“And my confirmation name is…”

During a recent confirmation service I attended, I was struck — once again — by the fact that every candidate announced a “confirmation name” they had chosen.  For one, I am always intrigued by the names that come to be chosen. I think it reveals something about a spiritual journey if you name yourself after, say Thérèse de Lisieux rather than Teresa of Avila, or after Mother Teresa rather than Teresa Benedicta a Cruce (aka Edith Stein).  Yet at the same time, I continue to be puzzled by the phenomenon of choosing a “confirmation name” in the first place.  I happen not to have one – and that not because I was unable to choose among the many saints I liked.  Rather, in my Catholic culture of origin in Europe, we knew nothing of taking a “confirmation name.”  Or, at least that is what I remember.  Could it be that candidates for confirmation who may not have had “saintly” first names might have been encouraged to choose a saint’s name before their confirmation?  If so, such a choice was certainly not announced in the liturgy itself.  Or is this choosing of a confirmation name a peculiar North American phenomenon?  Does it happen in Hispanic and African American parishes?  Where does this custom come from?  And does one’s “confirmation name” actually do any work after the confirmation service (e.g., do people then celebrate their (confirmation) saint’s day in a particular way)?  I have many questions related to “confirmation names.”  One thing I am fairly certain of:  If I had to choose a confirmation name for myself today, it would in all likelihood be “Hildegard” – in which case I would then be named after two women Doctors of the Church and the Mother of God.  Things don’t get much for affirming and confirming than that.



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58 responses to ““And my confirmation name is…””

  1. Todd Orbitz Avatar
    Todd Orbitz

    I would say that people generally choose Confirmation names in the US, “because that’s how it was always done” — at least dating back before the 3rd Plenary Council of Baltimore.

    Being 43, I remember the Nuns always talking about how we needed to choose a Saint who we would model in our lives. My parents thought it of great importance also.

    But after Confirmation? Never really mentioned again. I chose Matthew – and as a result I re-read his Gospel each year.

  2. Todd Orbitz Avatar
    Todd Orbitz

    One additional comment. I don’t remember the name ever being “announced” per se. The Bishop was the only one who knew at the actual Confirmation — besides one’s family members in the congregation.

    1. Teresa Berger Avatar
      Teresa Berger

      @Todd Orbitz – comment #2:
      I should have been clearer in how this “announcement” happened in the liturgy: it was the candidates themselves who, as they stood before the bishop to be confirmed, introduced themselves, saying: “My name is X, and my confirmation name is Y.” It flowed quite naturally and beautifully within the rite — except that it got me thinking about the phenomenon of confirmation names, once again. And since we had 10 or so young adults being confirmed, there was time to think… Call it one of those moments of ‘professional deformation ‘ that liturgical scholars are prone to suffer during liturgical celebrations.

  3. Hal Weidner Avatar
    Hal Weidner

    I was confirmed in the 1960s and chose Paschal Baylon. Later during a Roman visitation the delegate asked me for the name. He was using them as a secret code for his files.

  4. Hal Weidner Avatar
    Hal Weidner

    I should add that in the 1990s three boys being confirmed while I was a stand in for the Bishop chose Mary as their confirmation names. That was a first for me though of course in Italian and French it is quite common.

  5. Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue Avatar
    Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue

    Confirmation names are alive and well on the other side of the Atlantic in Ireland as well. We are getting ready for Confirmation in a couple of weeks in the parish here and every child has a Confirmation name. Indeed they will not use their Baptismal Names for the Sacramental rite itself (“N. be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”), which, if “N.” refers to the person’s baptismal name, is kind of in violation of the rubrics. The teachers were horified when I suggested making the Confirmation names optional, as many of the children already have perfectly good names, or even of confirming them using both their Baptismal names and the new Confirmation names. But that’s what comes of trying to work in a parish, having spent many years abroad, combined with having made the mistake of taking graduate studies in liturgy, and then trying to do actual pastoral ministry!

