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10 Christmas Gifts for the RCIA Candidate or New Catholic

10 Christmas Gifts for the Catholic Newbie via @ACatholicNewbie

Thanks be to God if you have someone in your live who’s decided to join the Catholic church or who is spending their first Christmas as a Catholic. These newbies need your support to help their faith flourish and grow so they will continue to become active Catholics who are making a difference in the world and spreading the Good News.

As someone now in their second Christmas as a Catholic, here are some suggestions for what to buy the budding Catholic in your life, most of which are less than $25:

1) A Rosary – Every Catholic needs a rosary (well, everyone in the world needs a rosary!), but to help keep their faith on fire (see more ideas), a devotion to Mary will do wonders. She will guide and mold them into the people God wants them to be. One of the best ways to get to know Mary — and her Son — is to pray the rosary. Buy them a simple rosary — it doesn’t need to be anything expensive or fancy they’ll be afraid to use — and print them out a guide to how to pray it like this one on Real Men Pray the Rosary.

Catholic Rosary

2) Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers” book – I just came across this resource on the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops website, which I think is perfect for someone still learning the faith. This paperback book helps you memorize essential prayers, explains the Liturgy of the Hours, goes through the Church’s liturgical year and how to pray throughout, as well as provides basic prayers for meals, blessing a house, Advent wreaths, times of distress and more. Plus, they’re giving away 1 copy daily throughout Advent. Enter to win here.

Catholic blessings book

3) Advent Wreath – No need to buy a fancy, dancy wreath! Make your own just like I did in these 4 simple steps that even the least crafty of us can accomplish. I’ve found many longtime Catholics do not have Advent wreaths, so this is a great way to get them started and it gives them something to pass down from generation to generation.

4) A Miraculous Medal – Continue to develop their devotion to the Blessed Mother by giving them a Miraculous Medal to wear. Mary asked St. Catherine Laboure to have this image cast into a medal and promised many blessings (and conversions) to those who wear it. Mother Teresa handed them out regularly. They only cost $1 at most Catholic book stores. I now have a store of them to pass out because mine always generates conversation among Catholics and non-Catholics alike!

Miraculous Medal

5) The Way of Serenity” (Harper Collins, 2014) by Father Jonathan Morris – There are several Catholics in the public eye who do a remarkable job of reaching across faith boundaries and demonstrating Catholicism to be modern, relevant and even fun! Father Jonathan Morris, a regular correspondent on Fox News Channel and program director for Sirius’ The Catholic Channel, is one. His new book, which looks at faith through the lens of the Serenity prayer, offers some of the most amazing conversational gems of wisdom that will certainly relate to your Catholic newbie. It’s an easy, inspiring read and it will likely encourage them to delve deeper into the Catholic faith.

The Way of Serenity by Father Jonathan Morris

6) God’s Bucket List” (Image Books, 2013) by Teresa Tomeo – Another easy-to-relate-to Catholic who has the gift of reaching outside of Catholicism is Teresa Tomeo, author and host of Catholic Connection, a daily Catholic news and talk radio show on EWTN Radio. I have listened to Teresa Tomeo almost daily since I happened upon the existence of Catholic radio and really enjoy her conversational and fun take on the world, the faith and how we can live it authentically. Her latest book, “God’s Bucket List” challenges you to consider what God has planned for you and shares her own wisdom and experiences through many laugh-out-loud stories.

Catholic Book by Teresa Tomeo

7) The  New American Bible & the Catechism of the Catholic Church – Everyone should have both of these — enough said! Package them together and perhaps bookmark a favorite passage in each that you think will be meaningful to them for a personal touch.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

8) 7 Secrets of Confession” (Ignatius Press) by Vinny Flynn — Confession, or Reconciliation, is an easy one for new Catholics to avoid. Or if you have someone going through RCIA, they’re likely very nervous about their First Reconciliation. I’ve got tips in my blog post on what I wish every RCIA candidate new about confession, but this book will do wonders in educating them in an easy-to-read way about the benefits and the reasons for confession. I loved it! It will inspire you to get there much more often, as well.

