I confirm that this is a sticky situation!
April 4, 2012 7:05 PM   Subscribe

What should I get my sister for her (Roman Catholic) confirmation? Wrinkle: I'm an atheist.

The facts are these:

1. She's getting confirmed at the end of the month.
2. She is 21 years old.
3. We are very close.
4. I want to get her something special.
4a. I don't want to get her something super religious, because I'm an atheist, she knows it, and she knows that any deeply religious gift would be, in some sense, insincere.
4b. I also don't want to go with something 100% secular, because a "regular gift" (the type of thing I'd get her for her birthday) doesn't seen appropriate.
4c. Usually I give books as gifts, but this seems like it deserves something a little bigger.
5. My parents are getting her a dove necklace, so that's out.

I know that it's not much to go on, but I'm sort of stumped. Help me metafilter!
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
a nice crucifix? Celtic crosses are very pretty
posted by Neekee at 7:08 PM on April 4, 2012

Get her this.
posted by LN at 7:13 PM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe not the best choice, but safe and a good fallback.......

ChristianBook.com Gift Certificate

CatholicCompany.com Gift Card

FamilyChristian.com Gift Card
posted by lampshade at 7:18 PM on April 4, 2012

Could you get something engraved with her confirmation name on it? Like a silver bracelet, or a keepsake box, or a nice pen?
posted by dayintoday at 7:18 PM on April 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't see why a religious gift has to be insincere. You obviously are sincere in your support of her. I don't have the tiniest interest in baseball but I was very sincere in my desire that my husband enjoy baseball when I gave him tickets to the season opener. I actually think a religious gift from you would be even more touching, knowing that you're open to supporting her in her choices even if they don't necessarily agree with yours.

Well, on to the gift recommendation. I was raised Catholic but am soundly agnostic. Nevertheless, I really enjoy the writing of Fr. Romano Guardini, especially Learning the Virtues. He has a number of other more specifically Catholic titles on subjects such as preparing for Mass, the art of praying, etc. Many of them are available in digital editions. How about a Kindle loaded with several of his books?
posted by HotToddy at 7:19 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you buy her a dress to wear to it?
posted by cecic at 7:20 PM on April 4, 2012

A silver bracelet.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:20 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

What do you think about a rosary? It is simultaneously fundamentally religious and all about a great meditative exercise you don't really need to be religious to understand.

How about a study bible with a historical focus?
posted by Blasdelb at 7:20 PM on April 4, 2012

Hmmm...I don't know if any of these are too religious for your purposes:

-Really nice candle holder/candle
-Recording of Gregorian Chant
-Donation to a charitable cause in her name
-Have a tree planted in her name
-Photo book about religious art, cathedrals, etc.
-Bracelet with her confirmation name and the date engraved on it
-Music/keepsake box
posted by corey flood at 7:21 PM on April 4, 2012

For what it's worth, a book screams 'confirmation present' to me. Find her a good history of the Church or a biography of a saint and write a nice message in the front. It's related, but not 'I must encourage your faith' or whatever the theme of confirmation presents is meant to be. (Can you tell I wasn't confirmed and was less than impressed with the book of prayers I was given at my first communion?)

Otherwise, you're stuck with crucifixes, rosaries and medals.
posted by hoyland at 7:22 PM on April 4, 2012

I think a nice piece of jewelry would be a lovely idea.
posted by elizeh at 7:26 PM on April 4, 2012

If you have some good used book stores, you might be able to find an old children's Baltimore Catechism. Old ones are interesting as both history and as religious instruction.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:34 PM on April 4, 2012

If I was Catholic, I would want a rosary.
But in any case, I would go for something practical/useful. A rosary would fit into this category; regular jewelry wouldn't. That's just me. I don't know if there are any Catholic parallels, but I would definitely much more appreciate getting a mezuzah for my Bat Mitzvah, for instance, than, like, a necklace.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:39 PM on April 4, 2012

I don't think that a not-terribly-religious gift is a bad idea at all. Nthing pretty jewelery, and also books. Maybe an e-reader, with as many books as you'd like to give loaded onto it?
posted by Citrus at 7:53 PM on April 4, 2012

If you do want to get her books, The Cloud of Unknowing (author unknown) and The Revelation of Divine Love by Dame Julian of Norwich are medieval works that are praised for their beautiful language and complex imagery as well as for their Catholic spirituality.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:22 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Raised Catholic here, and I agree, a very nice rosary would be lovely. I's a keepsake kind of thing.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:28 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or, alternatively, a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers to celebrate her "new life" in her faith. Also, flowers!
posted by anonnymoose at 8:29 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a non-religious person (raised catholic) whose boyfriend just got confirmed catholic last easter, I think that a pretty rosary would be a lovely gift, not too religious at all. Same thing with a little wooden cross pendant (another traditional gift for the occasion). I guess it's because the symbol of the cross is widespread, and not a strong indicator of religion, like a WWJD bracelet. But it will still have meaning and purpose for someone with faith.

The overly-religious gifts would be things like books discussing faith, books on saints, and other books/items with passages that seek to bring forth ideologies, discussion and opinions on faith and seeking closeness to God.