    Seriously though, I suppose its a fairly harmless practice and if we wanted to be worried about something, it might be better to look at the fact that very few of the children attend Sunday Mass either before or after reveiving the sacrament, so whatever we do with Confirmation names is kind of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  6. Charles Day Avatar
    Charles Day

    I am in my 60s, and it seems like 100 years ago, but everybody picked a confirmation when we were confirmed. My mother was born in the Netherlands, and she had a confirmation name and it wasn’t surprising to her I would have to pick one. In my experience, most people of European origin have multiple names (including several family names) and they might not always be confirmation names but I think you are more the exception than the rule. I have a Filipino doctor friend who has 6 or 7 names – it’s hard for me to keep track – and two of the names are confirmation names.

    A bigger issue is why someone chooses certain names. At the age of nine I wanted to be named Michael because I fancied myself as an avenging archangel. My best friend chose the name Anthony because his given name was Michael and the guy on the TV show “The Millionaire” was named Michael Anthony. It’s not all perfect. 😉

  7. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    Perhaps I was one of the few people paying attention when the sacramental rites were being reformed, but it was made very clear that it would help a great deal in re-connecting confirmation to baptism to be addressed by the name used at baptism–providing either the first or middle name was that of a saint or derived from one. (When I was confirmed in the 6th grade in 1953 there was no such notion and so to John and William I added the name Michael after my father. Often when I meet someone names Michael I say “that’s my confirmation name”.)
    If I stay on top of the confirmation prep process, the kids are directed to identify whether they already bear the name of a Saint and, if so, to do some research on that Saint and to use it for confirmation. The link with baptism is drawn out at this time. If they have no such name, they are directed to do some googling and choose a Saint of the same gender to use at confirmation. If I don’t stay on top of it, one of the adults is likely to fall back on their own experience and just instruct them to pick a Saint’s name to use at confirmation–even if they already have two from baptism. This results in various oddities including the selection of what I would refer to as exotic names and cross gender names.
    Does anyone even know these days the historical purpose of names in cultures that were Christianized? It seems to be all about sounds, seasons, weather, spirits, celebrities. A lot of kids could really use a patron saint and confirmation is as good a time as any for those who don’t already have one.

  8. Rita Ferrone Avatar
    Rita Ferrone

    There’s no basis for it in the ritual of confirmation; it is a custom. Announcing it is odd, it used to be that the bishop simply called the candidate by that name.

    A number of years ago, in order to emphasize the baptismal name, and with the thought that a confirmation name was a duplication assigning to confirmation what really belongs to baptism, there was some movement among liturgists and religious educators to abandon the practice of giving a confirmation name. It seems to have made a comeback, though, and even newly baptized adults are opting for it in some parishes, though why you need one name for baptism and another for confirmation — in the same service! — is a mystery.

    For the children who grow up Catholic, choosing confirmation names contributes to the whole “fluffing up” of confirmation with everything that historically was associated with baptism — discernible apostolic works, special clothes, new name — so as to make it a big event and emphasize that “now you choose for yourself.” The more important question is: What is Baptism? But Confirmation still hangs out there, a sacrament in search of a theology, so it absorbs whatever “meaningful practices” we pump into it.

    The strategic concern is that when one looks at the whole initiation ensemble, Confirmation is distended and Baptism undervalued.

  9. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    Interesting. As a hardcore liturgist, I wince at confirmation names. Yet when my daughter found out about them (the faith formation establishment here in the parish doesn’t encourage them) she was torn between the feisty Teresa of Avila and Hildegard (we had just watched Vision a few months before). I approved of the saints. On the name, I held my tongue.

    She went with the more recent doctor, and chose a green dress to wear for Confirmation. Additionally (and unplanned) she was delighted when her sponsor also wore green–a scarf.

    So she had some understanding of viriditas.

    I will probably draw the line at dad escorting the bride down the aisle sans mom. But the wishes of an offspring often overpower a liturgical theology.

  10. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    Teresa, is your middle name “Mary”? I’m curious, because you wrote:

    If I had to choose a confirmation name for myself today, it would in all likelihood be “Hildegard” – in which case I would then be named after two women Doctors of the Church and the Mother of God.

    1. Teresa Berger Avatar
      Teresa Berger

      @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #10:
      My middle name is “Maria” (which in German can be a middle name not only for women but also for men — it was my father’s middle name also).

  11. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

    Todd Flowerday : the wishes of an offspring often overpower a liturgical theology.

    As we say here in Bawlmer, “True dat.”

