An interesting discussion unfolds this week at PrayTell on the practice of taking a confirmation name. For the purpose of full disclosure, I admit I have such a name. I also admit that I didn’t discourage the young miss when she couldn’t decide between Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Avila. I didn’t suggest neither. She took the former.
I would be one of those who look down on the practice. I dislike it for a few reasons. First, it gets baptism off the hook. Second, it attributes too much to a magic moment approach to the sacraments. Third, the tradition was never very deep to begin with. Four, I think we can do better than revive old customs for the sake of spiritual nostalgia. We can do better.
That said, I feel less inclined to be an ogre about it than I did two or three decades ago. The young miss knows a bit more her saint than the young woman who chose Odo of DS9, not of Cluny.
In the realm of room-for-improvement, I don’t see why Confirmation is the only time a new saint can come into a believer’s life. But the recovery of this tradition might tend to reinforce just that. When circumstances suggest, why not add saints temporarily or permanently? And more than just calling on Anthony for lost items. Or the Blessed Mother because 999 million other Catholics do it. Do Catholic believers, even traditionalist/conservative/confirmation name sorts even go deep into the saints to find special patrons and invoke their assistance with God for special intentions or situations?
If a person is serious enough to adopt a saint, it seems there should be some minimum threshold for taking it all seriously. Does a person know the feast of the saint and does the person attend Mass on that day? Or develop an important spiritual practice to accompany? It’s more than just absorbing knowledge about a saint. Christian faith isn’t about what you know. It’s about with whom you associate, and how well-developed those relationships are.
To sum up, I dislike the old tradition not because it’s old, but because it’s inadequate.