The legality of Confirmation names, and going by a different name than your legal name

I was going through some paperwork of my father-in-law’s yesterday and found the court order legally changing his last name from the consonant-heavy surname his father brought with him from Poland to an English surname that shares enough sounds with the original Polish surname to make sense of the change. Though my FIL died when my husband was small, we’ve always known that he and his siblings legally changed their surname, so that wasn’t a surprise — but what was a surprise was that, in the documents, I read that my FIL had been using this new English surname his whole life. He’d been registered under it in school and had it on his high school diploma, and according to the document, “All records of employment, registration under the Selective Service Act, and voting records” had already, always, been under the new English surname, despite the fact that he didn’t apply for the legal change until he was 25. So interesting, right?!

One question that my husband and I have had that wasn’t answered by this document, though, is when and how he took his Confirmation name as his legal middle name (he hadn’t been given a middle name at birth). This document has his full name as including the Confirmation-as-middle, but no mention of making it so legally, so I assume it had already been done. Or not? Maybe it didn’t need to be? This was back in the 50’s, and also, even now, in New York State anyway (which is where I am and where my FIL lived his whole life), you can go by any name you want without getting a legal name change. According to the New York State Unified Court System,

In New York State, you have the right to adopt any name you wish by using that name for everything in your life. This does not apply to children or prison inmates. But, it may be better to legally change your name because most government agencies will not accept your name change without a court order.

You can ask the court to legally change the name you were given at birth, adoption or marriage.”

And indeed, in my FIL’s application for legal name change, he wrote that having his surname legally changed to the surname he’d always used “will prevent confusion and possible legal difficulties for me in the future.” So I wonder if his usage of his Confirmation name as his middle name was just one of those things — he just started using it, and that was fine, and no one bothered about it, and it became so established as his middle name (or it was such a common practice for people to do that kind of thing) that he didn’t even feel the need to explicitly mention it in his application for his surname change? (In preparing to write this post this morning, I re-read this article I’d written for CatholicMom on middle names — I found it so interesting all over again! Haha!)

Anyway, that reminded me of something I read recently about Confirmation names actually having usage in real life that I’d wanted to share with you. This is from the Christian Names entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) on New Advent:

The practice of adopting a new name was not limited to baptism. Many medieval examples show that any notable change of condition, especially in the spiritual order, was often accompanied by the reception of a new name. In the eighth century the two Englishmen, Winfrith and Willibald, going on different occasions to Rome received from the reigning pontiff, along with a new commission to preach, the names respectively of Boniface and Clement. So again Emma of Normandy, when she married King Ethelred in 1002, took the name Ælfgifu; while, of course, the reception of a new name upon entering a religious order is almost universal even in our day. It is not strange, then, that at confirmation, in which the interposition of a godfather emphasizes the resemblance with baptism, it should have become customary to take a new name, though usually no great use is made of it. In one case, however, that of Henry III, King of France — who being the godson of our English Edward VI had been christened Edouard Alexandre in 1551 — the same French prince at confirmation received the name of Henri, and by this he afterwards reigned. Even in England the practice of adopting a new name at confirmation was remembered after the Reformation, for Sir Edward Coke declares that a man might validly buy land by his confirmation name, and he recalls the case of a Sir Francis Gawdye, late Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, whose name of baptism was Thomas and his name of confirmation Francis (Co. Litt. 3a).”

I’d never heard a story like that about Confirmation names before!

You know I’m always interested in hearing personal, real-life, interesting name stories, so feel free to share!

Religious names: One community’s tradition

You guys. Three of my boys had the amazing opportunity to be part of a week-long Vacation Bible School with two of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville), finishing up today. I can’t even. It was so amazing. Not least because my boys LOVED it, and they started out not loving the idea of having to go to school in the summertime. But mostly because the Sisters were awesome. I know a lot of you have the opportunity to be around Sisters, but we don’t, and this week has just been such a gift. Check out a photo here.

But! What I really wanted to write about was their names! The Sisters we had this week are Sr. Mary Celeste and Sr. Vincent Marie, and I was dying all week to ask them about how they chose their names. Joy of joys, today they let the kids ask any question they wanted, and one of them asked about their names, and they shared that, in their community, on the day of their profession they receive their habit and their new name. They can give three ideas to Mother Superior of names they might like, and she might choose one of them, or she might choose a totally different one. I was so interested by that! I just assumed you got to choose your own!

