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.
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.
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.
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.
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.