Interestingly enough, P names have lost a lot of their luster for contemporary parents. In the 1950s and 1960s, the top 100 names included 10 or 11 names beginning with P. And almost all of them were Biblical or otherwise Catholic. Last year, only 3 of the top 100 names in the U.S. began with P and not one of those was a "traditional" name, let alone Catholic. You are more likely to know a 60 year old Peter than a 6 year old one. Maybe it's time to take a second look at some of the classics, but I think modern parents might be drawn to some of the more daring choices that can be gleaned from a closer look at the Calendar of Saints. So if you are looking for a way to honor a grandparent or if you are just looking for a name that would set your prodigy apart from the other pre-schoolers, then perhaps one of these P names might give you a head start.
Paul: This Biblical name was one the most popular names for boys for many, many decades probably because St. Paul is loved by both Protestants and Catholics alike. The feminine form, Paula, was ubiquitous in American culture. I know it's fallen out of fashion, but if you happen to have a Paul or Paula in your family tree to honor, perhaps it's worth reconsidering. If you just can't convince your husband or wife to honor Grandpa this way, perhaps another form of the name might perk you up. Paolo and Paola pack a punch Italian style. But the Spanish Pablo is also worth considering. I also like the Russian form Pasha. It's a bit exotic, yes, but inviting. As for the girls, I think it's probably best to leave Paula in her slumber. Instead, try Paulina. I love this name, and Paulina could be an interesting choice considering the popularity of Seraphina and Angelina.
Patrick: This is truly a classic and I don't think parents could ever go wrong with this choice. Everyone is familiar with St. Patrick and you don't have to be Irish to bear this name. Some cutting edge parents might want to use the original Irish though and use Padraig or Padraic, especially if they don't mind the initial confusion. Patricia might be ready for a comeback, but I'd avoid using any of her hopelessly dated nicknames like Patty or Trish.
Peter: This Biblical name was a favorite of Catholic parents for many years, and though the name is still a classic, it's fallen out of favor. Perhaps Peter just needs a international flair to interest contemporary parents. While Pietro might be hard to pull off, I think Piero sounds racy and fun. Parents who envision a son less fiery, might go for the milder Pelle or Pello. For those who like the Surname Game, Pierce might be and appealing option.
Philip/Phillip: This is actually the name that started this blog---the name of my Catholic grandfather. Whether one l or two, Philip seems to have fallen very much by the wayside in recent years, in spite of being the name of a fairy tale prince, a few real life kings and princes, a holy saint, and an Apostle. Phillip is definitely a classic, though, and worth consideration for modern parents. You don't have to call your little prince Phil, though. For literary parents, Pip is a natural, but if you're especially daring or you tot is adventurous, you could call him Flip. The feminine form, Philippa, is absolutely stunning and long overdue to arrive in the United States. She's regal, yet sweet and carries that precious pet name, Pippa.
Many people, Catholic parents included, think this is about the limit of the usable P names. That's too bad, because there are some other names worth considering that might be appealing to modern Catholic parents.
Pio: Padre Pio is perhaps one of the best loved Saints of modern times. He appeals to both traditional Catholics and modern Catholics as well. His name means Pius, so it might also be a way to honor any one of the 12 Popes who used this Papal name. Don't be afraid to use the feminine Pia for your daughter. With all the Mia's and Leah's, this just seems and easy fit.
Pascal and Pascale: Traditionally this is name that is usually given to Catholic children who are born at Easter time. It's a beautiful tradition and these French names are fresh and beautiful. The Cornish Pascoe is also and interesting option.
Peregrine: Here's a name that might appeal to Lord of the Rings fans, nature lovers, and risk takers. St. Peregrine is Italian saint of the Middle Ages who suffered from cancer in his leg. He was miraculously cured by Our Lord and lived a holy life into his 80s. He's the patron of those suffering from cancer. Peregrine is a strong name with lots of imagery associated. It's pleasant and fun and has built in the terrific pet name, Perry.
Prosper/Prospero: Okay, I admit this is a huge guilty pleasure name. But there might be some Catholic parents out there looking for something different and bold. This certainly could be it. St. Prosper was a disciple of St. Augustine and a very prolific and powerful writer. He put down heresies and clarified dogma. He was bold and unafraid, just as his name suggests. What incredible attributes to wish for a son in these modern times.
Pilar: This Spanish name is one of my favorites. This is a popular name in Spanish-speaking countries, but I can see no reason for American parents not to use it. This name is in reference to the Blessed Virgin's appearance to St. James the Apostle while he was in Spain. She appeared on a beautiful pillar, hence the name Our Lady of Pillar.
Pearl: Pearl is precious, really. It's a jewel name that was popular a generation or so ago, that I think has a lot of appeal in modern times. Unfortunately, there is no St. Pearl, but never fret! St. Margaret of Clitherow, who was tortured and martyred during the Protestant Revolt, was called the Pearl of York.
Priscilla: Oh, don't say it. Priscilla is not pretentious at all. Perhaps she's gotten bad attention because of the tendency to focus on all things "prissy," but Priscilla is actually quite a traditional name with Biblical roots. St. Priscilla and her husband were tent-makers and friends of St. Paul. Perhaps Priscilla's Biblical roots is what made her a popular choice for our Puritan American ancestors. Priscilla is one of those Colonial names that conjures up sweetness and poetry. And if a contemporary parent can get past the silliness, Priscilla would make a lovely choice for a rosy cheeked tot.
The last two names I want to mention aren't saint names at all, but they are virtue names which were popular among our Puritan Pilgrim ancestors. Most of the virtue names are either overused or not usable at all, but these P virtues are fresh and fun.
Prudence: Prudence is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues and, up until the 1940s, was a not unusual choice for a daughter. Prudence was valued as a virtue and parents weren't afraid to reflect this onto their children. Perhaps Prudence doesn't bring to mind roses and velvet, but she's a strong, sensible name and the pet name Pru is totally adorable.
Patience: Patience is a virtue all Catholics could use more of. It is one of the Fruits of Holy Ghost and brings to mind a gentle and comforting spirit. Our Puritan ancestors were very familiar with Patience and I think she's overdue for a revival.