I would have loved to have chatted with the Sisters about their particular names, but alas, we all wanted to be with them every second, and there’s only so much of them to go around and so many minutes in a day, so I didn’t have the opportunity. I know there are some of you here who have contemplated religious life, even having spent time in the convent as a postulant and/or novice — please tell us about the name traditions you’re familiar with! And please pray for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia!

Faaabulous Brit Catholic baby, and a fun question

One of you wonderful readers sent me the story of the birth of UK Parliament Member Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sixth baby, and then I saw it all over my FB feed! Everyone’s going gaga over this little guy! And for sure it’s because of his amazing name: Sixtus Dominic Boniface Christopher!

😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Indeed, Rees-Mogg is Catholic, as his baby’s name proclaims! (Also, as his sister’s name proclaims — Annunziata!) Little Sixtus is also the sixth baby! According to British Baby Names, he joins siblings:

Peter Theodore Alphege
Mary Anne Charlotte Emma
Thomas Wentworth Somerset Dunstan
Anselm Charles Fitzwilliam
Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius

In Rees-Mogg’s announcement on IG he referred to the big sibs as Peter, Mary, Thomas, Anselm, and Alfred, so no double names or interesting nicknames as far as I know. I love seeing Anselm in the first name spot! Congratulations to the whole family!

This all brings me to what I intended to post today — Cat said in a comment a couple of weeks ago:

I’d love to see a post and comments on the most unique or out-there Catholicky Catholic name people have ever used or known a person with that name.”

I would love to know that too! I’m on my way out the door and can’t martial my thoughts to share my own, but I can’t wait to read yours!

Currently popular Catholic names

In Monday’s consultation an interesting question was raised. The mom of the post, Kym, had said:

names often heard in Catholic circles: Rose, Therese, Mary-Agnes, Bernadette, Zelie — all would be out.

Cara commented,

I would love a post or follow up on what names are Catholic popular? The only one that comes to mind is Zelie.. . . . . Would love to hear your opinion on others

And Kym shared,

In my area, the Catholic popular names are: Therese, anything with Mary or Anne (Anne-Marie, Anne-Elizabeth, Mary-Grace, Mary-Helen), Kateri, Bernadette, Gianna, Zelie, Genevieve, and I’ve come across a lot of Veronicas.

Boys would be Benedict, Joseph, John Paul, Michael, Francis, Dominic, etc…”

What a fun topic to discuss! It’s related to but just a little different from the lists of Unmistakably Catholic boy names and girl names we compiled recently.

When I think of Catholic popular names, I think of the names that are being used a lot *now* — not the names that have always been popular with Catholic families, but the ones that are popular with 21st century Catholic families. There’s some good overlap, for sure, but not totally, especially when it comes to the new saints/blesseds like Zelie, Kateri, Gianna, Chiara, Maximilian and Kolbe, and John Paul. I thought Kym did a great job listing the ones that show up frequently in current Catholic families; in addition to those I thought some others I might add would be (rifling through the Catholic families I know):

Girls
Caroline and Karoline
Catherine
Clare and Chiara
Cora
Edith
Evangeline
Faustina
Helen and Helena
Lily and Lillian
Lucy and Lucia and Lucille
Magdalene
Margaret
Rosemary
Seraphina
Stella

Boys
Augustine
Blaise
Fulton
Gabriel
George
Jude
Kolbe
Leo
Louis
Luke
Maximilian
Sebastian

In those lists (mine and Kym’s) I see a lot of distinctive names — names that parents choose because they’re not heard so much in secular (American) circles and they have great faith connections, like Kateri, Karoline, Chiara, Evangeline, Faustina, Gianna, Magdalene, Seraphina, Zelie, Augustine, Benedict, Blaise, Fulton, John Paul, Jude, Kolbe, and Sebastian. I also see the vintage/retro/nursing home names that are coming back in style in society as a whole: Agnes, Bernadette, Cora, Edith, Helen, Lillian, Lucille, Rose and Rosemary, Stella, George, Leo, and Louis.

I’d love to know what names all your Catholic friends are using! When you all get together, which names are worn by multiple children?

