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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Saint Peter and Paulllll and Alllllll the Saints



The title of today's post is something my mother used to scream when someone scared her or if she had some sudden jolt. There was always an "Oh!" in front of it.

Not so long ago a reader asked about picking a Confirmation name. She wanted to know how one goes about picking a good one, if there are rules involved, can you name yourself after your Aunt Flo, that sort of thing. I thought we could take a look at picking a name and how most people approach the choice.

Confirmation names 101.

First and foremost, you must realize that your Confirmation name is the name you'll be called in heaven, so you don't want to saddle yourself with some silly name as though you are a Hollywood star naming her baby. You can't just call yourself "chocolate" or "dupa". Leave your Polish grandmother to call you Dupa. (And don't let anyone but her get away with it.)

We encourage you to pick the name of a saint, that way you'll have the added patronage of that saint. It's as though you're adding a heavenly Godparent.

We don't want you to name yourself after your Aunt Flo, because we don't know if your Aunt Flo is in heaven or not, unless she's been canonized. That's not to say you still couldn't pick "Florence", but keep in mind you'll be called "Florence" in heaven. Is that what you want? Anyhow I can't find anyone named St. Florence.

That leaves us with picking a good saint's name. Where to begin? There are several strategies:

1. Go with the big names. You can't go wrong with one of the Fathers of the Church, like St. Peter or St. Paul, one of the twelve apostles, any Mary name or Martha. I always recommend Martha. I'll come back to that later.

You could also go with one of the Doctor's of the Church. That narrows the list to forty some odd saints and only three women;St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Theresa the Little Flower, and St. Teresa Avila. Of the women, you only have two names from which to choose because there are two Theresas. You would just have to settle on a spelling. You could also spell it "Therese".

2. Use the name of a saint that also is the name of someone you admire, like your Aunt Flo.

3. Pick a name you like and see if there is a saint named that. Nine times out of ten, there is.

4. Think about your aspirations and find the patron saint of that. For example, if you want to raise bloodhounds, you could pick St. Hubert, the inventor of the bloodhound.

5. Assess your personality and find a saint that is something like you. Perfectionist? St. Teresa of Avila. Annoyed by the annoying habits of others? St. Theresa the Little Flower, who kept a list of all the people and things that vexed her so she could offer them up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. She had wanted to be a missionary, but being too sickly, made suffering fools and their foolishness her mission.

6. Have a problem that burdens you? A cross to bear, a dilemma you struggle against? Find a saint with the same problem you have. St. Charles Borromeo, for example, is the patron saint for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I'm not sure why. He was not well liked by the people around him in the order for which he served and imposed new strict rules on them. Perhaps it gave everyone a stomach ache.


We can't just go slapping a Confirmation name on you. You're going to have to do a little research. It's daunting, I know, because there are thousands of saints.

I vote for St. Martha. I'm fond of her because she is an 'everyman'. She used to have Jesus and His friends over for dinner all the time and was aggravated because her sister, who should have been helping in the kitchen, was lolling around listening to Jesus as though she were one of the guests. Martha had a very common reaction to being left with all the work, although Jesus set her straight on that.

But then, later, when their brother, Lazarus, died, it was Martha who had the wherewithall to realize that her friend, Jesus, was the One Person who could actually bring Lazarus back from the dead, which turned out to be Jesus' greatest miracle until He rose from the dead Himself. Martha was the first person to say, "I think You can pull this off, because I believe You are the the Messiah." Pretty important stuff from the cook. I think we can all identify with her.

Which is what you are looking for in a Confirmation name.

41 comments:

the mother of this lot said...

Okay, Sister, confession time. Mine's Bernadette. What's yours?

Paula in MN said...

I do find it interesting that you recommended Mary or any of the variations. I was confirmed in 1970and I picked Mary for my confirmation name. I remember Sister Agnes being very unhappy that I had picked Mary.

Debbie said...

