It is not required for a catechumen to take a new name. Back in 1970, when I was baptized, it was suggested that I add a name of a saint, as neither my first nor second names were of saints. The priest suggested “Thomas” because it was close to “Todd,” but for some reason I wanted “Joseph.” I know why now, but I didn’t know then. Here is the rubric for “Giving of a New Name.” Note it is provided when the cultural context of the catechumen would be that entering a religious tradition, or switching to another would suggest a new name be given or chosen. In other words, it’s not a Christian expectation, but if it’s a cultural one, we will adapt.
73. At the discretion of the diocesan bishop, the giving of a new name to persons from cultures in which it is the practice of non-Christian religions to give a new name may follow the signing of the candidates with the cross (RCIA 54-56). This may be either a Christian name or one familiar with the culture, provided such a name is not incompatible with Christian beliefs. (In some cases it will suffice to explain the Christian understanding of the catechumens’ given names.) If a new name is given, one of the following formularies may be used.
The formularies are quite simple: “By what name do you wish to be called,” and the catechumen responds. Form B has the celebrant stating, “N, from now on you will (also) be called, N.,” and the catechumen responds, “Amen.”
The rite adds a footnote to this ritual, that if this naming is done at the rite of acceptance, it will not be repeated on Holy Saturday.
RCIA 74 provides that a physical cross be given, in addition to the single or multiple signings:
74. The presentation of a cross on occasion may be incorporated into the rite either before or after the invitation to the celebration of the word of God (RCIA 60).
You have been marked with the cross of Christ. Receive now this sign of his love.
Curious wording that this presentation may be done “on occasion.” In my parish, this was incorporated into the very end of the signing of the senses.
This post concludes our examination of the first great ritual of the RCIA, the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate. The next several posts will find us examining the instructions for the catechumenate period. It will be interesting to measure what your parish does, or what your experiences were, and how they fit with the Church’s expectations not only of the liturgical life of the catechumenate, but the expectations of forming newcomers in the way of Christ.