ASK FATHER: Gifts for new priests… an out of the box idea.

UPDATE 4 June:

From my heralidic artist, David Burkart:

Dear Father,

Just to clarify, I assisted clients in developing original designs for the majority of the clerical arms displayed at my website prior to rendering them.  A few, like you, already had family arms they wished to adapt

for ecclesiastical use.   That said, there are many fine heraldists who can assist in developing a heraldically correct design but do not themselves render the art—they hand it off to a heraldic artist.

Many of these folks have more experience,  and knowledge than I do but the process can get more complicated when multiple parties are involved, not to mention fees charged.

If you would like to have additional sources for both services, I’d be glad to help.  I am comfortable competing in the marketplace, but the promotional value of your posts is priceless and much appreciated.

Bishop Hying’s arms are the first I have done for a bishop.  There are a few people like Mr. Noonan and Deacon Sullivan who appear to specialize in that area.

BTW, one of the top heraldry experts and quite a good artist is Father Guy Selvester of New Jersey.  His blog is at

Also, there is Matthew Alderman, though his renderings are a bit complicated for embroidery purposes.  He would need also to do a simpler version.

___ Originally Published on: Jun 1, 2019

This is ordination season for many dioceses and religious communities.

This is therefore the season for people to write asking for advice about what gifts to give to new priests.

The possibilities are manifold.  If you have enough time, and there is a good Catholic religious goods store near you (or you can pick up a phone and call John and Leaflet Missal in St. Paul) you could get chalice linen sets, albs, or a biretta… or from another shop a Beretta.    Although a combination of church good and firearms in one store… yes.

Another possibility occurred to me today.  The fine artist David Burkart, who beautifully rendered my family’s ancient coat-of-arms in the proper ecclesiastical fashion, just sent images of the new arms of the new Bishop of Madison, Donald Hying, formerly of Milwaukee and formerly of Gary.   As a bishop changes sees, so too his arms: personal on one side, diocesan on the other.

Here is Bp. Hying’s new stemma.

It is very well done.

Here is something you might consider.  Help new Father X to have his coat-of-arms beautifully rendered.  If he has arms already, great.  Otherwise, perhaps we could get him in touch with an expert to help him out.  Then, contact David Burkart for a fine version.

These arms can be embroidered on vestments, or printed and framed, used on stationary and cards, etc.

That’s an interesting gift for a new priest.

Speaking of embroidery, I am soon to receive a chasuble to match our TMSM’s newest set from Gammarelli in Rome.  They found a better company to work with for embroidery.  However, the new company placed the stemma too high on the back of the chasuble.  Thus, Gammarelli made them do it over, but they gave me the embroidery anyway.

The TMSM – donate now, it’s a 501(c)(3) organization! – also is having a personal chasuble made for the pastor of a local parish, Fr. Richard Heilman.  You’ve read about him here.  He’s the one who took his parish ad orientem and put in a rail.  Attendance increased.  He’s behind the Combat Rosary, etc.   He had his arms done by a different artist (I prefer mine… but hey).   Burkart had to fix it a little for the sake of embroidery (eliminate some shading etc.) but here it is.  Again, they had the arms in the wrong place on the chasuble, so Gammarelli made them do it over.

Just some thoughts for your new priests.

Finally, as it happens, two years ago today I posted photos of a Pontifical Mass at the Throne celebrated by the late Robert C. Morlino of Madison, the Extraordinary Ordinary.  He wore a chasuble in that set with his coat-of arms.   HERE

Note that all the vestments have the diocese’s arms!  Thus we call this the “Madison Set”.

With the coming of a new bishop, the TMSM is having made a new chasuble with Bp. Hying’s arms.  It is only fitting.  It should arrive, along with other great stuff, in a couple weeks.

¡Hagan lío!


Speaking of coat of arms.

Two years ago, Bp. Morlino celebrated the Mass in the photo.  Afterwards, we had a cake for him, because it was the anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Today…. 1 June 1974.

Thus this post comes full circle.

A cake with a coat of arms and a biretta.

We miss him.   Please say a prayer for him.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Father, do you have a digitized file of your voat of arms? I have an embroidery machine that I’d like to try it on.

    [Explain “digitized”.]

  2. Charivari Rob says:

    …and please, folks – don’t forget to ask the priest in question what is needed, wanted, and/or appropriate!

  3. JustaSinner says:

    It is a file that the embroidery machine reads…

    [I got that part. I don’t know how to create such a file.]

  4. JustaSinner says:

    Then your embroidery company has not given it to you. Can I get your permission to digitize it from the .jpg on your website? I have the software in-house.

  5. It’s hard to beat the universal gift certificate: cash.

  6. Elizzabeth says:

    Fr Z you would need special software to digitize your coat of arms…the folks who have already embroidered it would have it, but that’s their property. I have the software to digitize, but it would probably take me hours and hours to get a decent result!! (I’m not a “digitizer” just use the software to tweak other designs which I use on my machine.)

  7. Jerome Charles says:

    On the pricier side, I might gift a newly ordained priest with a weekend retreat (during his first year as a priest)– either of his own choice, or a specific retreat that sounds good. And, encouragement on how important quiet and spiritual self-care is for anyone in ministry.

    A more affordable option would be a book that is meaningful to him. Or a small piece of art– wall hanging, photo or painting, pottery, etc.

    If I didn’t want to burden this new priest with more “stuff” that he will eventually have to lug around or get rid of (I’m on a quest to minimize my belongings, so that’s on my mind a lot), I’d simply give him a small shell that he could hang (such as, from his car’s rearview mirror) or place on his desk– as a reminder of his ministry, the pilgrimage he is embarking on, and his trust in God that he shall always have “just enough.”

    “The seashell, especially the scallop, is the symbol of baptism in Christianity. The baptismal font is often shaped like a scallop, or decorated with one. The dish used by priests to pour water over the heads of catachumens in baptism is often scallop-shaped. The scallop, too, is the symbol for the Apostle James the Greater. St. James used the scallop shell during his pilgrimage to beg for food and water. Even the poorest people could fill the small shell, so he always found help along his way. Later, followers of St. James wore the scallop-shell symbol on their hats and clothes and it became the symbol of pilgrimage.”

  8. Muzhik says:

    Another special gift: If you can still find them, get a small portable Mass kit. I have one that’s 9″ x 9″ x 5″, perfect for tossing in a suitcase without being a suitcase itself. I’m suggesting this because a few years back, when the buses got stuck in a blizzard driving home after the March for Life, the priests on the buses were able to offer Mass on an altar of snow because one of them had thought to toss his portable Mass kit in his suitcase along with some hosts. Let’s see if we can get our new priests to always think about impromptu Masses wherever needed, and to be prepared to offer them.

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