On a previous trip to Kona a woman, seeing me wearing my clerical collar, asked me who I was. I said, “My name is Father James, but in Hawaiian I think it is Kahuna Kimo.” She instantly got a wide-eyed look of horror and countered, “No, don’t say that! A Kahuna could be something like a witch-doctor or a sorcerer. You’re a real priest so you would be a Kahuna-pule (a priest of prayer, “pule” meaning prayer), so your Hawaiian name should be Kahuna-pule Kimo.”
For Hawaiians one’s name is a very important issue. One’s name is given by the family and often ties back into the family’s genealogy. Many Hawaiians can chant at least some of their family’s genealogy since it is within the genealogy that a Hawaiian knows where one fits and who one is; therefore, her bestowing my Hawaiian name upon me was, for her, a very important thing to do as well as a big deal for me to receive! So, since that visit, my Facebook name has been Kahuna-pule Kimo. Recently, however, more and more of my Hawaiian Facebook friends have urged me to use the more commonly accepted title of Kahu (meaning “Reverend”) so on Facebook I am now, officially, “Kahu Kimo”!
My life has been a journey of names. At birth I was given the name of Robert; to this day, within my family, I am known as Bobby. When I entered monastic life I became Brother James. When I was ordained to the Priesthood I became Father James. In Kona that day I became Kahuna-pule Kimo, and now I am Kahu Kimo. I suppose someone could view the various names as the putting down of one persona and the taking on of another, but that is not how I view the names that I have accrued on my journey: Each name has been a delving deeper into who I am, as well as a discovery of who I want to be.
Recently, I read a quote by Monsignor William Shannon: “Physically, we can go anywhere we want to, even to the moon and probably to Mars, but spiritually many among us have no notion of where we really want to go.” How can we know where we want our spiritual life to go? My own experience is that one must simply begin the journey and it will reveal its path as it is traveled. This certainly has been my experience through my own journey of names, each new one taking me deeper into not only who I am but into who I am becoming as I journey towards the Divine One. And the interesting thing is that it has been Life which has bestowed these names upon me as I have been on my pilgrimage; it has been at the hands of others that I have come to know who I am, who I am becoming, and who I want to be.
I wonder what name comes next?!