the Nativity of our Lord on this 6th day of the month of August…."
Br. Joel: And then you hear it for the first time.
Nov. Tony: At this point, the church is dead silent in anticipation of listening to that new name.
Br. James: "I, Br. James Jensen from the Diocese of Davenport, promise for three years…."
Br. Jean: I was saying the name - it was in that moment that it kind of - overwhelming kind of happiness that I'm part of this community. And I think us reading our vow chart is that declaration that I want to be here for the three years. I'm willing to grow and learn, and willing to kind of embrace that opportunity to love and become closer to everybody.
Br. Nathaniel: Yeah, and even after reading it - as if reading it in front of everybody wasn't enough - we sign it at the end on the bottom with our new names. So, being able to write that name and, in writing, agreeing to what you've read, definitely further solidifies that commitment, and is a much more tangible symbol of - okay, I am part of this life now. I am part of this community.
Nov. Tony: Back in January, Novice Jonathan made his first profession and took a new name, and so now I'm sitting with Br. Joel to find out why he chose the name Br. Joel. I guess answer the question. The people want to know.
Br. Joel: Well, Joel was my second choice. But I've liked the name for a long time and for most of the time I was thinking about what name to choose, I had it at the top of my list.
So the first thing to know is that I'm a convert to the Catholic Church and when I was growing up, my family was attending a Pentecostal charismatic-type churches. And as you probably remember in the Book of Acts, at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out, St. Peter quotes the Book of Joel to explain everything that's going on with the signs and miracles that were happening at Pentecost. So to me and my family, that name was significant because of that passage from the bible.
Also, sort of a very personal reason why I like the name Joel is that before I was born my parents had a late-term miscarriage and they named that little boy Joel. And my mom prayed a whole year for another son. And a year to the day when she lost him, she found out that she was pregnant with me and then she found out she was going to have another boy. So I thought it was a nice name to choose for those reasons.
Nov. Tony: What did you think when you found out that was the name you were going to be receiving or announcing to the community?
Br. Joel: I was very, I was very happy about it. My first two choices especially I would have been equally happy with, and my first choice was Jude, my second choice was Joel and my third was Jonas. So they were all J names.
Nov. Tony: So you could keep your email.
Nov. Tony: Um so I know talking to you prior to making vows, that there was a time when you were still debating the third name. How close did you let it get before you decided what the third name on the list was going to be?
Br. Joel: In all honestly 15 minutes before,(laughter)15 minutes before I had to submit the names, I finally settled on my third choice. Joel especially was on the list before I even entered the monastery. Jude was soon after. And my third choice, Jonas, I had no idea up until right at, right at the end and I want say it was because I didn't want to change my email(laughter)but I didn't want to change my email. I thought if I like Jonas as well as I liked anything else and ah.
Nov. Tony: Well, Jonas is a very good name, but I do agree I'm very glad you didn't get Jonas - because you would be a Jonas brother.
Br. Joel: (Laughter)I know. Isn't that terrible? If I would have gotten my first choice, I would have been "Hey Jude" all the time. So that's not much better than being a Jonas brother.
I'm just glad my given name wasn't Billy. Then I'd be Billy Joel.
Nov. Tony: How did your family react to your name choice?
Br. Joel: They thought it was great. They were thrilled with the choice. And I'd let them know before I even entered the monastery that I liked the name Joel and I was trying to feel for how they would think about it and they seemed fine. But I wasn't completely sure how they would take it, so that's why I put it as second choice. And then I thought, "Well, it's in the abbot's hands and I'll just trust him and God." If it's the name I'm supposed to have, then it's the name I'll get, and that's the way it worked out.
So the significance to me it just shows that I'm I've started a new chapter in life and that I'm dedicating my life to God in a new and special way to me. You think of name changes in the Bible. It was always when somebody received a new name when they begin a new ministry or when they take on a new role. And I think, more than anything, that's what the name change means to me.
Br. Joel: Next, Br. John Mark Falkenhain tells us the story behind his name. He is one of the only monks in the monastery with a double name. Br. Kim's name is really Br. Andrew Kim, but he just goes by Kim.
Br. John Mark: I had to think of a name a little bit at the last minute, because for most of my novitiate I wasn't planning on staying in the monastery. I thought that I would, I would leave, and so while a lot of people during the novitiate sort of thinking about what name they take, I wasn't thinking so much about names because I thought that I probably wasn't going to stay, and that's another story for another day.
But when I did decide that I was going to stay, with the help of Fr. Harry, who was my novice junior master, one of the names that I sort of entertained was John Mark. I would have kept Marc as my name, that's my baptismal name, but there was already a Mark in the monastery and so our rule was that if there's already a monk with your name, then you have to change.