Dear Sister,

I have vague memories of being told to pick a saint's name. I think I was in 6th or 7th grade (late 60s). Now, this was a ccd class type of thing. I was in public school at the time.

After selecting the most beautiful name I could think of--Celeste (not sure if I had any more guidance than that), I asked if it was acceptable. I was told that, well, it wasn't a saint's name, but then Celeste...celestial...Sure! You can pick that.

Now what do I do? (besides curse the 60s?!)

Ashley said...

Where does the idea that "your Confirmation name is the name you'll be called in heaven" come from? I've never heard that before.

Gretchen said...

Ashley said...
Where does the idea that "your Confirmation name is the name you'll be called in heaven" come from? I've never heard that before

DITTO for me!! I've never heard that.

I sure wish I could re-do my confirmation. 1) so it would mean more and 2) so I could choose a more fitting name.

Mine is Maria Goretti

Thanks!

Dorota said...

Sister Mary Martha, nuns shouldn't use such bad words like the Polish word d...
Greetings from Poland.

Intrepid Mother of the Front Pew Crew said...

If I had known that the name I was choosing at age 13 would be the name I would be called for all eternity, I might have put the whole confirmation thing on hold until I was about 40...which in my case (and I suspect most of us that went through CCE/CCD in the 70s are in the same boat) would not have been a such bad idea...even if my mother would have disowned me.

Are you sure we couldn't just go with our blogger names?

Monica said...

This is funny, because I actually did pick the name 'Florence' which happened to be my grandmother's name. I wanted to use a saints name that was also someone I admired, and I thought she fit the bill. I cannot find anything on the web about St. Florence, but I remember at the time reading that she was the one who took care of St. Sebastian when he was chock full of arrows. Sebastian is my brother's confirmation name, and he liked archery at the time, so I thought the whole thing worked out nicely. Except now I can't find anything except towns and churches named after St. Florence. Maybe she fell off the calendar when they redid it a while back, and got demoted to limbo with St. Christopher.

PraiseDivineMercy said...

Ack... I never heard of the whole "name you'll be called in heaven" thing either... I figured it was just having a patron saint. I liked it because my name is just a word, albeit a pretty one, but I'm not sure I want to be called "Francis Assisi" for all eternity. Wouldn't that get confusing after a while, since he's a popular saint?

Anonymous said...

Diito to not having heard:
"your Confirmation name is the name you'll be called in heaven"

I might have picked differently too... I'm a woman, but my confirmation name is Raphael.

katy said...

I am an animal lover so I chose Theresa. I wanted my initials to spell KATS - not my fault my parents spelled Katherine with a K.

katy said...

p.s. Give me a break. I was 13.

Heather said...

I wanted to choose a confirmation name when I got confirmed (at 18, after going through RCIA), but the priest pooh-poohed the idea and told me something like, "We don't do that anymore, it's not necessary."
Could I add it now, years later?

And I still got my way--my first daughter is Madeleine.

Cally said...

But then what would happen to all the people who never got confirmed or didn't get to pick names?

I really, really, really do not want to have to go around calling people "Anon" for all eternity (of course, I'm willing to put up with if that's what it takes...but still)

Jane said...

Mine was Teresa, after Teresa of Avila. I'm not a perfectionist, but I sort of wish I was.

denise said...

When my confirmation was coming up (mid '70s), my Mom gave me a book called "Saints for Girls." (Of course, my brother got "Saints for Boys.")There were about 7 or 8 saints described.

Neither Mom, nor my CCD instructor said anything about the importance and blessings of choosing a Confirmation name carefully, I took a shot in the dark and chose St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Now I have a Mother-in-law who thinks I'm going to Hell because I'm Catholic; and is afraid I'll take my husband (a Methodist)with me. And she is certain I'm squandering all my husband's money. St. Elizabeth and I finally have something in common.

Anonymous said...

