Called by name

This post, in a slightly different form, was posted earlier today on my Hermano Juancito blog of reflections on my ministry and life here in southwestern Honduras.


The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. (Matthew 10: 2-4)

Yesterday I went out to the village of El Limón in the Dulce Nombre parish to facilitate the last of four workshops in different parts of parish for those who will prepare parents and godparents for the baptism of children under 7 years of age. It’s a new process and we have new materials (which I helped write.)

As I’ve done in the earlier workshops I began the workshop, walking through the rite of baptism – with two parents and two godparents and a “baby.” In one case we used a statue of the baby Jesús; yesterday we used a towel – which, at first, provoked lots of giggles from the 31 participants.

The welcoming of the child and the parents and godparents at the door of the church begins with the question: “What is the name chosen for the child?”

Timothy Radcliffe has a very good chapter on this in  Taking the Plunge: Living Baptism and Confirmation. I won’t try to summarize it.

After the welcoming rite was finished we discussed what had happened.

I emphasized that the first question is about the name of the child. The catechists recognized that this is an act of welcoming children into the community, into the Church.

As I noted, we do not baptize just any “so and so” – “un fulano de tal” in Spanish. The church baptizes, and calls by name, Jesús, María, Gloria, Ramón, Edelmira, Moisés, Nelson, Janixa.

This morning, reading the call of the apostles in Matthew 10: 1-7, I noted that Jesus calls the twelve by name. They are not just a mass of people going out to evangelize. They are Peter, John, Judas, James, and so on – with their names and personalities.

They have a dignity which is recognized when we call people by name.

The poor here and in most of the world are without names. Or, if they are known, they are often despised, ignored, marginalized.

Calling them by their real name is a way of recognizing their personal worth as children of God. (That’s why I am quite ashamed of my inability to remember names.) It is a way to counteract a society that treats the poor as “nobodies” – or, as a former president of the Honduran Congress once said, “gente del monte,” appropriately translated as “hillbillies.”

Calling them by name also counteracts the tendency to look at the poor as a nameless mass of people, to forget that “the poor” are persons with different personalities, moral character, etc.

And so I’ll try harder to remember names.


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