So I thought I wonder if I can just add a name to it. And I like John for a number of reasons, my godfather's name is John and I found my love for Benedictine life at St. John's Abbey and I've always liked John the Baptist. And so I thought maybe I could I could hold on to Marc and if I was every going to take a name, take John Mark.
And then out of the blue one day I walked into Fr. Harry's office and he said, "I think you should take the name John Mark," as he would say in his Kentucky accent. And I thought, "Oh, I've thought about that." And I said, "But I don't think the abbot would maybe give a double name." And he said, "You could always ask."
And the abbot had given a homily in which he talked about John Mark, who is according to legend the other name for Mark the evangelist, and so those things sort of came together. And so I asked for John Mark as my first choice, and then my second choice was John and my third choice was Matthew.
Nov. Tony: Fr. Lambert was the abbot at the time when Br. John Mark made his first profession and he did things a little different than Abbot Justin. He had novices submit three names ahead of time, met with the novices and then during that meeting he decided what the name will be.
Br. John Mark: My name Marc was spelled with a C. M-A-R-C. And I think as a little bit of a here's an opportunity to die to yourself, he said, "And how do you plan to spell that?"(Laughter)and I knew right away that that meant I was going to lose my C and I said, "I assume I'm going to spell it J-O-H-N, M-A-R-K." And he said, "Yes, that's right."(Laughter)So it's an exciting thing to take a new name.
Br. Joel: We hear a lot of stories in the community about monks choosing names. Here's Br. John Mark again, telling us about how Fr. Harry chose his name.
Br. John Mark: His name had been Harry and his religious name is Harry - he kept his name. One of the names he was interested in was Aphrahat, or he thought Jephthah would be an interesting name, because every other letter at some point was H. J-E, how is that? Jephthah, yes, J-E-P-H-T-H-A-H, he thought that was cool. But anyway, he thought about taking Aphrahat.
It occurred to him one day that if he got into a fight in a bar and then someone asked him what his name was and he said, "Aphrahat," everyone would assume it was his fault. But if they asked him what his name was and he said, "Harry," they'd all say that's a normal everyman's name; it must be the other guy's fault. So he kept Harry as his name.
Nov. Tony: Reasons for choosing a monastic name range from the completely practical - how will the name sound? - to the spiritual. Fr. Thomas gives us an example of a deeply spiritual meaning.
Fr. Thomas: When I joined the community as a novice, I was known as Novice Gregory, my baptismal name. And it was a little disappointing that we already had a Father Gregory, so I couldn't ask for the name Gregory. And I had about 30 possibilities. And most - at the beginning, it was just kind of, well, what would sound good with my last name, Gricoski. What would work with that? And then it became a question of, well, what does the name sound like? What does it connote? What do people think about when they hear that particular first name? Is it a common name? Should it be a strange name? What kind of message do I want to give the abbot and the community with the names that I ask for?
But then it turned into a question of, is there some quality of one of the saints that I would really like help in? And that's how I came to my first two choices. My first choice was Thomas. My second choice was Alcuin.
The reason I made Thomas the Apostle my first choice - and people are surprised, and I got teased a little bit why I asked for Thomas the Apostle and not Thomas Aquinas or one of the other many great Thomases that there are. One friend put it, "Why did you ask for Thomas the Doubter and not for Thomas the believer?"
But it's precisely because Thomas had his experience of doubt, and that Christ was able to bring him through that doubt to a wonderful faith. Because when I was in high school, and in college, and in grad school, and even at moments in the monastery, I experienced kind of waves of doubt and questioning about all kinds of things including, you know, the existence of God. And I was certainly aware that lots of people in the world today and throughout history have these same doubts.
So I thought Thomas, because he's had this kind of paradigmatic experience of doubting and coming to belief, would be able to help me, deepening my faith, and perhaps even allowing doubt to creep in from time so that faith could be increased.
Nov. Tony: Fr. Thomas has learned another lesson than the one he was expecting to learn from his patron saint.
The thing that I think Thomas has been really teaching me in the last few years, is that the reason Thomas had the whole problem of doubt in the first place is because he just wasn't there at the right moment. He wasn't in the community when Jesus came and revealed himself as risen from the dead. And that's the whole reason he got into the problem of his doubt. He just wasn't there. If he had been there with the community, then he would have seen the Lord and not have had the doubts.
So that has really encouraged me to try to immerse myself more deeply into the community - the church community, the monastic community - because that's where faith is most alive.
