When Mike and I were expecting our fourth child we agreed that, should the baby be a boy, we would name him Leo. But I had a hard time selling him Chrysostom as a middle name.
I reminded Mike that St. John Chrysostom had been Archbishop of Constantinople, and that he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. I told him that the Divine Liturgy most commonly used in the Orthodox Church is the glorious Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I even pointed out that “Chrysostom” would be a good foil for the three-lettered “Leo.” Mike relented, and a few months later, our baby was baptized Leo Chrysostom.
Time passed, and I eventually confessed to Mike my primary reason for naming our son Chrysostom: I secretly hoped that the boy would one day become as great a speaker as his patron, St. John Chrysostom.
I’ll admit that a vicarious need had something to do with it. All my life, I’d been completely inept at verbal communication. I was a floundering fool who tied my tongue in knots that no Eagle Scout could undo. And frankly, I did not want my son to be burdened with the same impediment.
To that end, I couldn’t have chosen a better patron than St. John, who after his death was given the name Chrysostom, meaning “golden mouthed,” on account of his extraordinary eloquence.
Now, like any Catholic mother, I regularly ask my children’s patron saints to obtain the graces that will help my children to accomplish whatever God has willed for them. But in petitioning St. John Chrysostom, we got more than we bargained for.
As a child, Leo had a prodigious ability to express himself. His parents were proud. As an adolescent, Leo had a command of the language which rivaled that of his college professor dad. His parents were thrilled. As a teen, Leo used his verbal powers to construct impressive arguments against every rule, restriction, and requirement meant to guide him along a righteous path. His parents were – and still are – perturbed.
St. John Chrysostom did indeed answer my prayers and obtain for Leo the gift of eloquence. At the moment, that gift is a volatile force in our household, but we pray that Leo will one day use it “ad majorem Dei gloriam.” And today, on the feast of Leo’s other patron, St. Leo the Great, we will be asking St. Leo’s intercession in making our son – and all of our children – strong in the Faith.
Thank you, Lord, for giving us heavenly patrons, in whose example we may find our inspiration, and on whose unfailing intercession we can rely.