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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Margaret

We have had quite a lot of follow up questions about picking a Confirmation name. I've heard from a number of readers that some people don't even pick a new name any more. How sad. That's like everyone being baptized "John Doe". Even the girls.

The number one question was this one:
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

So now there are at least two things that I always took for granted which no one else ever so much as heard. The Dear Boy Savior Club, of which I was secretary in the second grade, is the other one. Perhaps I simply hallucinated that we had a club and I was the secretary and we learned "Robert's Rules" to run the meetings and we had little buttons with the Boy Jesus on them. Next, you'll tell me you never heard of "Robert's Rules".

Now, I'm willing to chalk this up to just another one of those things that the nuns made up. I won't even pretend nuns don't make things up. Sometimes they do it in gangs, meaning, the whole order, or one particular convent full will all say the same thing. "Animals do not go to heaven, or anywhere else when they die, because they do not have immortal souls and they are not held accountable for their behavior." That one didn't spring helplessly from the mind of some over zealous Mother Superior who was trying to answer the questions of first graders. That one comes from the minds of some the Church's greatest thinkers.

But sometimes the information comes from one particular nun who has some idea that she wants you to carry with you. We'll never know her motivation. I'm sure it is just something she truly believed.

This one, about the Confirmation name being the name you are called in heaven, seems to fall in the middle. I believe it was one nun in particular who told us that. I'm sure I've repeated it many times. No one has corrected me.

It's not a crazy thought. When you are baptized someone picks a name and some Godparents for you. When you are Confirmed in the Faith you pick your own name and your own sponsor. Why wouldn't you be called that name in heaven, since this is the name you are choosing for yourself, finally? Makes sense to me.

It may well be something some nun made up.

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?

You haven't thought this through. Do you really think that St. Francis was the only guy named Francis who came from Assisi that made it to heaven? Assisi is a big enough place and been around long enough that there must already be quite a few Francises of Assisis in heaven. And all of them are also St. Francis of Assisi because everyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint. So when you get to heaven, you can just look for the Francis of Assisi section.

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)
They will all be called John Doe or Jane Doe.


They will just have to make do with the names they were saddled with.

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.

That's a perfectly wonderful name. Mary Magelene was the first person to witness the most important event in history. That's about as good as it gets. I wouldn't worry about the "Da Vinci Code". There is a reason that book is listed under 'fiction'.

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

That's what I'm telling you. There are towns named St. Florence as well.
There are some names that are like Florence and I think that's where the name comes from.

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"!)

Well, there are saints that have been nixed and I have taken to discouraging people from picking them as Confirmation names. St. Christopher and St. Philomena, for example. Not that anyone would pick "Expeditus" as a Confirmation name, but he just flat out did not ever exist.

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

What was her problem? Maybe she was unhappy with you and thought you'd never measure up. I think Abe Lincoln had the same problem. His father thought his mother was stupid for naming him a great Biblical name like Abraham when it was obvious that this ugly baby would never measure up. And look how well he turned out.

I totally made that up about Abe Lincoln. The affliction must come with the veil.

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

Bernadette! How lovely.



Anonymous said...

Sister, I've read all the archives in the last two weeks. I am up to speed and I have to say, your catechism lessons have been so wonderful. I feel like I am back at St. Joseph's Grade School. This time I'm paying way more attention. Oh, and your humor is just the ticket. I now know not to drink milk while reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

Sister, I've read all the archives in the last two weeks. I am up to speed and I have to say, your catechism lessons have been so wonderful. I feel like I am back at St. Joseph's Grade School. This time I'm paying way more attention. Oh, and your humor is just the ticket. I now know not to drink milk while reading your blog.

bill7tx said...

Sister, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your weblog, and that I appreciate the effort you put into it.

Please don't overlook my Confirmation patron saint, Joseph of Nazareth (not Cupertino). He doesn't seem to get picked much these days (not that it hurts his feelings, I'm sure), which seems like a shame. Hard-working, faithful, not one to bring attention to himself, did his job and didn't ask any questions once he understood what was going on.

PraiseDivineMercy said...