7 secrets of confession

9)The Holy Land” (Servant Books, 2013) by Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ – I think that as Christians, we need to take the time to understand the Holy Land in order to provide context in which to place Bible readings and Jesus’ life. For example, when the Bible tells us Mary, newly pregnant, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, did you know geographically how challenging that was? Seeing where she had to walk and the hills she had to climb gives you a new perspective on the self-sacrifice she made. Father Mitch, whom I adore for his ability to simply explain the Catholic faith without all the jargon, takes you on an armchair journey in this beautiful coffee table book filled with photos to all the key spots mentioned in the Bible, offering his unique insight along the way.

Holy Land by Father Mitch Pacwa

10) Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly – I just can’t have a list of recommendations without this book! It was key to my conversion and I think if you have any fence-sitters when it comes to the faith, it will help them make the leap. Matthew Kelly has a unique gift, not unlike Father Jonathan and Teresa Tomeo, to make the faith relevant to you today and explain why fasting, confession, weekly mass attendance and more is important and will help you on the path to becoming your best self. You can order a free copy here.

Rediscovering Catholicism

Let me know what you pick and if they liked it! May they have a very Merry Christmas as they unearth all the amazing resources of the Church!

 

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Are Catholic Bishops Living too Lavishly? CNN says so…

 

Catholic Bishops Living Lavishly
Over the weekend, I came across an article that stopped me in my tracks. The CNN Belief blog lists the residences of many of America’s prominent Catholic bishops, noting their size and value, which they define as “lavish.” It made me think about the morality of how a bishop should live.

Recently, Pope Francis, who is known for his humble ways, warned seminarians and nuns to avoid the temptation of thinking “the latest smartphone, the fastest moped and a car that turns heads” will make them happy. He even recommended riding a bike, or if you have to drive a car, to just “get a humbler one.”

But because this CNN article was not from the Catholic Church, rather from secular media, I knew there had to be more than meets the eye, so I asked some lay folks, priests, well-known Catholic personalities and Catholic authors to weigh in along with my thoughts.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Patti Armstrong, a prominent Catholic writer and author, noted that while the article pointed out the size and value of these residences, it did not consider HOW the bishops live in these residences. It is quite likely that they live humbly within the walls.

“People are judging by the building,” she said. “No one has been able to point to opulent living. You can’t judge by the cover and a house is just a cover.” She notes that St. Thomas Moore was a martyr whose position with King Henry VIII afforded him luxurious living. “The residence that comes with a position does not indicate necessarily how one lives,” she said.

Additionally, these residences are not the bishops’ personal homes but rather belong to the diocese.

A Matter of History

There is also the issue of the importance and magnificence of some of these buildings. Just as the Vatican holds a treasury of incredible artwork, written works, gorgeous historic cathedrals and ancient “lavish” artifacts, so may some of these American cathedrals and structures be historically or architecturally significant – now or down the line.

“Imagine if all of the Vatican treasures had been sold off, all that history,” said Armstrong. “There would be nothing for us to see today.” In caring for these buildings, opening them for public use and appreciation, and passing them down from bishop to bishop from priest to priest and from parish to parish, the Church is being a good steward of precious possessions. After all, if we are judging things by size and value, the size of St. Peter’s is several football fields and contains priceless works of art and no one thinks that should be sold!

Teresa Tomeo, host of Catholic Connection on EWTN radio and popular Catholic author, noted, “A lot of these homes have been in the various dioceses for decades or even longer and are attached or very close to the cathedrals.” A great article over at CatholicVote.com also notes that many of these residences were built over a century ago so the church is not paying mortgages. They also write that many of the buildings written about in the article are in some of the largest metropolitan areas with the highest property values.

But what about the newer homes built specifically for these bishops? “Many have been donated or built by the people and most are used as places for other clergy to stay when they come to town,” said Tomeo.

Meeting the World Where It Is

The need for meeting space and accommodations for overnight guests is another reason for the size of some of these residences. Many may house several priests or even staff in addition to the bishop. The argument can also be made that bishops must entertain prominent individuals who might not be accustomed to such humble surroundings as dictated by the Catholic Church. While that may be the case, would anyone, even royalty, have demanded that Mother Teresa meet them in a more lush space?

Father Christopher Roberts of the Lafayette, Ind., diocese and blogger at For Christ and the Church also noted that “The Church has always tried to engage the world in order to convert it,” and that, in fact, Peter and Paul went to Rome for that reason. “Sharing the Gospel in the modern world will often mean the Church has to adopt modern business practices and technology.” But the question is, to what extent?

