Q. My son is preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation next year. He wants to take the name “Moses.” Since Moses was never canonized as a saint, may he choose that name?
A. When we look at Sacred Scripture, the taking of a new name represents a great change or a new task in one’s life. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham (Gen 17:5); Sarai is changed to Sarah (Gen 17:15); God gives Jacob the name of Israel (Gen 35:10). Jesus tells Simon, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18).
The taking of a new name is common among men and women who take vows in religious orders, as a sign of the new life that they are undertaking. And we are all familiar with the fact that when a man is elected pope, he takes a new name.
In Rite of Baptism for Infants, the priest or deacon asks the parents, “What name do you give this child”? In bringing children forward to be baptized, parents are setting their child on a new path as Christian disciples, through the washing away of Original Sin and the gift of God’s grace.
In the same vein, a Christian seeking Confirmation chooses a new name to symbolize the new life that is chosen. When we choose the name of a saint for Confirmation, we ask for the intercession of that person who is in heaven with God for all eternity. As we study the life of our chosen saint, we desire to imitate the virtues and generosity of the saint.
Canon Law does not address the names chosen for Confirmation. However, it does speak of the names that may not be chosen at Baptism, which would be a suitable standard for choosing a name for Confirmation. Canon Law says, “Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given” (Can. 855).
Thus, choosing the name “Moses” as a Confirmation name would be a worthy name to choose. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the sanctity of patriarchs like Moses: “The patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions” (CCC 61).
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