QUAERITUR: Gift for a transitional deacon

From a reader:

My question is what would be appropriate gifts for a young man to be ordained to the transitional diaconate?  He is a convert and like most of us, very much enjoys the traditions and physically beautiful aspects of the Faith.   He does not have family in our area, so our women’s groups have sort of mothered him along.  As a group and individually, we will want to provide him with suitable, tangible gifts to accompany the graces he will receive.  I know once a deacon always a deacon, but would an ordained priest appropriately wear a dalmatic if assisting as a deacon?   We don’t want to presume on his ordination to the priesthood, but want our gifts to be made with that hope in mind. 


No, I wouldn’t get him a dalmatic.

Being a transitional deacon is not a guarantee that he will be ordained a priest, but it is fairly sure.  Thus, it would be best to get him things useful for his priesthood, or at least his newly minted clerical state. 

Does he have a cassock?  Biretta?  If he has a cassock does he have a fascia?  Clerical clothing or gift certificate for the same… a black suit perhaps from a men’s store.  In the liturgical line, a priest’s nice stole… which for his remaining time as a deacon he can wear in the manner of a deacon.  Breviaries, if he doesn’t already have them.  A very nice alb according to his tastes or a nice surplice.  For ordinations I often have given a very nice rosary (and there are hints about how to choose one for a priest/deacon, btw.)  Cash is always welcome.

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  1. Rich says:

    A tangentially related question:

    Is the wearing of a fascia with a cassock something that’s reserved to those in the clerical state, or can your average Seminarian Joe wear one?

    I ask ’cause I like them, and God willing might be looking to purchase a cassock in the very near future… but at the same time don’t want to be presumptuous or step on any toes…

  2. Charivari Rob says:

    I would definitely second the suggestion of a stole. One of our Knights was ordained to the transitional diaconate a couple of years ago, and the Council’s gift to him was a stole appropriate to being worn in the manner of a deacon and then worn differently after his priestly ordination.

    Other than that I would definitely suggest gift certificates or cash. Doing that instead of picking out what someone thinks someone else ‘needs’ or ‘should have’ reduces the chances of duplication or a bad fit (in measurements, taste or appropriateness)

  3. Fr. Charles says:

    The transitional diaconate gift for which I was most grateful and which I have used often ever since was a decent and simple portable aspergillium, or holy water sprinkler. Just remind the ordinandus not to leave it in the car in the winter, lest it freeze and explode.

  4. A Random Friar says:

    I’m a Dominican, so I think books. The usual collections of Daily Roman Missal (with Spanish, if he needs, thus he has English, Spanish, Latin), the smaller Rites books,Book of Blessings, etc. If he likes vestments, may I suggest a nice set of black vestments, if he is so inclined? They are hard to find in most sacristies.

  5. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I having been thinking of giving a priest who comes to our parish from Africa a rosary. Does anyone have any particular suggestions for the type of rosary (also for a source) best suited as a special thank-you to a priest?

  6. Sacerdosinaeternum says:

    A few other suggestions…an amice, cinctures in the various liturgical colors, a confessional stole or small violet and white stole, a gift certificate for good Catholic books.

  7. Dennis says:

    What about a “Say the Black Do the Red” coffee mug?

  8. joe says:

    I second Father’s suggestion of a black suit or cassock. I’d also like to suggest monk-strap shoes. It cheers me to no end when I see a priest wearing them when he says Mass. (And shoes, properly cared, will not only last forever they will also fit a man forever without regard to any lapses in his diet or exercise regimen…)

  9. LCB says:

    My friends in similar situations often remark that cash and/or gift cards are very nice and helpful.

    If you have a man who is reluctant to spend money on himself for the things he enjoys (like, for example, good books), an amazon.com or Barnes and Noble giftcard can be an exceptional gift.

    Also, consider including a mass card with any gift you give him. Aid to the Church In Need is a fine way to arrange such masses. I often try to include a mass card with every gift I give– then I am giving the person a gift that is truly beyond all human value.

  10. Okie says:

    Fr. Z., since you mentioned it, what are the hints on how to choose a rosary for a priest or deacon?

  11. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Having been the recipient of a large number of religious gifts over the years, I will share a few throughts.

    Art & Rosaries: Seminarians usually have enough religious art. One crucifix and one rosary really are enough. While such gifts are appreciated, they are often redundant.

    Vestments: The stole or alb may be handy, though he may already have a good alb.

    Other liturgical items: An aspergil, pyx or pocket ambry would be nice. I use my pyx quite often. I have even “rescued” some old ones from eBay and antique stores. A nice burse to carry the Blessed Sacrament would also be helpful.