I'm female, but when I was confirmed at age 14 I picked St. Jude....and how did I find him? I went into a Catholic bookstore and ran my finger along the books on the Saints shelf until I felt like stopping, and I landed on a St. Jude book. So I bought his holy card and left the store quite happy that I had managed to pick a Saint that shared his name with a Beatles song (I'm a huge Beatles fan -- "Hey Jude" anyone?).

It's been over 5 years since my confirmation, and I have to say that although my selection process was pretty random and perhaps slightly sacreligious, I have developed a very strong devotion to St. Jude. We're totally friends now, and I'm confident that his intercession has gotten me through some very tough situations.

I don't regret my choice one bit. I consider it an honor to have taken the name of an Apostle, a martyr, and a close friend/relative of Our Lord. And I'm so happy that despite the severe lack of assistance from my parish's religious education program, God matched me to a Saint who I have really come to love, trust, and relate to.

St. Jude -- ora pro nobis!!

Jeannette said...

I picked Elizabeth because all the other saints I noticed were nuns or martyrs, and I wanted to get married and be a mom (it was the 70's so I had to keep that a secret for a while). I never narrowed it down to which Elizabeth but there are a lot of married St. Elizabeths.

There have been a few cases in history where a thirteen-year-old made worse decisions than that so I'm good with it.

I notice a lot of Kateri's now.

Suzanne said...

So that said, would be it very strange if I chose Mary Magdalen to be my confirmation name? I am worried that everyone will think that I'm a huge DiVinci code fan, or else somehow a reformed something. However, she is the saint I have the most devotion to. Seems like getting two names is somehow a better deal also.

Rebekka said...

Hmm. I didn't know that about it being your Heaven name for all eternity... Luckily I still like my confirmation name, even though it's not a saint name - it's Grace.

Julie said...

My confirmation name was Felicity. I knew she was a saint, but I actually picked her because there was a character in a book I liked with that name (I also request to be given a break - I was 12). However, it had nothing to do with the TV show of the same name, as everyone always asks. I was confirmed several years before that show was on, though I actually did watch it, mostly because of the name.

I can't say as I identify with Felicity much, never having faced danger of being eaten by lions, but I did think of her when I visited the Coliseum.

Anonymous said...

About confirmation names being used in Heaven--Don't worry! "To him who overcomes, ... I will give him a white pebble, and upon the pebble a new name written, which no one knows except him who receives it." Rev. 2:17.

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

I picked Elizabeth because it was my mother's name and I hoped that in choosing her name she would like me more. Is that sad or what? Don't worry, I don't struggle for her approval anymore.

RosieC said...

Julie,

Felicity is a great intercessor. She's even mentioned in the Roman Cannon (Eucharistic Prayer I).

That's the name that sort of came to me for one of the children we lost during pregnancy, and I liked the name, anyway. We figure our little Felicity is in Heaven, interceding for us.

(by any chance, are you an LM Montgomery fan?)

lafortunamarf said...

Mine is St. Germaine. We had a great library in our Catholic Grade School (early 60's) and I read up on all the Saints. I liked her because she offered up all of her afflictions during her short life and wasn't showy about it - and she had some mean old sisters. I also would like to know the basis of being called that in heaven - I really don't have a problem with it though.


My given name is Martha and my dear, beloved sister's name is Mary, which is why I was drawn to this blog.

Anonymous said...

Heather -
I just finished RCIA also, last fall, and no one said a thing to me about confirmation names. I did pick one out in case it was sprung on us at the last minute, but the priest never said a word about it. My nieces/nephews were confirmed recently (about 2 years ago) and they did have confirmation names. I guess it isn't a big deal anymore.

the mother of this lot said...

Hey Sister, I left you an award - please come by and get it!

Anonymous said...

I grew up on St. Florence Drive. Are you telling me there is no actual St. Florence?

My confirmation name is Cecilia...after my mother's sister who died at birth.

Cassie said...

