Monday, August 25, 2008

Part 5: What's in a Name?

The Presentation in the Temple (the Fourth Joyful Mystery) leads us to think about the Holy Family fulfilling the Law of Moses, initiating their Child into their religious community:

On the eighth day of a child’s life, the Jews celebrate bestowing a carefully chosen name on the child. Joseph gives this Child the Name, Jesus, as the angel instructed him in a dream.

Forty days after a boy is born, the parents bring him to the temple, present him to the Lord, and redeem him by an offering – a picture of our infant baptism. When the Holy Family proceeds to fulfill this law, as many poor people do they present two turtle doves.

Two elderly people, Anna and Simeon, greet the Family. They joyfully offer confirmation of the mission of this Child. Simeon goes so far as to declare that the Boy’s mission will be a source of controversy. He also predicts deep sorrow for His mother.

The details of this story can be found in the middle of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

As I think about St. Joseph bestowing the Name on his foster son, I remember how many times people questioned us about Arif’s name.

I need to take a few steps back before answering.

Arif’s father and grandfather share the name ‘Richard Joseph Marshall.’ Grandpa goes by ‘Dick.’ Papa is called by his middle name: ‘Joe.’ A family story tells that at some point, his parents gave their son the choice to be called ‘Dickie’ or ‘Joey,’ and he chose the latter.

As is often the case, we wanted our first born son to be named after his father. So that left us with the choice of putting a numeral after his name (III) or being more creative.

On the one hand, a numeral after a man’s name bears a sense of nobility. It gives a sense of a family legacy of success and elegance.

My oldest brother (may he rest in peace) carried the numeral III. It seems he bore it as a badge of the darker aspects of his heritage. Both Edward Radke I and II had background stories that would make you cry. Ed seemed to pick up not their strengths, but their weaknesses. He was often teased by being given the nickname ‘Da Turd.’

I had no intention of allowing my son even the possibility of being subjected to this sort of treatment. After all, his very existence was a miracle.

I grew up Catholic, and have always had a special place in my heart for St. Joseph. My godfather is named Joe as is another favorite uncle.

As Rachel from Genesis, I felt I was given a gift, ending my infertility. Granted, it came with much less pain and anguish than she experienced. A child would surely add to our joy (the Bible gives us the meaning in the story of Rachel's son). So, if our child was a boy, we would keep the name Joseph.

Joe, on the other hand, traveled far and wide in his spiritual journey: He was baptized in a Methodist church. In Junior High School, he experienced being ‘born again’ with his Baptist friends. The Lutheran church confirmed him.

Joe’s first love is music. It is the highest form of worship he encountered. So, in college, he joined a Sufi community. Their worship centers around music from a variety of musical traditions and borrows from all religions.

In the Sufi community, Joe was given the name ‘Arif.’ He was told that the name means: ‘the one who understands the deeper side of life.’ We have since confirmed that meaning with people from an Arabic background. We also found that it refers to a military leader. One man told us that an arif is the one a teacher chooses to lead and supervise his classmates.

Wow! That is a lot to fit into four letters! We liked the way it sounded.

When we met, half of the man's friends called him Joe, and the other half called him Arif. So we decided too keep both names – Joseph and Arif. The next question would be what order they would take. He would be called Arif either way.

Once the baby was born, Joe announced to his co-workers that he had a son. The name he announced was ‘Joseph Arif Marshall.’ So that is the name listed on all his official documents. He is called by his middle name and often signs ‘J. Arif Marshall.’ There is an air of nobility about using a first initial.

So he was Christened with a name which means: ‘the one who adds understanding to the deeper side of life.’ Joe often remarked that we are a lot smarter since he came along. Additionally, since his first name comes from the Hebrew, and his middle from Arabic, perhaps he is destined to be a peace maker.

Because of the diagnosis of endometriosis, and the doctor’s prognosis, Joe and I vowed our children dedicated to God’s service,

When he was four weeks old, we brought him to be baptized. It was also our first anniversary, so we also renewed our marriage vows.

As the children grew, we practiced an active prayer life. Each day we gathered to pray the Rosary. We took our time, telling the stories between the prayers and relating them to our daily life. The youngsters never seemed to notice – or care – how long it took.

When Arif was eight years old, the family traveled to Massachusetts to research the family history on my side of the family. My Uncle Joe’s wife, Ann, is a very faith filled woman. She advised us to visit a nearby shrine. The shrine promotes a devotion to the Divine Mercy. There, we learned prayers which led us to meditate on the abundant mercy of God. On the way home from Massachusetts, we were shown that the prayers carry great power. The devotion became a daily habit upon our return to Alabama. The growth in our family’s spiritual life seemed to hit warp speed with its practice.

I prayed that all those who encountered Arif throughout whatever happened would be drawn closer to God – that he would add to their understanding and foster a deeper faith.

No comments: