by Therese Ivers, JCL, OCV
The summer season is a busy time for a lot of solemn consecrations of virgins as the Brides of Christ. The inevitable question arises: Just what does one get for a newly consecrated sacred virgin? As it turns out, the potential gift list is a lot less restrictive than for a religious monks/nuns, friars/brothers/sisters, because sacred virgins do not make vows of poverty, do not live in common, and are responsible for their own financial upkeep.
The consecration of a virgin is a nuptial celebration of the espousals of Jesus Christ with the virgin(s). Virgins, according to the words of the solemn liturgy presided by the Bishop, “renounce marriage for the sake of which it is the sign”. That is, they renounce human marriage with a male to contract heavenly marriage with Christ since human marriage of a male and female reflects the union of Christ and His Church. This is why only female virgins can be sacred virgins in the order of virgins. Thus, the gift list can include things that would be appropriate for a wedding. Depending on the virgin’s social circumstances, a typical wedding registry would not be amiss. The virgin doesn’t have a second income (her husband’s) to buy the stuff necessary to furnish a home, no established community that provides all the home furnishings, etc. Thus typical wedding presents are completely appropriate. Household goods and gadgets, clocks, vases, paintings, essentially anything that would be appropriate for a wedding gift would likewise be appropriate for the sacred virgin. Naturally, one would not buy basic items for an established couple or virgin, and so prudence should be had in gift giving.
In ordination gifts, men becoming diocesan (secular) priests and deacons tend to get many secular gifts such as checks, gift cards for restaurants, club memberships, car wash cards, etc. This is likewise appropriate for sacred virgins. Again, sacred virgins, like diocesan clergy, do not make a vow or even promise of poverty. Unlike clergy, they are not guaranteed financial support or a job, and have to worry about savings for bad times, paying for health care, saving for old age, etc. Gift certificates, checks, gifts of services for things like lawn mowing or snow shoveling or dry cleaning are especially appropriate for a consecration gift. Many virgins, as well as clergy, have student loans to pay off and cash can be quite welcome. Likewise, a younger virgin may have the expense of renting or a mortgage, an expense that priests and bishops do not usually have to worry about.
Because as a Bride of Christ, the Son of the Living God, the virgin is often given permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in her home, the necessary items for such reservation and Masses said in the private chapel are appropriate gifts. Hence, although she herself is not getting ordained, typical ordination gifts (other than sick call kits or stoles) are appropriate as well: sacred vessels such as a chalice, ciborium, sacred vestments, hosts, sacramental wine, altar linens, etc. Like a bishop and unlike a priest, the virgin can usually have a furnished chapel. Hence a gift such as a tabernacle, a supply of candles, appropriate liturgical books, altar, tabernacle lamp, and other chapel furnishings is very appropriate and much appreciated. Obviously, coordination and consultation of the virgin in question is in order for such gifts to ensure no duplication and that the items are crafted in accordance with the virgin’s personal preferences in style.
Religious presents that are welcome to sacred virgins include things like a gift certificate for a weekend or even week-long retreat (make sure it’s a place she wants to go to!), certificate for a religious book publisher or store, a scholarship to a theological program or course, etc. Statues of sacred virgin saints (the Blessed Virgin Mary, Agnes, Lucy, Cecilia, Agatha, Scholastica, Gertrude the Great, Genevieve of France, Bridgid of Ireland, Margaret of Hungary, Hildegard of Bingin, Bl. Rosalind the Carthusian, etc.) or even paintings of said saints can also be a nice gift. Just be sure that the saint is not simply a virgin but received the consecration of virgins from her bishop (which is different than religious profession; some saints in religious communities also received this solemn consecration in addition to making perpetual vows).
Other lovely gifts virgins appreciate will depend upon them as individuals. If you know a virgin well, you may know that she’d appreciate a gift of nice stationary, journal, membership to a museum or other cultural center, or even just volunteer time for an apostolate she runs. Diocesan clergy often get to lead pilgrimages and thus get a free passage. Perhaps money can be pooled to bring the virgin to the Holy Land, Rome, Fatima, Lourdes, or other famous Shrine on pilgrimage.
Many virgins have shared with me frustration in receiving common devotional items such as rosaries, novena booklets, scapulars, and things that are more appropriate for First Communions or Confirmations rather than for women whose life is centered on Christ and therefore have the things pious laity would already possess. This includes Bibles, the Magnificat, the Catechism, basic lives of the saints, etc.
Again, because the virgin is not bound to a life of poverty, there are plenty of thoughtful gifts that a person can give to a sacred virgin that are appropriate for the occasion of her espousals to Christ and entrance into the order of virgins. Gifts can range from something one would give for a birthday or wedding or ordination because the virgin lives in the world with all of its vicissitudes and is espoused to Christ, dedicated to the service of the people of God.
Lastly, if you know a virgin well, some appropriate gifts may have to do with the ceremony and reception. Donating invitations (if the diocese doesn’t issue them), music fees (or offering to sing if one is a professional singer), photography gift certificates, music for reception, donating for the public/private reception, helping drive guests, assisting with the decorations for the Church, paying for the ring or veil (again, if the diocese/parish or family member or virgin herself doesn’t cover it) are all better gifted by those who may know that such may be a huge financial or logistical burden on the virgin. Many virgins have part of their expenses covered by the diocese (invitations, new set of the Liturgy of the Hours, ring, flowers for Mass, cantor/choir, public reception like for ordinations if that is the custom, etc.) but there is a lot more that goes into a fitting ceremony that is one of the most important liturgical events of the diocese.
(c) 2017 by Therese Ivers, JCL, OCV