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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maria, I Just Met a Boy Named.....

There was a song a few years back, quite a few years back, that was extremely popular. It was popular enough that the sentiment and title of the song became part of our lexicon of thought. The song itself was what used to be called a "novelty" song, and  "A Boy Named Sue" by Johnny Cash became a reference joke for years to come.

The song tells the story of a man who had to go through life with the name of "Sue" and how extremely difficult his life was with this woman's name. He spent his life angry and bitter and hating his father. His father had saddled him with the name "Sue" and then abandoned him. The song traces the man's life to the day he finally encounters his long lost father in a bar and they have a real donny brook. After the fight, Sue asks his father why he did it. There is a touching moment where the old man explains that he knew he wouldn't be around to raise the child and wanted to give him a name that would cause the boy to learn to stand up for himself.  His plan had indeed worked.  The man and his father reconcile in a tearful reunion. The final advice given by Mr. Cash (as Sue) is that if you have a son you should name him, "Bill or George! Anything but Sue!"

Which brings me to today's question from a reader, a follow up to our last post:

I've actually had a similar question, but since I'm a guy I've been much more hesitant to bring it up. I'm in the RCIA process right now and have been thinking about a confirmation name for a while, but the only saints that have really resonated with me have been female. As a protestant, I was very much drawn to the life and work of Bl. Mother Teresa, and now I find myself fascinated with St. Teresa of Avila as well. I'd pick Teresa in a heartbeat if there weren't a weirdness about a guy picking a girl's name. I'd just like to get your take on that, and if you could think of another male saint whose work closely mirrored that of Bl. Mother Teresa, I'd be happy to hear about it.

Here is my take on it.  I can't think of any saints, male or otherwise, whose work closely mirrored that of Bl. Mother Teresa. She is in a class by herself. Father Damien, who was recently canonized, famously worked with lepers, but his life is not very similar to that of Mother Teresa, really.

And Damien, thanks to another cultural reference point, is now thought of as another name for the devil, because that's the name of the little devil boy in "The Omen" ( I through XII). Not that that silliness should actually influence your choice. We know you're not going to throw anyone's mother off a balcony or run over anyone with your tricycle.

It's up to you whether or not you want to have Teresa as your Confirmation name. There is one small point you might consider. Unless someone asks you, or you want to run around blabbing your Confirmation name to everyone, no one is ever going to know what it is, except for you and God (and the St. Teresa's).  It doesn't go on to any legal documents or hospital records or anything of the kind. No one is ever going to peer over their half glasses and shout into a waiting room full of people, "Thomas William Teresa Smith? Thomas William Teresa Smith?"

If you have the nerve to have the congregation hear that your Confirmation name is "Sue"...I mean, "Teresa"....in the moment in which it is given to you by the bishop, no one need ever hear it spoken aloud again, unless someone asks you the direct question, "Hey, there, what's your Confirmation name?"

It happens. Not often, but it happens.

I can't tell you what to do. Your trepidation is entirely understandable. It doesn't seem fair that women can take on men's names with impunity and it doesn't seem to work the other way. Perhaps our readers have some suggestions.

If I were you I may be tempted to take Teresa anyhow. You are, after all, becoming a soldier of Christ. It certainly toughened up the boy named Sue.


Anonymous said...

St. Rocco

Anonymous said...

St. Max Kolbe took the name "Mary" as I recall.

When I heard that song by Johnny Cash when I was a kid I knew I would have to learn to play guitar and sing, and I did.

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

I know a few of the older priests who took names in religion often took Mary as a secondary ("Fr. Francis Mary") name, and I believe that in the Mexican culture taking a woman saint's name as a middle name is also commonly done by males. You could also hyphenate the name (such as Miguel-Teresa) or use the name in a different language so as to disguise the feminine.

Paulina said...

Well, when I read something about taking the name Teresa for a male my memory recall someone with that name as part of his last name.

Taking the name Maria, (Mary in Spanish) is not a problem, at least in spanish speaking countries, because of combined male names as Jose Maria, the same goes for Guadalupe in male names.

Anonymous said...

In other countries, men often have a middle name "Maria." I'm thinking even of Klaus Maria Brandauer, the actor. It's not unusual.

Why not Teresa? Because we never dress our little boys in pink? Cultural oddity, not spiritual reality.

Sue said...

I hated that song as a child, being a Sue and all (not Susan - Sue Ann, actually, but few people call me that on a regular basis). I heard it on the radio very recently, and finally understood the meaning. Totally cracked me up!

I think you should go with Teresa if that's the Saint dearest to your heart. The hyphenating idea also sounds good to me, if you have a second favorite that is a male.

Anonymous said...

In my parish, the Confirmandi's name is printed along with their choice of Confirmation name. So, to go with your example, the church program for that day (which includes the readings and hymns) would say: Thomas William Smith - St. Teresa

You can have all the private devotions you want to a male/female saint without choosing it for a Confirmation name. There are many ways to honor a saint besides tacking their name on to your own. A good number of Catholics (for whatever reason) do not even remember the name they chose because they never cultivated a lasting devotion to that saint. It's a shame that it happens, but it does. You may have a burning devotion to a particular saint at the time of your confirmation, but then your spirituality changes and you take on a different devotion. Personally, I never cared for the other Saint Therese (the Little Flower) as a child, teen, or young woman - but now that I am older, I am very inspired by her. I still think it's best for boys/men to choose male saints, and girls/women to choose females. It doesn't restrict you from devotion to the thousands and thousands of other saints, or saints yet to come!

~Ana Paula~A Católica said...

A Salute over here from BRASIL, Sister!!

A delightful and wonderful Post of Yours! I must say that!!

I have this opinion: girls must have a girl name and boys, a boy name. Simple like that.

We do not have to expose our children or even ourselves to the jokes of anybody. Life is TOUGH enough, right, Sister?

Stay you and All Your Readers in the Peace of God!

Anonymous said...

Why not take the male form of the name, "Terrence" and clarify that it is for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta?

Anonymous said...

What about using her last name. Is that allowed?

JP said...

Can anyone pronounce Bl. Teresa of Calcutta's last name?

Smiley said...

I have to say that in India we did not chose a confirmation name, is this a tradition of the universal church or north america specific