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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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Struggling to Get a Loved One to Convert to Catholicism

Fr. Mitch PacwaI recently had the privilege of interviewing Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., about his new book “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage” and to get his take on traveling to the Holy Land. But in the course of the interview, he said something that really struck me. I find the way he words things often makes something that, to me, is difficult or complicated, as plain as day :).

In this case he spoke about people who bring along a family member on one of his Holy Land pilgrimages that he leads each year in the hopes of their conversion to Catholicism. I think every true Catholic has someone in their lives they desire to know the joy they have found within the Church and for whom they have cajoled, prayed and done everything they know to do. Father’s take?

“I cannot engineer anybody’s conversion. Conversion is always a management issue. God is the manager. God invokes the grace of conversion. I’m simply in sales.” — Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

What a great quote! Funny AND it gets the point across very clearly. It’s not up to us if someone converts; it’s really not up to them either. It’s up to God alone. Pray and then trust that God has the perfect timing. And remember if St. Monica can wait patiently for 30 years for the conversion of her son St. Augustine and be rewarded, so might our patience and trust be rewarded, too.

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 That’s it! Go enter below and good luck!


  • $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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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 :).

See more travel articles on my website.