Sister, thanks so much for answering.
In great kindness, one more question please:
I'm planning on joining a traditional order of nuns. In most of these orders the sisters take a religious name with their vows. Would this name be considered in preference to the confirmation name, or under it?
Also, after thinking about it, I wonder if confirmation name would be more like either your first name or surname in heaven. Just a thought. After all, if your parents named you after Saint Therese, and you are confirmed as Catherine, why ditch dear St. Therese? Shouldn't it be 'the more the merrier'? I am certain the saints in heaven are happy to share the load of patronage--being saints, they don't get jealous.

Anonymous said...

my first name is alexa, my confirmation name is mara, and my maiden name begins with a "d". when i was married to my late-husband, our last name began with "g". I always thought that was pretty cool, that my initials were amdg for awhile anyhow...

it means "all for the honor and glory of God." or, at least i've been thinking it does all these years...

and that's what it's all about anyhow, right?

Anonymous said...

With Sr. Mary Ellen's help, I picked St. Potamiaena so I could win the longest name contest in 8th grade. Please give me a break too, I have improved! When I was being confirmed, the Bishop did not know how to say the name so I said it for him. I remember . . . in a bar once, I told a Catholic guy my confirmation name, and he said he wanted to marry a woman who had the chutzpah to pick a name like Potamiaena!! (I was already taken)

St. Potamiaena was persecuted for being a Christian and died in 202. She was put to death with boiling pitch. Yuck.

It is so wonderful to have the communion of saints, and have a special intercessor in heaven. What a all encompassing faith we have.

Anonymous said...

Sister, I wonder if you can help me find a saint. I know her story, but can't remember her name. She was martyred by her husband because she refused to participate in a eucharist presided over by a heretical minister. I *think* she lived very early in the church - like before the 5th century. Do you (or any commenters) know who she was? I'm doing some searches on-line, but so far, haven't found her. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My husband has taught the Robert's Rules of Order. He was a state FFA officer. Great, now who hasn't heard of the FFA?

Katie Alender said...

But what if a person chooses, say, St. Clare, and then goes on to achieve sainthood herself? (Note: this is not autobiographical.) To what section of heaven would she report?

Anonymous said...


Re-read Mother's post: EVERYONE in Heaven is a Saint (because they are in Heaven), so ALL Clare's will be St. Clare. If they aren't Saints, they won't be hanging around in Heaven.

Anonymous said...

Our Director of Religious Education also discourages (but doesn't ban) confirmation names. She said that it's because we're supposed "keep" our baptism somehow (as if being Confirmed with a different name opposes it somehow?). But most of the catechists and parents suggest using them, so most of the students do pick Confirmation names -- the catechists at least try to have them research the saints first and suggest that they think about picking one who connects to their lives.

Beth said...

Mine is Margaret too!

and I liked it so much I named my daughter's middle name Margaret.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,
I notice recently that you've been answering back questions so I thought I'd try again. I'm the Episcopalian in Brooklyn who lives down the street from a Roman Catholic church but a long subway ride from her own. My dilemma is about the Eucharist. Will I be transgressing if I take communion at RC mass?

Anonymous said...

There is a saint Florence. She was the sister of saint Isidore and saint Leandre. She died ca 636 and her feast day is August 18.

Anonymous said...

anonymous: The short answer is..."yes"

Jane said...

Alexa--yes, that's cool about your initials spelling out AMDG. It stands for "ad majorem Dei gloriam" which means "to the greater glory of God." It is the motto of the Jesuit Order, and a lot of Jesuits or people educated by or affiliated with Jesuits will put "AMDG" on their stationary.

Sister--thanks for telling us your confirmation name! My grandmother is called Margaret.

Margaret in Minnesota said...

I think that's a beautiful confirmation name, as well. ;)

Anonymous said...

Margaret of Antioch or Margaret of Scotland?

And about Margarets - I thought Margaret of Antioch was the patron of childbirth, but I see above that there is a St. Raymond who has that covered. Are there several?



Anonymous said...

Dear Sister MM,
Today is Ash Wednesday, which brings up the whole Sundays off thing for the giving whatever up for Lent question. Do Sundays count? Please settle this once and for all!