Christianity, Religion

Catholic Culture: Sponsor Gifts for someone in RCIA

Catholic Culture: Sponsor Gifts for someone in RCIA

A few years ago I had the absolute pleasure of sponsoring someone entering into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA). Maybe it’s because the candidate was a girl in college but the relationship felt a lot like the big-little sorority thing (I was not in a sorority so maybe I’m wrong). I ran with that and asked the director if I could give her liturgically appropriate gifts to help her live out her Catholic faith. Once I got an enthusiastic YES it was time to start figuring out what to give her throughout the year. I surprisingly did not find many articles or blogs on the subject so I made up my gift ideas. Considering I still do not find many resources on this, I decided to write my own post on the matter.

Note: I have been sitting on this post for over a year and well since a new crop of RCIA is starting up there is no time like the present to *finally* publish this post!

Don’t Do Too Much

There is a wealth of rich history and tradition in the Catholic faith; we are a religion that likes stuff, and lots of it. But this can easily overwhelm an RCIA candidate because they are trying to wrap their head around basic theology first. Pick a few things that can help them feel more connected, not overwhelmed, and be sure to include a brief history on the item to help guide them. If you’re anything like me, this will also help you to grow in your understanding of the faith too.

Our RCIA program started in August, just as school was starting, to provide for the most time until Easter when the initiates receive their sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation). I suggest waiting until Hallowtide to give any gifts; it gives you a chance to get to know your candidate and doesn’t overwhelm them (or you). I am going to make a lot of suggestions below from some of my favorite shops, with basics like Amazon thrown in for good measure, please don’t break the bank on these gifts. A little something to help them along is plenty!

Read more: Catholic Culture: Liturgical Living

Hallowtide: All Saints’ Day

To celebrate All Saints I gave my candidate a pack of saint cards with the suggestion to make an “All Saints” banner or wreath, or even just simply arrange them on the dinner table. I also picked up a simple book of saints to help my candidate chose her saint for confirmation. There are sooo many book of saints so I will just list a FEW here:

Reminder! This is also a holy day of obligation (get thee to mass!) & it is a wonderful practice to coordinate with your RCIA candidate to go together.

Be A Heart Design also has a lot of fun All Saints Day party goods: CLICK HERE. And Brick House in the City has a huge variety of saint tees, I especially love the litany of saint tees by topic (i.e. educators, mental health, black saints, etc): CLICK HERE

Hallowtide: All Souls’ Day

To commemorate All Souls’ Day and remember the holy souls in purgatory (the devotion for the month of November) I gave a glass novena candle with a sharpie. The directions included to write the name of your dead loved ones and light the candle every time at dinner to remember to pray for them by name to be released from purgatory to heaven. Catholic All Year now has a “write on” Eternal Rest candle that is perfect for the month of November & His Girl Sunday has an eternal rest prayer frame to put a picture of a loved one.

Curious about this purgatory stuff? Feel free to read this post from Catholic All Year: Memento Mori for Kids: Other People Died and You Will, Too. Or, A Very Catholic Hallowtide.

Read more: Catholic Culture: Remembering All Souls’ Day

Notes about Catholics & candles: Candles used in worship in church must be at least 51% beeswax (old school circles prefer 100% beeswax); although that requirement does not apply to home use I have found beeswax to be far superior. Secondly, candles used for religious purposes are often blessed on Candlemas (February 2). I have personally never gotten my candles blessed but I think that would be a really special thing to add to the gift if it was blessed by a priest.

Note about sacramentals, aka blessed items: Once an item is blessed, it becomes a sacramental and there are special rules. You CANNOT throw away a sacramental! There are only 2 options for disposal: bury it or burn it. So I would think about just getting a beeswax candle blessed and not the glass jar if this is something you want to do. Is this Catholics being overly picky? Probably, but let us have our silly two-thousand year old culture.

Read more: Your Guide to Catholic Holidays on Death


For many people going through RCIA Advent will be their first *big* Catholic season. There’s so much to unpack with Advent but here are some major pointers:

  1. It’s the start of the new liturgical year
  2. It is a period of waiting before Christmas (it’s not Christmas yet!)
  3. It starts 4 Sundays before Christmas Day

In the United States, Advent wreaths are customary (I only recently learned that Catholics borrowed them from Lutherans in Germany!). Our church does an advent wreath fundraiser so I bought an advent wreath from there. Alternatively you can make an advent wreath out of seasonal greens (the church prefers the use of live greenery, but it is not a requirement) or buy one of the many, many wreaths for sale. Here are a few advent related links for gifting:

Note about Advent Devotionals: there are many, many Advent devotionals out there and while I think they are a wonderful resource to keep the “waiting” part alive of Advent, I think a Catholic newbie is probably already overwhelmed that I wouldn’t want to add pressure. If your RCIA candidate seems they’re all about that (especially if they come from a Christian background where they already used devotionals) then go for it!

Read more: Catholic Culture: Advent

Advent: Immaculate Conception

I am including the Immaculate Conception as a separate gift event from Advent because it is an awesome occasion to focus specifically on the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is something that many converts either don’t understand at all or have been taught to be suspicious of after life-long Protestant brainwashing training. I like to give a Mary-specific gift as an opportunity to help the candidate understand her role in Catholicism (they usually grow to love her later).