What Does the Church Teach About This?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says “The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. All Christ’s faithful are to ‘direct their affections rightly lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty.’” (2544-2545)

Thanks to Father Roberts for directing me also to the PRESBYTERORUM ORDINIS document from Vatican II. It echoes Father’s sentiments about working in the world when it says, “Their ministry itself, by a special title, forbids that they be conformed to this world; (20) yet at the same time it requires that they live in this world among men. (21)” Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, Chapter I, No. 3, 20-21

Here is more from this document that directs us on the morality of a priest’s and bishop’s use of “goods”:

 “Ecclesiastical goods, properly so called, according to their nature and ecclesiastical law, should be administered by priests with the help of capable laymen as far as possible and should always be employed for those purposes in the pursuit of which it is licit for the Church to possess temporal goods-namely, for the carrying out of divine worship, for the procuring of honest sustenance for the clergy, and for the exercise of the works of the holy apostolate or works of charity, especially in behalf of the needy.(45) Those goods which priests and bishops receive for the exercise of their ecclesiastical office should be used for adequate support and the fulfillment of their office and status, excepting those governed by particular laws.(46) That which is in excess they should be willing to set aside for the good of the Church or for works of charity. Thus they are not to seek ecclesiastical office or the benefits of it for the increase of their own family wealth.(47) Therefore, in no way placing their heart in treasures,(48) they should avoid all greediness and carefully abstain from every appearance of business.” – Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, Chapter III, Section 2, No.17, 45-48

And “A certain common use of goods, similar to the common possession of goods in the history of the primitive Church, (52) furnishes an excellent means of pastoral charity… Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions. Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even the most humble, fear to visit them.” – Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, Chapter III, Section 2, No. 17, 52 & 53

Here’s what stands out to me:

  • All excess should be set aside for the good of the Church or works of charity.
  • They should avoid all greediness.
  • They should carefully abstain from every appearance of business.
  • Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone.

Not Size, but Intention

I think we need to view this from the perspective of not how big is the rectory and how much is it worth, but how are the bishops “addressing their affections,” or in other words, what is their intention in having these large, valuable properties? Where is their heart?

If their intentions are to serve Christ and they believe this is the most effective means of doing so, then they are following His directive and living out His Word. If they are being tempted into luxury and greed or attracted to worldly things to maintain such properties and they could carry out their tasks without these items, they are not.

But this is next to impossible for an outsider, especially secular media, to know, and we can be certain we will be judged by the same measure with which we judge others. Who among us is not attached to worldly goods?

What Can We Learn from This?

One important lesson I see is remembering that the Church is not perfect, as it’s made up of imperfect humans – priests, bishops, lay people, nuns, monks, deacons – in a fallen world and has done wrong in the past, as have we all. It does not hurt to take a close look at what the Church is doing to look for ways to improve.

This is an area, in my humble opinion, where I believe the Church can probably do better. I’m sure there are many cases where maintaining a more valuable, large rectory is warranted and the most efficient means of pastoring a flock, but I’m also sure there are cases where it is not.

Let’s all challenge ourselves as followers of Jesus, with our bishops, to more closely follow the narrow path to which Christ has called us and look at the intentions of our hearts when it comes to worldly goods. Where it’s possible, let’s downsize and give, not just out of our abundance, but out of our need like the widow. Jesus told the rich man – and the apostles – to give away everything and follow Him. The Church is not perfect, but it can strive to be, as Jesus calls us, and in following Pope Francis’ lead.

As Father Roberts said, “I admire Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s decision to live at the Cathedral Rectory in Boston. I hope more bishops, priests and lay people follow his lead.” Me, too.

Note: I reached out to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to see if they had an official response to this CNN article.  They did respond, saying they did not.

