Historical setting: 590 C.E. Cottage between Annegray and Luxeuil
Sister Marcella always keeps her eye on the hour, and she is expecting the babies will be waking just now. Ana sits with the first son in the chair, and opens her tunic. Sister Marcella checks on Gabriel, still sleeping soundly.
“His name is Gabriel” I whisper to her.
“You’ve named them already?”
“Yes.” Ana answers.
“And who is this fine fellow?” Sister Marcella asks.
I answer, “We are still waiting for his name to be revealed.”
“Well,” answers Sister Marcella, “You had better name him something more down to earth than Gabriel. God knows we have enough flitting angels already, and the saints are way too heavenly for this strong boy. Name him for the new pope why not?”
“Gregory?” Ana considers it.
I can say, “We don’t even know the new pope. Maybe he isn’t one we would want to remember in this way.”
Ana argues, “I like the way it sounds though. Gregory seems a noble name, and it is so popular now, every churchman it seems is naming himself for a Gregory.”
I add, “I happen to know Gregory, Bishop of Tours took his name from one of his own noble relatives. In his youth he was called George.”
“Well we certainly won’t name this little fellow George,” announces Ana. “But saints and nobles aside, Gregory is a popular name, so it could mean any good Gregory, now-a-days, and he could make a name for himself of it. And when you realize that all we know of Pope Gregory we’ve learned from messengers on fine horses all dressed up so pretty in silks, surely Gregory is a worthy name for this child.”
So we name both our boys for well-dressed messengers, one with feathered wings and the other on horses – the horses that bring the news. It seems right enough, since these boys were conceived on our journey when we were messengers for Father Columbanus. And that Father is named for the birds that carry the messages to and from the monastery. Or, was it that the birds were named for him? Names after names both honor and confuse.
Ana affirms, “with a pope by the name Gregory there will be lots of Gregorys; so he will become known for who he is, not who he is named for.”
“Very well” I agree, “So be it, Gregory is this first born.”