As Christmas draws nearer, the twinkling lights seem a little brighter, the heavenly music is a little sweeter and finalizing gifts is a little more stressful.
Arkansas Catholic compiled a two-part gift-giving guide from local Catholic businesses and Diocese of Little Rock leaders to help readers fulfill anyone’s wish list this year with some spiritual gifts.
Guardian Church Goods owner Michael Lipsmeyer said Catholics should consider shopping local this Christmas.
“We have great spiritual reading and sometimes that’s hard to find,” he said. “It’s always good to support your local businesses.”
Beyond material gifts, it’s always important to remember that showing kindness goes a long way.
Family life director Elizabeth Reha said she and her family will also be giving the gift of appreciation for one another.
“What I’ve been doing with our family is personal letters to say how much we appreciate that particular person in our family,” Reha said. “… The personal letter of appreciation, handwritten of course, is what I’ve been gearing towards.”
Books, CDs and movies are available from major bookstores and Amazon.com unless otherwise noted.
• “Mary” by art historians Martina Degl’Innocenti and Stella Marinone, is the fourth volume in a series.
Barbara Hartwick, who works at Guardian Church Goods in Little Rock, Arkansas’ first Catholic bookstore, said the “artwork is phenomenal.” | guardianchurchgoods.com; (501) 372-2582
• “The Vatican Cookbook: Presented by the Pontifical Swiss Guard,” released in April, contains 500 years of classic recipes served at the Vatican.
“I think it’d be a great Christmas present. Really neat recipes in it,” Hartwick said.
• “Panorama of the New Testament,” from Little Rock Scripture Study.
Cliff Yeary, associate director of Little Rock Scripture Study, said combined with the “Panorama of the Old Testament” can be a great gift. “We’re excited about that one, the commentary that accompanies that is so readable,” he said. | littlerockscripture.org; 1-800-858-5434
• “A Woman Wrapped in Silence” by John W. Lynch
While it was published in 1968, the book is still relevant today, said Sister Joan Pytlik, DC, diocesan minster for religious.
“It’s the life of Mary in poetry. It’s old but it’s still so wonderful; I give it to so many people that come for spiritual direction,” she said.
• “Dear Pope Francis” is a compilation of letters from children all over the world and the pope’s responses to their questions, by Loyola Press.
The 72-page book is a New York Times Bestseller and includes children’s handwritten letters that include illustrations along with the pope’s responses to questions that range from “Why do you need that tall hat?” to “How can you settle conflicts in the world?”
“He just embodies the spirit of humility and a childlike faith,” said Liz Tingquist, diocesan director of youth and campus ministry. “When I say childlike faith, I mean a faith open to wonder and allowing yourself to be awed.”
• “Your Love Story: A Guide to Engagement and Marriage,” by William Turrentine
Reha said the book is from the Couple to Couple League, but it isn’t about natural family planning, but about “having a healthy, holy marriage.”
• “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers” and “A New Beginning” (bilingual), both released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sister Norma Muñoz, MCP, director of the diocesan Hispanic Ministry Office, said these books are useful for both Spanish and English ministers to understand how to bridge cultural divides. | store.usccb.org
• Arkansas Catholic
Cliff Yeary, associate director of Little Rock Scripture Study, said he enjoys reading Catholic publications, many of which offer gift subscriptions or discounts during the Christmas season.
“Of course, Arkansas Catholic would be up there,” he said. | arkansas-catholic.org
Yeary said he also enjoys reading national Catholic periodicals like America, Commonweal, National Catholic Register and National Catholic Reporter.
• “Give Us This Day,” is a monthly prayer guide, which includes daily Mass readings, reflections and daily inspirations from the lives of saints.
“I use it in my own prayer life and it’s convenient in that if you have a subscription you can also get to it online,” Yeary said. | giveusthisday.org
• La Palabra Entre Nosotros (The Word Among Us).
Sister Norma said this is a good resource for the daily Mass readings and reflections. Subscriptions are available in both Spanish and English, with Christmas season discounts. | wau.org (English); la-palabra.com (Spanish)
• A Rosary for the Family
For those who travel long distances or even short commutes, listening to God’s words can be fulfilling.
“I have a CD of the rosary I keep in my car, I got it through the Guardian (Church Goods store in Little Rock),” said Vernell Bowen, superintendent of Catholic Schools. “It’s good; it has all of the rosary on it, so as I’m driving I’ll listen to that.”
• “Oh, For the Love of God,” by Father John Antony, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith. The CD is a recording of his book by the same name. | Immaculate Conception in Fort Smith, (479) 783-7963;
• Religious medal, bracelet, crucifix or rosary
Seminarian Alex Smith, 21, who is studying at the House of Formation, said religious gifts can also inspire devotion, “to let them know that Christ is with them always, during this time as well as the rest of the year,” he said.