But I bought my boyfriend a bible in graphic novel form. Made for an entertaining read, especially the old testament, and kind of neat to have. Found it at the comic book store, too.
posted by lizbunny at 8:51 PM on April 4, 2012

I am a Jew who gave the devout Catholic caregiver of my grandmother a print of the Nativity written in Aramaic, Latin and English.
posted by brujita at 8:53 PM on April 4, 2012

Traditionally in confirmation, you take a saint's name as your confirmation name. If I had gone through with my confirmation I would've chosen Teresa. Maybe find out what your sister's name will be? They're usually chosen for a reason like you like their life story or what things/kinds of people they are the patron saint of. (Possibly better reasons, but I was thirteen when I went through all this.)

You could get her a simple, elegant saint medal necklace. There are tons of Catholic websites for them, but maybe try Etsy for something more unique and homemade?

Etsy search for "saint medal"

You might find that too religious, but as a lapsed Catholic, I still like all the iconography of the church: saints, sacred hearts, Virgin Mary. It's just aesthetics to me now.
posted by book 'em dano at 8:54 PM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

And agreed that a religious type gift needn't be considered insincere on your part. Rather, it conveys your support of her beliefs - though they differ from your own, you respect that this is what she chooses to believe.
posted by lizbunny at 8:56 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not your beliefs that matter here. It's hers.

Atheist here, but I have a pastor for a father and a fundamentalist brother-in-law. I buy religious items all the time without irony and much sincerity.

There's nothing saying you have to believe in what you are buying her.

There are also a lot of neat things in religions that even atheists can enjoy. Get her a History of the Roman Catholic church or a book of Roman Catholic art or architecture.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:09 PM on April 4, 2012

I'm a former Catholic and a rosary seems very religious to me.

At my confirmation a hundred years ago, I received a gold chain and my parents and grandparents and sponsor all bought me charms for it. My favourite was a tiny tiny faith, hope & charity. I suppose because I am still cool with hope and charity, it's something I would feel comfortable giving as a gift (I'm also an atheist). I don't know whether you could add a charm to your parent's gift, but that might be nice.
posted by looli at 10:37 PM on April 4, 2012

How about a bracelet with a dove charm that is similar to the necklace your parents are getting her. I wouldn't think of it as being religious if I saw it but your sister would know you made the effort to get her something that could be thought of that way.
posted by stray thoughts at 12:53 AM on April 5, 2012

My Catholic mother-in-law tells me that there is a quiet contention amongst Catholics regarding the wearing of the crucifix. Some are okay with it and some most definitely are not. Unless you know which camp your sister falls into (and this may just be a very regional thing, too) don't get her a crucifix.

I posed your question to her and she suggested that a rosary or a saint's necklace would both be very appropriate gifts to receive, even from an atheist family member. Your sister knows that you love her and your gift would be sincere.
posted by cooker girl at 5:42 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The famous convert/monk Thomas Merton, in his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, writes about the rosary he received from his non-Catholic (at that time) brother (Merton is in bed because he's in the hospital):
Under the sheet my hands folded quietly with my rosary between my fingers. It was a rosary John Paul [Merton’s brother] had given me for Christmas: since he did not know the difference between one rosary and another, he had let himself be cheated in some pious store, and bought some beads that looked good but which fell to pieces in six months. It was the kind of rosary that was meant to be looked at rather than used. But the affection which it represented was as strong as the rosary itself was weak, and so, while the beads held together, I used them in preference to the strong, cheap, black wooden beads made for workmen and old Irish washwomen which I had bought for twenty-five cents [1930’s money] in the basement of Corpus Christi during the mission.
You may want to coordinate with other relatives. I got more than one cross necklace when I was confirmed as an adult. Also, personal taste is so personal... even moreso with a necklace than with a rosary, what people will actually want to wear is very personally specific.

Substantial books might be a good option too. For instance a daily Missal, if your sister doesn't already have one.
posted by Jahaza at 7:07 AM on April 5, 2012

4a. I don't want to get her something super religious, because I'm an atheist, she knows it, and she knows that any deeply religious gift would be, in some sense, insincere.

It is only insincere is it is given with insincerity. A gift is about that person, not you.

Another option would be to talk to the pastor of the church where she is being confirmed and asking him what a good gift would be. He might say "well, I think her parents are getting her an X, but she discussed being interested in Y as well, so maybe something related to Y would be good?"

Chances are very good that they won't try to convert you or anything uncomfortable like that. If you say "hello father, I am so-and-so's cousin, and I'm not catholic, and I wonder if you'd help me in choosing a gift for her", they will just happily help. If they do by some chance ask about your beliefs, just be honest (and respectful of theirs), and chances are all you'll get is a "I'll be praying for you". But it would be more like conversation in passing, not a grilling.
posted by gjc at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2012

I recommend something from this etsy shopw. I've bought several things from there, and they always elicit great reactions. The shop owner will work with you to create something appropriate if what you want isn't there. There are lots of appropriate, secular-ish verses you could use.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:16 AM on April 5, 2012

Another option would be to talk to the pastor of the church where she is being confirmed and asking him what a good gift would be. He might say "well, I think her parents are getting her an X, but she discussed being interested in Y as well, so maybe something related to Y would be good?"

Yes! Good option. Just wait until Tuesday... this week is somewhat busy and exhausting for pastors.
posted by Jahaza at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Merton, he's pretty awesome. If you have a good religious bookstore they might have one of his books of reflections.

(I am a Catholic and for my confirmation I was given….no idea, honestly. A good/cool/unusual/beautiful rosary might have stuck in my mind. I chose Patrick, and tht should have guaranteed some nice Celtic stuff!)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2012

I always think books are nice gifts, but if you want to get something a little nicer maybe try to find a first edition or signed copy.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:38 PM on April 6, 2012

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