I'm in with the group who were in the ccd program in the '70's and just picked a name I thought was pretty. I don't remember doing any research whatsoever other than to peruse my Lives of the Saints and choose a pretty one. Luckily I went with St. Catherine of Sienna so I guess I made out okay after all. I didn't know it would be my name in Heaven, but I don't think I'll mind one bit!

Anonymous said...

I picked St. Jude, too, just because I liked the sound of his name, and he was one of the few apostles' names who weren't taken by other guys in the Confirmation class!

I still like it very much.

RadioPie said...

Thank you so much!
I seem to be a part of the only RCIA class that has put an emphasis on choosing a confirmation name....There seem to be a lot of Elizabeths out there! I'm happy to know there isn't some secret list of blacklisted names (like certain numbers in sports that have been "retired"!)

Anonymous said...

I chose Maria for mine, so I guess I did alright considering my process was "hey, I'm chosing 'Maria' for my confirmation name. Why don't you?", "OK". And there it is.
Also 13 or so...don't remember anything about the importance of chosing a saint's name, but also don't remember much of anything that was taught. Fortunately, I've remedied that now and I'm making sure my children know what they need to know!

Janet said...

I was bummed when I went through RCIA that although we did pick confirmation names (I have two -- Francesca for Francis and Genevieve for one of the patron saints of Paris and my grandmother), they weren't written down anywhere and not used in the confirmation liturgy. So when I legally changed my last name a couple of years ago, I added Francesca and Genevieve to my legal name... and now have three middle names!

Haus said...

We have a church in our diocese (an Episcopal diocese) named after St. Martha. Glad to hear someone promoting her.

Kathleen said...

I picked Rose because I thought it flowed well with my whole name. It's a fine name, and St. Rose of Lima a fine saint, but I do wish I'd picked a saint I identified with first, not a name I liked first. We did have to write a report on the saint whose name we were taking, but, as I said, I think I went about it backwards.

Someone mentioned Kateri - how do you pronounce this? I know the saint pronounced it gah-dah-lee, but is that how it's said currently, or do people go with something more like kah-TER-ee?

MEJ said...

I chose Saint Monica. First I looked up August feasts, then names that started with M. I didn't realize how important she was until later, but I think she and I are a good fit because although I am not a wife or mother (yet, I'm only 23!), I try to be very perseverant and patient in my prayer and trust that God will do His will even if it is not exactly on my timeline.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I chose "Rose" too, but only because I had read a story about St. Therese (little flower...rose) and my sponsor was named "Rosemary" so I thought it would be a nice way to honor both. Also, I'm named after my Grandma Laura who had a thing for roses. I thought about being called Rose in Heaven and I kind of cringed, but we'll see, I guess!

Anonymous said...

I actually have a different Baptism name! My parents had me baptized as a baby at my grandmother's urging, but my given name was not a saints name, so the priest refused to use it and I was baptized Mary instead. The funny thing is, he also insisted on changing both of my parents' given names to the closest sounding saints name (e.g. Frank became Francis). So none of the names on my baptism certificate match those on my birth certificate. I was quite relieved not to be asked to pick a confirmation name, it would have been much too confusing. I wonder what they'll call us all in heaven (if we make it).
Hazel.

Lola said...

I was in the early 80's for my Confirmation. My mother didn't know how to help me chose a name so she called the convent to ask sister. "Oh, her regular given name will do"

I was the only kid who did. Thank goodness I found out that there is a saint with my same name. (Not my blogger name.)

Oh, well live and learn. I made sure my kiddos have saint names to start with. Just in case.

Lola said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, sister didn't know that I was named after my Protestant Great-Grandmother. And that side of the family never aimed for saint names. Maybe a biblical one now and then, but mostly named their children on something that sounded beautiful. Like Myrtle, or Hyacinth.

So it was a minor miracle that I lucked out with a Saint name.

This inablity to remember important information is what always messes me up in comic timing. I guess I'm a comic Dupa.

nikki said...

is there a Saint Kathryn? with that spelling?