QUAERITUR: Priesthood ordination customs

From a seminarian:

As ordination season is fast approaching, I am hoping you can enlighten me concerning a custom relating to priestly ordinations which has become a topic of discussion among seminarians of late. Specifically, I am wondering whether you know how long the custom of a newly-ordained priest giving his mother the maniturgium [manutergium] (or other cloth) with the oils from his consecrated hands, AND how long the custom of giving to his father the stole used to hear his “first” Confession, have existed. Any information would be most helpful and appreciative.

I never had the chance to do these things.

However, I will open this up for responses and comments especially from priests and bishops.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Interestingly, this picture was taken from the ordination of SSPX priest, Fr. Benjamin Campbell, at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Kansas City, Missouri: the cope ophrey’s are distinctive and the black and white photo can be found here: http://sspx.org/rcr_pdfs/2009_rcrs/march_2009_rcr.pdf.

  2. PDJennings says:

    Our parish parochial vicar, who unfortunately was since reassigned as a pastor elsewhere, had an interesting story about this. He told about giving the cloth from his first mass to his mother, so that she might some day be buried with it. The idea was that she would present it to Our Lord after her death, saying, “I gave You a priest.” Perhaps this is a sentimental idea, but there is nothing sentimental about nurturing a religious vocation in your son, if he has one. The priest in question was a Filipino immigrant to the US. In his sermons, he told us a number of interesting tidbits about Filipino Catholic culture, and this may have been one.

  3. Frank H says:

    I observed this exact practice described by PDJennings, including the story in which the Lord asks the mother “What did you do for My Church?” and the mother replies, ” I gave her my son.” at the Mass of Thanksgiving of a new priest of the Charlotte diocese in spring 2010. This new priest made it sound as though it was an old tradition. It was powerfully moving. I look forward with hope that my son the seminarian knows of it when the time comes (God willing) for his ordination in 2015!

  4. frdgss says:

    “I never had the chance to do these things”. Neither did I. I wish I had. All my mother got was a bunch of 12 red roses at my first Mass. Dad got nothing but a blessing!
    These are beautiful, piety-nourishing traditions that we must recover.
    God bless the seminarian who asked the question – and may Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy bring him safely to priestly consecration.

  5. This was a question that was much discussed among my classmates. One of them found the following in Latin and translated it to the below (I apologize for the length). I will put the question out to see where he got it from. Many of us used this introduction/explanation to present the maniturgium & stole to our parents. I can tell you that neither I or my parents made it through this with dry eyes, but it was well worth the effort!

    Gift of the Maniturgium and 1st confessional stole

    On the occasion of their first Mass, it is traditional that the newly ordained priest presents a gift to his parents.

    To his mother he gives the Maniturgium , which was used to cleanse his hands; consecrated and made holy when the bishop anointed them with sacred chrism at his ordination. The Maniturgium is a simple white piece of linen that represents the burial shroud of Christ that protected His sacred body during His 3 days in the tomb. The Maniturgium is given to the mother, because she was the first protector of the newly ordained priest, during his time in her womb. The Maniturgium is a reminder to the people of God of His love and protection – especially towards His priests. When the newly ordained priest’s mother is called home to God, she is buried holding the Maniturgium so that all in Heaven and on Earth will know that she is the mother of a priest. And on the last day when we are raised from the dead, she can present the Maniturgium to Christ the Lord and say, “my son too shared in your priesthood.”

    To his father, the priest presents his first confessional stole. The stole is the sign of priestly office, and the priest wears it when he engages in holy things, like celebrating the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. In the Sacrament of Penance, we experience God’s justice, mercy and reconciling Love. It was the father of the newly ordained priest who first taught him about justice and mercy. And so the purple stole used to hear confessions, where the priest reconciles the faithful into God’s love, is presented to the priest’s father. And like the mother of the newly ordained, when the priest’s father dies, he is buried holding the purple stole so that all in Heaven and on Earth will know that he was the father of a priest. And on the last day when we are raised from the dead, he can present the purple stole to Christ the Lord and say, “my son too shared in your priesthood.”

  6. James Joseph says:

    The hands of a priest are amazing.

    This all makes me think of the wretched evils we so often commit with our hands.

  7. irishgirl says:

    Father Maurer: you’re right…I couldn’t read your comment with dry eyes! Very touching!

  8. Folks — more recent books and webpages do spell it “maniturgium”, but the only way you can find it in old books is “manutergium,” “manuterge,” or “manitergium.”

    It literally means “handtowel”, and that’s the fancy name for the towel the priest uses to wash his hands during Mass, primarily. In medieval Latin, there’s also “facitergium”, a facewipe. (Not liturgically, though, I think.)

  9. In Sr. Margherita Marchione’s autobiography, The Fighting Nun, she recalls making a couple of manutergia for priests getting ordained back in the Fifties, and that they were associated then with being buried with priests’ mothers. There’s an article which says Cardinal Cooke’s mother was buried that way also.

  10. ipadre says:

    We were allowed use of the maniturgium, but the liturgist made such a stink that the class after us were forbidden to use them. I think we had to get our maniturgium from the SSPX because nobody else had them at the time. (20 years ago this June 13).

