The Confraternity of the Most Holy Names of God and Jesus (Holy Name Society) promotes reverence for the Sacred Names of God and Jesus Christ, obedience and loyalty to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and the personal sanctification and holiness of its members
Members are called to contribute to the evangelization mission of the Church and to make perpetual acts of reverence and love for our Lord and Savior. The apostolate of the society is to assist in parish ministries by performing the Corporal Works of Mercy: to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, tend the sick, visit those in prison, and bury the dead; as well as the Spiritual Works of Mercy: to convert sinners, instruct the ignorant, counsel the wayward, comfort the sorrowing, bear adversity patiently, forgive offenses, and pray for the living and the dead.
History of the Holy Name Society
Origin (13th century)
In response to the blasphemies offered to God primarily by the adherents of the Albigensian heresy gaining in popularity in Southern Europe, devotion to the Holy Name was first prescribed to the faithful by Pope Gregory X while he presided over the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, the 14th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Opened in the church of St. John in Rome, the Second Council of Lyons was one of the largest ecumenical councils, convoked mainly for the Crusade and to end the Great Schism and reunite the Eastern and Western Churches. This council was also the first during which the doctrine of Purgatory was defined. St. Thomas Aquinas died on the way to this council, and St. Bonaventure's funeral sermon was given there also by the future Pope Innocent V.
The Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans, was selected by Pope Gregory X to preach the devotion to the Holy Name across Europe. He did so with the following letter to Blessed John of Vercelli, then Master General of the Dominican Order:
Gregory, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God, to our very dear son, the Master General of the Order of Preachers, salutation and apostolic benediction. Recently, during the Council held at Lyons, we deemed it a useful commendation to exhort the faithful to enter the house of God with humility and devotion, and to conduct themselves while there in a becoming manner, so as to merit the divine favor and at the same time to give edification. We have also judged it proper to persuade the faithful to demonstrate more reverence for that name above all names, the only name in which we claim salvation- the name of Jesus Christ, Who has redeemed us from the bondage of sin. Consequently, in view of obeying that apostolic precept, in the Name of Jesus let every knee be bent; we wish that at the Holy Sacrifice, every one would bow his head in token that interiorly he bends the knee of his heart. Wherefore, my very dear son, we, by our apostolic authority, exhort and enjoin upon you and the brothers of your Order to use solid reason in preaching to the people, that they may be led to comply with our desires. Thus you will win the crown of justice in the day of recompense. Given at Lyons, on the twelfth Calendes of October, third year of our Pontificate.
Following his reception of the Pope's letter, Blessed John of Vercelli immediately instructed his whole Order to carry out the will of the Holy Father. Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus then spread rapidly to Catholics across Europe, with many altars being erected in Dominican churches explicitly in honor of the Holy Name of Jesus. Additionally, confraternities under the title and invocation of the Holy Name were established.
Obscurity (14th century)
During the 14th century, the Holy Name Society fell into relative obscurity when compared with its beginning in the preceding. The existence of the Society is confirmed by papal bulls addressed to the Order of St. Dominic.
Wider recognition: the "Society" (15th century)
After a century of obscurity, the Holy Name Society grew in popularity, practical devotion, and recognition by popes. First, Pope Boniface IX granted indulgences for visiting the altar of the confraternity in the Dominican monastery at Schusen in the Diocese of Werden in Saxony. Second, citizens of Lisbon held the first Holy Name procession in gratitude for the Holy Name devotion, which saved them from the plague. Also during this century, there were many saints who glorified the Holy Name of Jesus and spread devotion to it. St. Bernardine of Siena gained great renown as a promoter of devotion in Italy, writing that "the name of Jesus is the glory of preachers because the shining splendor of that name causes his word to be proclaimed and heard." So too, Didacus of Victoria became known as the "great preacher of the devotion", and founded the "Society of the Holy Name of God". Ordered to suppress profanation of the Divine Name by blasphemers, perjurers, and by men in their ordinary conversation, this was the first time the confraternity was given the title "Society", as we now know it today. The Society of the Holy Name of God was also the first to document a rule and constitution for its government, which was later approved, endowed indulgences, commanded favor from all ecclesiastical authorities, and especially recommended to the laity by Pope Pius IV in April 1564. Another common name for the Society was the "Confraternity against Oaths".
Gaining steam into modern times (16th century-present)
More popes, especially Innocent XI, continued to bolster the Holy Name Society, making it an object of special solicitude. In current times, there are estimated to be approximately 500,000 men of the society in the United States. They are required to receive Holy Communion in a body at least once every three months, though many receive more regularly, on the second Sunday of every month. Father McKenna's Pocket Manual of the Holy Name Society contains all the corresponding indulgences and constitutional recommendations for local Society chapters.
To Join the Holy Name Society
The Holy Name Society is open to any male in good standing at his local chapel. Please check with your local chapel about details and requirements. There are usually monthly meetings and a small annual due to support the good works performed by the local chapter.
Sanford: Holy Name Society Director >