2011 Christmas Gift Recommendations!

If you are still looking for good Christmas gifts for friends or family then here are some great ideas. My friend online, Catholic Book Lady and I came up with some gift recommendations. We tried picking books that had some good practicality to them, such as classics of the spiritual life, or that would be welcome to a friend, and then chose ones in all price ranges. You can find most of these at good Catholic bookstores, or the usual popular online ones. We are using links to the publisher so as to not favor one particular store.  I know one popular online bookstore still has free shipping with $25+ orders until Monday and you’ll still get it before Christmas.  These books are not in any particular order.

#1 Catholic Scripture Study Bible – This is a very nice leather bible with lots of aids to bible study, maps, ribbons, and a whole apologetics section with a cheat sheet to aid you in finding Church teachings fast.

#2 The Daily Roman Missal -The new translation of the Mass is here and this will be a great aid for you.  Even if you are not able to attend daily Mass, you can still meditate on the day’s readings.  If you have an old missal, it is still good for the readings of the day because they have not changed, but the rest of the Mass is different.  This book covers every day, not just Sundays or weekdays, which I really like.

#3 Extreme Makeover:  Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture by Teresa Tomeo –  This is a great book I highly recommend because it shows the lies and distortions the culture and the media tell about issues important today such as women’s body image, the feminist agenda and related issues.  Teresa Tomeo then shows you how to overcome these distortions of our culture with a spiritual extreme makeover.  I did a review of this book awhile back: You Need a Makeover.

#4 Motherhood Matters – Inspirational Stories, Letters, Quotes & Prayers for Catholic Moms by Dorothy Pilarski.  I’m partial to Dorothy because she’s a friend of mine and has worked so hard on this book.  It questions whether the modern cultural version of motherhood is good for any of us, and encourages us to look at motherhood as a vocation.  It is loaded with practical advice.  She has a great set of endorsements from heavy hitters such as Alice Von Hildebrand, Lisa Hendey, Sr. Ann Shields and Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.  You can only obtain this book at Dorothy’s blog Gutsy Catholic Mom. 
Unfortunately, you will not get this before Christmas, BUT I suggest you print out a picture of the book and stick it in their stocking. It will be a Christmas gift they can enjoy later.  It’s that good.

#5 The Fire Within: Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and the Gospel on Prayer by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. – This is one of the BEST books on the spiritual life there is.  Fr. Dubay was a master spiritual director who gave decades of retreats to religious and lay people alike.  He goes into depth here on the spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.  The best part is he gives detail of each level of the spiritual life.  St. Teresa was firm that one should know where one is going in one’s prayer life to progress in prayer without confusion and fear. This is a book to keep for life and refer to repeatedly.

#6  National Catholic Register – This is not a book but an excellent newspaper.  I happen to think it is the best one in the U.S., but that is just my personal opinion.  It is now owned by EWTN and is very in depth.  It is an excellent gift, and I encourage you to subscribe for yourself as well.  You can get this in print, online or now on your Kindle. The Kindle version is $1.99/month, which is just phenomenal. 

#7 The Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible – New Testament This is just a fantastic gift.  Listen to it in the car.  It features fantastic actors such as Stacy Keach, Michael York and Blair Underwood and it’s amazingly produced.  It uses the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) bible.  I can’t say enough about it.



#8 The Navarre Bible New Testament – Expanded Edition  – I have many volumes of the Navarre Bible, both for the New and Old Testaments.  This is an expanded version with the whole New Testament and has more notes then previously published.  I love the Navarre Bible because it is user friendly, very faithful, written for the laity, and is set up to really aid both Lectio Divina (prayerful reading) and serious Bible study.  It uses the excellent RSV-CE translation of the Bible.

#9 Praying Scripture for a Change:  An Introduction to Lectio Divina  by Dr. Tim Gray –  I really enjoyed this small book about learning to pray with the scriptures.  You can read my review that I did a few months ago,  Quick Book Review:  Praying Scripture for a Change.  It would be a great gift for anyone who wants to learn about Lectio Divina or prayer in general.



#10 Imitation of Christ by Thomas A’ Kempis – Thomas was a German monk who lived in the 1400’s.  His book Imitation of Christ is the second best selling book in history, only surpassed by the Bible.  It is a guide to the spiritual life and, even though it was written for religious, is extremely profitable for the laity.  Every Christian should own a copy.  This book is published by several publishers.  I chose this particular volume, by Catholic Book Company, because it is inexpensive, but handsomely bound and is in hardcover.  They also have a soft leather version with a zipper.  It’s my opinion that if you own this book, it should be something that will last for life.  There are paperbacks, but this is inexpensive enough at $8.75 that why would you want a paperback?

Bonus Gift Recommendation!  A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms  by Lisa Hendey who is the founder of CatholicMom.com.  This is last but not the least.  We were trying to stick to 10 books but could not leave this one out!  It is a great book that brings moms 52 different saints for a year of meditations, prayers, practical advice and wisdom.  This is a great resource that any Catholic mom would love to have.


