This spring, I instituted a writing contest at my alma mater, Saratoga Central Catholic (SCC). The St. Francis de Sales Writing Contest focuses on the intersection of faith and writing through the chosen topic, which this year was: “What Confirmation name did you or will you choose, and why?” The contest was open to tenth- and eleventh-grade students; they were directed to read my CatholicMom.com article on guidelines for choosing a Confirmation name before writing their essays, which includes a quote by their local bishop, Bishop Scharfenberger.
The contest was judged by Ms. Kate Blain, editor of the Albany, NY diocesan newspaper The Evangelist; Mr. Giovanni Virgiglio, Superintendent of Schools for the Albany Diocese; and Fr. James Ebert, pastor of Mater Christi parish in Albany, NY and former chaplain of SCC, as well as a 1999 graduate of the school. The judges conveyed what a hard decision it was, and how thoughtful the students were in their essays.
The first place winner received $100 and publication of his essay at CatholicMom.com, presented here; the second place winner’s essay will be published at CatholicMom.com next month.
First Place Winner: Joseph Frankowski
Choosing a confirmation name is a pretty big deal when accepting your faith. After all, my name; Joseph has been with me since my birth and will stay with me for the rest of my life. It is the first thing people learn about me and has become my identity. A name is more than just a word, it is something that has meaning and defines family history, your personality, identity and much more. This has made me realize that a crucial part in the process of being confirmed into the Catholic faith; choosing a Saint name is an important decision that will reflect on me for the rest of my spiritual life. The name I end up choosing needs not only to express my Catholic faith but also needs to represent something important in my life. This is one of the first independent decisions I make that will last for the rest of my life and I don’t want to waste it.
I’d like it mean something and represent my spiritual identity. In the course of thinking about this important decision, I had to consider many factors including my spiritual past, personal experiences and plan for the future. So after much thinking, I am interested in the Confirmation name Raphael after Saint Raphael the Archangel, the Patron Saint of Safe Journeys and Bodily Ills.
St. Raphael the Archangel is one of the seven Saints that is said to accompany God in heaven, however he is one of three that are mentioned by name in the Bible along with Michael and Gabriel. Raphael’s name is only mentioned once in the Bible, in the book of Tobit where it is revealed that his name means “God Heals.” This originates from a story in the Book of Enoch where it is said that he heals a world that had been defiled with sin. Raphael is known as a healer and a protector in the Book of Tobit where he travels with Tobit’s son, Tobias; and then proceeds to not only keep him safe on his travels, but also heals his blindness and drives the demons out of his wife to be, Sarah. He allows Tobias to see the light of God. Raphael is also made reference to in the Gospel of John, Chapter 5, when John writes that the angel descends into the pool at Bethesda and healed any ailments of the sick who bathed in it. St. Raphael’s feast day is September 29th which is shared with St Michael and Gabriel.
From my research on St. Raphael the Archangel, I found many connections from his role in the scripture and patronage to my life. First, Saint Raphael is a healer and the patron Saint of bodily ills. Over the past few months, I have struggled immensely with body pains all throughout my legs. It has limited me both mentally and physically. The pain and uncertainty have been a serious concern, I’ve had to miss school, go to the ER in the middle of the night, have procedures done and visit several doctors with little answers. It has gotten bad enough that I’ve on several occasions, just wanted to give up and quit. Though, I’m extremely fortunate to have friends, family, teachers and God who all care about me, and through their unconditional love and prayer I find a way to keep going and to stay optimistic. This is a major reason why I decided to pick St. Raphael the Archangel, so that I have a constant reminder and guidance throughout my spiritual life, that when things get hard and it’s painful; God is always there for me and will answer my prayers. I know that someday this ailment will pass and I feel that I am closer to that point than ever, but I always want to have a reminder and part of me that knows that everything is passable with faith and the help of God.
The second reason, I chose Raphael is that he is also the patron Saint of safe journeys/travels. This is important to me because I am getting ready within the next few years to move on in my life both spiritually, educationally, etc. There is a certain uncertainty that comes with going to new places and moving on to new things, but there is great joy in it as well. I would like to have a presence in my life that reminds me that no matter where I go or what new things I encounter, I will always have someone by my side. When I’m older I want to see the world and go to new places and I want my confirmation name to represent that.
Although I am still open to different options for my confirmation name, a lot of thought went into choosing St. Raphael the Archangel. I am still early in my confirmation education, but I feel a strong connection between my personal experiences and what St. Raphael represents. Choosing a confirmation name is a meaningful process that helps Catholics learn to understand and accept their faith on a new level.
Essay copyright 2017 Joseph Frankowski; printed here with the kind permission of the author and his parents.
About the author: Joseph Frankowski attends Saratoga Central Catholic and is heading into his junior year of high school. Joseph is a member of the Envirothon and Bowling teams, Peer Ministry, National Jr. Honor Society, and Student Council; he also takes part in the musicals and plays at SCC. Additionally, he is learning how to play bass guitar and really enjoys it. Joseph is undecided about his future studies, but is interested in computer engineering and physical science.
Copyright 2017 Kate Towne