    1. Teresa Berger Avatar
      Teresa Berger

      @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #11:
      Yes. And putting the same principle more broadly, I would say: “Life intervenes.” Woe to us if our liturgical theologies aren’t flexible enough to respond to such interventions thoughtfully.

  12. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    I chose the name “Xavier” at my Confirmation. At the time, I was under the mistaken impression that St. Francis of Assisi was named “Francis Xavier (of Assisi)” and I preferred “Xavier” to “Francis”. I may not have made that assumption clear to anyone, because I was never corrected.

    Years later…

    I have grown to appreciate who St. Francis Xavier is, and I appreciate whatever patronage he offers me.

  13. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    And my priest-brother chose his baptismal name for his confirmation name (as was suggested to him). This was around 1977. (My own confirmation was in the mid-to-late 1990s.)

  14. Margaret Bick Avatar
    Margaret Bick

    I wonder what would happen if the choice were to be made by the Church rather than by the candidate. People in the bible did not choose their own new names. Then the Church would have to actually get to know them.

  15. Lee Bacchi Avatar
    Lee Bacchi

    Jeffrey Pinyan : I chose the name “Xavier” at my Confirmation. At the time, I was under the mistaken impression that St. Francis of Assisi was named “Francis Xavier (of Assisi)” and I preferred “Xavier” to “Francis”. I may not have made that assumption clear to anyone, because I was never corrected. Years later… I have grown to appreciate who St. Francis Xavier is, and I appreciate whatever patronage he offers me.

    Jeffrey — I chose the same name, mainly to go with my middle name Francis. I was told I couldn’t use Assisi (my original choice), as it was not a saint’s name, even though my middle name was Francis. Small world!

    1. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

      @Lee Bacchi – comment #15:
      A boy at my previous parish, whose first name was Thomas, chose “Aquinas” as his confirmation name. 🙂

  16. Scott Smith Avatar
    Scott Smith

    It seems a pious custom, quite biblical, and to provide a stronger connection to baptism then would using a baptismal name. That is, just as we have godparents at both baptism and confirmation, we also adopt new names.

    Wanting to abolish the practice, seems very iconoclastic, and redolent of that part of the progressive liturgical sensibility which has been rejected by ordinary Catholics.

    Mine for the record, chosen as an adult, is Bede.

    1. Rita Ferrone Avatar
      Rita Ferrone

      @Scott Smith – comment #16:
      Scott, what you have said here, that a confirmation name would “provide a stronger connection to baptism than using a baptismal name” simply does not make any sense.

      What did you mean by this statement?

      1. Scott Smith Avatar
        Scott Smith

        @Rita Ferrone – comment #19:


        It means precisely what my next sentence said it meant. Receiving a new name at confirmation, as we do at baptism, strengthens the connection.

        I did’nt think it was that complex a suggestion? Doing the same things in both rites creates a parallel, and thus a linkage, which is likely to be noticed.

        Using a baptismal name conversely is unlikely to be noticed as a link to baptism, as it is generally the name we use day to day (i.e. difference is noticed, normal ignored).

        Having a look around, I see the article in the old Catholic Encyclopedia on “Christian Names: Confirmation Names” at New Advent, expresses a similar idea.

        It also links a new name to a new condition in the spiritual order, including on entry into the religious life, which is an interesting idea.

      2. Rita Ferrone Avatar
        Rita Ferrone

        @Scott Smith – comment #20:

        This seems to me like saying that my marriage would mean more to me if I got an extra ring after a while. No it wouldn’t. The ring that was placed on my finger in the wedding ceremony is the important one. It’s not made *better* by adding another ring. It may need to be replaced for practical reasons, but you don’t need another ring in order to “notice” that you’re married.

        Here’s the point. I suspect that you don’t really think of your baptismal name as a baptismal name, an actual token of your life in Christ and in the Christian community, but rather as your birth name or legal name that also happened to be used at your baptism. Thus the baptismal name seems to limp, or want some reinforcements later on. What if, instead, we really did pay attention to Baptism and to that name in connection with it?

        Everyone of my generation took a confirmation name. The number of people who used it, ever, except as a curiosity to swop among Catholics at parties, is miniscule. Almost no one incorporates it into their legal name. They do not sign with it, or register with it, or make commitments with it, or “give their word” based upon it. When someone experiences the ruin of their good name, they are not thinking of their confirmation name. That says to me that it’s ceremonial popcorn, and soon ignored or used as a nostalgia item. You can try, as religious educators do, to make it “meaningful.” Fine, go ahead. But it’s not naturally going to happen.

