Ordination Registry: like a wedding registry, but for Catholic Priests

During my immediate preparation for Ordination 5 years ago, Many priests told me to discourage gifts of Rosaries and Crucifixes. Some priests were considerate by gifting a useful Ritual Item from the Church Supply Store. However, many Catholics are understandably clueless on what sort of useful gifts to give priests, or where to find them.

So I steered people in the direction of Restaurant Gift Cards. I received a Gift Certificate to a local Church supply store from a leader in one of our parishes. I attempted to purchase useful items for priestly ministry. One person wanted to purchase a Chasuble, but relented upon discovering the average pricetag of $500+. Another person desired I have a Travel Mass kit, but was shocked to find them upwards of $600.

In 2013, I used Amazon to only purchase text books, Blu Ray movies or electronic supplies. It would not have occured to me to search Amazon for Clergy or Church supplies. In my quest to construct a Travel Mass kit, I scoured the internet, and shocked to find so much available on Amazon. It was no surprise to find Ritual Books, but to find Holy Water Sprinklers, Chasubles, Stoles, Holy Oil Stocks, and even Statues was a novelty. I realized that I could have created an Amazon wishlist like an Ordination Registry. Often, these items are third-party vendors, that are able to sell merchandise through Amazon, so you may actually be supporting small Christian business throughout the country.

Within a year of my ordination, I created a Wishlist that would include some of these items. I also received a donation to create my own custom Travel Mass Kit, merely by assembling it piece by piece by Amazon. Generous donors would receive a private Mass offered for their intentions.

Only recently had I noticed Idea Lists on Amazon, that is a list for sharing rather than wishing. I created one as a Sample Ordination Registry for Seminarians and young clergy on Amazon. They could use it as something to send out to family and friends. I also created it with the lay faithful in mind. Some might have a friend in the seminary, or are always wondering what is a useful gift to give their pastor. In glancing at this Idea List for an Ordination Registry, I thought a few things could use further explanation.

Click Here to View the Ordination Idea List on Amazon

Chalice & Paten; Priestly Vestments

There is an ancient tradition, that the parents gift a Chalice & Paten upon the Ordination of their son. Although, every parish likely owns a set, the Priest may prefer his set, or may use it for his private Masses. Several months before my ordination, My father and I visited a large Church supply store to make a special order. Unless you are immediately related to him, I would discourage this purchase.

The same might go for priestly vestments. There is no similar tradition regarding Priestly vestments. Because of formation they would probably have an Alb (White Inner Robe). If they are looking for a Chasuble (Colored Outer Robe), you should purchase this in consultation. Their assigned parish may have a large supply of old vestments. If you are happy to spend over $100, look no further. Most people will want to look at other items on this list.

Catholic Art

Despite our nuptial theology of the priesthood, the priest’s daily personal life is still that of an unmarried man living in a bachelor pad. Catholic Artwork, Framed Prints, Icons, Statues and other similar items may help keep his space from looking a tattered mess. On a more profound level art attunes the soul to the presence of God in daily life, particularly through the Saints. Catholic Art reminds us that God is near. They may like to have a personal prayer space, including Icons, a crucifix, a Nativity scene.

It may incredibly thoughtful of you to find non-religious artwork. I swear I have been in many priest’s personal spaces, and all the walls are blank. If you know the Priest or Seminarian well, you might have a sense of what they will like. They may dislike cluttered rooms of heavy ostentatious artwork. I avoided this for my Registry List, but thought it worth mentioning.

Holy Water, Holy Oil & Communion

The Ritual for Anointing of the Sick can include the Sprinkling with Holy Water or Giving Communion. It must including Anointing them with the Oil of the Sick. ‘Last Rites,’ or the Commendation of the Dying usually includes Sprinkling & Communion, but doesn’t include Anointing. Particularly when visiting others a portable stole and small Ritual Book is essential.

For the Ritual of the Final Commendation at the Grave Site, the priest would need a special ritual book, but also a Holy Water Sprinkler (especially at a non-Catholic Cemetery). The Church Sacristy should have all the ritual books, yet an Associate Priest may need an additional copy for a day with multiple Funerals and Services.

