William Shakespeare

The adage, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a reference to a dialogue between Romeo and Juliet. Juliet is speaking into the night air (overheard by a spying Romeo) when she says that his last name (Montague), and her own (Capulet), along with their families’ feud, mean nothing to her. But listen to the stories of these brothers and their “friar names” and all will discover that a name is important Ð for many different reasons.

When I was a candidate in Detroit in the 1970s, we studied a great philosopher friar from St. Bonaventure University in New York named Philotheus Boehner. Because we shared similar sounding last names, and I enjoyed arguing philosophically, my classmates thought it would be funny if I would have received “Philotheus” as a friar name, if I entered the novitiate earlier.

I am glad that this did not happen, but that I retained the name of Mark. As the eldest son of my parents, I did receive my father’s first name as my middle name: Richard. My brother has carried that tradition to his own son. My full name was only used by my mother. Whenever I was in trouble as a child, she would put both first and middle names together with an exclamation point after them. Then I knew to look out!

To know a person’s name is to have some sort of intimacy with him or her. Moses learned the name of God, which a rabbi friend of Richard Rohr reminded him that this Sacred Tetragrammaton (YHWH) is not pronounceable for Jews, but it is breathable. It is the very first word of an infant as it takes its first breath outside of the womb. The inhale sounds like Yah. And the exhale sounds like Weh. Try it sometime, listening to your breath. It consequently is the final word on our lips as we exhale our last breath.

We believe that each one of us has been called by name by God. That we in our individuality are held to be precious by God. In this Lenten season, we might allow God to speak our name again. We might align our breath, listening for God to pray through us, God’s Sacred Name.