Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Fr. Jim on Peter, the Jesuits, and What It Means to Be a Loved Sinner

My friend Jim Martin took the name of Peter as his vow name. Here’s why, as he explains in his bestseller “My Life with the Saints”:

Understanding Peter’s humanity was a liberating insight for me. For if God calls each of us individually, he calls us with both our gifts and our failings. And it is in our failings, and in the parts of our lives that embarrass us, that we are often drawn closest to God.

For all these reasons, I ended up choosing Peter as my vow name. I wanted to remind myself of the way God loves us.

Everyone needs to be reminded of this: it is difficult to accept that God loves us as we are, with our limitations, as well as our tendencies to sin. Certainly God is constantly calling us to conversion, to turn from any sinful behavior. And certainly God asks us to cast off anything that keeps us from following him more closely. At the same time, God is always inviting us to follow him, with a full and forgiving knowledge of our human nature.


In a passage written by one of the General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, there is a surprising definition of a Jesuit. “What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus.” This is what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian means being a “loved sinner.”

But you come along and say it is there, when we have brought our weaknesses before you, that we are most mighty.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

  • Larry Parker

    Bob/Luthitarian started an interesting thread on “Spirituality and the Mind” (meaning mental illness) on the BB group.
    I, of course, put in a plug for my collegiate mentors the “loved sinners” 😉

  • Ed Dougherty

    Great to read about Father MArtin’s vow name. I,too, took the name Peter for my vow name. Although I left the Society after 8 years I still use the name Peter to remind me of my weaknesses and my reliance on my higher power to relieve me of my bondage to self and ego.
    EB Dougherty

  • Benito P. Sagra

    First of all, my sincere congratulations to Fr. Jim Martin for choosing the religious name Peter for his vows. I used to live the life of a Benedictine monk for three years until I made my First Vows wherein I have chosen the name Benedict for my religious name. The name one chooses for the kind of religious life to live is very important because the name carries with it the charism of the original person to whom the name was taken. Yes, for the sake of Fr. Jim, Peter is very suiting. It is in this identification with Peter the sinner loved by Christ. But it is not only that, in Peter it shows how the Calling of Christ is not just a one time thing, but a process. In the various encounters of intimacy with Christ, Peter discovered and experienced how Christ loved him the most in his very humanity, in his arrogance, in his easily flared up, it his misjudging of things and others, in short, it his limited human view of things, yet, still he believed in that love and of all the followers of Jesus Peter affirmed his dignity of being forgiven and loved till the end. The response to the calling of Christ is not through the romance of being too good to be true, but the painful acceptance of being a great sinner yet greatly loved. This not only for those who embrace religious life but for everyone called to live the very life of being called to embrace the life of Christ in the world today especially laypersons, men and women of every age. I left the monkhood last year and I am now a happily married man, yet still I feel I am following the call of Christ and seeking Him in love as I see Him in everyone.

  • Anonymous

    This may be a bit off subject, but could one of you Catholics explain to me why so often nuns have a double namethat includes a traditionally male appelation? This is something I’ve often wondered about, and I’m now assuming they also choose to adopt spiritual moniers when they take their final vows. Am I on the right track here?

  • James Martin

    A woman religious would be able to do a much better job than I can, but here goes.
    Sometimes in religious orders, and frequently in women’s religious orders, and cloistered orders, members would take a “religious name” or a “name in religion” to mark, among other things, a sign of the change in their lives that they have made. Sometimes the women would have a choice in the matter; sometimes they would be “given” a name by their superior; and sometimes sisters would take a version of their parents’ names. So in an order with a Marian “charism” perhaps all the Sisters might be named Sister [saint’s name] Mary. So Sister Elizabeth Mary. And Sister Jane Mary. Perhaps if their father’s name were used they might be Sister James Mary. Or a totally new name: Sister Catherine or Sister Agnes. Or even a name in honor of a male saint: Sister Joseph. Usually this was done at entrance. After Vatican II many sisters returned to their “old” or baptismal names. Some have not though. A friend was just telling me the other day about his friend “Sister Isaac.”
    It was (and is) not just for women. Thomas Merton was in the Trappists known as Father M. Louis Merton (M for Mary).
    For Jesuits a “vow name” is not the same as a religious name. My name is still James Martin, and the vow name is a “devotional name” that usually is pronounced during vows. So “I James Peter Martin, etc.”

  • lusGuirediems

    Hello. And Bye.

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