Monday, February 12, 2007

Name Change

I posted the following before, but it was surrounded with "other stuff". I'm trying to stick to one topic at a time now in my posts, now that I can label the posts for future reference...

Since I was in the fourth grade I wanted to "be a writer". (Are we there yet? :) ). I used to toy with possible pen names. I liked my name, but I always figured I needed a special euphonic pen name. God provides...sometimes in strange ways. Or is it that He brings good out of strange circumstances and muddled decisions, in spite of ourselves? If you're wondering what I'm talking about, I'll tell you. Okay, here's the million dollar public confession: Margaret Mary is not my birth name. But, it's not just a pen name, either. It's my real legal name; but there's a story behind it.

I grew up in the sixties (you know, "the sixties"!). Born in 1953. Graduated from high school in 1971. In my late teenage years I decided I wanted to become a Catholic. I read some good books: The Autobiography of St. Therese, The Imitation of Christ, Our Lady of Fatima by William Thomas Walsh...and I started praying the Rosary and attending Mass. All was going well until I got an invitation to a week long summer seminar in Idaho. Or was it ten days? Who knows? The first thing they did was take our watches. There were long talks given by the leader, but most of the day we were not allowed to talk. Meal time was strange. Everything was strange. Confusion abounded. Talk about brainwashing techniques. The head of the group was named Francis Schuckardt. It was a cult, and it wasn't really a part of the Catholic Church.

Well, since it was a cult, I soon found myself moving up there. While I was there I studied the faith and by God's providence the person who prepared me, knew her Catholic Faith very least as far as doctrine and the catechism. But I think she wanted to make me into a "religious" (for non-Catholic readers, read "Sister", or at least missionary), and I think she got confused...because she told me that when I was baptized a Catholic, I would need to take a new name, a saint's name, a "Christian name" as she put it -- and I would need to be called by it rather than by my birth name. Inside, I rebelled. But I didn't think I had a choice. However, I did think I had a choice as to what that name would be and I exercised that choice. Since my name was Peggy Ann, and since Peggy is a derivative of Margaret, I naturally decided to take the name Margaret in order to stick as close as possible to my original first name. There was one problem with that! Although I had a cousin named Margaret whom I admired very much, I just didn't care for the name itself. Problem solved: I would honor Mary, the Mother of Jesus, by taking her name, too. And I would then have the name of the saint who preached the great love of the Heart of Jesus for us, St. Margaret Mary. But I saw no reason to drop my middle name, so I became Margaret Mary Ann, called by my new friends, "Margaret Mary". By the way, just for the record, the missionary priest who baptized me, who was only visiting the group to help out with a retreat (unaware as yet that this was a cult), didn't know that I was changing my name. He just thought I already was Margaret Mary.

Now, let me say I don't recommend changing your name!! But what was done, was done. And since it was done, I decided when I got married, and was changing my last name, that I might as well make the first names legal too. So Peggy Ann Roesler disappeared and Margaret Mary Myers appeared...on my driver's license, my social security card, and so forth. (The Ann is still on my baptismal certificate and in my heart.)

Yes, I do sometimes mourn the loss of my birth name, like an old friend that I've lost. But I love both names and besides not wanting to confuse the people in my world, I wouldn't even want to give up my name 'Margaret Mary', my principal name for the past thirty-some years. And after all, who could know when I was baptised (but God) that my last name would become Myers? I didn't even know what alliteration was until fairly recently, but there it is in my name, three words beginning with the same letter. And of course, as a Catholic writer, it's nice to have a distinctively Catholic name. (Although it is also interesting when I meet people who say, "Well, you surely came from a Catholic family!" Most of the time I just smile.) But for those who "knew me when", I don't expect - or even want - you to call me something new. As a matter of fact, it's kind of nice not to completely give up the heritage of my youth!

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