Have you read it?
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.