In proximity of a Major Metropolitan Hospital, I take Sick Calls multiple times a week. Many people request Anointing of the Sick prior to Operations or Procedures. When I go, it helps the hospital staff to identify my car when I have to park in the short term parking outside the emergency room. I often have to run in and out of hospital rooms, with Sick Call items conveniently at my disposal. During my time as a campus minister, these rituals were so rare, that I made time to prepare. Preparation is a luxury many new priests will not have, so having the items together is a great help.

Ritual Books

As the Associate Pastor will typically be his first assignment, he will be involved in a variety of Rituals in the Parish. The Parish Sacristy should have all the Ritual Books. For his proximate preparation, he may need a personal copy in his office. However, during his time in the Seminary, he may have acquired some ritual books.

The Pastor will assign him a funeral soon after his ordination. The Funeral usually includes three parts: 1) Vigil, commonly with a Rosary, 2) Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy of the Word, 3) Final Commendation at the Grave. The new priest will probably preside at all three. Many Catholics never attend their parish, will call the Vigil Rosary ‘Mass,’ will fling the kids up to do all the Readings at the Funeral Liturgy. If Catholics, who regularly don’t attend Mass were defensive enough around religion, the funeral only makes them in desperate need of guidance and pastoral care. The least you can do to support your priest is make sure he has a Book or Holy Water Sprinkler.

The Marriage Ritual Book includes a ritual for blessing a couple on an Anniversary. This might be useful for a formal Blessing at an Anniversary celebration held outside of the Church.

Sometimes Other Rituals & Blessings will need to be included within a Sunday Mass. The Pastor may feel comfortable winging it, and making up prayers on the fly. As a young priest, I hated this. Since there were Ritual Prayers & Blessings available, I would defer to these. I often found the Ritual Books too massive. Having them when necessary, printed and copied in a ceremonial binder was my preference.

Being Organized & Having a Personal Life

Having been in a boys high school, and having lived with men in community, I know even good men are not organized or tidy. Young men do not immediately acquire items to assist them in organizing. The parish secretary might keep notepads, pens, tacs, folders, sticky notes, and other handy office supplies. There may even be a staff or volunteer cleaner. What they won’t do is organize a priest’s desktop. The pastor isn’t going to help the new priest with this, but will expect him to be on top of things. Although the Sacramental Life of the priest may be enlivening, the crucial office work may not be as exciting. I think that planners, small office boards, and desktop organizers are essential to helping me stay on top of things, prioritize, and remind myself of the plethora of menial tasks. I even included Priest collar tabs, because in the messiness of our life, being a guy, these things always disappear.

I needed a personal tool kit, to assemble furniture or hang pictures. Our basement, like many parishes, had a disheveled tool cabinet. Since my brother had some construction experience, I requested a birthday present of a personal tool kit. He said he could get one at Target. Your priest friend won’t be doing major repairs, but he shouldn’t have to call a repair man to assemble furniture or hang pictures.

I have included other things that will be more beneficial to a priest on a personal and spiritual level. A portable bible for instance. I keep a New Testament & Psalms in the Confessional, as well for Confessions or Counseling at Retreats. A Journal or planner with stuff from our Catholic Tradition is a bonus. A set of thank you cards will leave him without an excuse to thank people. A shoulder bag will remind him that the faithful expect him to take care of himself by going to the gym or getting away on his day off.

Treating your priest to Restaurants & Membership Passes

For one year, as I was assigned to a small town parish, there were plenty of welcoming people around. They frequently gifted cakes, pastries, sweets, and deserts. Consumables are always wonderful for anyone. However, As many parish priests get swept up in the demands of ministry, they neglect their health. Someone might stop at the grocery store on their drive from work, the priest doesn’t drive home from work. If people swarm his kitchen with unhealthy food, he may end up subsisting on coffee and junk food because he’s too busy to get fresh food. The priest may have too many evening meetings for you to take him out for dinner. A gift card to a restaurant is always appreciated. It allows him to use it at his convenience. If he lives far away, this sort of gift card may be the best option.

