Choosing My Son’s Name

Rocco Gavin Oliver ~ 22 June 2009My son is named for my favorite Catholic saint.  Saint Rocco was a French nobleman, born into wealth and privilege in the 14th century.  He is most commonly referred to by the Italian form of his name because he performed the majority of his works  in Italy, and is highly venerated by the Italian people.  In fact, the body of Saint Rocco is encased in a glass tomb in the Church of Saint Rocco in Venice, Italy.   My son’s paternal grandmother is French Catholic (LeBlanc) and his paternal grandfather was Italian Catholic (DeTora).  A single name that could represent our Catholic faith, as well as both the French and Italian ethnic backgrounds of the paternal side seemed the perfect fit for our son’s first name.  It was a strong, masculine name, and I loved it.  In fact, I had the name Rocco on my mind for eight years before my son was born.  I took a religious education class in 1998 about the Catholic saints and wrote a report on Saint Rocco. I learned everything known about his life and works and he became my favorite saint.  I decided if I ever had another son and the name  flowed nicely with his surname, I would call him Rocco.  As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started collecting Rocco things, from stuffed animals named Rocco (there are quite a few), to personalized keepsakes, such as silver rattles and embroidered blankets, for his nursery.  I had no idea if I was even having a boy so early in the pregnancy, but I was hoping for a Rocco.

Saint Rocco is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases, especially of the skin.  My Irish side has very sensitive skin and this was the saint we really needed :). His image is very unique because of his pose and the fact that he is always depicted pointing to a sore on his leg. It is extremely rare for images of saints to expose any afflictions or handicaps.  I loved that vulnerability and humanness of the depictions of Saint Rocco.  He is highly venerated through Italy, but especially in the southern part of Italy and in Sicily.  The body of Saint Rocco is enclosed in a glass tomb in Saint Rocco Catholic Church in Venice, Italy. He is remembered each year on the 16th of August.  He is my son’s namesake, and the 16th of August is my son’s Onomastico, or “name day,” because it is the day that Saint Rocco passed away.

My son has three names and I put a great deal of thought into choosing each of them.  Perhaps I went overboard, but considering that I say his name about 100 times a day, I did not want to choose it on a whim from a television character or a list of popular baby names.  I liked the fact that the name Rocco “matched” his sister’s name, which is Luca.  Perhaps I am a little unusual in my thinking that a sibling set should have names that sound like they belong together, but it was an important consideration in choosing a name for my son.  I do not mean that they need to rhyme or all begin with the same letter.  Some examples would be length, syllables, origins.  I know a family with three boys, Jake, Mark, and Luke.  I know another family with old-fashioned names, Beatrice and Violet.  My older son went to school with brothers named Nicholas, Christopher, and Alexander.  Those are all excellent examples of what I mean by sibling sets that just sound like they belong together.  There was a problem, however, and that was the fact that this baby would be born into a blended family.  In addition to having a sister named Luca, he also had a brother named Austin.  Rocco and Austin did not sound at all like a sibling set, and there was my Irish Catholic background to consider as well.  I was not going to find one name that matched both of his siblings’ names, so I gave him two first names.  Rocco matched Luca, and his second name would match Austin.  When choosing his second name, I did a lot of research on origin, history, and meaning of each name I considered.  In addition to origin and meaning, the history of the name was another important consideration.  I am 75% Irish and found some great names in my family tree.  The name I chose, Gavin, actually came from a Galvin several generations back on my father’s side of the family.  I preferred Gavin, a Welsh variation of the Gaelic name, Galvin.  Gavin and Austin sounded like a sibling set to me, so it was chosen, my son would be called Rocco Gavin.  As a bonus, the meaning of Gavin fit well with the name Rocco, so that all came together nicely.  Gavin means “white hawk of battle,” while Rocco means “battle cry; rest.” My family has a strong military background, both in Europe and the United States.  Several men on my side of the family served in the United States Army, United States Navy, and the British Royal Navy.  One fought in the Korean War, and another fought in Vietnam, both on the front lines of battle.  I felt that the meanings of Rocco and Gavin honored the military service of my father, uncle, and grandfather, as well as representing the ethnic and religious backgrounds of both sides of our family quite well.

I treated Gavin as a second first name, rather than a middle name, so that there would be a connection to both sides of his family and both of his siblings’ names.  He was Rocco Gavin, brother of Luca and Austin.  I still needed a middle name for Rocco Gavin, and wanted to use a name my mom had always wanted to give a son, but she never had one.  She would have loved it if I had named my first son Oliver, but it did not fit well with Austin as a middle name.  When my second son was born on my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, the final decision was made for Rocco Gavin’s middle name to be Oliver in honor of my mother.  Oliver is of French origin, which is another connection to the LeBlanc side of the family.  Imagine my surprise when I looked up the meaning and found that Oliver means “elf army” The name is also associated with the olive tree and therefore peace, which I really liked.  It was a perfect fit and a perfect name for my son.  I hope that he will grow to love his name and how much it means to me, as well as the thought I put into to choosing it for him.

