A name is often the first thing we learn about someone we meet, and often the first thing we share with them about ourselves. A name can be more than just our identity. We can be protective of our “good name”. For some who are married, their name can proclaim their connection to their spouse. Some living in religious communities have taken a new name to reflect their new commitment, much like confirmation candidates chose a saint’s name at the time they receive the sacrament. In some Native American cultures, names were given at various stages throughout life to mark the growth experienced. Parents often have stories connected to the names they give their children. In addition to family connections, the names may also often have meanings that go back thousands of years.
When this Center was built, it was named for St. Anthony of Padua. St. Anthony was a Franciscan who was known for a particularly eloquent homily given to a group of Franciscans and Dominicans. When word of Anthony’s eloquence and commitment to a life of poverty reached St. Francis, Francis appointed Anthony to take charge of his friars’ pursuits of studies. Anthony was a fitting patron for this Capuchin house of studies where young men, already committed to a life of poverty, would continue their formation and studies for a life of preaching as Capuchin priests.
“Spirituality” is also part of our name, and sometimes we get questions about what that means. In the early 70’s, this holy place was renamed St. Anthony Retreat Center as it transitioned from a Capuchin school of theology. Some still call it that, even though it changed to St. Anthony Spirituality Center in the mid 90’s. Some wonder why it was changed, or why we haven’t changed it back. Although I can’t speak for why it changed, I can say it is a “good name” and I can reflect on why the name makes sense.
One description for spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it often involves a search for meaning in life. Spirituality is not limited to any one religious group or culture; it is universal. Everyone is spiritual at the core, even if they are not aware of it or actively fostering their own spiritual growth. Spirituality is broader than retreat, although going on a retreat is often one way people seek a deeper connection to something bigger than themselves, or seek deeper understanding of the purpose and meaning in their life.
Here at St. Anthony’s, we honor the tradition of Franciscan spirituality as did our Capuchin brothers before us. Franciscan spirituality is rooted in our connection to God through our connection with all of God’s creation. Franciscan spirituality calls us to joyful service, hospitality, compassion, and relationship – our core values. While retreats are part of what we offer, Franciscan spirituality is how we strive to live. So for the members of St. Anthony’s community, “spirituality” is an important part of our name. It reflects our mission statement to welcome “all seeking healing, hope and transformation through deeper connection with God, Self, Others and Creation.” Our name reminds us who we are and challenges us to live up to the traditions handed on to us.
I invite you to reflect on your own name. Were you named in honor of another person, even a saint? Has that person had an impact on your life, your choice of career, your faith? If you have taken on a new name (at confirmation, by marriage or as a member of a community), why did you choose that particular name? What meaning does your name hold for you? Does your name have ancestral significance? How does your name reflect who you are and how you live?
“I’ve called you by name; you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1