Novice Tony: Fr. Meinrad, thank you for sitting down and talking about your name with us. We were just wondering if you could give us the story of how you chose your name.
Fr. Meinrad: 60 years ago this year, I received my name. Prior to receiving it and making profession, we had to turn three names in to Fr. Abbot. My first choice was Matthias, my second choice was Aquinas and now you know I got my third choice, Meinrad. But after 60 years, I'm very happy with the name.
There were three reasons why I chose this name when I put it on down on the list. First of all, I was very moved by St. Meinrad the story, the tradition of his life, that he had great love of God and dedication to God. Second reason was his great devotion to Mary, mother of Jesus, and the third reason was his charity.
I knew it would take me all the rest of my life to try to live out those three wonderful conditions of the saint, my patron, but at least I was going to try. I never have asked my confreres in community whether they think I'm living up to the three of them, but I will know when I meet my judge at the end of life.
Br. Joel: Monks don't always get their first choice of names. I didn't and neither did Fr. Julian Peters.
Fr. Julian: When I was making vows, my baptismal name was Paul. And at that time, we had a Father Paul in the community, so I had to change my name.
Julian was my second choice. And I am the first professed member of the house to have that name. And I stumbled across that name literally days before turning in the list to Abbot Timothy. I stumbled across it going throughButler's Lives of the Saints, and said, discovered Julian of Toledo. And Saint Julian was a seventh-century Archbishop of Toledo, Spain. And I am a native of Toledo, Ohio. Saint Julian was known as an administrator and had love for the liturgy, and those are, have always been some of my interests.
And so I put it down on my list. And I got my note back from Abbot Timothy and it said,est nomen tibi, which is Latin for this is the name for you, and with his signature. And I still have that card.
When we were given our names, we were called into the novice master's office. There were four of us that were making simple vows. And he handed us our envelopes and we opened them, and went around the room. And he said, "Did you get your first choice?" And I was the junior of the group and we did everything by seniority. And so they went around, "Yes, yes, yes, no."
I was disappointed because I didn't get my first choice, human element there. But very soon after I made profession, everyone quickly said, "Oh, that name, it fits you perfectly." And so I took that as an affirmation, and I've grown into it. And I was easily able to set aside my disappointment at not having received my first choice. And I can say that I'm glad that I received the name Julian.
Nov. Tony: Sometimes a new name does more than just mark a moment of conversion or major change for an individual, but might also speak to an important change within the entire community. Here's Br. John Mark again.
Br. John Mark: So recently, we had four novices make their profession and one of the novices asked for and received the name Nathaniel. And that was one of those moments when the entire community is more affected and maybe it means something especially to the community in terms of marking a change or marking a conversion, because about 15 years ago, right before I joined the community, one of our monks had committed suicide and his name had been Nathaniel.
And that was surely one of the most painful and traumatic events I think this community has probably ever experienced, as it's traumatic and painful when a family has someone commit suicide and in their lives there's lots of feelings of anger and obvious grief and guilt and sadness. And it's hard to negotiate all of that.
Father Abbot Justin, in the last 12 years that he's been abbot, has been a person who has been a very careful and discerning and pastoral sort of person.
And I think in lots of ways Abbot Justin has helped people and maybe allowed people to kind of heal from that event.
Archabbot Justin: And Father Nathaniel and I were classmates as well, in the novitiate and in ordination, and I think enough time had passed. Interestingly enough, no one had submitted that name before. It was the first time the name appeared on anyone's list.
Br. Nathaniel: I knew the situation, and I knew who he was when I submitted the name. And I tried to envision how the community would respond if that was actually my name. I thought about that for a while. But, I didn't think that that was a reason to deter me from submitting the name at all.
Archabbot Justin: I believe that it would provide, perhaps, a chance for healing and for the community to be able to now move ahead with things, which is not to form any kind of judgment. And I think it's also the fact that the person who receives the name, it fits Brother Nathaniel. He is a guileless man, like his patron, and so I think he will do the name well in our community.
Br. Nathaniel: Other people in the community have mentioned that it's good to hear the name Nathaniel again. I think a lot of people - from what I've been able to gather - really looked up to Father Nathaniel, really appreciated who he was, and the person he was within the community.
And maybe that having another Nathaniel within the community allows some people to move on and to recognize what has happened in the past, and say, "Okay, it's time to embrace a new future and another Nathaniel."
Nov. Tony: Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed hearing about our monastic names. This podcast was produced today by Krista Hall, Br. Joel Blaize, Br. William Sprauer, Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Jim Paquette, Tammy Schuetter, Christian Mocek and myself, Novice Tony. The music for this podcast was produced by Br. Joel.
