When a very good friend of mine invited me to her daughter’s confirmation recently, I found it interesting when a mutual friend who was not Catholic asked about a good Catholic gift for her. It was a legitimate question and one that she obviously meant one way, but also a question that could take on several meanings.
I suggested to her that a rosary, Catholic prayer book or even a crucifix would be a good present to give her at her confirmation. Then I told her about a letter to a newspaper columnist that I read a couple of years ago.
The writer was asking the columnist for advice about the appropriate placement of the gifts during a Catholic wedding Mass, or what Catholics call a nuptial Mass. This is where the possible meanings of “Catholic gift” can come into play.
I am sure the letter-writing bride to be was asking about the Communion wafers and sacramental wine that are given during the Holy Eucharist. She had never attended a Catholic wedding Mass before and was not sure how that worked.
The columnist must have assumed that she meant gifts in the sense of presents and said that probably anywhere in the back of the church would be fine, just as long as the gifts were out of the way of the wedding guests. It was one of those things that I could not help but laugh at, but I realized that it can be confusing to non-Catholics.
A Catholic gift to most people is something that would probably better be described as a catholic-themed gift, such as a Catholic Bible, or a medallion representing one of the saints.
What Catholics term “the gifts” are obviously something completely different.
When I talked to my friend about the term “Catholic gift” and how it can take on different meanings, she laughed and said she never would have known it could mean the communion bread and wine.
I decided to ask some of my other non-Catholic friends about it, and they, too, assumed that “Catholic gift” meant some kind of present that a Catholic would use on a regular basis.
I guess it just goes to show that different people can look at the same term or expression in two different ways. The phrase “Catholic gift” is a prime example of that, and I think it is important to try to exercise some tolerance and patience about such matters, whether you are part of a particular faith or trying to understand that faith.