        Your name, the word by which you are known, on the other hand, is a weighty symbol. A natural symbol. A numinous symbol. Abraham didn’t go around calling himself Abram after God changed his name. Those who have critiqued this practice of confirmation names are concerned about central symbols. Ones that have weight.

      3. Teresa Berger Avatar
        Teresa Berger

        @Rita Ferrone – comment #29:
        Rita, I may be off the charts here, but haven’t we moved away from understanding Baptism as a “naming” event? My name “Teresa” is my birth name, period. As the person named Teresa, I was baptized. But that doesn’t make Teresa a baptismal name per se. I distinctly remember a switch in missionary practices of baptism in Africa, when the church decided to forgo forcing coverts to take a “Christian” name for their baptism and simply baptizing them with the name they had received.

      4. Rita Ferrone Avatar
        Rita Ferrone

        @Teresa Berger – comment #33:
        Hi Teresa,

        I don’t know if this may be a translation issue, but the rites of infant baptism in English say “What name do you give to this child?”

        JDC Fisher’s Baptism in the Medieval West has an appendix devoted to the question of whether “to christen” really means “to name” as it is used colloquially. He concludes that it doesn’t. If there is any moment for the giving of a name it is in the catechumenate. The name with which the catechumen will be called in all subsequent rites emerges early on.

        The Catholic rites follow this logic. In the RCIA the primary spot where a name may be given is in the first public ritual of the catechumenate, the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. It offers as a second choice the preparation rites on Holy Saturday, with the option at that time of explaining the religious meaning of one’s given name. It’s only because of the compression of all the catechumenal rites into one, in the 11th and 12th centuries, that naming came to be seen as part of the rite of baptism itself. It’s a catechumenal rite.

        In the post-Vatican II reform of the rite for infants, giving a name comes at the doors of the church, echoing the catechumenal rite for adults. There is no demarcation of catechumenal rites as separate in the RBC however, so it’s fair if slightly misleading to say that the name is given “at baptism.”

        The new code of canon law (1983) dropped the requirement (which had been in the 1917 code) that a saint’s name had to be used, opening the door to a wider variety of names, but it didn’t do away with name-giving.

        There was thought given to dropping altogether the option of giving a new name in the adult rites (RCIA), but the push to keep it came from regions where other religions conferred new names upon initiation. They did not want Christian converts to feel at a disadvantage. No adult is required to take a new name, or a saint’s name now.

      5. Teresa Berger Avatar
        Teresa Berger

        @Rita Ferrone – comment #44:
        Rita, I appreciate what the rituals say. At the same time, the reality is that the name of the child (let’s stay with that case) is the “birth” name, so to speak, simply used at baptism. I find that I feel strongly about that, not least because the name by which God knows and calls every human being is not linked to baptism… Otherwise, the non-baptized would just be XYZ to God? Of all the things I was graced with in baptism, I don’t think my name was one of them. That name I received one evening during my mother’s pregnancy when she read a book about Teresa of Avila. My name was made official in my birth certificate soon after I was born, and before I was ever baptized.

      6. Rita Ferrone Avatar
        Rita Ferrone

        @Teresa Berger – comment #49:
        Hi Teresa,

        Thanks for this comment, which clarifies for me the source of concern. I too would be uncomfortable with a practice that seems to render null your mother’s role or the circumstances which led to your name being given within your family, much less to suggest that one is a non-person before God before the ritual of baptism takes place.

        As I have understood it, the ritual at this point presumes a prior event and relationship between the person and God and others (this is spelled out clearly in the rite for adults). Its goal, however, is to identify and hold up this element (the name) as one of profound religious significance, and act in the ritual to “own” it ecclesially, and weave it explicitly into the identity of being a Christian.

        Does that all amount to “giving” a name? Perhaps there is another way to describe it, but I do regard the exchange at the doors of the church as a beautiful and rich symbolic moment and not just “practical business” (finding out who’s there).