An Annual Membership Pass to a museum or Botanical Garden might help him break the routine. A new priest will probably be in survival mode. Trying to get to know everyone, make a good impression, prepare homilies, drop everything to for someone in a crisis… His day off suddenly blindsides him, and he will do nothing but sleep in, bum around, and watch the game. When a married father is challenged to be creative in entertaining his wife and kids. He may even find amusement in these sorts of family outings. The priest is often not challenged to be creative with leisure time and will settle for doing nothing. Get him to a museum or a beautiful garden. Let him experience some culture, and set him up for a show. Who knows his local art museum may have some nice Catholic Art.

Housewares

Since most Wedding Registries consist primarily of Housewares, A few things should be said about this. Since a new priest will most likely be assigned as Associate Pastor, he will certainly arrive in an Apartment and Office that is nearly fully furnished. There is a possibility that the kitchen is fully stocked, and a part time cook prepares meals. There is something heartfelt about donating a waffle iron to a new couple, therefore, every time they have waffles, they will think of you. I would personally discourage these sorts of gifts for a new priest. If he does not already regularly make waffles, he probably won’t start during this new transition.

Since I moved into a religious community, Housewares were perhaps the most irrelevant thing. My only purchase during this time was bed linens and towels. It would therefore be helpful if you were to gift linens, or a card for Bed Bath & Beyond or Target.

Asking the priest what they want

I can guarantee, that if you want to give a priest a gift of what they want, they will have no answer for you. The fact that you want to express your appreciation will warm their heart. They also may have difficulty in receiving, not wanting to come across as too greedy.

If, however, you were to be more specific, you might narrow it down. For instance, “Father, or soon-to-be-Father, I was thinking of gifting you a Marriage Ritual, but wanted to know if you needed the bilingual edition or the english edition. (Wondering if they will be doing ministry in a hispanic setting).” Another instance, “Father, I found these reasonably inexpensive vestments, and was trying to decide between one of two to give as a gift for you.” You should make them choose between two or three specific things. This means that they can’t default to humility and decline, while wanting to choose the more useful of the two. Apply this scenario to buying a sweater, a gift card, or anything else described above.

As a conclusion, I have already acquired almost everything on this list, or some variation of each item. This wishlist is not for me, but for seminarians planning their ordination, and people looking for a gift for their favorite priest. I am currently preparing a similar idea list for those entering Religious Life (or perhaps making vows), that I plan on releasing in the early summer.

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Making Augustine Viral

Several years ago, I created a tumblr and twitter page for Augustinian posts. These posts primarily consisted of photos, quotes, and other paraphernalia of our Augustinian Life, Spirituality & Tradition. I also wrote several brief didactic posts on these topics. If you viewed my WordPress page, you may have found links to several of the blogs that I have posted there.

I recently brought in another student Friar, Maxime, to collaborate with me on this. I however, have decided to make a few design revisions, and plan on making several posts in the near future. Please consider viewing, following, sharing and linking!

10 Tips on Discerning Religious Life

Saint Augustine Monastery, Austin Hall Arcade, San Diego, CA. Where I dwell and stroll to Morning Prayer & Mass each morning.

I have met several Vocation Wrecks, who can never manage to get close to deciding what to do with what God has given.

Sometimes they are given really lousy vocation advice. To deal with vocation wrecks, to comfort people, to dispense scrupulous young people from the misery of discernment, they give them bad advice. Worst is that God gives you a desire. This is an attempt to comfort people who want to be married, assuming that they think marriage is evil or something. I have met more people who cannot make a decision because they desire two mutually exclusive vocations. Second awful vocation advice is telling people that they will find peace. More on that below. I could actually go on about the lousy vocation advice that people who grew up in sheltered ethnic (Irish / Italian / German) parishes tell young people who have become spiritually obese on pop culture and consumerism.

I have found myself repeating many of these to many people. Sometimes I not even giving advice to discerners, but explaining the process to people who have a lot of misconceptions. I believe that most of those misconceptions are shared by people who may be called, but never looked into it. So I gathered these into ten points.

