From Taize to Taieze: What's in a Name? (Specifically, My Son's)

colby tai 1 Origin of a Name

Today is Tai's 7th birthday. Tai is our second oldest son, and he is truly a unique and remarkable kid.

His full name is Taieze Alexander Martin.

That's pronounced "ty - ez," and it's derived from the name Taizé (prononced: "tay - zay").

Taizé is a faith community (a monastery, really) up in the hills of France that is centered on service to the poor, worship, and above all, working towards peace.

It was founded in the early 1940's as a place where refugees from the war could go for safety, food, and to find reconciliation (including German soldiers, whom society wanted nothing to do with). And since then it has functioned as a place of prayer and service, a beacon of peace to the world.

The brothers of Taizé (sadly, no sisters... yet) take no money and accept no donations. But they travel around the world, meeting with world leaders and religious leaders, to pray and talk peace.

Thousands of young people go on pilgrimages to Taizé every year, staying there for weeks to simply serve (mandatory when you stay there: you're assigned a job, a role.... no one stays "for free"), pray and worship. They truly find themselves there. (watch this video to see what I mean)

Taizé has, over the years, also developed its own style of music and worship, and this was how Kate and I were first introduced to Taizé.

We were living in Salem, OR at the time, and I saw an advertisement for a Taizé service that was being held at a local Episcopal church. When I started to look in to Taizé, what it was and what it meant, I pronounced the word incorrectly: I pronounced it, "ty - ez."

Several months later Kate gave birth to our second son. And, not being overly keen on conventional names, we remembered the word (and the mis-pronunciation) of Taizé. So we decided that we would name our son Taieze (ty-ez), the word/name I originally had thought belonged to this faith community in France. Of course, it's a made up word/name, so we invented a spelling that made sense to us, and we knew that we'd end up calling him "Tai" most of the time.

Brother Roger, who founded Taizé in the early 40's, was shot and killed 7 years ago during an evening prayer time by a pathological woman. In 2010, the community held a 70th anniversary pilgrimage, and the current Prior of Taizé, Brother Alois, said the following about Brother Roger during a prayer:

He sought earnestly to live in [God's] trust and to express [God's] infinite kindness for every human being, whether a believer or a nonbeliever—you, the living God, who do not condemn, who exclude no one from your love. In this trust, you enabled him to find the source of joy and peace: peace of heart that made him a creator of peace among humans.

So Tai is named after a faith community in France who's primary mission was and is to promote peace.

Living in to a Name

The other day I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast, and this particular episode was called "How Much Does Your Name Matter?" It gives some interesting data to suggest how the names we give our kids can impact their lives growing up, and how it also says something about the parents who give the names.

One thing that Kate and I have noticed over the years is how Tai has, in an almost freakish way, lived in to his namesake.

Tai is all about peace.

In our house we frame things around "making peace." (We were inspired by this book called The Peace Book by Todd Parr. If you're a parent, we can't recommend Todd Parr's books enough!) In The Peace Book, Todd talks about all sorts of things that are "peace."

For instance,

  • Peace is making new friends
  • Peace is saying you're sorry when you hurt someone
  • Peace is reading all different kinds of books
  • Peace is thinking about someone you love
  • Peace is giving shoes to someone who needs them
  • Peace is planting a tree and sharing a meal

And so on...

Essentially it gives a beautiful picture of how simple, everyday acts, can work towards wholeness, health, and peace.

So in our house, if the boys are fighting with one another, we ask each other, "are you making peace?"

Or we'll simply shout from the other room, "boys, make peace!" (There's something odd about SHOUTING for people to MAKE PEACE... oh well)

And Tai has really, really latched on to this concept. He has become an incredible little peace-maker. Something about this idea of making peace just, I don't know, makes sense to him in a way unique to Tai. Family members and friends who have gotten close to us have remarked how much of a peace-maker Tai is, and it's always fun to follow that up with the story of his name.

Fifteen Years Down the Road

One of the things that I'm sure sociologists will be studying in the years to come is the relationship between the current generation of people who blog and post things on the internet, with the people/children about whom such things are posted. In other words, when my son(s) are old enough and/or interested enough to Google their name, there's a good chance it might take them to this blog post. And what an interesting dynamic that will be...

But anyways, Tai, if you are reading this sometime in the future, here's what I want you to know:

Your mom and I are so incredibly blessed to have you in our lives, in our family. You bring something unique to this world, and everyone who meets you knows it. When you were 6, you used to ask us, "what's the point of us being here? Why are we alive?" And the only way I knew how to answer you was to say, "there is only one Tai Tai (sidenote: if this is truly 15 years in the future, and your mom and dad are still calling you Tai Tai, well, just deal with it...), there is only one Tai Tai, and if you were not in this world, then this world could not be complete. The world needs you, son. And THAT is why you are here, why you are alive."

And Tai, if there's one thing I know, it's that the world needs more peace.

For that to happen, the world needs more peace-makers.

Jesus once said, "blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God."

Tai, that is you. You exhibit, in a truly unique way, what it looks like to be a child of God. What it looks like to reflect the divine.

I pray you always find yourself to be about the pursuit of peace.

Happy birthday, little buddy.

colby tai 4