How and why were you named? Our name is unique to us. Each name has a history.

Having given birth to premature twins 56 years ago, my mother feared for the health and wellbeing of her newborn babies. She petitioned the Blessed Virgin to protect her infants and prayed that they would survive. In her honor, my parents named me, Mary, instead of Kimberly.

Parents can spend endless hours contemplating a name for their unborn child. Not Elizabeth and Zechariah—their child’s name was foretold by the angel Gabriel. Going against the usual custom of naming a child after a father or grandfather, the name John was bestowed on the baby. Why John? God had “shown great mercy” to Elizabeth and Zechariah in blessing their childless marriage. John in Hebrew means “God is gracious,” and indeed God’s benevolence was revealed to John’s parents and to all who learned of his birth.

Words of gratitude flowed from Zechariah’s previously mute tongue—again God’s power at work. Like John’s birth, our birth is a sign of God’s grace and goodness. And the wonder of it all: God knows each of us by our name!

—Mary Schufreider, RN, BSN, serves as health care coordinator for the Jesuits of the Chicago region.