The importance of names in this particular beatification case

Have any of you seen this article? On the road to sainthood: Family of 9 murdered for hiding Jews in Poland by Dominika Cicha, posted yesterday at Aleteia.

It was more horrifying than I anticipated: The Ulma family — the 44-year-old dad, his 32-year-old pregnant wife, and their seven children (ages 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 1.5, and unborn) — were shot and killed for hiding eight Jews (father, mother, and four sons of the Szall family, and two daughters of the Goldman family), who were also killed. The Jews were murdered first, in front of the family; then the parents, in front of the children; then the children.

And some people don’t believe the devil exists. SMH.

This holy family consisted of:

Józef (dad)
Wiktoria (mom)
Stanisława “Stasia” (age 8)
Barbara “Basia” (age 6)
Władysław “Władzio” (age 5)
Franciszek “Franuś” (age 4)
Antoni “Antoś” (age 3)
Maria “Marysia” (age 1.5)
Unnamed baby, who was due not long after the killings, and was discovered partially born when a few men from the village secretly recovered the bodies for a proper burial

All I can think of when reading something like this is Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The particular detail of this story that caused me to want to post it here is this bit:

At the diocesan stage of the process a decision was made to add the Ulmas’ six children, because of their parents’ faith. There is dilemma concerning the child who died in mother’s womb. Provisions applying to canonizations and beatifications clearly stipulate that a candidate to be declared saint or blessed in the Catholic Church should be known by first and second name. The Vatican congregation will ultimately decide whether the youngest member of Józef and Wiktoria’s family will be considered a martyr, too.”

I did some research and couldn’t find that information anywhere — that a candidate needs to be known by first and and second name. Certainly the baby’s credentials are not based on disagreements about personhood, as the Church holds we are persons from the moment of conception. And of course not being beatified or canonized doesn’t mean the baby isn’t in heaven, just that the Church doesn’t have enough information to declare him or her to be so.

The fact that this comes down to his or her name is also really interesting from the perspective of choosing names for our babies before they’re born, and not just a boy name and a girl name, but the baby’s actual name, which would require finding out the sex during pregnancy. Are there some among us who might decide to find out our baby’s sex, in order to name him or her, so that if the worst happens our babies will be known by name and be able to be included among the list of Venerables/Blesseds/Saints? Given the wide range of personalities in the Church, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some who would do so!

I wonder, too, if “be known by first and second name” means more than just having a name, but also means that others must know it? That is, not just that there’s a name the parents have given or intend to give to the baby, but that it’s one that’s been shared with others, so much so that others would know and refer to the baby by that name?

I wonder, too, if the Church can name the baby. Though that right and privilege is given to parents, this is certainly an unusual situation that might require an unusual solution.

Also, what is this “second name” business? Perhaps a new requirement? I’m just thinking of when people didn’t even necessarily have surnames, but we certainly have saints from back then. (Not that the second name matters here — the baby’s second name IS known:  Ulma.)

I’m not being argumentative, I’m just interested. I trust the Church’s process, and I know there is so often more to a story than what we know.

In trying to find out more, I was googling variations on “can children and babies be canonized” and I was getting pages and pages of results having to do with Jacinta and Francisco — I couldn’t get past them! I did find a couple things that I thought were helpful and/or interesting, though:

Divinis Perfectionis Magister is the 1983 Apostolic Constitution by Pope John Paul II that outlines the canonization process (no mention of names though)

Child saints have much to teach the Church on suffering, sacrifice by Charles Collins at Crux 

5 Child Saints Who Totally Put All of Us Adults to Shame at ChurchPOP

It’s important to note that with the Ulma children, there isn’t any controversy about whether they were old enough to have led lives of “heroic virtue” (as is sometimes argued in regards to children), as they’re being considered martyrs (though even then, it’s an unusual case I think, because they’re being considered martyrs “because of their parents’ faith” rather than because of their own).

If any of you can point me to any sources that explain or demonstrate that candidates for the canonization process need to be known by first and second name, please do! And also, the idea of children being considered by virtue of their parents’ faith (I’ll be musing on that for a while — it certainly adds an extra something to parents’ responsibilities in regards to their children!).