    Books: Always good, especially when learning the EF. The new deacon may already have a copy of the Divine Office, but a good copy of Fortesque or another good liturgical resource would also be a blessing.

    Magazines: I don’t know what I would do without my copy of First Things and Magnificat, though Magnificat may be redundant for one who already recites the Divine Office.

    Charitable Donation: I am a major supporter of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). Making a donation for the training of seminarians in the Middle East is one of my favorite gifts.

    ** CNEWA is also a great place to send the money that I would otherwise donate to my Catholic alma maters that have lost their mission. I send these schools $1 along with a note telling them exactly where the rest of my donation went. I find this to be an extremely effective technique. Notre Dame will be hearing from me shortly (I did some grad work there in 1996).

  12. Nora C says:

    These are great ideas and tips. He has his cassock, but no fascia or biretta. An alb is perfect; I assume he will need that on ordination day. I had no idea there were small aspergillia; a “Say the Black Do the Red” mug would be just right to hold a handsomely large AmEx gift card so he can add what he likes to his treasure trove. Stoles…yep. We are set for black vestments for teh celebrant, but a stole… or several.

    Keep ’em coming. We love him dearly.

    Father, you’re the BEST!

  13. RBrown says:

    I suggest giving him an MP3 player, so he can listen to Gregorian Chant. He probably won’t hear it at mass.

  14. I always recommend people to give Communion Pyx to deacons as gift. That’s something they can use both as deacons and as priests.

  15. Nora C says:

    Pyx and Gregorian Chant we have! Definitely Masses for his intentions.

  16. Dave Pawlak says:

    Clerical wear (shirts, cassocks, jackets) would be welcome, or gift certificates to a religious goods store which sells them.

  17. Fr. BJ says:

    Advice no. 1: do not ask for gift suggestions at your local Catholic store, lest you end up buying a “children of the world” stole for him. I have received two of these stoles, and it is due in part to the fact that the well-meaning clerk in the store recommended it as a gift idea. No seminarian in his right mind wants a stole like that nowadays, and if he does, don’t wait: call his bishop!

    No. 2: this book is EXCELLENT.
    I highly recommend it for all priests and seminarians. Also, since it is not sold through Amazon but only directly through the publisher, it is less likely that the seminarian in question would have come across it already; it’s a fairly safe bet that he doesn’t have it. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for good solid priestly spirituality.

    No. 3: there are various pocket-sized holy water sprinklers available through Autom:

    No. 4: I would not buy shirts/clothes for a seminarians, unless you know exactly what brand he likes and what size. The thing is, the American shirt makers all have their own style (e.g. Almy is much different than Toomey), and anyhow, the American shirts are pricey and fade quickly. A lot of seminarians go in together and order shirts directly from Rome now (or they have friends pick them up when they are over there) because the quality and price is better. He may like a specific kind of shirt and there are enough different options out there that you don’t want to take the chance of getting the wrong one.

    No. 5: St. John Cantius has the best price on birettas, so far as I can tell, right now, and this is a great gift for a seminarian (the only problem is, you have to know his hat size):

    No. 6: I have a very finely-made lapis lazuli rosary made by Magnificat Rosaries that was given to me as an ordination gift:

    No. 7: Leaflet Missal Co. sells a nice assortment of “Italian style” cinctures which are durable and attractive. The price is a little high (compared to what one pays in Rome) but they will last a long time and these were popular among the guys at the seminary I went to. A nice colored cincture or a white/gold combo might be a good gift:

    No. 8: Seminarians can always use Amazon.com gift cards and money.

  18. Fr. BJ says:

    The link for # 3 above did not auto-format properly. If you want to see that item, copy and paste the full link into your browser address line.

  19. Fr.JH says:

    I can only reiterate Father’s last statement: Cash is always welcome.

    One can only wear so many albs at once, or pray with so many Rosaries in one kneeling. (This is not to disparage such things! These are necessary and welcome gifts as well!)

    An open ended gift such as one monetary can allow a cleric to fill his car with gasoline, to purchase necessary goods, or even to give to the beggar he invariably meets on the afternoon walk over by the drug store on the corner…

    Don’t think it won’t be appreciated.

  20. Fr. BJ says:

    Another thing (I posted this back around Christmas when there was a thread about priest gifts): if you have a useful service in the area like a full service car wash (that washes, vacuums, cleans windows, armor-alls, etc., all for a relatively low price — ours here charges $25), then a gift certificate to a place like that would be extremely appreciated by any priest or seminarian.

