%@*!#/!& bleep!

No, my laptop hasn’t a virus…read on!
This year, more than 120 million babies will be born on earth. And of course, they will receive a name. Some parenting websites say that that a name holds the power to shape a child's self-esteem and his identity and influence how he's seen and treated by others. And then there's the belief that names have been proven to affect everything from a child's self-confidence to his grades in school and his future professional success.

In the Catholic baptismal ceremony, the priest meets the parents, godparents, and baby at the door of the church building, and the first thing he says is, "What name do you give your child?" After the parents answer this and other questions, the priest invites the parents and godparents to trace the sign of the cross on the child's forehead. Today the Church celebrates the Holy Name of Jesus. In the liturgical revisions of Vatican II, the feast was removed, though a votive Mass to the Holy Name of Jesus had been retained for devotional use. With the release of the revised Roman Missal in March 2002, the feast was restored as an optional memorial today, January 3rd.It might sound like a strange feast. Why do we celebrate a name of a person, do we not celebrate the person? A name is very important, it gives identity. For Jesus, it gave him his mission, his life programme.

We read in Scripture how the angel Gabriel revealed that name to Mary: "You shall call His name Jesus." And to St. Joseph the angel not merely revealed the name but explained its meaning: "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." The Messiah should not only be the saviour, but should be called Saviour. With Jesus, therefore, the name actually tells the purpose of His existence. Persons who played prominent roles in the history of salvation often received their names from God Himself. Adam- man of the earth; Eve -mother of all the living; Abraham- father of many nations; Peter - the rock.

Jesus has other many names in the Bible but St. Bonaventure tells us: “He was called Jesus. This is the most sacred of names. It was foretold by the prophets, announced by an angel, proclaimed by the Apostles and desired by the saints. This name is powerful, because it brings down our enemies, restores our strength and renews our mind. It is grace-filled, because in it is contained the foundation of faith, the ground of hope, and fulfillment of holiness.”

Come to think of it, my own name has various variations too. When you have a passport in Irish and ‘Louise’ becomes ‘Laobhaoise’, it does make for a good ice-breaker at what can be a cold experience at border control, customs or airport security when they try and pronounce it! In Italy, I was ‘Luisa’ instead of ‘Louise’ because ‘Louise’ as it was pronounced was a male name. In Poland, something similar and I was ‘Ludvica’. Often my names gets abbreviated to ‘Lou’ or ‘Wezi’. For some reason small kids find it hard to pronounce ‘L’ and I was ‘De-weez’! Since I became a sister and acquired the name ‘Mary’, I even get ‘Mary-Lou’. I do have to wonder though when I see the meaning of the name ‘Louise’ as ‘famous warrior’ and ‘renowned fighter’. Can’t really see myself as a Joan of Arc figure here somehow though maybe considering the ministry I carry out, the battle will be in the name of truth and justice. Maybe this is my life programme.

Getting back to the feastday! Jesus promises us that “whatever you ask in my name, I will do” (Jn 14:13). Put this together with the commandment: “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain”. Although many people believe taking the Lord’s name in vain refers to using the Lord’s name as a swear word, there is much more involved with a vain use of God’s name. Those of you who know me know that I have a pretty low tolerance when it comes to swearing, or ‘cursing’ as we say back home, ‘cussing’ for our US friends. Even more so, when it comes to putting the Lord’s name alongside swear words.It is sad that even those who are not Christian use holy names as swear words because they have entered into normal vocabulary as such, more than often, it is from Christians that they have learned and heard them.I am often surprised how even in religious circles, we are quick to take the Lord’s name in vain. ‘O God’ or ‘my God’ as an expression of shock or wonder escapes often from our lips. Often we invoke the whole family, in true Irish fashion, we are distinguished for calling on ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’!

I still remember how in school the nuns taught us to give a little bow of the head when we mentioned the name of Jesus, something which I remember my Nana also doing. To bless and to curse are themes which run persistently through the Bible for it is ‘from the same mouth that we bless and we curse’ (James 2:10). The Latin term benedīcere meaning to "speak well of" is a good explanation for the word ‘bless’. We bless each other when we speak well of them, we bless God when we hold His name holy and speak of Him. When we curse, we call on a supernatural power to bring evil and misfortune upon another. How often do we think of this?

As our society becomes more and more secular, there is always hope. Three years ago the Irish Independent ran this article about the ‘mysterious blue tiles’ which were above the doors of many houses in Clare, Galway and Limerick. They were inscribed with the monogram of the name of Jesus. The Poor Clare sisters discovered that a wave of devotion to promote the holy name of Jesus began after a retreat to their monastery conducted by a Franciscan friar, Fr Francis Donnelly, in January 1914. It was Fr Donnelly who introduced the blue YHS tiles, as they depict an abbreviation of the name of Jesus in Greek and they were placed above the doors of houses in order to invoke God's blessings You can read the rest of the article here. The tradition continues and today, in Ireland, the Franciscans and the Poor Clares continue to commemorate the events of January 1914 and inaugurated the Year of the Holy Name of Jesus in 2014. As part of the commemorations and to help inform the public about the significance of the YHS tiles, the Franciscans have set up a comprehensive website, www.holyname.ie with contributions from the Poor Clares.

When we take the name “Christian” upon ourselves, we must do so with an understanding of all that signifies. If we profess to be Christians, but act, think, and speak in a worldly or profane manner, we take His name in vain. Many people try to give up swearing for Lent, why not begin now and make it a New Year’s resolution! Or else, you might incorporate into your prayers some special prayers of reparation to Jesus for the blasphemies against His Holy Name. May His name be held holy!