For the Immaculate Conception in particular there are some unscented soaps and candles which are pretty punny because they are “100% clean.” This is probably a good time to explain that the dogma that the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being conceived without sin, not Jesus. And it’s ok if your candidate isn’t onboard with “the whole Mary thing;” it takes time but I find that Mary works on the hearts of every Catholic through quiet love and patience.

Reminder! This is also a holy day of obligation (get thee to mass!) & it is a wonderful practice to coordinate with your RCIA candidate to go together.

Read more: Catholic Culture: Immaculate Conception & Veiling


When the rest of the world is sick of Christmas because they have been caroling since December 1st, Catholics get a whole extra 12 days to celebrate! In America, everyone knows more or less the basics of Christmas, but as Catholics there is such a deeper meaning to it all. It’s the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus (it’s not his actual birthday FYI). For Catholics, there is a Christmas Octave (8 special days of feasting & prayers) until the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (which is also the secular New Years Day)! And then after that octave, we still get to party until the Epiphany.

Reminder! Christmas AND the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God are holy days of obligation (get thee to mass!). I know the holidays can get busy but many people have time off work around these days, it is imperative to set a good example to your RCIA candidate and get yourself to mass too!

For RCIA Christmas gifts, I kept it simple (only 1-2 items) but there is SO MUCH to choose from! Rather than list a million items below, think about something your candidate needs or something their soul is desiring. Perhaps they are interested in praying the rosary, then get that!, but don’t forget a nifty rosary guide. Maybe they want some Catholic jewelry or sticker swag for their water bottle? If you are feeling super generous Catholic All Year has an awesome Advent + Christmastide Box jammed with goodies. Many Catholic shops are geared towards women, but there are plenty of gifts for men too!

Read more: Catholic Culture: The Twelve Days of Christmas


After Christmastide, comes Ordinary Time. This period can be quite long or short, depending on when Ash Wednesday is, which starts the season of Lent. In my opinion Lent is THE thing that separates Catholics from other Christians (sometimes Advent gets lost in the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle): stores & restaurants will advertise seafood menus on Fridays, Catholics walk around with smudges on their foreheads, people complain about what they “gave up for Lent,” and the churches are filled with a somber purple.

In RCIA, Lent also corresponds with the beginning of the end of the RCIA process (for most candidates) & each Sunday there is a different scrutiny, basically a rite to get the candidate ready for initiation. It can be a scary time for many candidates, often times this is when someone will either back out or decide they need another year. In light of that, I highly recommend not overwhelming your candidate with stuff and extra things to do during Lent. Lent is about stillness, and a personal  journey to Good Friday and the joy of Easter. I will link a couple of things I feel are useful, but the most important thing here is you: be available to walk with your candidate through the “desert” of “Lent.

Although technically not required of RCIA candidates (because they are not Catholic yet) it is customary that they too “take up” the Catholic crosses during this season: no meat on Fridays of Lent + Ash Wednesday, fasting AND abstinence of meat on Ash Wednesday + Good Friday, giving something up along with (in my tradition) doing something good & prayer. Prayer is the cornerstone of Lent. I think it would be a good practice for you and your candidate to choose one prayer together to pray each day for each other. We Catholics have lots of prayers to choose from (feel free to pick one in Latin if you are up to it)!

Read more: Catholic Culture: 2021 Ash Wednesday &  Lent


Holy Week & Eastertide

Holy Week is a HUGE week for Catholics: from Palm Sunday to Holy Thursday to Good Friday to Holy Saturday with the Easter Vigil (for candidates receiving baptism) to the biggest day of the year: Easter! I do not do any Holy Week specific gift giving because I give a gift on the day of the sacrament of initiation. Depending on what sacrament(s) your candidate received, Studio Senn’s website has lovely cards for Baptism (that are not baby-specific), Communion, & Confirmation.

A crucifix is a *very* Catholic thing (as opposed to a plain cross for Protestant Christians) & makes a lovely gift. House of Joppa has gorgeous Catholic home decor & crucifixes. There are crucifixes at all price points but this is something I don’t think you should skimp on. I would also snag some of the holy water blessed during the Easter Vigil (especially if your candidate is getting baptized that night!) & pour it into a holy water bottle for them to use for years to come.

Depending on the temperament, age, and interest of your candidate there is a wide variety of gifts you can give here. Catholic Company even has a page on their website for RCIA gifts. Here are a FEW ideas:

I could go on forever with this list, but you get the idea!

Note: our RCIA process gives all candidates a Catholic Bible (yes, it is different than the Protestant one!) & the Catechism of the Catholic Church + the USBC Catechism of the Catholic Church. If your program doesn’t, absolutely gift the Catechism & Bible first! A set of Bible tabs might be a nice additon!

Bonus! Confession

Although I did not gift items for confession (I was still dealing with my own issues with confession at the time), this is definitely something that anyone from a Protestant background might be nervous or downright antagonistic against. Maybe an examination of conscious or short book on the sacrament of confession would be helpful? At the bare minimum go over the “steps” with your catechumen, although confession is totally valid if none of these “steps” are followed, I find that having a framework makes me more comfortable in any situation.

Bonus! Saints & Liturgical Living

Once your candidate has picked their saint name there’s a plethora of ideas that you can use to personalize their gift at the culmination of their journey!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *