Christmas gifts for priests – revisited

Do you remember the discussion we had when a reader inquired about a Christmas gift for a priest?  This generated some discussion in the combox and some very good suggestions.

I was just alerted to this the the Catholic Examiner.

My emphases and comments:

Christmas gifts for priests

December 10, 8:46 AM
by Eric Wilson, DC Catholic Examiner

At the church in Tennessee where I converted to Catholicism, our pastor Father Mark seemed to be engaged in a revolving door exchange of casserole dishes: he would return a clean, empty one and, in return, he’d get one full of something else.  This was my first introduction to the idea that we are responsible for taking care of our priests.

Indeed, we take care of them by contributing to our parishes and other projects of the Church, like missionary societies throughout the year, but it is a common desire to give our priests a gift during Christmastime.  After all, we tip the mailman or do an office collection for the maintenance staff’s bonus, shouldn’t we give special recognition to our priests?

Of course, if you ask him, any good priest will say he doesn’t expect anything or would just like to see you play a more active role in the parish — in fact, if your pastor is a member of a religious order that takes a vow of poverty, he won’t ever let on that he needs something.  Still, it’s always a welcome gesture to show someone you care about them, since searching for gifts for priests on the web yields little help, here are some suggestions about what to get the priest in your life for Christmas.

First and foremost, I would refer you to my earlier list of Catholic-made gifts here; Especially appropriate are gifts of food which are appreciated by everyone, and priests are people too.  Buying your gifts from monks and nuns who depend on the income from sales is like a double gift. [This was the point of a discussion here as well.] Not only are you doing something nice for a priest, you’re assisting in the good works of a religious order.  You can also go homemade and bake cookies, cakes, or pies for your priest, who may be spending Christmas away from his own family.

Priests have interests and hobbies just like us, [as a matter of fact, it is almost as if they were real people!] so take this into account when getting your priest a gift.  For example, I know that my pastor likes documentaries and movies, so I would probably be safe getting him a DVD of a newly released movie he might like.  A key here is that you need not be limited to religious gifts, but you should always be tasteful and remember the vows your priest has made.    Getting a thoughtful, appropriate gift for him will also require you to learn about your priest — a benefit for you that will last as long as you know him.

Books are always a great gift for anyone, especially priests, many of whom had an earlier career and have enjoyed years of learning.  Maybe father is a music listener so you get him a recording of the National Shrine’s choir, [The article originated in Washington DC] or if he’s of the iPod generation, gift him some iTunes music.

Don’t be afraid to give your priest a gift card.  It’s not as forward as simply giving cash and it still preserves the gesture of a gift.  Fr. Z, a blogging priest, echoes this sentiment, calling this the "age of the gift card."  Also, I know all priests would be honored to have a charitable donation made in their honor either to a particular project of your church or to an organization he supports.

Lastly, while gifts are great at Christmas, we must remember to pray for and stand up for our priests throughout the year.  The relationship between priest and people is symbiotic and in order to draw from the hearts of this holy men, we must also fill them up.

As always, if there’s a gift I left out, leave me a note in the comments.

This issue of taking care of priests is today a sore spot for me, and I am very glad the writer led with this.

I just read a story in the Italian press about a tragic death of a priest in Rome.  An African priest, 30 years old from Zimbabwe, died alone in his room and he was not found until three days later.  No one had bothered to check or find out why he hadn’t been to meals or where he was. 

Dead alone in a house full of priests.

This does not surprise me in the least.

Once in Rome I was stuck in my room for days, feverish and completely unable, too weak, to get out of bed, probably with pneumonia.  I was terribly ill.  There was no phone in the room and that was before cellphones were omnipresent.  Not a single person checked on me, even though I lived in a clerical house.  Not.  A.  Soul.

There are a lot of priests who bear a profound sense of isolation.  Of course many are extremely active and social and sought after by their own families and others, but many have little or no family.  They effectively have no one.  Even other priests.

So I say this not just for Christmastime, but for the whole year:

Don’t forget your priests. 

Even small gestures toward them can make a difference.

In the meantime… for discussion of gifts for priests for Christmas, I refer you all back to the earlier entry.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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