  1. If you begin to feel strangely drawn, begin to have a desire, you should look into it. If you begin to find yourself defensive, opposed, or repulsed by it, it probably requires you to look again. I used to think “They Wouldn’t Let Me Rap.” I met a Sister who used to think Nuns were ugly. If you have no emotional reaction besides a little gratitude or cheer, kindly move on.
  2. Do not Passively Discern in your head or your imagination. Do not think that by “praying about it” to yourself is actually discernment. If you have felt drawn or repulsed by it, become an Active Disciple, and then see how you feel about it.
  3. Sometimes a desire for Consecrated Life is simply a call to Radical Discipleship. Spend more time reading the Scriptures, especially the Gospel. Have a Master/Disciple relationship with Christ. Pray daily. Befriend the Saints. Participate in service to the Church or the community. Go to Eucharistic Adoration. Deepen and grow your commitment to Christ, & the church. See a Spiritual Director.
  4. Sometimes it is a good idea to defer discernment. If you are younger than a Junior in college, if you just broke up, or got rejected by a potential special someone, if someone close to you has died, if you have moved to a new city or state, or if you are changing jobs, it is a good idea to at least let 8 months pass before any serious committed discernment. I am not saying don’t discern, it is difficult to decide. Also, a yearning that persists through this is valid.
  5. A conflicted desire for both Married Life & Consecrated Life deserves a critical look. If marriage appears more comfortable, or includes more perks, you need to be honest, both come with their own Crosses. Many people NEVER have a desire for Consecrated Life. The fact that you do means you should look.
  6. You WILL NOT find immediate Peace, instead you find trepidation. All the Prophets & the Saints felt incredible turmoil. They found no Peace until they gave themselves over to a calling. Being afraid of a Vocation to Religious Life requires that you face it, not run from it. If may feel comfortable to turn away from it. If you feel drawn, but afraid, running won’t give you peace, it will only give you comfort. What is the worst thing that can happen, you find God’s plan for you in Religious Life and you discover immeasurable Love & Joy in Christ
  7. Talk to a Religious. Visit a Religious House, a Convent, or Seminary. Spend a portion of your day with a Sister or a Priest. Attend Mass several days a week. Do a weekly Holy Hour. Deepen your commitment to discipleship. Attempt to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Try the single life for a few months. This is Active Discernment.
  8. You don’t join a religious order for yourself, you join for Christ, His Church, and that community. You don’t pick a habit or patron saint or location that suits your fancy. Eventually all the superficiality and sweetness will wear out, and you will realize that you are stuck with a group of quite unremarkable human beings. This is not a sign to leave or not, but you have to look deeper in yourself and the community you want to join.
  9. Invariably, the moment you decide to actively discern or apply the boy or girl of your dreams WILL magically appear. GOD DOES NOT OR NEED a few bored lonely people with nothing better to do. God wants you to make a choice. Entering religious life does not make everyone else completely unattractive.
  10. Do not wait for 100% certainty to join. No Religious Order expects that. It is easier to leave a Religious Order within a couple years than a Marriage. Do not wait to attain 100% holiness or practice perfect chastity for every millisecond of every day. Marriage IS NOT the magic cure for lust, people have lustful thoughts after being married, and can even fall in love with other people who they are not married to. The point is growing up and moving past your emotions, comforts of 100% certainty or comprehensive preparedness.

Single is the Default Christian Vocation & Not Marriage (or Consecrated Life)

prayer-1Finding THE ONE is the topic of much discussion, the center of rotation of many personal reflections, conversations, art, music & film. The default story anywhere we look is a love story between a man and woman.

At the core of who we are, we have an existential need to receive and give affection. We also need to give of ourselves, and receive it from significant people. The Less people, the more intense the feelings might be. At the basic level of human appetite we crave affection & sex. Being single or being in Consecrated Life does not mean that one is asexual.

This past weekend, I attended the National Catholic Singles Conference in San Diego, only to hear Confessions, and it got me thinking about developing this idea. I am writing specifically for the purpose so that people can think critically about what they take for granted: Married Life is the Default or Normal Way for Christians to live their life, while Consecrate Life is exceptional, and Single People are only given a negative or neutral value in God’s plan. This is not advice for singles, neither is it a detail about the actual single vocation (or the variety of single vocations of Consecrated Life in the Church). I want to write that Married Life is not the Default Christian Life, neither is Consecrated Life exceptional, that everyone is called either permanently or temporarily to a Single Vocation.