Br. Joel: We want to give a special thanks to Archabbot Justin DuVall, Fr. Meinrad Brune, Br. Simon Herrmann, Br. Jean Fish, Br. Nathaniel Szidik, Fr. Thomas Gricoski, Br. John Mark Falkenhain, Fr. Julian Peters, Br. Giles Mahieu and Fr. Augustine Davis.
Nov. Tony: Tune in next time to hear what monks do in their free time. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.
And if you liked this episode, next time you're on iTunes, be sure to take a moment to share it with a friend or submit a quick review.
Br. Joel: To hear a couple more stories about monastic names, visit our blog at saintmeinrad.edu/echoes.
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CODA: BR. GILES
Oh well, I got my third choice. I had Peter, Marion and Giles. They gave me Giles and I wanted the Franciscan Giles, because I was taught by Franciscan sisters. I didn't get the Franciscan one. I got the September the 1st one - and guess what he's patron of? Nervous stomachs!(Laughter)That fits good, doesn't it?(Laughter)So anyway, that's the way it goes.
Extras posted on our blog, "Echoes from the Bell Tower"
I'm Archabbot Justin and, for at least a little while longer, I'll be the abbot here at Saint Meinrad. It was under Abbot Gabriel when I made my first profession, and there was a Father Justin Snyder, who had been a member of the community and died. I believe he died in the Dakotas. And I was taken by the patron as well, Saint Justin, who was a second-century martyr.
His writings give one of the earliest accounts of the Christian Eucharist that we have. He was also someone who was a philosopher, and through his search for wisdom, found in the Christian tradition the true fount, as he called it, of wisdom. And it became an occasion for him to convert to Christianity and, obviously in the times in which he lived, he paid the price for that conversion. So I think his story was attractive to me, as well as there being already in the community the name had been known through Father Justin Snyder.
I still have the slip of paper on which, at that time, Abbot Gabriel wrote in Latin,Justin erit nomen tuum,Justin will be your name. I think, like every novice, it's a time when you submit the name and you're a little bit on pins and needles until you get it back. I think I was probably the same way.
There were eight of us who made profession in my novitiate class, and we had what might be called the "name summit" before we all turned in our names, to make sure that we weren't poaching someone else's choice. But, of course in the monastery, so many things if not everything, is done by seniority. And among those eight, I happened to be the senior, so I was fairly certain that I would, at least among the group, get my choice. The rest was up to the abbot.
My name is Br. Simon Herrmann and I just took temporary vows here at Saint Meinrad on January 20th at First Vespers of St. Meinrad. I started thinking about names several months before I even applied to the monastery. I was with friends and I would say, "Oh, what about this name or that name?" I had all these kind of grand ideas about names and how it would sound with my last name, Herrmann. And if it had a nickname with it or not.
So a couple of months, actually a couple of weeks, before joining the monastery, I was out with friends at a restaurant and I said, "Guys, in about a year and a couple of months, I'll have to take a new name. Do you have any ideas for me to submit to the abbot?" They opened up their phones and I think they went to Wikipedia and looked up saint names or something and they offered some names. And my friend Becca said, "What about Oliver?"
And I said, "Ah, well, that's okay> I'll think about it."
Then a couple of more names went by from Matt and Becca, my friends who I was with. Then Matt said, "What about Simon?"
And I said, "Hmm, yeah I like that." So I put that in the back of my mind of a potential really good name to use.
And as we were leaving the restaurant, Matt said, "See ya, Simon." And I'm like, "That kind of sounds nice, it has a good ring to it." So Simon had really stood out to me for a really long time. And the other two names fluctuated a lot, but Simon was always at the top of the list.
And there were a couple different versions of Simon that I was interested in, Simon Peter and Simon the Apostle and then my patron, who is Simon of Cyrene. There were different points along the way where the name Simon, as I put it, I might have had a Godsidence with that name. Where one time I was looking up the meanings of some of the names I was thinking about, like the Hebrew and Greek meaning of names. And so when I looked up Simon, I saw that in Hebrew it means "he who listens" or "he who hears" or "he who obeys."
The word "listen" for monks is very important. TheRule of St. Benedictstarts out with, "Listen, my son, to the master's precepts." And so "listen" has always been a very important word in my life and prayer and interacting with others in my work. And so when I saw that Simon in Hebrew meant "he who listens," I thought, wow, that's awesome.
I think the last reason that Simon really was impactful for me is, before joining the monastery, my Catholic faith was very important to me but I had more of a, as I say, an observer role in the Catholic faith. I participated here and there and helped out with retreats and conferences and youth events and different parish ministries.
