Catholic Book Gift Ideas
By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 17, 2021 | In Reviews
Are you looking for Catholic Book Christmas Gift Ideas? Or just Catholic book bift ideas in general?
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The final shipping days for Christmas are upon us…or so my emails all tell me. I probably missed some big deadlines. But I’m always comforted by the fact that Christmas is not just one day, but a season, and gift giving doesn’t need to be limited to just the deadline of December 25.
I thought I would recommend a few books that are wonderful for gift giving. Some of these aren’t new to this year, but tried and true favorites, and should be included in a Catholic’s home library.
For Children, Christmas Themed Books:
I still use my criteria for saints and children’s books as found in this post Celebrating St. Nicholas: New Picture Book Review.
I am familiar with the folk tale about tinsel and had a few picture books about the spiderwebs and Christmas trees, but not this one related to the Holy Family and the spider. The story unfolds about the Holy Family fleeing from Herod, and are saved by a mother spider’s cobweb. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is captivating. This book would be suitable for all ages, including younger children. And since it’s covering a post Christmas event, the Flight into Egypt, this book could definitely be saved for days after Christmas.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. It’s such a clever way to incorporate saints and St. Nicholas/Santa Claus. St. Nick was too sick to deliver the gifts, so different saints stepped in to help him. Written in rhyme, favorite saints step up to use their “gifts” to deliver the gifts to their homeland. This book is perfect for children ages 6 and up, especially ones who are becoming familiar with the heroes of their faith. The book also is a challenge for readers to find out more about the different saints depicted, if they aren’t familiar with saints, such as Pier Giorgio and St. Joseph Cupertino.
Liturgical Living Books:
These are not newly printed this year, but always a welcome gift for newlyweds, new parents, and other friends. The suggestions below are books that I consider some of the core reading and reference for the Liturgical Year in the home and basics to a Liturgical Living library.
I personally love to read about Catholic living and prefer to have books and reading that give inspiration and room for my own interpretation.
This book has been around for a few years, but I had not seen it until this year. It’s a thick book (418 pages) in a solid hardcover binding, which I always prefer. The sections covered are 1) Smells and Bells—some of the externals and sacramentals of Catholic Life, 2) Seasons of the Church Year—the Liturgical Year and traditions connected to it and 3) Seasons of Life—which covers the sacraments and family life with children of all ages. It’s a book that is engaging and can be read cover-to-cover, or opened at times of the year when you need it, like looking up different Advent customs. Sprinkled throughout the book are prayers and recipes. This book will appeal to everyone—those new to anything regarding liturgical living, and those who have been living their Catholic faith for years.
I think this book got lost in the Covid blip, and it should have been given more attention. The cookbook breaks the mold of other Catholic liturgical cookbooks because it considers the origin of the saint and feast day and suggests more modern international recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I love to find out the traditional foods connected with a feast day, but I’m not about to make something like haggis for the feast of St. Andrew. It would be a waste of time and my family wouldn’t eat! These are adventurous but yet practical recipes to step in the shoes of the different saints.
The cookbook is organized by month, highlighting a few saints a month, including some of the newer saints. It is a trip around the world with tastes from different cuisines, with very colorful photographs. Each section of the 73 saints includes a short biography and image of the saints, and either one recipe or a menu and shopping list for whole meal dedicated to the saint, beautifully illustrated. If you are looking for international inspiration for saints and food, this is the cookbook to try.
It’s fantastic that the current generation can now enjoy reading this classic by Maria von Trapp without having to pay up for a vintage copy. Forget the movie Sound of Music, this book describes the Catholic Maria and her family traditions. Now, Maria could be considered an early “influencer” and over time people have criticized that in this book puts forward an “ideal” but not necessarily everything her family did, nor should each family think they need to copy the von Trapp! The books should be considered inspiration and viewed as ideas that were done over the years, but not every year and not always the same way.
This book gives the Old World view of Catholic customs and traditions as remembered and practiced by the von Trapp family. The Trapp family was known for singing, and the book has songs and hymns for the Liturgical Year and for daily Catholic living, and also included are some crafts and recipes. The reissued version is a little wider than the original, with glossy pages and a little bit of color for decorations, but still keeps the original illustrations by Rosemary Trapp and Nikolaus E. Wolff. I would have preferred a little smaller book…as the bigger books don’t invite you to curl up and just read, but it’s a classic for your shelves that should be read at least once for inspiration.
This Catholic cookbook has been continually in print since the 1980s, which indicates that this is a classic that should be on every Catholic family’s shelf. The subtitle “A cookbook to celebrate the joys of family and faith throughout the Christian year” captures the cookbook perfectly. Not only are there fabulous recipes for throughout the Church year, but this is a great cookbook for family recipes for daily living and celebrations, such as baptisms, Sunday meals, etc. The Vitz family is known for their Christmas cookie baking, so highlight that section in particular. These are tried and true, made with children in the kitchen!
Of all the liturgical books on my shelves, this book has always been my favorite. Mrs. Berger’s book was groundbreaking in 1949 as the first of its kind to present different Catholic traditions and customs for the Liturgical Year in one book, but what made it unique was how she incorporated the liturgy and her family living it at home. It’s the cookbook for the domestic church. This book has been the inspiration for me for writing, and it also shaped my bachelor’s history thesis. I admit that I’m partial to the original. The Conference has reissued different versions of the cookbook. At first they simply reprinted it with comb binding, with communities having the ability to add some recipes and advertisements so it could become the local fundraiser. The second version in the ‘90s was highly edited and changed, and I never could recommend it.
The 2018 edition is a newer approach. It is not a strict reprint of the original, but edited and some additional information provided. Since I’m a purist, I just would prefer leaving the original alone and presenting it for new generations, but I might be a minority in this opinion. This edition is a little modernized, adding some nice formatting to the recipes and some illustrations and also adding a new section. This section, Rural Life Celebrations, covers some feasts and celebrations particular to rural life living. Ignoring the need for a good proofreader, I would still encourage getting a copy for your home shelves…Mrs. Florence Berger’s original text still comes shining through, and here you will find inspiration. She writes in such a captivating way, as if you were sitting in her kitchen with her family. It’s available only directly through Catholic Rural Life Conference.
There are now three books in the series by Michael P Foley on Drinking with the Saints. I reviewed the original book in 2015, and since then there is Drinking with St. Nick: Christmas Cocktails for Sinners and Saints, from 2018, and Drinking with your Patron Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to Honoring Namesakes and Protectors, from 2020. These books have fun Catholic information—and great inspiration for ideas for drinks, including cocktail recipes, but also wine and beer ideas.
These books would be a welcome addition to any Catholic home library. May you have a blessed Christmas season!
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Posted by: jgmiller -
Dec. 18, 2021 5:59 PM ET USA
I think you will enjoy it!
Posted by: winnie -
Dec. 18, 2021 11:59 AM ET USA
I’m intrigued by your words about Cooking for Christ & how it initially inspired you & continues to do so. It’s remarkable that a 1949 a cookbook by an obscure Ohio homemaker retains such power. At $18-the price is right!