Married Life or Consecrated Life

Many people figure that the major vocational decision is between getting married to another human or to God. Many of them see Married Life as the Default. There is the command in the Bible since Genesis. Among devout Catholics there is talk of protecting the family. There is a lot of Talk of Theology of the Body, Relationships, Dating, Chastity, in regard to complimentarily, coupling, and the ultimate goal of marriage.

Marriage is characterized as being in crisis. Divorce is rampant. Young men refuse to take on the responsibilities of fatherhood. There might be a whole lot wanting in the Western World’s pop culture perceptions of marriage, love & commitment.

Often the term Vocation Crisis refers exclusively to the rapidly diminishing numbers in Consecrated life. Others will apply the term Vocation Crisis to the state of marriage. Even lay Catholics who are deeply convicted of their personal vocation to have been married and have children, are deeply troubled to talk about this. It is such that people accuse me of being “TOO YOUNG TO BE A PRIEST.”

However, Religious are not seen as single. Consecrated Life is described as a marriage to God. Religious and Consecrated MUST be in an exclusive & all-consuming relationship. Even more explicitly people insist on this EVERYONE MUST BE MARRIED theory when they understand that priests are married to the Church.

Consecrated Life is really a kind of Marriage. There is NOTHING in God’s plan that ISN’T MARRIAGE Therefore, Single people have just not found the person that they are looking for.

Single People don’t get a break

Catholic gatherings, particularly young adult gatherings focus on socializing and connecting people. There are plenty of people who go expecting to find THE ONE. There are events that are planned, hoping that people will find THE ONE.

Conversely, they overlook countless members of society who have never been married. In many parts of the world, some people never marry to care for their parents. Throughout history, there have always been people who have lived lives of service because of their social status, and never married. People not marrying did not magically start happening the instant that the West abandoned God or whatever. It is presupposed by devout Catholics that every single adult that forgoes marriage for a career is a self-satisfied sociopath. It is never even hinted at that even young egotistical career-aholics might actually have a lifelong call to being single. Even in the secular career world, nowhere is someone considered admirable for being single. Our American Culture, influenced by Protestantism that abandoned Religious Life, MANDATED MARRIAGE FOR EVERYONE, and so we are copying Protestantism in the Church.

Single people are said to be a negation. Negatively they are too egotistical to enter into a self-sacrificing married relationship, or positively just haven’t found the right person. Most good Catholics who even accept the theory of a Single Vocation look at Single People as on the way to marriage, and want to fix them with someone. We wouldn’t dare think of insulting someone by suggesting that they will find their vocation in loneliness and negation.

The primary relationship in one’s life.

Because people look at Vocation only in the big picture, and only in terms of a long term relationship, (because Consecrated Life is only a kind of marriage) people overlook their vocation in the moment. God calls. Vocation means calling, God calls in a variety of ways. God calls us to discipleship FIRST.

The primary relationship for the disciple is a mentor relationship. In order for there to be a successful mentor relationship there MUST NOT BE ANY ROMANTIC INCLINATION. Perhaps the most important relationship one can have in their life is a mentor relationship. For the Christian Jesus Christ is the primary Master / Mentor. Perhaps one can find a secondary Master / Mentor in a Saint like Augustine, Ignatius, Theresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, or Mother Theresa. On a human level we actually need a mentor or two. The Church mandates that we have godparents and Confirmation Sponsors (but we are often pressured to select people who have no actual experience of Christian Discipleship, the Spiritual Life, or even practicing their Catholicism).

A lot of people imagine that the “secret” to chaste celibacy lies in supernatural power directly transmitted by God. There is certainly a need for grace. Others think that the secret is in natural balance, healthy relationships with self & others, regular exercise & days off. I have been surprised at how difficult chaste celibacy is without mentors & particularly a Spiritual Director.

The mentor, who is not parent, would have to be in a completely celibate non-romantic relationship. They would also have the advantage of grace and wisdom, in that the young person is not, and never in a position to pay them back. The mentoring relationship is clearly more valuable to the youth, and not to the mentor. However, sometimes the mentor does not need all the answers, for their presence is often enough to bring a sort of peace to the panicked frantic youth who is unsure that their life will work out for them.