      7. Teresa Berger Avatar
        Teresa Berger

        @Rita Ferrone – comment #52:
        I like the gist of your last paragraph, Rita, namely that our name IS important baptismally because that is the name with which we were brought to baptism and baptized (and with which God will call us to God’s self in the hour of our death). For myself, however, I would want to stress, that my “baptismal” name is not GIVEN to me in baptism; it was given to me in my mother’s womb. I for one delight in thinking that God liked my mother’s choice. Cf. Isa. 43:1f: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

      8. Scott Smith Avatar
        Scott Smith

        @Rita Ferrone – comment #29:


        Except of course, married people do sometimes get an extra ring after a while, usually on some significant anniversary. It even has a name, thanks to some commercial interests in the 1960s, being an eternity ring. I might even be planning to get my wife one, and thus a little less presumption on your part would be greatly appreciated.

        Further, your blame the recipient approach to the symbols is a dead end. If a symbol does not work, it is the fault of the symbol, not the recipient. In particular, a symbol needs to demand attention and draw questions.

        A confirmation name does this naturally (contra your assertion), at least at the time of the ceremony, where as reusing a baptismal name does not as I have indicated. Requiring such a new name to have hugely greater impact is asking it to bear too great a weight – One which could not be bourn any better by the alternative suggestions put forward here.

        I think the key point you need to consider is the lived experience of symbols, and not the theoretical weight placed upon them by theologians. And, shock horror, small t tradition is a good guide here, as it is formed by the collective lived experience of the (at least recent) past.

      9. Rita Ferrone Avatar
        Rita Ferrone

        @Scott Smith – comment #39:
        A patronizing comment.

  17. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    The way I learned it, Confirmation is a sacrament that is, among other things, a rite of passage for those going into adulthood. Adolescents typically, I think, experience that passage as a weakening of the child’s ties to the decision-making parent and an assumption of a certain autonomy. We didn’t choose to be baptized, after all, but we *choose* to be confirmed*. Psychologically that is important.

    ISTM that assuming a new name by the newly-recognized person is an entirely appropriate action, one which *confirms* his/her identity as a Christian, especially since the confirmee is encouraged to choose a saint who will be a role model especially for him/her.

    I’m amazed that in other parts of the country parents were allowed to choose names that weren’t saints’ names. Here it has always been required that one name be that of a saint. But, true, saints are big in New Orleans. Maybe that’s why the city has been blessed with two who worked here (Mother Cabrini and St. Katherine Drexel) and two others who are in process towards canonization (Fr. Seelos and Sr. Henriette Delille).

  18. Mary Anstey Avatar
    Mary Anstey

    We were encouraged to take the name of the saint on whose feast we were born. I was born on January 1st …….then it was the feast of the Circumcision!!! As I was only six….yes six!….I had no idea what circumcision was so took Margaret, my mother’s name.
    Why six? Following a series of interrogations by an assortment of hierarchy I was considered suitable for first confession and first holy communion. It so happened that three months later the Bishop made his parish visitation, I was automatically assumed to be a candidate. all I remember was being told I was a ‘soldier of Christ’ and given a gentle slap on the cheek!

    1. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

      @Mary Anstey – comment #21:
      take the name of the saint on whose feast we were born

      Well, if that were the case, my name would be…

      Jeffrey Jesus John-the-Baptist John-the-Evangelist Pinyan. 🙂

  19. Andrea Duda Avatar
    Andrea Duda

    When I was confirmed we were told to pick confirmation names though no one particularly explained why we were doing so.

    Various members of my family called me Susie even though that wasn’t my name, so I decided to make Susan my confirmation name. No great amount of thought went into the choice. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Susanna, a follower and supporter of Jesus. I came to appreciate her as a holy woman and role model and now proudly claim her as my friend.

    In addition to choosing new names we were encouraged to pick new sponsors. I don’t think having our baptismal sponsors as confirmation sponsors was even presented as an option. It all seems like a missed opportunity. But how we treat confirmation in general seems like a missed opportunity.

  20. Nick Wagner Avatar

    We usually get e-mails as Lent approaches asking us if the elect have to choose a new name for baptism or confirmation or both. Often the question comes up if the elect’s given name is not a saint’s name. The U.S. bishops specifically rejected the practice of giving a new name at baptism (and presumably at confirmation; see RCIA 33.4). They made no comment about the lack of “saintliness” of the candidate’s given name.

