A Story of Origins

By Zoe Cannon

Gratitude for the Gift of Faith

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 2:1).

The Book of Genesis describes creation and the beginning of human life. Names in the bible were often rooted in how life began and enhanced by the mission of the person. God created man from the dust of the ground and named him Adam, or in Hebrew Adamah, which means ground. God promised Abram that he would be a “father of many nations,” his name changed to Abraham, which means “father of many” as the promise was fulfilled.

Our grandchildren astutely asked why the names of people changed so often in bible stories. A name holds great privilege, and God’s re-naming for the purpose of one’s mission in life is powerful. In the New Testament, we read about Simon the fisherman, who Jesus renamed Peter, which means “rock.” “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:18). A Hebrew named Saul was persecuting Christians, and after his conversion was named Paul. This familiar Roman Gentile name made it easier for him to be accepted among non-believers.

My name is Mary Zoe. Zoe was very uncommon, and throughout grade school, I was called Mary, or mistakenly, Mary Jo. I learned in high school that Zoë in Greek means life that is real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, life that comes from God. Our name is not just who we are, but also what we may become ... always a work in progress.

Our son, Daniel, and his wife, Brea, welcomed their third child to the family on Aug. 10. Xavier Joseph Cannon has two adoring sisters ages three and one. Their home is a busy and happy place. When they knew they were having a boy, they reflected on a documentary from Formed.org titled: The “Tireless Intercessor,” the miraculous life of a young immigrant priest, named Father Francis Xavier Seelos. The name Xavier and the story of this priest became very dear to them.

Father Seelos was born in 1819, in Fussen, Germany. He studied philosophy and theology in Munich before entering St. Jerome Seminary in Dillingen, Germany. In 1843, he moved to the United States and became a Novitiate at St. James in Baltimore, Maryland. A year later, he professed vows as a Redemptorist and was ordained in 1844. His first parish assignment was in Pittsburgh at St. Philomena with the pastor St. John Neumann. What a holy place this must have been with two future saints living in the rectory at the same time for nine years. Father Seelos was put in charge of Redemptorist seminarians in Cumberland, Maryland, but moved them to Annapolis right before the Civil War. St. Mary’s Assumption in New Orleans, Louisiana, was his last parish. He died at the age of 48, from yellow fever he contracted while caring for the sick, on Oct. 4, 1867. St. John Paul II beatified Father Seelos in 2000.

In 1959, the Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers established the National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, CSsR. Their mission is to promote the canonization cause through the ministry that continues in his name. The National Shrine in New Orleans has a website with books and items honoring the life of Father Seelos.

The origins of the Catholic Church in the United States are filled with stories of saintly people. Their witness created a spiritually healthy society, and our children need to understand why holiness is important in their life. The Diocese of Evansville has Servant of God Bishop Simon Brute buried in the crypt at St. Francis Xavier Minor Basilica in Vincennes. Make a pilgrimage and pray for his canonization. People are inherently good. We are created in the image of God! God bless you, Xavier Joseph Cannon! Amen!