You can hardly go to a cathedral these days without running into an ordination. Every year in late May and through the month of June seminaries are letting out and bishops are laying on hands. That tough slog of seminary is done—six years at least, eight for some men, perhaps even more. By this point the men are eager to get out of seminary and get on with being a priest!
Truly one of the most joyous occasions in the Church because it means the sacraments will continue to be offered, that God is still with his people. No priest:, no sacraments. No sacraments: a very stunted life for the Church.
But there is no registry at Priests R’ Us where the ordinands can let you know what sort of thing to get him so you might not know what to get a newly ordained priest. So I’ll offer a few suggestions ranging in price from entirely free to rather spendy, and everywhere in between.
Few words are as appreciated by priests as, “I’m praying for you.” Especially true right after ordination. The man has just been re-made in an irreversible way. He is now marked for service to God and His Church. He is now specially targeted by the devil for destruction because of the scandal his downfall would cause. He. Needs. Prayers. as he sets off on this new life.
No matter what else you give, prayers are a must. Tell him you are praying for him. Give him a tangible sign: a Mass card from your home parish. A spiritual bouquet from your kids, friends, family, yourself. A few words of prayer right on the spot. Whatever. But interceding on his behalf to the Almighty God to whom he is now configured in a special way is an inestimable gift.
2) A relic.
What says, “Congratulations on being ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ!,” quite like a piece of the remains of a saint? The mortal remains of those who are already in heaven serve as a constant reminder of where we are supposed to be headed, that holiness is possible, and the the priest is supposed to lead us there and provide the spiritual nourishment for the way.
Bonus points if the relic is of a saint the ordained man already has a devotion to. It’s like introducing someone to an old best friend they had only known through Facebook. Or, if it’s a saint they had not had a devotion to, it’s like introducing someone to an instant new best friend.
Relics are kinda hard to come by, not being the sort of thing you can (legitimately) pick up on eBay, so if you manage to get one to pass along the priest will treasure the gift and he, you, and all for whom he prays will reap great spiritual benefit in his ministry.
If you can’t abscond with something like this…
Then at least something like this…
3) An icon or statue
Something with interest. Something beautiful. Something that means something. Something unique. Interesting sacred images of the Blessed Mother or of Our Lord. If the newly ordained has a devotion to a particular saint, one of those. He may already have the one you buy for him, or he may not. If he does, priests are (or at least ought to be) pretty good at re-gifting things to those who need them.
The value of a truly beautiful, meaningful statue is not that it will necessarily be an item of constant devotion, but that as it sits or hangs in that one place for so long, even as it mostly blends into the background as one of many sacred images, at least every now and then the priest’s eyes will meet the eyes in the image, or fall upon the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart, the gesture of Our Lady’s hand pointing toward the Christ child she holds in her arms, the hand raised in blessing, or other aspect of the depiction of grace. And in that moment—because this is how God works—that will be exactly what the priest needed to see to meditate upon to bring him back to the Center and and restore his strength for the battles he is fighting.
In the East they don’t have the tradition of Eucharistic Adoration, but they do consider icons to be a portal into the heavens, entering with your mind into the life of the saints and God’s eternal salvific work. So if you know how to pray, this will provide a lifetime of contact with God and the Mother of God:
4) A Confession stole.
It’s a small purple strip that can fold up and fit in the pocket, and it means so much. The stole hanging around the neck and in front of the chest is the vestment of the priest’s office. It is the yoke he wears to carry the burden he bears. Priests generally should have more than one of these so that one can stay in the car, one in his office, one in his brief case, one in the sacristy, one in… well, you get the point. If a person asks for the sacrament of confession at any given point the priest ought to be able to pause, gather the moment into prayer, make the tangible action of putting on the stole to indicate that something is different, something is happening, something is important, and enter into the sacrament with the penitent. The stole indicates that the man who is a priest, is a priest, not just a man. It indicates that Jesus Christ is involved in the action through the ministry of His priest. It means Christ is present because His priest is present.
5) A book that would be good for homily preparation
The last vice really allowed to seminarians is books. Guys who were not into books before going to seminary develop at least a little bit of an obsession with books. When a seminarian gets in a shipment of books other seminarians gather and ogle, especially if he got them at a deep discount—or even free! Well, this guy who just got ordained was very recently a seminarian, so he’s still into books. You can feed that healthy obsession with a book or three of saints meditating on the Gospels, Blessed John Henry Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons, von Balthasar’s Light of the Word: Brief Reflections on the Sunday Readings, or splurge and get him something within the Logos Bible Software world. Logos combines and connects all Scripture, writings of the Fathers, magisterial documents, the Catechism, and so much more. One friend of mine has 800 books in his Logos setup, and it is slick—you choose a Bible verse and it automatically indicates all places in the Catechism and other Church writings, including the works of the Fathers, where that verse is referenced.
Anything that will assist the priest in preparing great homilies will be a boon to his flock, and the meditations already offered by the holy men and women of the past—those meditations that have stood the test of time—help a whole lot.
6) Portable Mass kit.
What is a priest there to do? Lots of things: teach the faith, comfort the afflicted, lead us to Christ, but ultimately and primarily, offer the sacraments. The Mass, the Eucharist, is the “source and summit,” as Vatican II tells us. The goodness and grace that comes from each and every single Mass is more powerful than all the evil in all the history of the world. The priest is made to offer the sacraments, especially the Mass. The ability to say Mass anywhere, even the hotel room while traveling, means a day doesn’t go by that the priest cannot offer the Holy Sacrifice.
One of my favorite lines in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom comes shortly after the consecration. The priest raises the paten and chalice with the Sacred Species and prays to the Father, “We offer to you yours of your own, on behalf of all and for all.” Just so. The priest, at every single Mass, is offering to the Father, in the presence of all the angels and saints, on behalf of the entire created order and all time, the spotless Lamb of God. The lack of implements ought never to be a reason the priest cannot do this daily.
And Five Things to Shy Away From
In the off chance you are able to afford one, do NOT get him a chalice: that’s the privileged customary gift of the ordained man’s family.
Shy away from vestments unless you are really, really close to the ordained and you know what style of vestments he prefers. Even then, if you are so moved, coordinate this sort of thing with the man to be sure. The only major exception to this is a tasteful set of rose-colored vestments. They’re only worn twice a year, but you can bet he’ll never forget who got him his tasteful rose colored vestments. (With a maniple. If you don’t get a maniple, don’t bother.)
And unless it is a super special sort of thing with deep meaning or historical, familial, or personal value, he almost definitely does not need another crucifix or rosary, so be judicious with those gifts.
So there you have it. Not a perfect list, and if you get something he already has he’ll likely re-gift it to another priest who doesn’t have it so it’s still a win.