What's in a name?

By  Rebecca Ryall, Youth Speak News
  • April 24, 2008

On Easter weekend, my father handed me an article that began, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine”(Isaiah 43:1).

I reflected on this throughout the Triduum, most profoundly at the Easter Vigil Mass, when candidates in the RCIA program stepped forward to be baptized, confirmed or to receive the Eucharist. I thought about whether Christians, particularly young Catholics, considered the significance of their name.

Many of us have two names, each with its own purpose. The first is our baptismal name, the one our parents or guardian chose for us. It’s the one on our birth registry and school report cards. It’s the one with which our birthday cards and Christmas presents are addressed. We identify with this name.

The second is our Confirmation name, the one we chose for ourselves. It is the name we use in faith, in our relationship with God, but not usually in our daily lives. Yet do youth really understand the value of their name?

When a professor remembers your name from a class of hundreds, the feeling is overwhelming.

When a term paper is handed back with an “A,” a student is proud that such an accomplishment is associated with their name.

In such moments it is unfathomable that anyone would desecrate their name. But what about when these same students plagiarize and then accredit the work to their name? Or when youth gossip and spread rumours, ultimately defacing someone's name?

A second name in confirmation is not meant to be a sanctuary, or a last resort when the first name has been disgraced. God sees and calls us by both names and so both names should be respected.

Recently I came to appreciate the value of my name. Like any starry-eyed girl I wished for Disney-inspired names like Belle and Ariel and Aurora, never really appreciating that my parents were averse to naming me after someone else. They wanted me to create my own identity, free of the expectation that I should follow in anyone else’s mould. When I chose my confirmation name, I was going along for the ride. I relapsed into childhood admiration of names that “sounded pretty.”

Now, at 19, away from home at a secular university, my religious practice is unchecked, yet I feel closer to my faith than ever before. Being new and relatively unknown on my own on a campus of thousands has prompted me to evaluate the power my name possesses. I can forge my own legacy with the unique title my parents gave me.

I wish I had a revelation like the one I had at Easter before I chose my Confirmation name. I wish I had waited until I was certain in my faith and understood what being “called by name” really means. I made an impetuous decision, but fortunately it turned out to be the right one for me.

My Confirmation name has its own path to be forged. Marie is still the beginning, the jumping-off point, for answering my call to be in a relationship with God.

(Ryall, 19, studies journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

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