One of my favorite aspects of Scripture is the meaning of people’s names. They are never random; they always have deep significance, revealing something about the person’s very essence (for specific examples, see here and scroll to the near bottom of the post). God uses their names reveal a piece of their identity.
For this reason, I’m fairly certain that the meaning of names will always fascinate me. It’s also why it was a very big deal for me when it came to choosing the name of our daughter.
After a couple of months of trying to conceive and having to read negative pregnancy tests, it was hard not to worry if something was wrong. It was hard not to think about it. It got to a point where I knew I needed a little bit of help in “letting go.” It was August 14, my birthday, which also happens to be the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Since I was born on the eve of this feast — and eves of major feasts are kind of like little feast days themselves — I always felt a special devotion to Our Lady of the Assumption. That night, I decided to begin a novena asking for her intercession. Typically one would start a novena nine days before a major feast and end their prayer in celebration. Instead, I started on the eve of the feast… the beginning of the celebration.
My request was pretty simple. In fact, I don’t even know that it was so much a request as it was an “entrusting.” I simply handed over all my worries and concerns about conceiving a baby into her hands, with complete faith that she would give me peace.
We didn’t conceive that month, or the next month, or the following month. And while I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed, I can say I wasn’t worried anymore. It was in the hands of Our Lady, and I trusted her completely.
A Positive Test
At the end of November, I was actually surprised when the pregnancy test I took had a second pink line. Obviously I knew pregnancy was a possibility, but somehow, it was still a shock when it actually happened. Chris responded in the same way as well — he even asked me to take a second pregnancy test just to be sure.
Due to travel plans and closed doctors’ offices over Christmas, we weren’t able to see an OB until we were nearly in the second-trimester. It was surreal to see that peanut-shaped baby on the screen of the ultrasound, and the doctor gave us our official due date. It wasn’t until later that evening as I prayed before bed that I realized the due date was within a week of my birthday… meaning it was within a week of the Feast of Our Lady of the Assumption… meaning the baby could be born on the feast day of the very person I had asked for help. I knew in that moment that this little babe existed thanks to the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption… and I was kind of in awe.
At that point, we were still months away from knowing the gender, but I couldn’t help but think back to the previous August. During the time I was praying the novena, I remember looking up the meaning of the girl’s name, “Imogene” as it was the current favorite on my personal short list.
Originally, I had simply liked it for its southern-sound and Irish roots, as well as for the fact that it was both unique and traditional. However, I also thought it was a little more than a coincidence that this name meant “maiden.” Obviously it is not explicitly a Marian name, but it certainly seemed to go along with who Mary was when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. I remember thinking to myself, “how perfect would it be if we conceived this month and had a little girl? We could name her Imogene after Our Lady.”
Having learned the due date, and being convinced even more so that the Feast of the Assumption was tied to the existence of our little one, I was pretty hung up on that name if the baby was a girl. Chris wasn’t as fond of the name as I was, and not wanting to be pushy or make this a one-sided decision, I agreed to a name that we both liked, “Alice Olivia.”
A Wrench Thrown…
After finding out the gender on March 19th — the feast of St. Joseph — we began to call our baby girl by the name we had agreed upon… but it always sounded weird to me. The more we used it and the more others said it out loud, the more “wrong” it felt.
“Alice Olivia… Alice Olivia… Alice Olivia…” the name would actually echo in my head each time I heard it… almost like it was taunting me.
So, one day I came home from work and told Chris that I was struggling big time with the name Alice… and he already knew exactly why…
“You want the name Imogene, don’t you?” he asked me.
All I could do was nod.
Though he was pretty upset, Chris was very gracious and took my request for him to consider the name to prayer, considering my own experience and explanation of its unveiling to me as well. After a couple of weeks, he was more at peace about the name and agreed that it did seem to reveal the littlest bits that we knew about our daughter. It revealed both to us and to the world, just a teeny tiny bit of her essence… just like all the names in Scripture.
Chris then had the perfect suggestion for her middle name: Catherine. The meaning of the name Catherine is “pure.” Pair it with the name Imogene and our daughter would be named after a pure maiden… one so pure that sin had no decaying effects on her body and she was assumed into heaven (aka Our Lady of the Assumption). Being the obsessed, theological nerd that I am, I did a few more in-depth searches and discovered another possible meaning for the name Imogene: “the image of her mother.”
This pretty much sealed the deal for us. Not only is our little Immy named after Our Lady of the Assumption — a pure maiden — and calls upon her continued patronage, but it’s also a prayer for our daughter; that she would be an image of our Heavenly mother here on earth and in this way draw others to her Son, Jesus.