Thursday, December 8, 2016

12 Gifts that Keep Christ in Christmas (2016 Edition)

This year, I'm combining my Christmas gift suggestions with my annual post on Best Catholic Books I Read in the past year. Because if you're a bookworm like me, books will always make the best gifts. Here are my top picks for married couples, mothers, kids, and everyone.

For Engaged & Married Couples

1. The Four Keys to Everlasting Love. You know it, I gotta say it, but I believe it, too. Admittedly, my husband and I wrote this book, but I still think it's pretty freaking great. Every time I re-read it, I find something that helps us in our marriage right now.

2. Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner. This terrific resource for engaged couples covers the practical AND spiritual aspects of preparing yourself to walk down the aisle. Nobody can resist a two-fer, right? Plus, the author Stephanie Calis is a doll. Nuff said. Read my interview with Stephanie here

For Mothers

3. The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. This book of short and poignant daily reflections starts January 1, 2017, and runs throughout the whole year. A good way to keep Christ in Christmas and every day after.

4. Divine Mercy for Moms. This best-seller from Ave Maria Press is a favorite with book clubs and has sold more than 10,000 copies so far. See what all the fuss is about!

For Kids

5. YOU. Life, Love & the Theology of the Body. This program for teens includes high-quality video presentations and a comprehensive study guide that can be used at home as well as in a parish or school. If you're serious about explaining to your teen the importance of staying chaste until marriage, give this program as a gift to them. And then go through it together! The videos appeal on an intellectual and emotional level and are appropriate even for young teens and tweens. My 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son loved the story by Jason Evert about how he resisted pressure from his very young peers to steal a kiss from a girl at recess on the school playground.

6. Mami, Mami, Cuando Rezas. This sweet Spanish-language book for toddlers and pre-school children is a translation of Mommy, Mommy, When You Pray. This 25-page picture book teaches kids how much their parents cherish them as gifts from God. The Spanish version helps teach them another language, too! Great separately or as a matched set. Read my review here.

For Everyone

7. Sacred Music CDs from Gloriae Dei Cantores. The sacred music of the Church is one of its greatest treasures, especially the early masterpieces of Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. Paraclete Press has a stunning collection of both types of recordings by the choir Gloriae Dei Cantores. You can't go wrong with any of them, but my favorite is Masters of the Renaissance, which features "top 40" composers of the age like Tomas Luis de Victoria, William Byrd, and Orlande de Lassus. To listen to clips of the choir's polyphonic singing, click here and for clips of  their Gregorian chant singing, click here.

8. Illustrated Version of Dickens' Christmas Carol. This new edition of a timeless classic includes reprints of the original illustrations. Charming!

9. Icons: The Essential Collection. This hardcover coffee table art book has over 60 full-color images of icons by Sr. Faith Riccio. To my untrained eye, these icons look like they could have been created centuries ago in Russia. There's no unwelcome hint of modernity. Brief explanations show us how to "read" the icon and understand its symbolism. The one drawback for me is too many pictures and not enough words! I would have loved at least 10 more pages of explanation per icon.

10. All God's Angels. I've been thinking a lot about angels lately, imagining that the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael stay beside me every night while I sleep. And of course the Christmas story evokes stunning visions of angels trumpeting in the sky. This paperback book quotes 24 passages where angels appear in Scripture, bringing to light the role that angels have played and continue to play in the history of our salvation. Also accompanied by gorgeous reproductions of angels in sacred art throughout the centuries.

11. Nuns in Space. For the more futuristic minded, this Catholic sci-fi novel introduces us to the space-faring religious sisters who belong to the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue. Delves into essential questions like how does our physical environment shape our society, government, and even religious beliefs; other than our sentience, what makes us human; and how would religion treat genetically modified humans? Read my review here

12. From Grief to Grace. This book is for anyone who has ever suffered, and haven't we all? As I wrote in my earlier review, the book's author "reveals insights from psychology and theology as she explores the meaning of grief, its common causes, and its ultimate purpose. She gives specific tips in dealing with grief caused by death, infertility, miscarriage, abortion, divorce, addiction, mental illness, and chronic disease." Give the gift of comfort this Christmas, and the knowledge that grief will eventually make way for grace.

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