    Canon 855 says that as long as the candidate’s given name is not “foreign to a Christian mentality,” there is no need to provide the candidate with the name of a saint. The curmudgeon in me wishes “Tiffany”‘s parents had named her “Teresa” However, the Tiffanys and Jacksons of the world have been called by the Lord to a journey of conversion. And they have been called by name–the names of their birth.

    The Catechism has a beautiful line that always makes me feel better when we baptize someone with a non-Christian name:

    “God calls each one by name. Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it” (2158).

  21. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    As a headstrong kid in a very conformist Catholic middle-school, I was determined to choose a most obscure saint as my saint’s name for confirmation. I chose St. Tanco, an Irish evangelist of the 9th century who was martyred in Saxony. Check Butler’s. Perhaps St. Tanco is still commemorated with a day on a local or regional calendar.

    The principal (an overworked lay-brother) wasn’t so enthusiastic. He pushed me into being a Christopher or Francis before reading Butler’s himself. After discovering that indeed St. Tanco is a saint of the Church, the brother then warily dropped the issue and allowed me to use the name.

    Let’s keep this custom alive. Choosing a saint’s name for confirmation is a way to educate students, parents, and teachers about the many saints venerated by the Church. Also, the custom permits a bit of rebellion.

    1. Maxwell Johnson Avatar
      Maxwell Johnson

      @Jordan Zarembo – comment #28:
      Wasn’t San Tanco the name of the convent of The Flying Nun, starring Sally Field? I always wondered where that name came from and never looked.




    2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Jordan Zarembo – comment #28:
      “Let’s keep this custom alive. Choosing a saint’s name for confirmation is a way to educate students, parents, and teachers about the many saints venerated by the Church. Also, the custom permits a bit of rebellion.”

      +1 on the last sentence quoted.

      Let’s redirect the custom, however, and challenge fully initiated adults to adopt more saints as patrons, role models, protectors, and such. Despite my daughter’s good spiritual experience, I would hope she continues to add saints to her bullpen. If someone is sick, why wouldn’t they add Raphael? If parenting a troubled teen, what about Monica or John Bosco? How many confirmands celebrate their new saint’s feast day? I approve of rebellion as much as any mischievous soul (A friend once chose Bobo, and boy, did that set off the DRE. O yeah.)

      What I’m getting at is this: the old practice of confirmation names reinforces the problem with viewing sacraments as moments of holiness rather than as touchstones for further conversion.

      The problem with it is not that it’s a good thing gone missing. The problem is that it’s an inadequate thing not replaced with a better practice. Traditionalists and conservatives are as much to blame for not suggesting something better as anyone else.

      The confirmation name is an inadequate tradition that needs a total renovation. Not a mindless sojourn to some imagined rosy past.

      1. Teresa Berger Avatar
        Teresa Berger

        @Todd Flowerday – comment #32:
        Re “adding saints, in one’s spiritual journey.” I couldn’t agree more. I have found it wonderfully enriching to live every day with the saint of the day in mind. I learn about the saints, pray with them, read some of their writings if available, and so immerse myself in the “cloud of witnesses” that is part of the church catholic. I wouldn’t want to live without the saints as daily companions — not even when I come up against a quite ideological feast like St. Joseph the Worker.

  22. Jim Pauwels Avatar
    Jim Pauwels

    I was taught that it came after one’s middle name.

    James Joseph Mark Pauwels

  23. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    The problem as I see it is with the whole business of “naming”. People are given names at birth. At baptism, the rite asks “what name has the child been given?” In some parishes, including the one I serve, the form that must be filled prior to baptism (the one from which we make a certificate) we ask for the name of the child and the name of a patron saint if the first or middle name already given the child is not that of a saint. The significance of Christian names is included in the formation program for parents and godparents which preceded baptism. But the significance of names has changed over the years. I was named John after my maternal grandfather and godfather, and William after a maternal uncle. (Then they ended up calling me Jack which I learned much later was a practice among many of the Irish, go figure). When I was confirmed I chose Michael after my father and I think I had some notion of the archangel by the same name. I remember being taught as a child that we are named after people whose qualities and lives we would want to emulate. Today many parents give to their children names that sound just right to them. Names they found on a list. They become quite inventive in spelling such names, guaranteeing the child the lifelong habit of having to spell even the simplest names (Jon, Jeen). So when we bring up saints names and confirmation names we almost have to dip into the past to give it meaning. I like the suggestion (by Todd) that we need something entirely new. BTW a note to Scott: The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia is grossly misnamed. It was published early in the 20th century and thus contains none of the insights of Vatican II.

