Say that you are invited to an ordination; what does that mean? Depending on the size of the cathedral and class size, the ordination ceremony for diocesan priests are quite often open to the diocese. And First Masses of thanksgiving, because they are sacramental in nature, are open to the general worshiping community also. But it is an honor to be specifically invited to such an event. For both occasions those attending should dress as though they are attending a wedding Mass.
An invitation to the reception is most often another matter. Though at times a simple reception is held and all those who attend the Masses are welcome, most often there will be a dinner arranged for invited guests. And though it may range from very formal to a more relaxed atmosphere, unless noted the dress is the same as for the Mass.
Almost every year someone wanting to give a newly ordained a gift will ask me what to give him. Firstly, as in all celebrations no gifts are required. There is no payment due for an invitation issued. Your presence is what is gift. But most do wish to make some sort of acknowledgement in this way.
My advice? NO RELIGIOUS PLAQUES. Very few people can carry this off and get what the priest will want to look at on his office wall for the rest of his life or at least the next 10 years of it. And there is usually a box full of interesting wall plagues that he has stored away somewhere. Similarly are other religious items that are considered bric-a-brac. If you are picking something out for his ministry be very careful. He will have certain tastes and if you buy him an expensive silk stole with realistic hand stitched images of the four Evangelists but he is in to burlap with felt flowers, your gift will not get much use. Likewise be careful about liturgical books and things such as sick call kits as several of these may find their way into his hands. There are ways of finding out what the man needs. A recent development has been registers at the local Catholic store, but though helpful, this seems a bit off color – as if one is expecting gifts.
It should be remembered that the man is still a man and will need the very average things that most young men need. This is very extravagant but one of the best gifts that I received along this line was a set of luggage that I still use today. A sweater that looks good with clerics I still cherish though it is getting on to a decade and half since I have been ordained. To everyone but me it is time to let it die a peaceful death.
Unlike priests who take a vow of poverty, a young diocesan priest may accept monetary gifts though most etiquette books abhor the notion and I normally would agree. This will highly depend on the individual man, but many come from simple means, have been students unable to work much of their time in seminary, will not be making much by way of compensation, and have accepted that they will be living simply. They may have been nursing a car along for the past number of years and reliable transportation is imperative in the ministry. (I am thinking of my decades old Ford LTD that regularly shed pieces of its body as I drove down the street.) For these reasons both Mrs. Fenner and Monsignor Manners make an exception to the “no money as gifts” rule – for it can be seen not so much as an excuse for the thoughtfulness of a gift, but a donation toward a ministry.