A saint’s name is the name of a saint given to individuals at their baptism or confirmation within the Catholic Church. It is believed that the saint whose name is chosen will serve as a special patron to protect, guide, and be the heavenly intercessor for, the individual who bears his or her name.
The custom of giving the name of a saint originated in France and Germany during the Middle Ages and is still popular in continental Europe. In many English-speaking countries, however, it is more common for the saint's name to be adopted upon Confirmation, in which case it would usually not be part of one's legal name.
Under the current Code of Canon Law, Canon 855 of the Code of Canon Law states "Parents, sponsors and parish priests are to take care that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment," which would simply prohibit a baptismal name being something in the vein of "Satan," "Lucifer" or "Death." However, this was not always the case; in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 761 required pastors to ensure the baptismal name was a Christian name such as "Christian," "Grace" or "Faith" - hence what is now called a given name was once referred to as a Christian name, originating with the pagans of Europe who discarded their pagan names for Biblical ones when they converted to Christianity and participated in baptism - or that an additional saint's name must be given when the former is impossible.
In some cases, parents may give both a saint's name and a secular name to a child, allowing them to use the saint's name for religious purposes and the secular name for all other purposes. This is especially common in cultures, such as in South Korea, where traditional given names do not line up with Catholic saints' names; many Catholics in English-speaking countries of Korean descent use a Korean forename as well as a saints' name. In some countries, the saint's day of the person's name is celebrated as a birthday is in other countries. A child may also be named after the saint whose feast is the child's birthday.
- Dues, Greg (2000). Catholic Customs & Traditions. Twenty-Third Publications. ISBN 0-89622-515-1.