Every three years, the lectionary readings cycle around to my favorites—special to me for the meaning of the words, the feelings of hope in them or some particular memory they invoke. Today’s selection from Paul’s second letter to Timothy is very significant as it speaks lovingly to Timothy of the positive influence of the feminine role models in Timothy’s family: his mother, Eunice and his grandmother, Lois. Paul was speaking with great fervor about Timothy’s faith that was passed down from these two women. (“I yearn to see you again…as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and that I am confident lives also in you.”)
As children we knew that in some form all of our names were to be given to honor a saint and, quite often as well, a relative or other special person in our family’s life. Thus, my sister was named Paula because my uncle Paul had been killed in World War II around the time of her birth and my brother’s name was John after his father. My mother was rather in favor of other criteria: names that would never devolve into nicknames, for example, or even names of famous people like movie stars or those she thought beautiful like Heather or Valerie…There was never any question for my brother. Although she would have preferred Stephen or Victor, it was clear to all that—in biblical greatness—”his name is John.”
There seemed no real reason for my name, however. I was happy to have St. Ann, mother of the Blessed Virgin and grandmother of Jesus, for my patron but that is my middle name. And as I got older, I was happy not to be named Theresa or Marie or any of the other names attached to multiple girls in my school classes. I was always, throughout my school life, the only Lois in my class. I did, however, cringe occasionally when I heard, “Hey, Lois, where’s Superman?” from someone I presumed was making fun of me, So imagine my surprise when, in adulthood, I saw that Timothy’s grandmother was Lois—right there in print in the Bible! I’m still happy to claim St. Ann as my patron but adding Lois to my tribe makes me consider—now that I am clearly in the age of grandmothers—the qualities of a good grandmother, since I have two great women to emulate in this role.
Do you like—or have you lived into accepting—your given name? Who are those great people, even if not of your same name, to whom you look for ways to give example to younger people? If you could choose any name at all to hear God call you, what would it be? Might you make a practice of hearing your God-given name as you pray?