Ý nghĩa của việc đặt tên Thánh khi rửa tội trong Đạo Công giáo



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Recently, during a catechism class at the Ba Chuong church, a young child asked me, “Why do we have to give a saint’s name to a newborn during Baptism, and what is the significance of this naming?” Today, I will answer this question in more detail, so that the child and others can understand the importance of this practice and follow the example of the patron saint they choose.

Naming in Biblical Context

The Bible provides vivid examples of significant moments leading to changes in names, particularly in spiritual transformations:

  • When God chose Abram to be the father of a chosen nation, He required Abram to be circumcised as part of a new covenant. God also gave Abram a new name, Abraham.

  • After wrestling with an angel and receiving a blessing, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel.

  • The changing of Simon’s name to Peter and Saul’s name to Paul in the New Testament holds deep meaning. From that point on, these two individuals became pillars of the Church.

In each of these cases, the encounter with God led to a new name. This reflects the solemnity of the event. When a child is baptized, they become a child of God the Father, an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven through Jesus Christ, and a recipient of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The Tradition of Naming Saints in Catholicism

In Catholicism, the tradition of giving a child a saint’s name is not new. It is an ancient tradition that holds great meaning.

The custom of naming saints originated from the naming rituals in Judaism. In Jewish tradition, after a week of giving birth, parents bring their child to the synagogue to perform a naming ceremony. For baby boys, the naming ceremony coincides with the circumcision ritual. The names given are sacred names taken from the Bible.

In Catholicism, we can observe the progression of this tradition throughout history. In the 3rd century, Dionysius of Alexandria noticed that many people had the same name as the apostle John. He admired this apostle and desired to love God like St. John. He also observed that many children were named Peter or Paul to honor and imitate these great apostles. Additionally, during the early Church, it was customary for Catholic individuals to take a saint’s name as their own. Therefore, the Council of Nicaea in 325 prohibited Catholics from using the names of pagan gods for naming purposes.

In the 4th century, St. John Chrysostom encouraged parents to choose names for their children that belonged to saints, recognizing their power and holiness. This way, children can see them as role models and imitate their virtuous lives.

During the Council of Trent in 1563, the Catholic Church mandated that Catholics must choose a saint’s name when naming their child. If parents deliberately chose a name that contradicted the spirit of Catholicism, the priest would add a saint’s name as a second name in the baptismal record.

In 1917, the Code of Canon Law reiterated the law from the Council of Trent, but in 1972, the Congregation for Divine Worship abolished the requirement for Catholics to use a saint’s name when naming their child, as the practice did not align with cultural integration.

However, in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, there is no specific requirement for Catholics to use a saint’s name. Instead, it emphasizes that the individual’s name must be in accordance with the meaning of the Catholic faith. According to Canon Law 855, parents, godparents, and the pastor should ensure that the chosen name is consistent with the spirit of Catholicism.

Naming Saints in Vietnamese Catholicism

In Vietnamese Catholicism, in contrast to Western Catholics, there is a custom of adding a saint’s name that is unique to Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and other missionary countries where Western priests have brought Catholicism. When we read the biographies of Western Catholic clergy, we do not find any of them having a separate saint’s name like Vietnamese Catholics. For example, while Archbishop Joseph Do Manh Hung has the saint’s name Joseph, Pope Benedict XVI does not have a separate saint’s name. His name is Joseph Ratzinger, and Joseph is both a proper name and a saint’s name.

Thus, Western Catholics do not have the custom of celebrating their patron saints.

Although current Canon Law does not require believers to have a saint’s name, the practice of giving a child a saint’s name is still highly valued for two reasons:

  1. First, it allows the individual to emulate the holy life of their patron saint.

  2. Second, it enables the believer to seek the intercession and assistance of their patron saint. These two purposes are mentioned in Canon Law 1186, emphasizing the intention of the Church to honor and seek the prayers of the saints:

“In order to preserve the cult of the saints of the people of God, the Church encourages all the faithful, with the love of children, to pay special tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is wholly committed to her virginity and lovingly chosen by Christ as Mother of humanity. Likewise, the Church truly venerates the saints, for the faithful are steadfast in the light of their example and supported by their intercession.”

In Vietnam, Catholic individuals often choose male saints’ names for boys and female saints’ names for girls. Frequently, parents choose names associated with the time of Jesus such as Peter, Paul, John, Mary, and Anna as their patron saints. Nowadays, the Catholic Church in Vietnam has hundreds of Vietnamese martyr saints. Why not use the names of these Vietnamese saints to name our own children?

By Reverend Trinh Thien Phu


Naming a child during the sacrament of Baptism is a significant practice in the Catholic faith. While it is not obligatory, it holds deep meaning and serves as a way to honor and follow the example of the saints. In Vietnamese Catholicism, the tradition of adding a saint’s name is unique and reinforces the individual’s connection to their faith. So, if you’re looking for a name for your child, considering a saint’s name is a great choice.

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