  11. okiesarah says:

    I read an embroidery blog quite often, Mary Corbet’s Needle n’ Thread, and she did an entry over embroidering a maniturgium. And it actually looks like the one in the picture here is the one she made! I hope one day to be skilled enough at embroidery to do something like this. Practice, practice, practice.

  12. inara says:

    Our parochial vicar (a converted Lutheran, who came into the Church on Reformation Day! heehee), also of the Charlotte diocese, told us this ceremony was done at his first Mass as well (it might even have been the same Mass Frank mentioned, since I think he was ordained in 2010). What a beautiful tradition! That photo brings tears to my eyes.

  13. Chairman says:

    I remember learning about the tradition of burying a priest’s maniturgium with his mother many years ago when a family friend was ordained. At that time I was told the maniturgium was made from the mother’s wedding dress. Have others heard of this part of the tradition?

  14. Joan M says:

    I remember the maniturgium from my brother’s ordination in 1955 was framed and hanging in a prominent place in our home. I imaging it was taken to my other brother’s home when our home was sold and my mother went to live with him. I have no idea what happened to it after my mother’s death – she died 50 years ago next May. I wonder if she was buried with it. Perhaps my priest brother knows. I must ask him.

  15. FrCharles says:

    My dear mother, who describes her religious affiliation as “lapsed Unitarian,” responded with these words when I presented her with my maniturgium: “What shall I do with this?…I know! I’ll put it with your report cards.”

  16. Father G says:

    I was aware of the custom of a priest’s mother receiving the maniturgium, but this is the first time I learn about the priest’s father receiving the confessional stole. At my ordination, I had an extra maniturgium which I used to wiped my hands so that I could present it to my father.

    @Father Maurer,
    Thank you for sharing about the maniturgium and 1st confessional stole. I will pass this on to my seminarian confreres ; I am sure all of them would like to observe these beautiful customs when they are ordained.

    @ okiesarah,
    I believe this is the blog entry you referred to in your post: http://www.needlenthread.com/2008/12/hand-embroidered-maniturgia.html

  17. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    The explanation which Fr Maurer posted is deeply affecting. Thank you, father.

  18. Parochus says:

    Please, folks, on this site especially can we use good Latin (i.e., according to the inimitable Lewis and Short)? The proper word is manutergium. The word maniturgium, if it existed, would mean a swelling of the hand or a swollen hand, not exactly something you would like to bequeath your mother.

  19. Jack Hughes says:

    @Fr Chalrles

    I sympathise with you as my parents arn’t religious either, If I’m ever ordained I plan to solve the problem by giving the manutergium to a Religious Sister who is a good friend and the stole to a Religious Priest who is a my surrogate Father.

  20. louder says:

    When I was ordained, I had no clue about any of these traditions, so there was nothing to keep or give to my family. In fact, no one even told me that the newly ordained’s “First Blessing” was anything special, so at the end of the ordination ceremony, I was told to bless the congregation, and it was then announced that everyone had received my “first blessing.” I’m a convert, from a very non-religious family, so I had no clue about anything to do with the traditions of ordination.

  21. mrsmontoya says:

    Father Z, I gather from your comments that your parents were not able to be present at your ordination. I pray that you will all be able to discuss and rejoice in the event when you meet together after this earthly life. [They were there. They say just behind Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as a matter of fact.]

  22. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I have heard of the manutergium being given to the mother since before Vatican II. I think the giving of a stole to the dad sounds post Vatican II, and strikes me as more in sync with the Novus Ordo mentality and “creativity.” In the pre-Vatican II thinking, a priest would not hand over to lay persons (even his own parents), as a gift, articles of liturgical ministry. A stole is not meant to be a sentimental or emotional token, to be used once and then tucked away somewhere for later adornment on a deceased father. The confessional stole is made for a priest only, to be worn usually in the act of absolving sin, and should be placed only on the shoulder of a living priest, or a priest who is deceased. The idea of giving the father, also, a manutergium, is much more seemly and appropriate, than giving him part of the sacred vesture.

    I think it is also a bit overboard, a but syruppy and sentimental, to speak of moms and dads giving things to Jesus in heaven so that He will know this is the parent of a priest. My mom is not giving Jesus the manutergium, and in fact, Jesus does not need it to know she is the mother of a priest. The use of these traditions, in my opinion, is to provide a humble token, a remembrance for the parish and diocese, that this is the mother or father of a priest.

  23. With apologies, it seems I am mistaken about the origin of the text I posted. The author got a hold of me and clarified that it was not a translation of any existing text, but in fact a writing of his own to explain the custom. I am sorry for the confusion.

  24. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Fr. Maurer: The phrase about the manutergium being “a reminder to the people of God” made me wonder if it was an older text, since “people of God” is a Vatican II phrase which nonetheless has scriptural roots. In any event, it is a beautiful tradition, and your friend wrote about it with very eloquent words. We priests are so blessed to be able to bring such joy and pride to our parents for all they have sacrificed for us.

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