Christmas Catholic Book Giveaway

Catholic Book GiveawayIf you’re anything like me, you love to read! Since I became interested in Catholicism and converted, the stack of Catholic books on my shelf is sky high — with many unread — but I just can’t resist buying new ones that pique my interest. If I’m any kind of an addict, it’s for books. They are always the one thing when we clean out our house, I just can’t stand to give away. 🙂

So here is a great new contest from the team at Teresa Tomeo Communications, run by the fabulous Catholic TV and radio show host Teresa Tomeo. As a part of the team who promotes various Catholic authors, organizations and projects, we’re giving away 15 awesome Catholic books from authors like Teresa, Dan Burke, Randy Hain, Matthew Kelly, Al Kresta, Father Mitch Pacwa and more. Plus, you have a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card to purchase whatever you’d like this Christmas. It’s Teresa’s gift to you and a way to share some of her favorite Catholic writers.

There are a bunch of ways to enter and the more you do, the better your chances to win. Browse the list below and choose which ways (or all ways!) you’d like to enter. Be sure to complete your entries before Dec. 9 (and there are a few entries you can do daily that involve promoting the contest to your network) when the contest closes. Then we will announce the winners on Dec. 10 via social media and by contacting you via the email you submit.

If there’s a particular book you’re interested in, note that in your entry or be sure to complete the Answer a Question entry that asks which book you’d like to win. Complete contest rules are available at TeresaTomeo.com. That’s it! Go enter below and good luck!

Prizes:

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card
  • “God’s Bucket List” by Teresa Tomeo
  • “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage” by Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.
  • “These Beautiful Bones” by Emily Stimpson
  • “Something More” by Randy Hain
  • “Dangers to the Faith” by Al Kresta
  • “Navigating the Interior Life” by Dan Burke
  • “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” by Matthew Kelly
  • “Real Men Pray the Rosary”  by David Calvillo
  • “Big Hearted” by Patti Armstrong and Theresa Thomas
  • “Dear God, I Don’t Get It” by Patti Armstrong
  • “Pope Francis” by Matthew Bunson
  • “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms” by Lisa Hendey
  • “Experience Grace in Abundance” by Johnnette Benkovic
  • “Mission Libertad” by Lizette Lantigua
  • A Mass Journal from Dynamic Catholic

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God’s Bucket List Item No. 1: Live with Stillness

In Teresa Tomeo’s new book, “God’s Bucket List,” she challenges us to forget our own to-do lists and consider what God would put on our bucket list. Essentially, she’s invoking the age-old idea of getting out of your own way and turning your life over to God. In a recent interview, she put it this way: “If God’s your co-pilot, you’d better changes seats! He should be the pilot!”

That’s certainly a path I’ve been on over the last year or two. So I wanted to stop and ponder each of the items that Teresa considers are likely on God’s Bucket List for most and see how I’m doing. No. 1 on the list? Live with stillness. She quotes from scripture, “Be still and know that I am God.” — Psalm 46:10.

I have always sought stillness and solitude in my life. I’ve never been much for noise and loudness. Since childhood, I was the quiet person — the one you could find curled up in a chair with a good book rather than out at the neighborhood party.

Growing up and into my 20’s I could find that quiet and silence when I needed it without any demands on my time except my early jobs and my boyfriend, now husband. I explored yoga and meditation and ventured down the new age path of philosophies and communion with God.

When I had my kids, my silence pretty much got flushed down the toilet! And that was a huge challenge for me — and still is. My kiddos, both boys, pretty much make noise constantly whether actual words or just “noise” and silliness. My youngest is quite the talker and since he was a baby was literally always “saying” something.

So stillness is how God “hooked” me into the Catholic church. He called me there and I went, and after I experienced the peace and solitude, I kept coming back for more and more.

I was truly surprised at how much emphasis the Catholic church puts on meditation, reflection and silence in the presence of God. It reminded me a lot of my new age experiences. I love meditation, which I had already honed in my yoga and other practices, but with the focus on Jesus and in the presence of the Eucharist, it reaches its true fulfillment. Once you truly learn how to let go of the world around you, the joy and peace that wells up inside during meditation is unmatchable.

So now I try to attend daily mass whenever I can, spend time in the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible, pray multiple times daily and do spiritual reading at home. When my body is screaming for quiet, these activities refill my tank, so I can be  noisy with my family without pulling my hair out. 🙂

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” — Psalm 23:2, one of my favorite verses.

If you can be still, this is where you will “hear” God. I have been called to do many things during the still times of my life that I would have missed had I not taken the time to slow down and listen.

How are you doing with bucket list item No. 1? Please share!

No 2 on Teresa’s bucket list: Live your passion. Stay tuned…

 

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