But now that I'm in the monastery, I really see my role as a Catholic as a very hands-on participant, praying for the Church, serving the Church in that way. And so Simon of Cyrene, he was very much of an observer and watching Jesus walk to his death, and he was called to help Jesus carry his cross. So he very much became a participant in Jesus' passion. So I see that as very important for me here in the monastery, carrying my cross and helping others carry theirs.
I'm Jean, for John the Baptist. I put Jean down as number three, but looking back, probably should have put it higher on the list. During my discernment, I felt a very strong pull towards the monastic vocation. And I saw him as being ideal of monasticism, and growing up with reading the Gospel and attending Mass, John the Baptist always kind of stood out to me. And part of the appeal for entering the monastery was the ascetical practice.
So, that's kind of what drew me towards Jean. The other name that I was considering was Felix - Felix of Nola. And the reason why I was interested in him was that there isn't too much known about him, but the one legend that we do have is, that during one of the Roman persecutions, him and his friend - who was Bishop Maximilian - they went into hiding. Maximilian got sick, so while they were hiding, Felix took care of him.
So, for me, that was a strong representation of friendship and loyalty, willing to die for one's friend and protect him. And then, part of that legend also is that they were hiding out in a tower, and the Roman soldiers were coming. And miraculously, spiders started creating cobwebs, and the tower looked like it had been abandoned for a really long time, whereas, in actuality, it hadn't. And what I liked about that aspect of the legend is that it's nature intervening for God's will, and I've always felt a strong connection with nature.
My number two was Diego for Juan Diego. And during my discernment also, I had a Marian devotion, and Mary helped out during my discernment. So wanting a way to pay respects to her. And then also growing up around the house, my mom is really into Mary, and so we have a lot of Marian statues and images. So, it was a way to integrate past life with my new life.
My three name submissions to Father Abbot were Peter, Nathaniel and Christopher. So Nathaniel, being the name I have now, I really like, which is a good thing. I mean, I have to live the rest of my life with it. What was appealing to me about that name is Nathaniel's account in John's Gospel. To me, I have a lot of questions about it when I read it, and it provides a nice source of reflection for me on how this man wonders if anything good can come from the town in which Jesus is from.
So, his friend, Philip, tells Nathaniel, "Well, come look. Just come see this man we have here." And as Philip and Nathaniel are approaching Jesus, Jesus looks at Nathaniel and says, "Well, this is a man that has no guile in all of Israel." And Nathaniel questions Jesus, saying, "How do you know me?" And Christ, in a sense, responds, "I saw you under the fig tree."
And at that point, Nathaniel confesses Jesus to be the Christ. Now, a lot of times when I read that passage I wondered, what is it in Nathaniel that Jesus saw in him to be honest, to not be deceitful? That's something that's provided a lot of reflection for me. And I really liked that Nathaniel had the humility to confess Jesus to be the Christ. At that moment, too. Especially being initially in doubt of who Jesus was.
Peter - this is for Peter the Apostle. Peter's my baptismal name, so there was definitely an attachment there. And Peter is a nice family name within my family, too. But outside of those practical things, I really liked Peter the person, the apostle within the Bible, as well. His faith was very human and very real and very tangible. I mean, he could easily confess Jesus was the Christ. But then, in the snap of the finger, deny the man who He was. And it was just a nice picture of mercy and forgiveness on the part of Christ and on the part of Peter, too, understanding his human condition.
And Christopher, again, I liked that it was a story for him of conversion. As the story goes, Christopher is a third-century martyr and he was seeking the greatest thing in his world. So, he first went to his king, and he realized after working and living with his king for a while, that he was afraid of the devil. Christopher ended up seeking the devil. And after spending time with the devil and being with the devil for a little bit, he realized that the devil was afraid of Christ.
So, he left the devil, and he started to figure out a way to seek and to find Christ. It eventually got to a point where Christopher was helping people cross this river. He'd carry them on his shoulders. And at one point in his work, there was this little child that he took across the river. And as this child was sitting on his shoulders, he realized and confessed that this was the heaviest burden that he's ever taken across the river.
He had the hardest time taking this little child, presumably would not be weighing a whole lot, across the river. And at the end of this experience, the child mentioned to Christopher that not only did you carry me across the river, but you carried the entire world on your shoulders.
So, in essence, Christopher was carrying this child, this Christ child, the burden of the world. And at that point, Christopher encountered and found Christ. So, I like that there's a story of conversion for Christopher. And again, ultimately dying for Christ in the end. As with all three, each one, Nathaniel, Peter and Christopher, have that story of conversion and are all martyrs. So, that's what drew me to those three names.