This week, there was a woman on Catholic Answers who was worried about her Confirmation name. The priest years ago had allowed her to take the name “Rosemary,” but there wasn’t any specific St. Rosemary that she could find.
Okay. First off, like the Catholic Answers guy said, this is an optional part of the rite, a custom, and no Confirmation name is going to hurt the validity of your Confirmation. You can also take a name after your Confirmation sponsor, any name, as long as it’s not an anti-Catholic name. Your sponsor is your “saint,” so to speak.
Second, you’re totally allowed to have a compound name. There are plenty of St. Roses and St. Marys, and even St. Rosamaria. What’s more — St. Rose of Lima was told by the Virgin Mary that not only did it please her that her mom called her “Rosa” even though her legal name was Isabel; she’d find it particularly pleasing if people called her “Rosa de Santa Maria.” If it’s Catholic enough for a mystic kid’s chat with Mary, it’s Catholic enough for me!
Now, that said… in English, “Rosemary” usually derives from the herb. Flower and herb names were very popular in Edwardian England, and Rosemary had the advantage of sounding both old-fashioned (because Rose and Mary were such old standards) and trendy at the same time. A lot of Catholic girls got the name, because it was pious to add names like Mary, Anna, etc. to every girl’s name. Using “Rosemary” was sort of a Catholic pun.
The herb’s Latin name is “ros marinus”, “dew of the sea.” It used to be pronounced “rosmaryne” or “romarin”, but eventually settled down as “rosemary” in late Middle English and Early Modern English. Because it was a good and pleasant herb, and because Mary is associated with “dew on the fleece” and being “Star of the Sea,” it routinely got associated with Mary by English speakers. The flowers are often blue or blue-purple, which legend attributes to Mary’s cloak being laid on it. There’s an entire Middle English poem dedicated to the many virtues of the herb “rosmaryne.” It was used in some places as incense for church when the actual incense was out, and it was widely believed that evil spirits hated the smell of it. In Spain, it was a plant particularly associated with pilgrimages. So it’s a very positive name.
But there’s another connection. In Spanish, it’s called “romero.” So if the martyred Bishop Romero of good memory is ever canonized, there will indeed be a St. Rosemary named after the plant — but he’ll be male!
UPDATE: As of 2015, St. Oscar Romero now is indeed the masculine St. Rosemary! Mwahahahaha!