Dear BYT: Why do I have an extra name?

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June 21, 2004

Today is the day to avoid Maxwell and that silver hammer.

Buy my book!

I bet you thought that it was the start of another humdrum week, didn't you. Didn't you?? But you are wrong.

Today we're answering a question that I actually posed to the BYT myself, because a non-Catholic asked me why we choose names for ourselves during confirmation, and I opened my mouth and realized that I forgot. Straight to hell.

Dear BYT:

So what's the deal? Why do I have this extra name?


Claire Buren "Gabriel" Zulkey

As is stated here,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

*This is going to be my Kabbalah name -ed.