ASK FATHER: Baptizing with the name “Lucifer”.

UPDATE:  Reading comments, I was suddenly minded of the moment in Michael O’Brien’s book Voyage to Alpha Centauri (UK LINK HERE) when the dupes perform the Satanic dance.

Have you read it?

infant baptism

“You named me WHAT?!?”

From a priest…


I recently encountered a situation in ministry that previously was the stuff of theory or anecdote only.

A parent has given his still unbaptized toddler the middle name “Lucifer.” The parent claims that even though Lucifer fell, he was still “God’s favorite” angel and that the name was chosen for that and no sinister occult reason. Based on a previous priest’s alleged refusal to approve the child’s baptism the parent had the impression he must legally change the middle name in order to baptize (something he is not willing to do). I told the parent that I would consider baptism but (a) I would not baptize using the name Lucifer; (b) that he would need to choose a saint’s name in place of Lucifer; and (c) I can only strongly encourage him to cease using the middle name with the child if he is seriously making a decision for Christ and Christ’s reign on behalf of his child.

A further testament to the poverty of modern catechesis and, more importantly, modern Catholic culture! Can anyone imagine our great-grandparents reaction to  a name so deeply associated with Satan?

Lucifer means, simply and plainly, the bearer of light. Today, the Church celebrates the martyrdom of the great St. Lucy, Lúcia in Latin, and the root of her name is the Latin lux, lucis, “light”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In some ancient texts, Christ Himself is referred to as “lucifer… bringer of light”, that is, the one who brings us the illumination which is truth and wisdom, guiding us to the way to eternal life.  There is a hymn of St. Hilary, Lucis largitor splendide, which calls Christ, “tu verus mundi lucifer,” and St. Ambrose’s Aeterne rerum conditor speaks of the morning start as “lucifer“.

There was even a St. Lucifer, bishop of Cagliari, during the Arian controversies.  The founding bishop of Siena was also named Lucifer.

Of course the most prominent contemporary use of lucifer describes the paschal candle, and by analogy Christ, during the Easter Proclamation, in the Latin Exsultet.

Yet, by the time of Dante, Lucifer had begun to be understood as a sort of proper name for Satan, because of his former status as a light-bearing angel.

If someone were to ask to have a child named Lucifer because of a strong devotion to St. Lucifer of Cagliari, or out of interest in the Lord Jesus Christ’s status as the Morning Star who never sets, a prudent pastor would gently urge an alteration of the name, because of the sensibilities of the community and the common association of that name with evil.

Here, however, we have something even worse. The parents know that Lucifer is generally seen as a name of the devil, and they still want to give it to their son.

Let us not have any misplaced sentimentality towards the Evil One.  His pride and unchangeable decision to reject God eternally taints his person and reputation to a degree that all good Christians should shudder in horror at the mention of his name.

Can. 855 of the Code of Canon Law requires that a baptismal name be chosen not be “foreign to Christian sentiment.”

Life is not, thanks be to God, a Rolling Stones song.  Having sympathy for the devil is foreign to Christian sentiment.  Hence, to choose a name out in that sympathy is likewise foreign to Christian sentiment.  It is prudent, reasonable and smart in our present cultural context – especially since we are not in either Cagliari or Siena of yesteryear – to decline to use the name “Lucifer” for a child’s baptism.

And, take note, the Extraordinary Form rite of baptism retains all those powerful exorcisms precisely to unchain the domination of the very enemy under discussion.  That’s even smarter.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. gretta says:

    A few years ago we had some couple friends who wanted to name a child Lucius (think Malfoy). After much discussion, we convinced them to change it to Lucien. There are somewhat similar names that don’t have the evil connotation – maybe they could be convinced to slightly alter the name? Even Lucius would be better, and would keep the meaning and sound without the nasty baggage.

  2. JustaSinner says:

    Thankfully they didn’t want his middle name to be Trump or all Hell would have broken loose!!!

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  4. iPadre says:

    Play with fire and your going to get burnt. We shouldn’t play with these things. The priest who wrote you should just replace the name with Joseph and claim ignorance.

  5. iPadre says:

    Play with fire and your going to get burnt. We shouldn’t play with these things. The priest who wrote you should just replace the name with Michael or Joseph and claim ignorance.