Pop Culture

If one were to look at the trend in popular movies before 1980 and after 2000 you could characterize it as such. Movies before 1980 were primarily interested in romantic relationships, whereas many movies after 2000 were significantly more interested in the mentor relationship. (exceptions might be Back to the Future and Star Wars)

Take Batman as an example. If one were to look at Batman before Christopher Nolan’s adaptation you could characterize it as such. Batman is a fully self-sufficient man. Although he has the help of Robin, or Commissioner Gordon, Batman could do quite well without them. Were you to look at Batman Begins, the primary relationship seems to be Bruce Wayne’s and Ra’s al Gul, or conversely Batman and Alfred. Ra’s al Gul even has a positive effect on Bruce Wayne, but it is Alfred who is indispensible. In fact Alfred is more indispensible then that one girl, what’s her name?

Be it Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, films that have become extensive cultural phenomenon’s, I believe, because they have brought out the significance of the mentor relationship. Instead of focusing on self-actualization through romance, they have focused on self-actualization through wisdom.

The opportunity of the Postmodern West

While serious and intelligent Catholics are stuck lamenting the cultural insignificance of the Father, Film has given positive images of how alternatives can work. The parents are always absent or irrelevant, and somehow the character manages to grow into an integrated capable person with the help of the mentor.

It truly is a tragedy that Fathers are failures or irrelevant in the West, it would be a misunderstanding to presume that every person who has had a destructive relationship with their father ends up destroyed hopelessly.

Even if we lived in a world were prolonged adolescence wasn’t as normative as mature responsible manhood or fatherhood… Even if, our world really consisted of a majority of men who were admirable and not cowardly, and many young people cite their father’s as their primary mentors, and even pop culture acknowledged this phenomenon, none of that could diminish the need for an additional significant mentor, or several.

Grandparents, godparents, aunts & uncles, older siblings, and other mentors would still be just as relevant. They would still serve in bringing an individual to their fullest self. Besides all this CRISIS talk is overestimated today, because here was have a clear opportunity.

Even married people who are mentored are mentored as individuals

Because the mentor relationship necessitates complete celibacy, as well as non-reciprocity in that the young person is not in a state to repay their mentor, it happens to the person as a single person.

People who are married or in religious life might cite the need for mentors in those states of life. I believe that there are many problems in married life because of a lack of mentors in earlier life. Many people enter marriage not as self-actualized individuals, and feel the need to separate in order to become actualized. Some people never learn to develop trust, something that can only be developed among people in completely celibate disinterested relationships like a mentor relationship. And perhaps couples have emotionally intense relationships where there is a desperate mutual need, these feelings do not get to the depths of the person, a type of relating that is often carried out by people who have had relationships with elders. Finally, many people falsely imagine that married life will grant a surrogate father or mother, or, in other words, another appropriate mentor.

It is not to suggest that somehow when one has found their vocation, or have gotten married, that they are eliminated from being mentors. The Mentor Relationship happens to and among individual persons. If a married person mentors it is as an individual and not as a couple. The young son needs his father to impart wisdom, and would personally benefit in the same way were his widowed grandfather or single uncle were to impart wisdom. In order to become a mature individual, there is virtually nothing that makes the person in married life or consecrated life elite. In order to impart wisdom one must have had, as a single person, had wisdom imparted to them, and had experience.

On the other hand, even when a couple turns to another couple for marriage, it may be the rare exception. However, the mentoring that happens here is often from the man to the man, and from the woman to the woman. It is often still between individuals navigating the same issue. Were this mentoring always to happen with all individuals present, From couple to couple, it would probably not be nearly as effective. Yet all this marks out the one exception where mentoring happens as a single person. However, if one has had some decent mentoring prior to marriage, will have so much more to give as a mature individual.

Someone who has, as fully as possible, worked at integrated and growing into a responsible individual can then almost go anywhere. They are likewise as effective as a biological father or spiritual father. A single person is a ripe for being mentored, and it is as a single person that one mentors.

It is always and only as a single person that one makes a choice on what vocation they will enter. It is as a single person, as a Christian Disciple, that one can commit their life to Christ, properly discern, pray, and be mentored before committing to a vocation. Even if most people are not called to some kind of Single Vocation, or Consecrated Singlehood, there is nobody who is not called to a Single Vocation of Christian Discipleship & Discernment. Married life is not for everyone. There is no Christian who cannot be single.