Confirmation Names

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

In celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation I’m often intrigued by, and sometimes bemused by, the names candidates take as they receive the sacrament.
As you know, it’s customary, though not obligatory, for the Confirmandi to take a new name. And the taking of a new name at various moments of our religious journey is not unusual; it’s part of our tradition. An infant is named in the Baptism Rite. Consecrated men and women assume a new name at their profession. And, of course, the pope takes a new name when he’s elected.
Why are Confirmation candidates invited to take a new name? Well, as in the examples cited above, it’s a way of marking a new beginning, a new chapter in their journey of faith. Adopting a saint gives them a role model, an example of virtue, and a new friend to turn to in times of need. Often a great deal of thought goes into the choice of a Confirmation name.
Some names are chosen because of a personal interest or activity of the student. Many girls take the name Cecilia, patroness of musicians, if they themselves are musicians. Recently a young lady took the name Vitus, the patron saint of dancers. Lots of guys take the name Sebastian, patron of athletes.
Students often take a new name for family reasons, in honor of a deceased relative for example. I remember a girl taking the name Brian, after her baby brother who had just died. The name Dymphna shows up more than you would expect. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of mental illness.
Sometimes the choice of a Confirmation name can be whimsical, though the presumption is always that it has some Christian roots. I recall a Confirmation I had in another diocese when two students in succession, side-by-each, announced their names as Adam and Eve. (More than a coincidence I think!) One young man, in bold defiance of his pastor’s instructions, proclaimed that his name was “Bean.” (Is there a St. Bean somewhere?) And one student took the name “Hercules” because he wanted to be strong in living his faith and defeating his enemies.
These frivolous examples aside, the choice of a Confirmation name can be a grace-filled opportunity, a chance for a young person to mark a new beginning in their life of faith and to form a new relationship with a heavenly friend.
Something to think about: What is your Confirmation name? Why did you choose it?