From a reader…
Today at our new parish, we had the Bishop administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. Among the girls, 2 took the name Sebastian, 3 took Luke, 1 took John, 2 took Raphael, 2 took Francis, with one Michael. The other 2 girls chose Cecilia and Katherine. Is this acceptable? Notably, none of the boys chose Felicity or any other female names. As a homeschooler, I’m very hesitant to let these catechists form my son (he wants to be a priest). My husband and I were rocked by this and the bishop never batted an eye. It just felt dark and weird. Are we being too “rigid”?
“Dark and wierd…”
Hmmm. St. Jean Marie Vianney, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini…
The custom of taking a name at the time of Confirmation is not ancient, but is nonetheless laudable. Those to be confirmed take the name of a saint as a personal patron. The custom perhaps arose in imitation of vowed religious, who often take, or are given, another name to signify that their old life is over and their new life has begun. There is also the element of personal choice. While one’s baptismal name and patron saint was given by parents usually during infancy, at the time of confirmation, being a little older (in the Latin Church at least) one could choose a patron.
Names are important, more important perhaps than we think. Patron saints are also important. Choosing a personal patron could be a moment in a young person’s life when he or she truly makes the Faith a personal commitment.
Patrons provide us with examples to follow, and also powerful intercession. If they were only to provide us with good examples to follow, it might make sense for one’s patron to be of the same sex. Since they also are chosen to provide intercession, the grounds for choice shift somewhat.
Within our tradition, particularly within religious life, there are many examples of women either receiving from their superior (once very common) or choosing male patrons and male names. Visit the cemetery of a religious order and read the tombstones of Sr. Urban, Sr. Michael, Sr. George, Sr. Hyacinth. You might remember the funny British sitcom Bless me, Father with the ominous Mother Stephen (US HERE – UK HERE). Male religious often receive or choose women’s names, almost always that of the Blessed Virgin, and often in combination with a male name, such as Br. Mary John, Fr. Michael Mary, etc.
There’s also the feminization or masculinization of names. Michelle is from Michael. Joan is from John. St. Peter as a patron for a religious would result in Sr. Petra. A man wishing to invoke St. Faustina might take the name Faustino, though Faustina is probably from Faustinus in the first place.
So, the long and short of it is that all of the saints can provide us with powerful intercession. They can also serve as good examples for young people to grow in holiness.
The choice of a patron who is of the opposite sex is not something novel. It certainly isn’t “dark and weird”, unless there are other attendant issues, such as teachers pushing some sort of demonic “gender theory” or blurring of the distinction between the sexes.