 

To do or not to do: Non-firstborn Junior

I’ve been trying to get this post written for, literally, weeks, ever since Grace’s consultation post in which she said,

I suggested Simon for a boy but Simon said that ship has sailed since we didn’t name our first born Simon but I disagree

And I said,

though perhaps it’s more traditional to name a firstborn son after dad, if you’re going to do that kind of thing, it’s not UNtraditional nor unheard of to give Dad’s name to a subsequent son. I’ve got loads of personal examples: we named our firstborn after our two dads, and our second boy got my husband’s name as a middle, my brother’s second son is a Junior, my two brothers were named after my grandfathers, and if there was ever a third boy he would have gotten my dad’s name as a middle. There’s something really nice about naming a non-firstborn after Dad, actually — there are a lot of traditional firstborn ‘perks,’ so saving Dad’s name for a second/third/fourth son could help even the playing field a bit.”

(Just to clarify: By “Junior” I mean using Dad’s name either in its entirety as a first+middle combo, or using either his first or middle as the son’s first or middle. This isn’t the actual definition of course; this explains the rules for all of it.)

I was interested to hear about your thoughts and experiences too! One of you emailed me to say,

my husband is the third born son and he is a junior. His father passed away when he was two so he absolutely loves being a junior.”

My aforementioned brother and sister-in-law Juniored their second son, and my SIL explained that her thought process is similar to mine,

we did talk about not having a junior and using [a different] middle name but we figured if we were going to use the [the same first] name … we would make him a junior.

We also felt that being a first male born is a big deal and being a 1st male and a junior might be too much! So I always liked that our Jr is our 2nd born.”

And a friend of mine connected me with a friend of hers whose second son has the same first name as Dad. For them, it was more important to name their first son after a different man:

A couple of years prior to my first son’s birth, one of my husband’s closest friends (named Michael) was killed in Iraq as a Marine. As soon as we knew I was pregnant with a boy, we knew we would named him Michael.

My second son is named after my husband. If not for Michael losing his life we may have named our first son after my husband. I’m not sure.”

The idea of honoring a different man than the dad with the first son’s name — and not naming a son after Dad until the third one! — is actually an  old naming custom in Irish, English, Italian, and Scottish families, and other heritages as well.

But a couple of you felt strongly that Junioring a non-firstborn is to be advised against:

I do know a set of brothers (grown men in their 60’s …) and the older brother somehow feels that the parents saved the junior name for the younger brother and feels hurt by it — to the point where the whole family cautions against using junior for a younger brother … So, if a family wants to use a junior name on a younger son, it might be a good idea to check with the older brothers and make sure that they wouldn’t feel jealous/hurt/unworthy, etc. Or at least they could kind of feel the situation out without tipping their hand too much if they think that they don’t want to burden a kid with making that kind of decision.”

And,

I never gave much thought to the importance of name order until I met my husband. He’s the oldest and he and his younger brother have the same middle name, but their parents called the younger brother by his (their) middle name. The name was their paternal grandfather’s name and their deceased uncle’s name. So, it’s a family name and was given to my husband first as his middle name, then repeated and “chosen” for his younger brother. It has been an issue between them and their parents for their whole life. We chose to never use a family name because of it. I think a family name can be an honor, but it has the potential to cause hurt feelings when not used traditionally.”

So a lot of good thoughts here! I feel so badly for anyone who feels hurt over the name their parents gave them (or didn’t give them), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue in those cases is often bigger than just the name. Like the name is a symptom of a bigger problem, you know? So while my personal feeling is still that Junioring a non-firstborn is not that big a deal and can in fact be a really great thing, I also think that particular personalities and family culture should be taken into account as much as possible, if possible. Also, these strategies might help in trying to make sure all your kids know how special each of their names are, no matter who they are/are not named after.

I also did a quick search for articles/posts on the topic, and came up with a couple good ones:

Naming Baby After Dad — Classic or Showy? by the Name Lady

Junior status: Sharing dad’s name a mixed bag, which quotes name expert Cleveland Kent Evans

And this craziness, which isn’t on point but is related: We’re Halfway to the Perfect Namesake Name! (The mom wonders about using “ISS” instead of “II” or “Jr.” — have you heard of this??)

What do you all think? Do you have any other examples for either the pro or con list?