Thanks for reading.


Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 7:39 am  Comments (3)  
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Saint Rocco ~ My Son’s Namesake

Saint Rocco
Saint Rocco

I never realized what a negative association many Americans had with the name Rocco until I began receiving looks of horror and disgust from people when they heard my son’s name.  I will admit that it did not fit him when he was an infant, but by some of the expressions, you would have thought I told people his name was Adolph Hitler.  I do not live in an area with a large Italian population, so I had never met anyone named Rocco. We have a Rocco’s Pizza in town though, as well as restaurants named Dario’s, Stefano’s, Gianni’s, and Fabrizio’s. My first association with all of those names was great Italian food. Mafia thugs never crossed my mind. Apparently, the character, Rocco Lampone, from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather left quite a negative impression on the minds of many Americans. I wondered about the other Godfather characters like Michael, Anthony, Vincent, Sonny, Paulie, Joe, and Carlo. Perhaps those are common enough that people have made many other associations with them. What about the name Luca? My son has a sister named Luca.  She was 13 years old when Rocco was born. Neither name is very common, but both were in the top 500 the year Rocco was born. I was curious as to why no one associated it with the character Luca Brasi, described as ruthless, brutish, slow-witted, and the only man feared by Vito Corleone, with a reputation as a savage killer. In general, people love that name, so what happened with Rocco? I simply do not accept that The Godfather had such a powerful influence over people’s opinions of a name. Rocco is a perfectly good name that’s been around since at least the 14th century. It has very special meaning to me, and I am writing this to share my personal reasons for naming my son Rocco.

My son is not named for a movie character, and mobster movies were the furthest thing on my mind when I chose the name. Rocco is named for a Catholic saint.  Saint Rocco was French, although the name is Italian.  My son’s paternal grandmother was French (LeBlanc) and his paternal grandfather was Italian (DeTora).  It was great to have an Italian name with a French connection for our son.  In 1998, I took a religious education class about the Catholic saints and wrote a report on Saint Rocco. I learned everything known about his life and works.  He became my favorite saint and I decided if I ever had another son and the name flowed with his surname, he would be called Rocco.

The life of Saint Rocco was very interesting to me.  He was born into a wealthy family about 1340 A.D. in Montpellier, France. At birth, he had a red cross shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. From a very young age, Rocco was very devoted to God and the Blessed Mother, Mary. He was quite young when his parents died and was left in the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. As a very young man, Rocco took a vow of poverty and gave all of his money to the poor.

Dressed in the clothes of a pilgrim, he went to Rome. On his journey, he traveled through Aquapendente, Cesena, and other neighboring cities before reaching Rome. These cities were stricken by the plague. Rocco devoted himself to these plague victims and healed them with prayer and the sign of the cross. Legend has it that everywhere Rocco visited, his miraculous power healed entire cities. After leaving Rome, he traveled through Mantua, Modena, and Parma, all with the same amazing results.

During this time, Rocco contracted the plague, which was evident by a sore on his right leg. This caused him to be banished from the city. He took refuge in a cave, sleeping on leaves and drinking from a stream. Legend has it that a dog owned by a lord refused to eat and would faithfully bring Rocco bread each day.  Out of curiosity, the lord followed his dog one day and discovered Rocco in the cave. Taking pity on him, he brought Rocco back to his castle where he was healed.

Rocco continued to travel through northern Italy for about three more years. When he returned to his birthplace in France, he was very ill and unrecognizable to the townspeople. He was thrown into prison.  He had been imprisoned for five years when a guard found him near death and his cell illuminated with a blue light radiating from his body. His uncle, the governor heard of this, went to the jail cell, and demanded to know his identity.  When asked, he replied “I am your nephew, Rocco.” When the governor saw the birthmark on his chest, he knew this to be true. Rocco passed away on that day, the 16th of August in 1378. After his passing, those present in his cell heard a voice announcing that the soul of Saint Rocco had merited immortal glory in Heaven.

Saint Rocco continued to perform miracles after his death. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as the protector of the plague and all contagious diseases. His image is very unique because of his pose and that he is depicted pointing to a sore on his leg. It is extremely rare for images of saints to expose any afflictions or handicaps. The body of Saint Rocco is enclosed in a glass tomb in Saint Rocco Catholic Church in Venice, Italy. He is remembered each year on the 16th of August. Saint Rocco is greatly venerated throughout Italy, but especially in Southern Italy and Sicily.  He is my son’s namesake.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm  Comments (9)  
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