Catholicism accounts for the next part of my naming journey too. It is the usual practice in these parts for a child to "receive confirmation" once they are deemed old enough to be responsible for the choice to remain a Catholic and understand all about the worldview entailed banana banana and so forth. So naturally they make sure to get you too young to recognise propaganda for what it is. after working out the Santa thing, but before you might completely lose a fear of God. I was in about Year 4 I think, so 9 going on 10 years old.
The deal is, you get to choose a name. It must be a biblical or saint's name, and no, you cannot choose Judas or Satan, for some reason. So much for Christian forgiveness, eh?
Now my primary school wasn't especially religious, in fact I have to say it was a model of tolerance and social sensitivity. But it was a Catholic school nonetheless, and the whole confirmation thing was done class-by-class. So that year it was our turn. None of our teachers were real big on Catholic-style religious education, so for the duration we had a nun from some other more seriously religious school visit once a week. What a nightmare. Maybe she just had chronic pain or something but a more severe, misogynist, unloving, hatchet-faced, short-fused angry Bride Of Christ you are unlikely to meet. I might remember her name in a minute.
Anyway, the real talk amongst the kids was what names you were thinking about. Beatrice was proving very popular amongst the girls. The guys in the main were just going for your regular plain disciples' names. Paul was most popular, which sort of pleased me I recall. I actually gave this a lot of thought. On some level in my developing being I figured since I had this opportunity to choose something all of my own - a real rarity in my childhood experience - I would make it a reflection of how I felt. Much emotional expression was already being suppressed in me even at that tender age, but this would be a safe and condoned way of making a statement about me.
I thought about who in the Bible I could see myself in, who I most resonated with. And chose Joseph.
This is a painting by Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino 1483-1520). What an artist, eh?
Joseph struck me then as a noble sufferer of outrageous fortune. A basically good guy who just quietly accepts that he has an extremely important background role to play but will remain forever unappreciated and unacknowledged. Guy meets girl, guy gets girl, guy finds out girl is PREGNANT TO GOD, I mean WTF??? and guy duly shrugs shoulders and fronts up for Lamaze classes. This long-sufferingness but complete moral unimpeachability were already the twin pillars of my existence. I could see no way out of and no end to the disastrously repressive situation I felt myself born into, and had already learned to defend myself spiritually and emotionally through stoicism and righteousness.
Like most Catholic confirmees, I've never really used my confirmation name. It has just sat there as a sort of secret invisible friend, in which I can invest meaning as I wish. Over time my take on the biblical Joseph story has changed a bit, but the poignancy of it all is still striking.
(insert wibbly lines here to denote passage of time)
And so it also came to pass that I did grow into manhood, and came after some time to settle in the Holy Lands of Fremantle, Western Australia. And happened upon a new name.
See what happens in the next exciting instalment of......um...this stuff about my names.