7 March MMXVI
Feast Day of Saint Felicity of Carthage
From the time we knew we had a daughter in China, we began discerning her name. “Song” was part of the name given to her when she arrived at the orphanage and we knew from the beginning we would keep it. From the video we had received of her, we witnessed that she recognized it as her name. We did not want to take that from her and, as a bonus, we thought it was beautiful.
All of our family’s girls have double names so we did not have to decide that she would too. With each of our children, I have asked God to reveal their name to me. And He has each time…clearly. But this time, I was more anxious about the process. Perhaps because China had already chosen one of her names or perhaps because I was aware more this time of whom I was naming since I could look into pictures of her sweet face. But, for whatever reason, I did not have the same peace with the process.
All of our children are named for family members and saints and angels. Each child has a name to which great thought and meaning has been attached by us and by our Catholic Christian heritage, I repeatedly pleaded with God to reveal the name to me that HE had chosen for this daughter and my pleading persisted throughout last summer.
From the beginning, our oldest daughter reminded me of how much she has always loved the name “Felicity”. I repeatedly told her that I love it too but that our baby’s name must have a meaning beyond something that is pretty. She already had one name that will eternally anchor her to China and the one we would choose needed to anchor her to both her identity as a Christian and to her identity as a Williams daughter. I cannot count how many times this conversation repeated itself…my teen aged daughter pointing out to me how much she loved the name Felicity and how it means “happiness” and my responding to her by insisting that we had to choose a name with “meaning”.
The list of names grew and diminished over and over and over again. Repeatedly during the day, I would text suggestions to my husband that he would either completely dismiss or recognize as options. But that moment of peaceful certainty never came and until it did I knew I would not rest. I would run these “lists” by my oldest daughter and she would often say, “It’s pretty, Mama, but you know I love Felicity.”
And I liked Felicity too…so much so that I never dreamed it could be anything beyond pretty to me. It did not escape me that St. Felicity was mentioned in a Eucharistic prayer or that she was included in the Roman Catholic Litany of the Saints. But I did not know her. She was not a member of the Church Triumphant whom I was familiar with. I have so many saintly friends that I know intimately…their birth dates and death dates and parents and prayers and favorite foods. Felicity was not one of them.
But shortly before school started back, I awoke one morning knowing I had to devote it to getting to know this Felicity of Carthage. So I settled in at my computer with a summer morning cup of coffee intent on becoming familiar with her. Never could I have imagined how powerfully her life would speak to mine.
Felicity of Carthage was a 3rd century Christian martyr. While awaiting her martyrdom because she refused to renounce her faith in Christ, she was imprisoned as she awaited her execution. At the time of her imprisonment she was pregnant with a baby girl whom she ultimately gave birth to there. Two days before the execution, Felicity went into labor and was mocked as she labored with her daughter by her prison guards who laughed at her saying, ” If you think you suffer now, how will you stand it when you face the wild beasts?” Felicity answered, ” Now I’m the one who is suffering, but in the arena Another will be in me suffering for me because I will be suffering for Him.” Felicity delivered her daughter who was immediately adopted by another Christian woman of Carthage. St. Felicity is a patron saint of mothers who are separated from their children.
Witnessing her story took my breath away. Before I left my desk that summer morning, I was peacefully certain that my daughter in China was St. Felicity’s namesake. Her story had such an intimate adoption association. A baby girl was surrendered to an adoptive family by a mother who loved her. And, unbelievably to me, Felicity was a patron of mothers who are separated from their children.
I will likely never know the name of my daughter’s China mother. But I know naming her for the patron of mothers who are separated from their children…for a saintly mother who knew the pain of being separated from her own baby girl…is a way I can honor both my Catholic faith and this China woman with whom I will always share such a sacred connection.
I giggled as I realized that throughout the summer I had spent pleading with the Lord to reveal my daughter’s name to me, He had been all along. Since the moment I knew she was on the way from China, God had been speaking the name He had chosen for her to me through the voice of her sister. How many times do I plead with Him to speak His Will to me or reveal Himself while losing sight of the fact that He already has? When will I realize that He is already in the moment that frightens me? He knows what my heart needs and He has already satisfied it. He must grow weary while waiting on me to recognize Him.
Around 1800 years ago on this day, St. Felicity of Carthage, along with St. Perpetua and their companions, was martyred for her faith in the One Who is in every moment that she feared or that we do. And in the midst of the suffering and pain of the journey that returned her to Him, a beautiful adoption story of a baby girl to a Christian mother unfolded.
St. Felicity, patroness of mothers who are separated from their children,
Oro Pro Nobis!