Catholic by Grace

February 4, 2011

by Denise Bossert

When I was a substitute teacher, I had a trick. I set aside precisely three minutes to familiarize myself with the seating chart. As the students were filing in and finding seats, I committed to memory the names of the students who were likely to give me trouble. They were the ones who saw a sub, and something changed. When their attitude shifted, I put their names into short term memory.

At the opening bell, I would put the seating chart down and begin implementing the teacher’s lesson plans- and then when one of the students acted up, I addressed him by name. He would stare at me in shock. Did I know him? Well, that changed everything. Suddenly, things were on a personal level. Anonymity – gone. Incognito no longer.

I could see him thinking. How does she know me? Does she know my parents? Hey, she could write me up with little effort. A name is like a ticket. It gains access to the person. It changes everything.

God disclosed His name to us. He gave it freely. We didn’t wrestle it out of Him, or crack the code, or lift the name from a seating chart. He gave it to us. God knew that, in giving us His name, we could draw closer. Our relationship could get personal. As paragraph 203 of the Catechism says, “To disclose one’s name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible. . . .”

Recently, I traveled to Alabama and Ohio and shared my conversion story. When I arrived, one of the first things I was asked was how I pronounce my name. “It’s bah – as in ‘bah-humbug’ – and cert – as in the breath mints. Bossert.” I could tell that they felt a little embarrassed that they did not know how to pronounce my name automatically. They certainly didn’t need to feel bad about it. Even before our first date, I asked John, “So how do you pronounce that last name anyway?” Now it is my name, and I give the same answer to others that my husband gave to me.

There was a time when we did not know the name of our God. Once, we were strangers. We were very far from the One who made us. In ancient days, He offered His name to Moses, but for each of us, this name remained a mystery. And then He called to us personally, as He called to Moses. Draw closer. There is something I want you to do. And the key to your success rests in one name. My name. I Am. The I Am is sending you.

This Creator has known your name from the moment you were conceived in the womb. He knows you by name because He made you. It is a lesson I share with confirmation students. The One who made you has also called you by name. When you were baptized, you were given a new name. Every time you have entered the Church, from the moment you were old enough to reach the holy water font, you have blessed yourself in that name.

But when you are confirmed, you will stand before God and before his shepherd, the bishop, and you will renew those baptismal promises. At your baptism, God called you as He did to Moses. He gave you His name. Today, he asks you to claim that name – now and forever. He’s preparing to send you into the world, as He did Moses, to free the enslaved, liberate the captives, and share His good news with others. It is time for you to wear His name publicly. It is time for you to become Christ to the world.

When God gave us His name, He gave us more than a name. He reached out to the created ones and the Creator said, “Draw close to me. You are mine. I love you. And I have called you by name.”

Go and bear witness to the name you have received.

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