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My Favorite Catholic Books as Gift Ideas

Truth be told, there is nothing I’d rather receive for a gift than a book. Jewelry, nope. Clothing, nope. Perfume, nope, not for me. But books? Bring ’em on! I am a book-oholic for sure, as I can’t resist buying one with an intriguing title or one where I just heard the author on the radio or one a trusted source recommends. So suffice it to say I have stacks!

For the last year or so, I just can’t seem to quench my thirst for Catholic books, and I’ve read quite a few over that period. Here are a few that I’d recommend as gifts for the newbie Catholic OR the cradle Catholic — a good book is a good book.

Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly – This is perfect for an RCIA candidate, someone new to Catholicism, someone who’s fallen away from the faith or someone who just wants an easy-to-understand refresher about the holy Catholic church. This book helped sell me on becoming Catholic. Kelly made sense of all the things that, to me, seemed outdated and illogical: fasting, going to mass EVERY week, penances and more. It is a simple read that can make a big difference in a person’s life. You can get FREE copies at www.dynamiccatholic.com

RCIA CatholicismGod’s Bucket List” by Teresa Tomeo – Listening to Teresa Tomeo, who hosts a national radio show on Catholic Radio every morning, is one of the favorite parts of my day. She is fun to listen to — you feel just like you’re chatting with your girlfriend — and she gives a Catholic perspective on the news of the day, as well as interviews all sorts of authors and experts in Catholicism. She’s helped me make sense of my new faith on many an occasion. In her characteristic personable style, she’s written a new book all about discerning God’s plans for you. A play on the pop culture phrase “bucket list,” she encourages readers to follow God’s bucket list for their lives instead of their own and gives you step by step instructions to start making that shift. A fun and insightful read.

Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom” by Marge Fenelon – This book is a wonderful study of Mary for moms. Fenelon walks you through all the key stories in the Bible that mention Mary, encouraging you to imagine how she must have felt. She then points out her most blessed virtues in the face of much surprise and sadness and shows us how we can embrace those virtues as moms with action steps for each chapter. Every Catholic mom should read!

Holy Land by Father Mitch PacwaThe Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage” by Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. – I also love listening to Father Mitch on Catholic Radio when takes questions about Catholicism on shows like Open Forum. He was the first one who made sense of purgatory and redemptive suffering for me! He explains things so simply and clearly, and in this new book, he helps you understand the geographical setting of the Bible in order to better understand the scriptures. It’s a lovely book, which literally takes you step by step through all the key sites in the Holy Land, offering insight, prayers, meditations and scripture readings. This is a good gift for any Catholic, or especially those who are are tough to buy for.

The Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux – Learn from this beautiful little saint how you can turn all the “little” things in your life into gifts to God. She shows you that God doesn’t always require big actions and that the simplest acts of denial and sacrifice can benefit other souls when offered up to God. She is my confirmation saint and I love her dearly :).

Theology of the BodyThese Beautiful Bones” by Emily Stimpson – This book is one of the best written books I’ve come across — she truly turns words into a work of art. I’d recommend it for those interested in theology or who want to deepen their Catholicism. It may prove to be a tough read for a newbie unless they’ve dived headfirst into theology. I loved this book, though. She shows you how to use the body God has given us for His glory in everything we do from cooking and cleaning to how we dress and more. It’s full of quote after quote. If you’re looking for a truly lyrical read about Catholicism, this is it!

These are some of my favorites from the past year that I think others would enjoy. Get them for yourself or for others for Christmas or as books to read in the New Year. Happy reading!

 

Take an Armchair Pilgrimage to the Holy Land & Boost Your Knowledge of Scripture

Catholic Holy Land TravelTraveling to the Holy Land has never really been on my dream to-do list. My grandparents were blessed to go there before they passed on and had a wonderful time and my dad was even recently talking about a trip, but it’s never held much appeal for me. I think of it as a dry, barren place with much conflict, and while I wouldn’t mind seeing the places where Jesus walked, there were just too many other beautiful places I’d rather go.

Recently, I was asked to review a new book entitled “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage” by one of my favorite priests, Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. Father has led almost 60 trips to Israel and is an expert on the Holy Land and its Catholic significance. I love to listen to him on Catholic Answers radio, because he is such a humble guy and he is wonderful at explaining the complexities of the Catholic faith in terms that make sense to me. So I was delighted to take a look!

As soon as I opened this book, I was entranced! It’s a lovely hardcover book full of heavenly photography that gives you a wonderful sense of place. It didn’t take too many pages before I realized why I should care about visiting the Holy Land: You can’t truly understand the Bible without an understanding of the context in which it’s written.

Don’t you gloss over all the names of towns and mentions of geographical places and details when reading the Bible? I do! I thought, “Eh, that’s not important, it’s WHAT Jesus is saying that is important.” But after reading Fr. Mitch’s book, I realized I was missing a giant component that could greatly help my comprehension of the scriptures.

Let me give you an example. In the Bible when “The Visitation” is described, it says “Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judea.” As we meditate on this mystery during the rosary, we should consider how Mary felt as she made this journey. You can only truly do this with a knowledge of the time and place where this occurred.

In Fr. Mitch’s book, he takes you to the actual “hill country” that is referenced and explains how “hilly” it really is. Says Fr. Mitch in his book, “The climb up the driveway [to Elizabeth and Zechariah’s property] is a bit strenuous, causing one woman on a pilgrimage to say, ‘You mean she came up here pregnant?'” Can you imagine Mary pregnant, riding a donkey and climbing up a hill — in haste no less? How’s that for food for thought?

In his book “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage,” Fr. Mitch leads you step by step through each geographic region of the Holy Land, taking you to all the key landmarks. In his wonderfully conversational writing, he explains the importance of each location, takes you on a verbal tour of the area and offers a prayer or bit of scripture for reflection. Each section is also accompanied by beautiful photography so you can imagine what it’s truly like to be there.

In  many places, Father cleared up some facet of Catholicism I didn’t understand or revealed to me some obvious connection I’d never made by explaining the geographical importance. But he’s just good at that :).

This book is the next best thing to actually traveling to the Holy Land, because let’s face it, for many of us, budgets just don’t allow for it. Maybe someday… but this is as good a start as any. It would also make a great companion if you really are traveling to the Holy Land. You could read the scriptures at each place, learn about the location, reflect on his words and pray the prayers Father has composed.

Guess what? Now, I’m dying to travel to the Holy Land! Thanks Father Mitch :).

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