  21. Timothy says:

    I would like to echo the suggestions regarding cash and gift certificates for book and/or religious goods stores. These would be most welcome. Also, spiritual bouquets in which the giver offers up prayers, sacrifices and devotional acts on behalf of the recipient, such as, “I will offer one rosary/holy hour/act of charity a day for the next week for your intentions.” Something along those lines would be very powerful and definitely appreciated. Just make sure you actually follow through with the prayers/devotions promised. ;-)

  22. Erin says:

    Unless you know he wants a religious item, I would get him something a person who’s taken a vow of poverty cannot afford to (or cannot appropriately) buy, or a gift certificate. Most of the priests and seminarians I know have sufficient suits/cassocks and rosaries.

  23. Gary Keith Chesterton says:

    I always give a pyx.

  24. Pater, OSB says:

    Now, you’ll have to see if he has one first [as with many gifts], but I’d suggest a nice wool top coat of some respectable cut… depending, of course, on your climate. As a priest who doesn’t have one, I can tell you that I receive many gifts, which I truly do appreciate – but a good wool coat [like the good suit suggested as well] can be a little too expensive for a seminarian or young cleric. And [no offense to Kohl’s] but the linings almost immediately fall out of cheap wool(ish) coats.

    Lots of good ideas here!

  25. Father Totton says:

    RE cassocks, fascie and biretta – be sure the man in question would appreciate such a gift. Just because a priest, deacon, seminarian is doctrinally orthodox it does not mean he is likely to wear such items. I know of one such group of women who presented their favorite priest with a cassock on his birthday, it was very awkward – Father had no use for such a gift (and this by no means a heterodox or casual priest.) The gift-givers were embarassed, and perhaps the priest was contrite about the expression of his reaction, but nevertheless, it was an exchange which could have been avoided.

  26. Paul Stokell says:

    Short of a durable copy of the four-volume LoH, a time-tested book on standard etiquette is always helpful. Seriously – this sort of thing is not taught in seminary, and knowing a little about how to write thank-you cards, condolence letters, etc. will go a very long way in one’s ministry.

    It’s also the perfect gift for friends who think they’re in the transitional priesthood… :)~

  27. JaneC says:

    We got a Gospel book notated for chanting for a friend of ours. Particularly appropriate for a deacon, as singing the Gospel is one of his particular privileges, but it will retain its usefulness after he is ordained a priest.

  28. I suggest cash or gift certificate. (I got 5 pyx’s and half a dozen pen sets.)

  29. amdg says:

    How about a nice, manly set of blank notecards (with a book or two of “Forever” stamps), so that he can write personal thank-you notes to all of the folks who present him with stoles, pyx’s, rosaries, and gift certificates?
    These can be harder to find than you may think. Most writing paper and other stationery items are very….flowery.

  30. Dana says:

    How about a nice little altar crucifix? Great for versus populum Masses so the priest doesn’t get distracted by a blinking exit sign or the clock in the back of the church.

  31. A Random Friar says:

    If you give him cash, be aware that many of us religious turn in cash to the religious community. So please don’t get upset if we don’t buy anything with the cash. But it WILL help offset the cost of the ordination and reception, which can run a pretty penny after printing cards, programs, buying food, etc. So it is still very much appreciated, even if you think we don’t!!!

  32. A Random Friar says:

    And one VERY good item to tag onto amdg: a nice set of Thank You cards with stamps! I would have loved to have received a hundred or two nice cards (The Printery House makes tasteful ones), if nothing else to thank the people involved in the ordination. And it reminds the soon-to-be-priest of the value of always writing thank you’s to the parishioners!

  33. I like the suggestion of a gift card to a men’s clothing store. It allows him to buy whatever he needs: black pants, socks, underwear, a suit jacket, top coat, etc.

  34. Monique Reed says:

    My husband is a permanent deacon, so I know what he appreciated as gifts.

    First choice–a garment bag for toting albs, chasubles, dalmatics, stoles. Bonus points if it’s monogrammed or has his name on it.

    If he only has one alb, a spare, because one is always needing laundering.

    I second the idea of a stole. Perhaps one in one of the less common colors such as rose or black, because many parishes are deficient in deacon vestments in these colors.

    How about his own copy of the lectionary, sacramentary, or the GIRM? Very handy for looking things up. Ditto for the Scriptures on CD-ROM.

    Last but not least, a nice planner that can have new inserts each year. This is essential for keeping track of meetings, liturgies, and other appointments. We don’t commit to anything without consulting The Brain.

    Monique in TX

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