More stuff!  If you are interested in other good classics of the spiritual life then check out this article from the Catholic Spiritual Direction website:  Tattered Titles – And the Winners Are….  It has more recommendations you may like to share with those you love.  And if YOU have any great ideas please share them with us!  Merry Christmas!!!! 

The “Disabled” and “Choice”

I stumbled upon a blog today that I thought was interesting. It is written by a disabled feminist and challenges “pro-choice” people to really accept the disabled and their right to life and to having children. What is interesting is that in many ways, she and her commenters take what could be considered an extremely pro-life Catholic view – that the disabled are of equal worth and dignity, and they and their possible children have value. Where we differ is on the belief that women should be able to abort for whatever reason they want to. They never mention morality, because that would be wrong in their world, but in some ways they are more moral then average people who think abortion is OK if there is something wrong with the baby, and you should avoid giving birth to a less-than-perfect child at all costs.

The author and her commenters are VERY careful to make sure everyone knows they are not “pro-forced birth” people, and that they have extreme disdain for those who they think are. Their lingo is a bit different then what we are used to: what we call “normal” is called being “temporarily-abled,” but their belief that people with disabilities of any kind have a right to life, even though that life may not be perfect – and that they too can have children, is a very Catholic view.  Some of the commenters even use pro-life evidence that many early feminists were eugenicists that wanted disabled women to be sterilized to protect the species.

We have much common ground here with the Feminists With Disabilities. Another interesting post at the site  is about many people’s belief that it is better to be dead then have disabilities. Again it is a very pro-life Catholic view that people have worth and that “it is just pain,” and one can move past it to have a good life.  I would really be interested in your take on this.  Be aware that if you want to leave a comment there, the blog comments are VERY rigidly policed, and that if you don’t seem to be in line with their beliefs your comment will not be published.

A Thankful Thanksgiving

Well, it is THAT time of year again where we are both thankful and harried just thinking about what is coming in the next few weeks.  I want to wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.  A few years ago I posted a thanksgiving missive that wasn’t even for Thanksgiving, but now each year I post it again because I still mean it and it has sort of become a tradition. Please go read Thank You Lord and know that I’m thankful for all of you this holiday.  God Bless!

You Need A Makeover!

Let me tell you about a new book – my favorite thing to tell you about!  I have had a chance to look at a great new book by Teresa Tomeo.  Her book Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture is coming out October 7th and it is great.

Teresa Tomeo is a former secular news reporter and anchor who came back to the Church.  She is a successful author with several books, and is an EWTN host on radio and TV, and is a host on Ave Maria Radio.  I have to admit I did not know much about Teresa Tomeo and had not had the opportunity to read her work before, but she is wonderful.  Very down to earth and enjoyable.

Extreme Makeover seems to have two purposes, one is to show some of the common deceptions of our culture and how it – and the media – have betrayed us.  Teresa shows us the truth with hard facts about  radical feminism, abortion, “free sex”, etc. and relates those to Church teaching.  Body image and eating disorders are SO common among women, and all that really plays into how women relate to others and God.  Her point is to really show you the truth and gives you lots of resources to show others too.

The second part of her book is how to transform yourself to how Christ wants you to be – to have a spiritual “makeover.”  We as women need to find our true beauty. We need to discover how God truly loves us, how we are his beloved daughters, and he made us for beauty outside and inside too.  Our culture promotes a different kind of woman – self-centered, selfish, even cruel.  What I love about this book is the personal testimonies of how Teresa, and other women, found the truth – how their journeys happened and how it changed their lives.

I really think you will benefit from this book and I urge you to order it.  It would make a great Christmas gift.  I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to think ahead this year – for once!  If you want to read a deeper review of this book, Cheryl Dickow over at Catholic Lane has a good one.  And also head on over to Teresa Tomeo’s website, where she has her other great books too.

Quick Book Review: Praying Scripture for a Change

Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

“Lectio Divina is an integral part of the Church’s game plan for the renewal of faith in our times.” Praying Scripture for a Change

I finally finished the book Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina, by Dr. Tim Gray.  I ordered it a couple of months ago from Interlibrary Loan and even though it is a short book (only 120 pages) I’ve had a lot going on in my life, and had to renew it for another month.  Waiting for my son in the dentist’s office while he got a root canal, was an excellent opportunity to read through it and take copious notes.  I really liked it and will add this to my books every Catholic should read.

It is really hard for some reason to find information about how to do Lectio Divina (or divine reading – praying with the scriptures) properly.  A lot of websites have co-opted this method of prayer, which can lead to infused Contemplation, and have mingled it with Eastern prayer methods/Centering Prayer.  Eastern prayer methods, and it’s offshoot Centering Prayer, are not really compatible with true Christian prayer which is not an “emptying of the mind” but a “love look with the heart.”  Christian prayer is a conversation between persons who love each other.  Eastern prayer is a technique, not an exchange between lovers.