One of his treasured gifts is a rosary he made in 2012 while a senior in high school on a visit to the House of Formation. Seminarian Daniel Phillips helped him make the rosary and a few weeks later, Phillips, 19, was killed in a car accident on Dec. 18.
“I always pray with that rosary,” Smith said.
• Candles, soap and woodwork
Susan Tencleve, office manager of the Coury House Book Store and Gift Shop at Subiaco Abbey, said the monks make many of the gifts, including literature and crafts.
“The newest item they have is made by Brother Jude (Schmitt, OSB). He does some woodwork that has the Last Supper or the Nativity scene,” Tencleve said. “Christmas ornaments (the monks) make with wood, rosaries. Brother Ephrem O’Bryan does calligraphy. We also have the books by some of the monks as well.
“I just think the people have a love for the monks here at the abbey and to buy their gifts is such a blessing,” she added. | countrymonks.biz; (479) 934-4411
“We have pope ornaments, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sacred heart of Jesus; those kinds of ornaments are kind of hard to find,” said Dee Lea, manager of the St. Raphael Catholic Books & Gift Shop in Springdale. | straphaelcc.org/gift-shop; (479) 756-6711, Ext. 236
• Items from trinitystores.com
Father Erik Pohlmeier, director of faith formation and permanent diaconate formation in the Diocese of Little Rock, said trinitystores.com sells religious artwork that can be shared in a variety of formats and imprinted on items including coffee mugs, clothing, candles and magnets. They also sell artwork framed for the wall or for a desk. When the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, Louis and Zelie Martin, were canonized last year, Father Pohlmeier said he gave the images as gifts to his siblings.
“I gave little wood plaques, it’s got an image of the couple and all of their children,” as Sts. Louis and Zelie are the patron saint of married couples.
“Most people find it harder to be a Christian witness to their own family than anybody else,” he said, adding that doing it through Christmas gifts can be an “easy, nonthreatening way to include some spirituality,” Father Pohlmeier said. | trinitystores.com
• “Fray Martin de Porres” (2007, Collección Testigos de la Fé, in Spanish with English subtitles) and “Rosa de Lima” (1961, in Spanish) depicting the lives of saints St. Martin de Torres and St. Rose of Lima.
Sister Norma said of “Fray Martin de Porres,” “This one is really good, it’s a newer version. It shows the simplicity of life of St. Martin de Porres and also his great humility and love for the Lord and for his people.”
While there are many films depicting saints, these are realistic portrayals.
“I like it because it’s not those movies that show you that they were saints since they were born,” she said, adding it shows “how day by day you have to work on your communion with the Lord and service towards others.”
• Christmas gift boxes
Little Portion Bakery, owned and operated by the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage Monastery in Berryville, sells boxes with a variety of treats.
A large gift box from Little Portion Bakery includes cookies, granola and hermit bars baked by The Brothers and Sisters of Charity, as well as honey, tea and pottery mugs with matching spoons. Little Portion also offers small and medium gift boxes as well as individual packages of baked treats.
Viola Talbot, president and founder of the bakery, said those who buy gifts from the bakery “are helping support our monastery for our formation people,” education for novices and postulants joining the order, and the elderly religious, Talbot said. | littleportionbakery.org; (877) 504-9865
• Red and green habanero Monk Sauce and Abbey Brittle
These products are made by the monks of Subiaco Abbey and can be purchased separately or in a combo online or at the Coury House Book Store and Gift Shop. Proceeds from the sales support the ministries of the abbey.
Father Richard Walz, OSB, began making Monk Sauce at Subiaco Abbey in 2003 after he returned from Belize, when he brought back Habanero pepper seeds. While the monks do not bottle the sauce at the abbey, they do grow about 2,000 pounds of peppers.
Monk Sauce, red or green, is a great gift for someone who is likely to say they cannot get anything hot enough. And all who know the habanero pepper know it makes the best sauce because it not only is hot but is very tasty,” Father Walz said.
Father Walz and volunteers make peanut brittle at the abbey, with about 5,600 cans sold annually.
“Abbey Brittle is simply the best brittle that you can buy. Commercial peanut brittles are stingy on peanuts and made by processes that work the brittle too much after the baking soda is added and turn it into a hard candy with a peanut here and there. Abbey Brittle is crunchy and explodes into a million pieces in your mouth and is loaded with peanuts.”
Next week: Gifts for teenagers and children and charities to support as alternative gifts.
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