It’s been a few years since my son was confirmed, but I remember being just a little envious of his experience. He studied the lives of various saints, came to a solid conclusion on his Confirmation name and can still tell you exactly why he chose it. He decided on, “John”—the apostle who didn’t abandon Jesus, stood by Mary at the cross and took her into his care.
I don’t remember receiving a lot of coaching on name selection back in the day (confirmed 6th grade, c. 1971). We focused a lot more on a folded piece of 8.5 x 11 cardstock with four panels of questions the archbishop would be selecting from in order to judge our sacramental worthiness.
Ah, memories! I can still remember walking into Sister Emmanuel’s office to ask for a replacement card after losing my original copy. In those pre-computer days of offset printing it seemed like such an outlandish request, I was petrified. But Sister, a tough girl to be sure, treated me quite nicely. “Don’t be so nervous. You’re a good boy.” she said, or words to that effect.
And I was good. One of those nauseatingly good boys you may have not-so-fond memories of. The thought of ever getting into trouble…brrr…I still get a chill thinking about it. So, of course, I learned my folded card forwards and backwards, especially after being granted the plenary indulgence of a second copy.
It never occurred to any of us—Sister Emmanuel, included—that Archbishop had no intention of leaving the church without oiling up the lot of us, so we drilled those Confirmation questions as if we were preparing for the particular judgment. Picking a name was more of a box to be checked. Fortunately, I was ahead on the “name game.”
Those of a certain age out there are singing a little song to yourselves. Aren’t you?
Anyway, I had that box checked years ahead of time; my Confirmation name was going to be, “William.” It was my father’s name. He died when I was five. I missed him. I wanted his name. Interestingly, I only got pushback from one person—my godfather of all people, my father’s brother. He loved my dad but (being in a good position to know he wasn’t a saint, probably) he wanted me to go with “Aloysius.”
What’s with Irish Americans and “Aloysius” anyway? Ever since Terence Aloysius Mahoney in The Bowery Boys, I’ve never understood it. If anybody out there can shed some light on that for me, I’d appreciate it.
Over the years, I’ve done a cursory check or two, to prove that there are “St. Williams” out there and convince myself that my father isn’t constantly having to assure St. Aloysius, “No, Al. I do not think that makes me canonized. He’s my son, for Pete’s sake! Oh. Sorry, St. Peter.” I got serious about it recently and decided to click through the W section of catholic.org’s saints directory to see if I could finally designate a worthy William after all these years. I found eighteen but just couldn’t connect with any of them:
St. William: Died 1070. Not much to go on.
St. William, Abbot: Maybe if he had been Abbot of Costello.
St. William of Bourges: Hair shirt, no meat, not much in common.
St. William Firmatus: Patron of people who get headaches; had he been patron of people who give headaches, that may have worked out.
I was discouraged but, fortunately, I was conducting this research seated beside my well-read catechist wife. She was surprised at the small pool I had to draw from, since plenty of Williams must have been martyred in Reformation England.
“Wait a minute,” said I, “Do blesseds count for Confirmation names?”
“Sure,” said she, “You could take a blessed.”
I had been skipping the blesseds on the list, figuring I needed someone who had been called up to the majors; that opened up twenty-six more possibilities.
Friends, let me introduce you to Blessed William Carter who, were he alive today, may very well have been a Catholic blogger.
Blessed Bill was a regular married guy, just like me, but there the comparison ends. A printer by trade, he risked his life setting up a secret Catholic press in Elizabeth I’s England. He was found out, imprisoned and tortured in an attempt to get information on illegal Catholic activity. Bill refused to crack and was eventually executed.
I don’t mean to sound anti-English. I’m a Third Doctor man all the way and I drink P.G. Tips every evening. But I do believe I’ve found my William. Not a bad patron for a guy who likes to mess around with words and scatter them about the interwebs.
Now my father and St. Aloysius can be buddies.
Until next time—fee fy mo milliam.