A quick note on why I am going by my baptismal name.
Most of you know me by Trent. It has been my nickname since birth. I have used it for nearly everything. It is the name I give out in interviews, applications, to the media, and in my everyday introductions. It isn’t my legal/baptismal name, however - Theodore Arthur Somes, III is. Theodore is the name on my baptismal and confirmation certificates. It is likely the name that will be on my headstone when I die. It is also what I want to go by.
Over the course of my novitiate in the Order of Saint Luke, the beginning of my time in seminary, and a terribly challenging journey in 2020/1, I have been challenged to look at the meaning of things with intentionality. My name is something I have been contemplating since the beginning. My parents tell me that they chose Trent as a cognate-like form of Trenta or Tres meaning thirty or three, since I am the third Theodore Arthur Somes. In reality, it was chosen because it was what my parents could agree on. My dad and mom both had their favorites: Trey, Thad, Theo, Art, etc. but Trent is what they could agree on. The most common meaning for Trent is its association with water, per Wikipedia: “[Trent is] linked with being a derivative of the English word 'Torrent' meaning a stream of water flowing with great rapidity and violence.” While I appreciate the image of a torrent, I don’t identify with it. As a nerd of the church, I’ve always associated Trent with the Council of Trent, what some have called the “embodiment of the counter-reformation.”
This isn’t something I have chosen to do lightly or on a whim. I think that I have really done a lot of good under the name Trent, things I am extremely proud to have done, and things that I want to be known for, regardless of what I go by. But I have unsuccessfully tried to get people to call me Theodore in the past, once in middle school and once in high school. I considered trying again at college but decided against it after it didn’t work. I am currently in a season of change: I have changed my denomination, my home church, my branch of service and job in the military, my seminary, where I lived (8 times in total since the pandemic began). This seems like the right time.
Theodore means “gift from God.” In this season of depression, especially after I was fired and felt isolated in the church of my youth, this has been a message I have had to repeat to myself – I have a purpose, a reason for being, and I am a gift - carefully and wonderfully made by the God that I follow, and so are the people around me. It is a name that reminds me of God’s grace. It is a not something we have deservedly, or can earn, or can do for ourselves but a gift – and in my tradition and understanding, a gift that we receive before we are conscious of it. It is prevenient and everlasting. Theodore is an ancient name, borne by Saints, Bishops, philosophers, and most importantly, my family. The names Theodore and Arthur collectively appear half a dozen times throughout the known history of the Somes family.
This season of change has been a blessing. It has been incredibly difficult at times, but it has also been unforgettable and life changing. I am greatly blessed to have been fired. I was greatly blessed with approval to leave the Marines for the Army. I was greatly blessed to now be accepted into a new seminary. I have always been blessed with the name Theodore, and I am asking you to help realize this blessing by calling me what I wish to be called.