Lectio Divina is an ancient technique developed by a monk that starts with a slow, careful reading of the scriptures, followed by meditation, then prayer and then contemplation.  Christian meditation is not a relaxation technique but a “chewing” on of the scriptures to gain what you can from the text.  It is to figure out what the scripture means and what God is trying to tell you.  This leads to prayer and then a time of quiet with God that may, if God brings it to you, Contemplation.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It is simple, easy to understand and perfect for anyone truly wanting to know how to pray with the scriptures.  One thing that caught my attention was Dr. Gray’s explanation of the fact scriptures are not written like modern day books that practically throw away words, but each and every word was written in scripture to be important and link to other places in the bible to make a cohesive whole.  Over a long time you slowly gain knowledge of this and can gain greater insight into how God works and what He is trying to say.

In practicing Lectio Divina, I think the hardest part is deciding which scriptures to use.  The steps themselves are easy and flow into each other, especially after reading Dr. Gray’s text.  Buy this book, or find it in your library or through Interlibrary loan, but I highly recommend it and will be practicing Lectio Divina myself as often as I can.

Converts Explain How They Became Catholic

I discovered a great website yesterday – “Why I’m Catholic.” I LOVE conversion stories because they are so personal and powerful. Rome Sweet Home (probably the most successful and powerful conversions ever) and Surprised By Truth, with all it’s succeeding volumes, are just the beginning when it comes to the waterfall of conversion stories that the Lord has brought forth the past few decades.

Why I’m Catholic has a grand collection of stories from people with many faith backgrounds. They ask that if YOU have a conversion story to please let them know. This would be a great website to pass along to those who you know that might be interested in Catholicism but are a little shy, because hearing another’s testimony is a great way of overcoming the usual questions or confusion some people feel.

Win a NABRE Bible

New American Bible Revised Edition - NABRE Premium Ultra Soft Black

I just found a new bible blog, Catholic Bibles and they are having a contest to win a new NABRE bible! The NABRE is the new revised edition of the New American Bible. So go on over there and enter. The contest ends on Saturday, August 13 11:59PM EST.

One For the Museum

One can only hope that someday this picture will be displayed in a museum of abortion. Like today we have museums for the Holocaust – someday there will be museums showing the depravity of humanity to have killed 53 million people in the US alone, and probably billions around the world in another horrific holocaust.

Do You Bring Cheerios to Mass?

Deacon Greg Kandra has a great article over at Patheos about trying to get his parishioners to dress decently at Mass.  It think this is a frustrating universal problem in the United States (especially in my casual Southern state.)  In reading the comments to the article you can see why it is such a problem…people just don’t think it is a big deal.  I commented too and I reproduce it here for you.  Be sure to go read his article too (but come back!)

“I think Deacon, that you can see from the comments here why we have this exact problem at Mass.  First, let me say that I’m glad people come to Mass and I’m happy to have them, even if they are not dressed well or are 15 minutes late.  However, in general we have a laxity of dress in this society today. Many times I think, “What should I wear to an event?” and then dress down and it is usually right.

I have given up trying to make my 16 year old wear dress pants and dark shoes because no matter what Mass we go to (LifeTeen or not) all the teens will be in flip flops, T-shirts and jeans. I don’t want to discourage him from going so I pick my battles.  People just don’t think it is important to look nice or modest anymore.  So I just bite my tongue when the 14 year old girl comes in with a tube top or spaghetti straps, or the 17 year old guy comes in with the T-shirt with satanic symbols on it.

People also don’t get why we should not be bringing in food, water bottles, or soda to Mass. I am well aware of how hard it is to keep small children quiet and distracted at Mass. But, you know… Cheerios or Goldfish? How about a nice quiet, long lasting Tootsie Roll Pop. No mess, no bugging Mom for more. I did that until they were 3 and then no more. After that it was paper and pencil to draw or a small quiet toy to play with, etc. And believe me my boys were not easy in Church. The cry room is a wonderful place for the 2 year old if needed.

I think the problems are:

1) Few think it is necessary to dress up anywhere.  Comfort is all essential.

2) I don’t know about your church but mine is not exactly a beautiful and reverent place.

3) There are few people who really are reverent about the Eucharist, which is why we do everything the way we do at Mass.  If they were aware of how important the Eucharist is they would be very reverent.  This is why catechesis is so important.

4) Many people are not there to truly worship God, they are there to do their duty and “get it over with” while making themselves feel better that they went to Church, or that they are good people for taking their kids to Mass.

5) Essentially, it is all about “Me” and not about “God.” That is why so many hymns are “I” “We” “Us” and not really about praising Him.

It will hopefully help when we get a more reverent translation and maybe better music. I think it would also help to make the lights in the church very low and have the altar more lit. Perhaps having the lights low will encourage people from chatting – the old people are the worst in our church and they should know better. It also would encourage silent prayer.  Bring back the tabernacle and perhaps maybe turn the priest back around so you can say – “Hey, we are really here to worship God.” Let’s make it a special event and perhaps people will dress like it is special.”