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    It’s hard to know where to begin unpacking this train-wreck. The father acknowledges that is intent was to name his son after the Fallen One because he had been “God’s favorite.” Doesn’t he realize the kind of fire he’s playing with? Pope Francis has consistently warned about the existence of Satan and the havoc he can wreak if we allow him. All I can do is pray that Dad’s awareness is raised and that he recognizes his error and ditches the name.

    Were I a priest or deacon, I would even refuse if Dad had claimed that his intent was in reference to the Pascal Candle or the Bishop of Caligari, on the ground that the common usage is just too engrained.

  7. New Amsterdam says:

    Perhaps the good priest should suggest Phosphorus.

  8. un-ionized says:

    Everyone used to understand that people should only be named after saints and not even given heathen names. The baptism story of William Tecumseh Sherman comes to mind.

  9. Lucas Whittaker says:

    For some reason, I am partial to the variant–also meaning “bearer of light”: Lucas.

  10. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    He might turn into a semi-Protestant lisping guitar-strumming hippy priest: Luthifer.


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  11. oldconvert says:

    Some times I think an IQ test should be mandatory before becoming a parent. I don’t have children myself – too years spent waiting for an annulment which never materialised before the other party to the marriage died – so I haven’t a horse in this race, but as far as I can see, naming brings out the worst stupidity in parenting.

    Recently a child had to be saved, by a judge, from being called Cyanide by a parent who thought the word was “pretty”, and also positive, because it was the poison that killed Adolf Hitler.

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Doom one’s kid to life time of jokes. “Lucifer? Wait, don’t tell me: your mom’s name was Rosemary!”

  13. Edprocoat says:

    They were torn between the names Lucifer and Satan…… ;) “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.” lol The priest should have just slapped the parents and said something priestly like ” what the hell, are you nuts ” oh well, probably why I am not a priest …

  14. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Has anyone ever been named ‘Lucrifacio’ (cf. Philippians 3:8), or ‘Ante lucifer’ (Psalm 109:3), or (as the O Antiphons draw near) ‘Oriens’? Which, in turn, makes me wonder (with Tolkien in mind) if anyone English was anciently named ‘Earendel’ (corresponding in the Exeter Book poem to ‘Oriens’ in the Antiphon) – or for that matter, anyone German, ‘Orendel’, like the king’s son shipwrecked in the Holy Land who discovers the seamless robe Christ wore to the Crucifixion and takes it home with him to help convert his heathen countrymen (in the medieval German poem)? Tolkien notes that in an Old English sermon for the feast of his birth, St. John the Baptist is called ‘the new Earendel’, and lots of people in various languages have been named ‘St. John the Baptist’: a messenger (‘angelus’) and day-star (‘lucifer’) who did not properly fulfill his ‘office’ only at first, later to fall quite away, but gloriously went on fulfilling it.

  15. Panterina says:

    On the other end of the spectrum: I wanted to name our son “Benedict,” but my American wife vetoed it because of the negative association with Benedict Arnold (the traitor), claiming that kids would make fun of him. Sigh! (We named him Anthony, after St. Anthony of Padua, and we couldn’t be happier.)
    On a side note, I used to think that the 2nd Commandment was the “Cinderella” of the Decalogue, but I’m appreciating more and more the wisdom of a name and the nature that it signifies.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Note that I don’t know how said Rolling Stones song got its title. The rest of it is a quite Christian warning against the power of enticement.

    re St. Lucifer: While this is no argument here – the parents wanted to name their son precisely for the Devil(!) – at least it does not apparently seem foreign to English-speaking Christian sentiment to call a boy Jude (after Thaddaeus or the son of Jacob).

  17. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    I think that most people wouldn’t see a connection between the names Jude and Judas. (It probably also helps to be the popular patron of those faced with impossible tasks or situations).

  18. Absit invidia says:

    This reminds me of the Christian bakery scenario and gays expecting a Christian bakery to comply with their own degeneracy. As a parent to 7 children, all with saints names, I urge priests TO SAY NO to this cultural rot.

  19. un-ionized says:

    Imrahil, the lyrics of the song are in the first person.

