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.
“And my confirmation name is…”