If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition, Confirmation – at least for Catholics – is the final sacrament of initiation. In some ways, it marks a child’s full membership in the church, almost like a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. There’s lots that goes into it, but an important part involves candidates for Confirmation choosing a saint to serve as their personal role model.
That’s right. Sometime around the end of middle school, you get to choose a whole new name.
Ideally, we’re moved to choose our saint because of a spiritual meaning. They’re the patron saint associated with something that matters to us, or we find their story inspiring.
It’s not because we think the saint’s name is just plain great … though searches to this site for “cool saint names” suggest that it’s always a factor, too.
Faith aside, though, I love that a rite of passage incorporates taking a new name.
Because there’s something about entering adolescence, and having the chance to define ourselves, that feels particularly appropriate. Our parents give us our name at birth, but as we grow, it feels like we ought to be able to choose part of our identity for ourselves.
Western culture doesn’t make much space for that. A legal name change comes with costs and paperwork and a certain amount of hassle. And, really, the name I would’ve given myself at 13 or maybe even at 17 might not have been ideal.
But the concept still appeals.
Confirmation names are relatively low stakes. They don’t become part of your legal identity. For all the people that I know, even within my parish, I really don’t know their confirmation names unless they choose to share them deliberately, and very few people do.
And so I’ll ask this community: do you have a Confirmation name? (Or a similar name from another faith tradition or secular custom?) Would you choose it again if you had the chance?
Do I need to say it? If your favorite name is James, and your sister’s favorite name is Astra, you both need to agree to not talk about it. Really. One of my new rules: arguments about names are usually NOT about names. They’re a proxy for systems of belief, lifestyle choices, and a zillion other things. I like the advice from the psychologist in this article: when asked for an opinion, “I always recommend caution.”
Can science tell us which names are most pleasing? Maybe … this study is based on phonemes, or units of sound. It puts Sophia at #1 for girls; Matthew at the top for boys. I have lots more thoughts about this, but I’ll save them for Tuesday’s newsletter. (Subscribe below!)
I’m fascinated by this challenge from Swistle. They want to name a daughter with the middle name Mary, that will go with the maybe-possibly-future sister name Freya Florence.
Namespotting IRL: twin sisters named Alice and Clara. I’m not sure why, but I find that such a perfectly balanced pair. Traditional, familiar but not Top Ten, feminine but not fussy.
It’s that time again! Namerology is taking nominations for the Name of the Year. Read all about it – and submit your nominations – here. Past winners include Delta, Karen, and Atticus. Names really are a snapshot of what’s happening in the world.
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That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!