Tuesday, March 07, 2006


What's in a name?

When my younger son was born, two months too early and very much "Not Ready for Prime Time" the doctor said to me, "He's got some challenges ahead of him. He needs to be a fighter."

His father and I had not settled on a name for him-- we still had 2 months to make a decision, after all. The Irish-sounding names that I liked-- Gerad, Brendan, Geoffrey-- were not to my husband's liking. We had almost agreed upon John, in honor of both my Grandfather and his beloved Great Uncle who was in his last days as the birth of our child approached, but neither of us was really thrilled with the idea. Neither of us was fond of "trendy" names, particularly for boys, and classics like Christopher, David and others had been kicked around... but we were still undecided.

Then I saw my son for the first time. Preemies are not pretty babies. He had the body of a spider monkey and the face of a 60-year old man--- most precisely, my father. (At 21, my son would look so much like his grandfather it was uncanny, but even at 20 minutes the resemblance was clear) My father's name was Stanley. Not only is Stanley a rather horrid name, but there were at that time already three in the family.

But, I thought as I looked at this tiny scrap of humanity fighting to breathe with lungs too small, too weak, and not fully formed, that Dad's middle name was Michael-- and that was a name for a warrior.

The first school I ever attended was St. Michael's. Though I was only enrolled there for a year and I was five at the time, I have very clear memories of staring in awe at the statue of Michael the Archangel on the grounds. This was not a prissy, angelic countenance, but a buff superhero in full Roman battle dress, standing at attention with his hands crossed upon the hilt of his sword-- the point of which was embedded in the head of a serpent. I also remembered the prayer to St. Michael said every morning which included the phrase

Healer of the sick,
Help of those in their agony,
God’s messenger for the souls of the just,
Terror of the evil spirits,
Victorious in battle against evil

So Michael it was... and is. Today he's still a fighter, though he does it in a courtroom as a prosecutor. He is always in my thoughts, but even more so when I captured these 2 images of Michael recently. The one above is from Mission San Luis de Apalachee and is a reproduction of one that was used in the 17th century to teach the indigenous Apalachees about Christianity. I liked it because although the angel is a bit to soft-looking for my taste, he balances power with justice.

There is another Michael the Archangel I've photographed recently. It is an icon from Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church.** He is a bit more stern, and even looks a bit like my own Michael... long and lean and with eyes that seem to see everything... and he carries his sword in readiness, but balances it with the scroll-- in the traditional symbolism of icons, wisdom.

Mike's got a few challenges ahead of him right now. But he's got the right stuff to deal with it all-- strength, wisdom, courage, determination, and a well-grounded sense of fairness and compassion.

If I don't say it out loud often enough, my sons are incredible men, and I'm proud to know them. I love them more than I can ever say.

**(I really like iconic art a great deal and photograph Orthodox and Byzantine churches whenever I get the chance. There is a gallery of my visit to HMOG at http://www.jpkabala.com/HMOG-Gallery/Posted by Picasa

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