Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Problem with Vianney

The Spanish era paved the way for the baptism of Filipinos with the names of saints. If your name is Maria (Mary), Jose (Joseph), Pablo (Paul), or Juan (John), it’s a testimony that colonial influence still exists.
Naming their children can be an arduous task for parents.
While some parents are contented by giving their names or their spouse’s names or even the names of their favourite local and Hollywood celebrities, athletes, and presidents, quite a number a strong with conviction that their children’s names should have significant meanings in their lives.
Victoria, for example, was the name given to a friend after her mother victoriously delivered her despite the hardships and dangers of labor. Her name simply means victory over death.
Speaking of names, I have a long one.
It is both a combination of my parents’ names, Carlos and Breña, and the name of a saint, the Curé of Ars, Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney, whose feast day falls on August, the month of my birth.
In all the years of my existence in this world, I could not yet fathom if having the name of that saint is an advantage or not. My identity either stands out in the people’s memory for the uniqueness of my name or it becomes easily buried in oblivion for the “weirdness” of it.
At times, I have even been the laughingstock in conferences every time the emcee mispronounces my name and reads it as Va-ya-ni. Naughty classmates of mine would then jokingly call me Bayani, likening me to comedian Bayani Agbayani.
People have varied reactions when I introduce myself to them, too. Some people smile sheepishly and say, “Nice name…Um,…, where did you get it?” Others openly strike and say, “Your name’s so weird.”
If others know about Saint John Vianney, they are quick to point out that it’s a guy’s name. Still, there are a few, who appreciate it. “Hey! I like your name. It’s unique.”
Three years ago, in a national summer camp, I had to spell it out so they can understand.
“Hi. I am Vianney and I’m from…”
“What!?!” my subcampmates asked in unison.
“I am Vianney… V-I-A-N-N-E-Y”
In the end, I had to cut it shorter to Vian for their convenience.
Despite all those setbacks, I only have one consolation. Priests and catechists never have any difficulty at all in remembering my name.
I could not understand why most people I meet don’t know who I was named after.
Saint John Marie Vianney is the patron saint of diocesan priests so I could see no reason why he is unpopular. But then, I thought, as the bearer of his name, the challenge is up to me to let the people know about him.
I may not be the original Vianney. I may never beat Saint John Vianney’s simplicity, humility, and kindness, but in my own little ways, I can let the people understand how he was like in his days. It won’t be easy. But this is my calling: to live up to his name and his good examples.
By Maria Carla Bren Vianney L. Yap
Published: August 29, 2004; Sun Star Cebu, Light Section; Editor: Lorenzo P. Niñal

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