The ruling on Confirmation names borrows from the practice at Baptism. The earlier 1917 Code of Canon Law required a Christian name be used, including saints’ names but also virtues “or the like.” Unfortunately for my mom, her parents chose the name Evelyn, derivative of the biblical Eve. That didn’t sit well with the priest, who exercised his canonical right to add a Christian name, baptizing her as Mary Evelyn Prudentia. “Mary” alone met the requirement; the priest added the third name from the virtue category, just to be on the safe side. The idea of an unfettered Eve really bothered him! Mom never used Mary or Prudence after that day, but they show up on the paperwork.
The most recent Code of Canon Law (1983) softens the requirement by stating that a saint’s name is not required, but the chosen name must not be “foreign to a Christian mentality.” (n.855) That is, it should not be alien or contradictory to Catholic beliefs. So, Buddha and Zoroaster are out, and you probably want to avoid Caiaphas or Nero.
It helps to keep the purpose of the sacrament in mind when claiming your new identity. The sacramental action is an expression of faith. You are embracing a “name in religion”–not unlike the traditional custom of being renamed when joining a religious order. While it may work as your Internet handle, do you really want to ritually declare an identity like “Wonderwoman” or “GameBoy”?
The Roman Ritual notes that in non-Christian regions, any name that has a Christian meaning might be chosen. This broadens the field to include theological words like Grace, Truth, Justice, Nativity, or Cruz. Or place names like Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes. You can select last names of saints as well as first names: Drexel, DePaul, Jogues, McAuley. And if you have more than one favorite saint, there’s no impediment to using a hyphen. Check out CatholicMom.com under “Creative Catholic Names” for more clever ideas.
In the end, you may find it best to go all old-fashioned and take a saints’ name. As Life Teen advises on its helpful blog about Confirmation names: Choosing a saints’ name is a way of saying, “Yes, you may always pray for my poor and weary soul.” Why travel alone through this world when you can have a friend? Share the journey!
Scriptures: Genesis 2:20, 22-23; 17:5; 35:10; 1 Samuel 25:25; 2 Kings 24:17; Job 18:17; Isaiah 43:1; 48:1-2; 62:2; Luke 1:13, 31-32, 59-64, 76; 2:21; Matthew 16:17-18; John 1:42; Philippians 2:9-11
Books: Saints and Patrons: Christian Names for Baptism and Confirmation, by Joanna Bogle (Catholic Truth Society, 2012)
The Catholic Baby Name Book, by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur (Ave Maria Press, 2013)