    1. Scott Smith Avatar
      Scott Smith

      @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #35:


      That is why I referred to the “old Catholic Encyclopedia”. Also, having recently read the VII documents for the year of faith, I see nothing in them which would weaken my point.

      Unless you do see anything which does, perhaps some refection on the fact there was wisdom expressed in the Church before VII might be in order, before making such dismissals.

      1. Rita Ferrone Avatar
        Rita Ferrone

        @Scott Smith – comment #41:
        You certainly are lecturing everyone today, Scott.

        Why don’t you just say what you think?

  24. Jordan DeJonge Avatar
    Jordan DeJonge

    Ah, the Catholic Church. Nothing you ever loved about her-it is ever safe from being reformed-improved-recovered- removed by those who know better.

    Another reason not to get too invested.

    I took Francis as my confirmation name in 2000, as my class was instructed to take a name. I’ve remained with him ever since. It prompted me to purchase Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis and ask for his intercession in my prayers and construct a shrine for him in my parents’ backyard. Establishing something personal like that is an excuse to keep close to beloved and sacred memories, even when I am strongly tempted to abandon associations with the religion altogether.

    Alas, I was probably a victim of yet more bungled theology.

  25. Fr. Jan Michael Joncas Avatar
    Fr. Jan Michael Joncas

    Re: Jordan’s point about the choice of confirmation name being a chance for a bit of rebellion: A young lady at a parish in which I formerly served chose “Odo” as her confirmation name. After the ceremony I asked how she had come to develop a devotion to Odo of Cluny; she informed me that she thought the shapeshifting Odo character on Star Trek Nine perfectly mirrored her character. Apparently the connection was never brought to the attention of the Powers-That-Be in preparing her for confirmation….

  26. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    Many priests and protestant ministers have in the past refused to baptize children as “Elvis”. Similarly generations of confirmandi have had their choice of Elvis turned down. For Elvis, the Irish/Welsh 5th century saint, google him or see http://everything2.com/title/Saint+Elvis

    I grew up in a part of the world where many confirmation candidates, to be perverse, took the confirmation name of Saint Sexburga – a very holy 7th century lady. See http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=5826 and elsewhere. The teachers hated them for it, but there was nothing they could do.

  27. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    There’s a signal use of confirmation names in Catholic families of a certain type (mine and some of the friends I knew growing up): when a parent called for a child by the full name N N N [Surname], you knew your were in some trouble….

  28. Scott Smith Avatar
    Scott Smith


    I apologise if I have been lecturing or patronizing.

    On reflection I think I have been a bit short with you, and ask forgiveness for my tone.

    I do however stand by the substance of my remarks, though they could have been better expressed.

  29. Rita Ferrone Avatar
    Rita Ferrone


    I accept your apology. Thank you.

    I too stand by my points.

    Let me put my question a different way. Why do you think that taking a name than is subsequently never used is an effective symbol?

    1. Scott Smih Avatar
      Scott Smih

      @Rita Ferrone – comment #46:


      Much appreciated. I very much enjoy these discussions, and value the contributions others make.

      Your revised question is helpful. In answer, I would say that in my opinion the later use of the name does not speak to how effective the symbol is as part of rite, the event itself.

      To take an imperfect analogy, the fact the ashes we receive on Ash Wednesday will be gone from our foreheads shortly afterwards, does not mean they are not an effective symbol which may have long lasting effects on our lives.

      Rather than from later use, the effectiveness of confirmation names in my view comes from how clearly it is noticed, as we don’t take new names everyday.

      Once noticed, I think it provides a natural connection to change, baptism (repeating an action undertaken at or just before baptism) and scripture (how Christ gave various of his followers new names to represent the grace they had received).

  30. Scott Smih Avatar
    Scott Smih

    I should also note my comments in relation to this practice are all culturally specific – It strikes me as the type of pious custom where inculturation is more important than general principle.

