Thursday, March 14, 2013

If I Were Pope, My Name Would be Phoenix

PLEASE NOTE: The following post is a light-hearted missive that discusses the choice of the new Pope.Those of you who are Catholic may find my irreverence a bit disconcerting, however, understand that I mean no disrespect.

And now, on with the blog post...

It's been about 8 years since we last watched with rapt attention the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Now, I'm not Catholic, and I am not particularly fond of strict ritualism within the church, but that's my personal preference, and as averse as I am to ritual, I admit to being fascinated by the whole secretive Conclave.

With hardly any time for me to get impatient with the process, white smoke emanated from the chimney, and shortly thereafter, we were notified that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina would be the next Pontiff. 

All that was left was to find out what name he would choose for himself as the Holy Father.


I remember 2005, when we watched CNN awaiting the election of the new Pope after the beloved John Paul II passed away.

White smoke. Cheers. Announcement.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany would be the next Pope. And his chosen name?

Benedict XVI.

Cool. That name felt pretty cool, it rolled off the tongue, and apparently it was popular enough that fifteen prior Pontiffs had chosen it as their moniker. Even had something of a hefty, vital, masculine quality to it that somewhat belied the age of the septuagenarian new Pontiff. From Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger to Benedict XVI. Seemed like a step up, in my opinion.

The Catholic Church, with its roots steeped in early Roman culture, has a bevy of extraordinarily cool Latin-ish (or Latin-esque?) words. Catholics can take a seemingly unexciting word like "foyer," and transform it into "the narthex."
  • Getting kicked out? Not strong enough. Go with "excommunication," and it sounds like the parting gift with the church might include having one's tongue cut out.
  • Want to sing a scripturally based hymn? Sounds like a snoozer! Instead, we could sing a "canticle." Rock on!
  • My own Southern Baptists occasionally publish a theological update called "The Baptist Faith and Message." *Yawn* What about a "catechism?" Thrilling!
  • Have a split in your church? Sounds mundane. Call it a "schism" and you could probably sell tickets to it.
  • Would many people follow a Twitter account designated as @ThePopeTweets? Maybe, but not nearly as many as a Twitter account with the designation of @Pontifex.
So, when I heard that the new Pope chose the name "Francis I," I have to admit being a bit let down. After all, he could have conceivably chosen any name, and while I understand the reason behind his choice of Francis, it just doesn't have the same "punch" as "Benedict." Or "Alexander." Or "Julius."

I mean, I can think of a number of people named "Francis" who just don't have quite the same gravitas as St. Francis of Assisi. Sadly, the first that enters my rather labyrinthine thought process is the character Francis Buxton from the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure (the fact that I just admitted that makes me even weirder, I think).

If I were chosen to be the Pope, which is clearly an impossibility, I would admittedly commit one of the Seven Deadly Sins and succumb to my vanity in choosing my name. Much like Phoebe in Friends who once chose the name "Princess Consuela Bananahammock" when she was informed she could legally change her name to anything, I would likely be unable to resist the temptation to choose something really awesome-sounding, like "Phoenix," or "Maximus," or "Neo."

Fortunately, for the sake of the Roman Catholic Church, I will never be Pope. No one will have to endure the reign of the likes of "Pope Ryker Thorn I."

Instead, I write fiction, and have the freedom to choose character names at will.

Enter Zephyr Hopkins.


When I was sitting down to write my latest novel, The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins, I knew the plotline from beginning to end before the first word appeared on the screen. But, at that point, characters were  nameless and faceless. And then, floating out of the murky depths of my psyche surfaced the title: The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins. I knew that I wanted a protagonist with an unusual name, and "Zephyr" is about as strange as they come.

Would I ever name a child "Zephyr," which, by the way, is an actual word that means "a light breeze?" Absolutely not. But apparently, I have no compunction about naming a character who occupied my brain for many months something as unusual as "Zephyr."

Why is that, I wonder?

In my mind, the answer is pretty simple. The story is based extremely loosely on a series of events in my own life. Wanting to ensure that no one would mistake any of the wildly exaggerated events in the story with the true events in my life, I felt I had to come up with a name that was distantly removed from my own.

"Zephyr" seemed as good a fit as any.

And now, it seems Zephyr Hopkins is here to stay.

Work has begun on the next installment: The Reconstruction of Zephyr Hopkins. Things are pretty dicey for our tragic anti-hero, but I can safely say that for those of you who are fans (or anti-fans) of Zephyr, he will get the opportunity to transition from the infamy of "anti-hero" to the much more likeable territory of "hero."

So stay tuned. My weirdest-named character will make his return.

Be ready.

It's going to be a wild ride.

POST SCRIPT: If you ARE Catholic and found my blog post offensive because of my light-hearted, humorous take on Papal naming, I understand. However, the truth is, you should be far more offended by my use of the choice of the new Pope as a springboard to try to sell my novel. :-)

Buy The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins now for $0.99 as an eBook and $7.99 as a paperback at: