By Woodeene Koenig-Bricker
Being a priest is a bit like being a parent. Work, vocation, passion and duty are all rolled into one. Like moms who get praised for a great Thanksgiving dinner, but don’t get applauded every time the laundry is folded, priests are recognized for the big events, but not always for the smaller things.
This Christmas let’s make an effort to show the priests in our lives just how loved and appreciated they are. But the question is what to give that is both appropriate and meaningful.
Naturally, “religious” items leap to mind, but remember that underneath the collar is an ordinary human being with likes and dislikes. Not to mention, most priests who have been ordained for even a few years usually have more than enough religious objects to open their own store. With that in mind, here are a few tried-and-true suggestions.
Gift card: You can’t go wrong with a gift card to a bookstore or restaurant. Money is good, but a gift card may be better because religious order priests aren’t allowed to keep gifts of money.
Gift basket: Make up a gift basket of anything you know your priest likes. How about a best-selling novel and a booklight? Or a sampler of every kind of soda in the store? The more creative, the better.
Bookend: Books are stock in trade for most priests, so a set of bookends will surely be put to good use.
Travel supplies : Most clerics enjoy traveling, so items like sturdy luggage or a passport holder may come in handy.
Special food : Fresh cookies, frozen casseroles that he can put in the microwave, smoked salmon … you can’t go wrong with something delicious.
Magazine subscription: This is particularly thoughtful if Father has a hobby such as sports, woodworking or golf. While subscriptions to Catholic magazines (like The Priest) might be appreciated, be sure that the parish isn’t already buying them.
Hobby supplies: Golf balls for the golfer; brushes for the artist; gardening supplies for the green thumb; exotic spices for the chef — whatever the activity, you can find things in every price range.
Electronics: Depending on how gadget-oriented your priest is, a new Bluetooth for his cell, an iPod or a new laptop might be welcome. A group of parishioners might even get a splurge like a flat-screen television.
Tickets: Be it sporting events or concerts, tickets are always well received. If you aren’t including Father in your group, then make sure to give two tickets so he can take a friend.
Annuity: For something out of the ordinary, consider a Knights of Columbus single-pay-annuity or Single-Pay-Life policy. If he’s not a member, give him a signed Form 100 and the annuity.
Breviary case: One exception to the “religious” items caution is a good, leather breviary case. This is especially nice for newly ordained men who might not have one yet.
Icon: Another exception is an icon, especially one of Father’s patron or favorite saint. Father William McNichols paints icons of traditional subjects but also modern holy men and woman. Check out his work here.
Clerical garb: Tab-collar black shirts aren’t cheap. Nor can they be found at your local mall. Order them online at www.almy.com/menshirt.html along with albs and cassocks. Another suggestion is a hand-made stole.
Chalice: Most priests have their favorites, but for something special, consider a new one. One place to look is www.chalicesdirect.com.
Another idea: some dioceses offer a “Chalice Exchange.” When a priest dies, his chalice is put into storage to be “lent” for a lifetime to another priest. Call your local chancery and ask.
Your time: The days when priests had housekeepers are long gone. Offering to help with things that “never” get done like cleaning the draperies or the carpets can be a welcome gift.
Spiritual bouquet: Priests need our prayers more than anything, so buy a simple card, and write on the inside, “Father, I will say one Rosary per month for the next year for your intentions.” Or any other prayer you like. Just make sure you follow through on your promise.
Have a Mass said: Priests offer Masses for special intentions all the time, but seldom get Masses offered for their intentions. Arrange to have one said in another parish (so he doesn’t have to say his own) and include the intentions of his parents and siblings. Recognizing that he is part of a birth family as well as a spiritual family is sure to touch his heart.
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