  31. Joe Mcmahon Avatar
    Joe Mcmahon

    Ought Pope Francis stayed with George? Certainly, he is not denying his baptism. Nor did the religious men or women who assumed another name when entering a religious congregation.

    Neither my sister nor I received two names at Baptism. Our Confirmation name (received in Grade 2!) became our middle name. Customs vary. Uniformity of practice is often needless.

  32. Gerard Flynn Avatar
    Gerard Flynn

    On a related but different point, I had been thinking during the sede vacante at the Holy See in early March 2013 that perhaps the next Bishop of Rome would retain his baptismal name, on the grounds that the papal name is sometimes referred to as a regnal name, thus emphasising the monarchical nature of the role over the spiritual and pastoral. On reflection, the current incumbent has expressed a great deal by his selection of the name Francis.

  33. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    Again, I find my sentiments quite closely aligned surprisingly with Gerard.
    I knew exactly why I responded to Bp. Floyd Begin’s inquiry at Vigil ’71, “St. Gregory the Great.” (Though I didn’t have any idea how deep the relationship would become.)
    He gave me a slap, and it’s quite stuck well these 43 years.
    One more soul ax exemplary of becoming “a servant of/to the servants.”
    Deo gratias.

  34. Shannon O'Donnell Avatar
    Shannon O’Donnell

    Half the girls in my Confirmation group chose “Bernadette” as their Confirmation name because Sr. Marion had read “The Song of Bernadette” to us two years earlier in 5th grade.

    On the other hand, Sr. Marion was the first to insist that my name was a perfectly good name, even if it didn’t belong to a saint. “Your job is to become St. Shannon.”

    We celebrated Confirmation at the parish last night. Some of the young people had chosen saints’ names, some hadn’t. I had a good conversation with a young cousin who’d chosen Cecelia because of her connection to music.

  35. Mark Kendall Avatar
    Mark Kendall

    There is a tension/ambivalence in the traditions here.

    On the one hand there is this desire to associate initiation with a “transformative” new name because of “putting on the new man,” and to select specifically a patron among the saints.

    On the other hand, this tradition is inconsistent at best. Early Christians didn’t rename themselves after saints (otherwise we’d have only twelve Christian names and every woman would be Mary!) And then apparently this was a practice for adult pagan converts, in the same way popes and religious started changing their names. Except by then it was somewhat already obsolete, as infant baptism was becoming the norm and infants are baptized with their given name as it’s meaningless to have some other name for just a week of your life first. And then in counter-reformation mission territory it came back, but now that’s rather frowned upon as culturally alienating (and besides, how would we ever get new saints names then??)

    I think associating the taking of a Saint’s name with confirmation specifically, rather than with baptism, is a good way to reconcile this tension.

    Given that the Western practice has become infant baptism and later confirmation, it makes sense that the new name idea would come with the later thing, as it’s insignificant to change the name an infant had for only a week.

    And yet it still works for adult converts for who baptism and confirmation are at the same time. They can be baptized with their given name and then confirmed immediately with a Patron saint of their choosing, and then it’s up to them how much they want to appropriate the latter into their lives (for some just as a patron, for others they might truly go by that name; it gives them that leeway).

    Taking a patron and possibly changing names is associated with initiation, but who’s to say that it shouldn’t be associated with the confirmation part rather than the baptism part (as they are, in adults, a unit that happens together).

  36. Mark Kendall Avatar
    Mark Kendall

    I think that’s the only real way to have consistency across both cases: have both infants and adults baptized with their given name (since changing an infant’s name is pointless, and changing an adult’s can be culturally alienating) but then have the taking of a patron (and possibly their name; that’s more up to personal discretion/devotion) associated with confirmation both when it’s separate from baptism and when it immediately follows baptism (so that, for adult converts, it’s still an integral part of the unity of the initiation rites, but so that children still get to choose and we aren’t pretending to change an infant’s name).

  37. Alexander S. Anderson Avatar
    Alexander S. Anderson

    I also lack a confirmation name, but my story is more mundane: I missed the day we picked them, and someone got in my ear saying “the new thing is just to use your baptismal name.” So I did that, because it required no research. At one point I wished I had chosen Thomas for St. Thomas Aquinas, but recently I’ve become very attached to St. Alexander the Charcoal Maker, who’s story is awesome.

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