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THE CATHOLIC REVIEW: Christmas Gifts to Read and Enjoy
Deacon Rick Bauer

THE CATHOLIC REVIEW: Christmas Gifts to Read and Enjoy

by Deacon Rick Bauer

With Christmas rapidly approaching, here is our annual list of gift recommendations for children and adults alike. Hopefully these suggestions will help with your last-minute Christmas shopping!

Journeys of Saint Paul Board Game

Nothing brings a family together like playing a board game! For Christmas, we bought this game from Sophia Institute Press for a wonderful Catholic family with seven children who used to be members of this diocese, and we think this gift will be happily received.

We know St. Paul didn’t spread the gospel alone, and the book of Acts refers to numerous individuals who played key roles in his ministry. Letter carriers, fund raisers, younger disciples — this was a dangerous and arduous task. Messengers braved harsh wilderness, barren deserts — even opposition from Roman authorities. In Journeys of Saint Paul, you will be one of several messengers dispatched to deliver one of St. Paul’s momentous letters. Your mission: be the first to cross the city gate and deliver St. Paul’s letter to its secret destination. But beware! Enemies of the gospel are intent on seeking and destroying all Christians, so the chase may be on! This adventure requires cleverness, courage, and tenacity — with the Kingdom of God at stake.

Hope For the Holidays

“Every night will end, and every day will start with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart.” These words were spoken by the actor Michael Caine, playing the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, in “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992), and they summarize the joy that many people feel in contemplating the Christmas season.

For others, the holidays and the coming of a new year evoke another Scrooge response — “Bah! Humbug.” Sometimes the holidays can be a grueling saga of family frenzy, strained relatives, “forced festivities,” and a wistful realization that “Christmas ain’t what it used to be.”

If you find yourself in the second camp, “Hope for the Holidays: Finding Light at the Darkest Time of the Year” (Paulist Press, 2023) may be the short tonic for your head and heart. Author Paul Jarzembowski, a staff member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been engaged in pastoral ministry and consulting for over two decades. Covering the span of time from Halloween through Thanksgiving to Advent, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays and holy days, “Hope for the Holidays” reminds us that while we may feel lonely, we are never alone. Very practical and written through the lens of “A Christmas Carol,” whose main character makes a similar spiritual journey, this short book may help us prepare for joyous times with grateful hearts.

The Little Way of Living With Less

It seems unfair to promote a book on downsizing, especially one that is well-written, clear, and meant for sharing with friends and fellow Christians — and then print the review right in the middle of the season when it seems we accumulate twice as much as we did the previous year. Nonetheless, Laraine Bennett’s new book “The Little Way of Living With Less: Learning to Let Go with the Little Flower” (Sophia Institute Press) could be just what we need.

Do your possessions really make you feel better? For how long? Increasingly we get the feeling that our possessions are possessing us, which creates disharmony and keeps us from setting our eyes upon Heaven. “The Little Way of Living with Less” lets St. Thérèse of Lisieux guide us toward a “less is more” manner of living. It shares one couple’s effort to downsize, declutter, and detach — and the challenge of growing in virtues that is associated with this process.

We soon discover that “everything is grace” (St. Thérèse) and will begin thanking God for our many blessings. Inspired by the Little Way, you will more confidently seek the things above and “choose all” in holiness. Let “the greatest saint of modern times” show us how to:

• Let go of clutter, unhealthy habits, vices, and sin.

• Simplify your life and manage fear and anxiety.

• Create order, beauty, and vibrancy in your home.

• Detach from the world, cultivate poverty of spirit, and attain Heaven.

• Become humble and small, trusting in the mercy of God.

By living an integrated life that is free of materialistic pleasures, you will develop the freedom of a child of God to abandon yourself to the Father’s will.

2024 Saints Calendar & Planner

The ever-popular Saints Calendar and Daily Planner from TAN Books is a 16-month calendar ready to use in September. The handy spiral-bound design allows plenty of space for daily appointments in a lay-flat format. For those who have not surrendered to calendars of the digital kind, this calendar can become a favorite for home or office with professionals, students, and busy homeschool families.

Something you just won’t find in Outlook or iCal is the special feasts and fascinating Catholic traditions. They are marked with days of fasting, special saints days, and the Sundays of the Liturgical Year for both the New and Traditional calendars.

(For comments or to suggest a book that might be helpful for Catholics, write Deacon Rick at rbauer@diocs.org.)

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