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    On a high (and rather vague) level of generalization, there are Governments which require parents to register any child born by name within a certain (I think, usually fairly brief) period – maybe (thinking of ‘birth certificates’) most of them, one way or another?

    There were (and may still be) Governments which decided what are or are not acceptable names to submit in such compulsory registration. (For example, I seem to remember at a certain time, at least, Argentina would only allow Spanish name-forms – hence ‘Jorge’ rather than ‘Giorgio’ for the Holy Father?) I have seen books in (I think) various languages to help parents arrive at legally permissible names, in such circumstances. I have seen the names of Saints previously unfamiliar to me in such a book. I wonder if ‘Lucifer’ (after this St. Lucifer) has ever been permitted under such circumstances?

    There seem, in different language-traditions, some names that have ‘St.’ as part of the name more often than others. (‘St. John’ in British English comes to mind.) Might one be explicitly named ‘St. Lucifer’, after the saint (and clearly so)?

    Presumably this little chap had to have his name put on a birth certificate, wherever he was born. Is he, then, already legally named ‘Lucifer’ in that sense, whatever does or does not happen in terms of baptism? And, would that name have to be formally ‘legally’ changed in some way (by deed poll or whatever), for him not to go on being Lucifer?

  21. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Within the Latin Church (broadly speaking), people are named after attributes and epithets – ‘Immaculata’, ‘Pilar’, and so on – and, notably, ‘Immanuel’ (in various spellings): practical and prudential considerations aside, could one be named ‘Lucifer’ after the epithets identifying Our Lord as the ‘true lucifer’, such as Fr. Z notes?

  22. gracie says:

    How about “Luke”? It means “light bearing” too.

  23. Semper Gumby says:

    Alpha Centauri is a great read. The Satanic dance scene in that book recalls an article (but no spoilers here) from Wired magazine by Erik Davis from July 1, 1995 called “Technopaganism.” A brief excerpt:

    “And so, a few days before Halloween, a small crowd of multimedia students, business folk, and Net neophytes wander into Joe’s Digital Diner, a technoculture performance space located in San Francisco’s Mission district…In his black sports coat, slacks, and red Converse sneakers, Pesce [Mark Pesce, creator of VRML and also a Thelemite] seems an unlikely mage. Then Rowley [an elder in Pesce’s Silver Star witchcraft coven and a former systems administrator at Autodesk] calls for a toast and whips out a Viking horn brimming with homemade full-moon mead. “May the astral plane be reborn in cyberspace,” proclaims a tall systems operator in a robe before sipping the heady honey wine. “Plant the Net in the Earth,” says a freelance programmer, passing the horn to his left.”

    Anyway, there’s altars, pentagrams, dancing around glowing computers, etc., described in that article.

    Speaking of hybrids such as Technopaganism, it is unfortunate that the parent in Fr. Z’s Quaeritur is unwilling to change the toddler’s middle name from Lucifer. Hopefully, this parent is not involved in the small hybrid movements of Christian Wicca, Christian Witchcraft, or Christo-paganism. There appears to be more Protestants than Catholics or Orthodox involved in those diabolical practices.

    Basically, an adherent to one of these small hybrid movements attends church somewhat regularly, but then also adds one or more of the following in private as a member of an esoteric group: elevate the Virgin Mary to a Wiccan Goddess, possess their own “Book of Shadows” with various spells, believe a person can practice “white magic” with no harm, etc. Also, they tend to believe in “Summerland” rather than the Four Last Things.

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  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear un-ionized,

    yes. And so?

    They are also first-person when an actor plays Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust. Or Macbeth in Macbeth.

  26. un-ionized says:

    You said you didn’t know how the song got its title.

  27. un-ionized says:

    “Have some courtesy
    Have some sympathy, and some taste
    (Woo woo)
    Use all your well-learned politesse
    Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah
    (Woo woo, woo woo)”

  28. Imrahil says:

    Ah thanks. Didn’t know that he actually talks about sympathy there.

    (The thing is, for about a decade I both knew that there was a Rolling Stones song with that title, and I also knew the song – well, only in the way most people know rock songs, obviously – without knowing that both go together.)

  29. un-ionized says:

    After all, he is a man of wealth and taste!

  30. un-ionized says:

    I’m a (bad) amateur poet so I assumed you knew the lyrics.

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