Have you been waiting until the 11th hour to do your Christmas shopping? Finding it hard to pick out just the right gift for that person in your life who would appreciate something truly unique? We asked our contributors to recommend a few of their favorite things – and we told them it would be a great idea to suggest their own work if they currently have items for sale. Without further ado, and in no particular order, the 2015 1P5 (Last-Minute) Christmas Gift Guide:
For your intellectually inclined and argumentative Catholic, Thomas Storck’s work is part historical examination, part eye-opener, and part manifesto. The book is an ideal introduction (or postlude) to other vital social critiques, reminding one (in much shorter form) of the piercing analysis of Brad Gregory’s indispensable The Unintended Reformation and the social critique of Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah. A quick read full of challenging ideas sure to challenge all political perspectives, Storck’s book is a great way to end or begin another year of the life of the mind.
Music: In December of 1216, Pope Honorius III approved the establishment of the Dominican Order. 800 years later, the friars of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, present their third CD in celebration of this significant anniversary: Gaudemus. Recorded in the lush acoustic setting of Washington’s Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, the album contains a mixture of works from throughout the history of the Dominican order, including several new works written for the album. The album also includes a new setting of my own composition, O Sacrum Convivium, drawn from the famous Thomistic text of the same name.
I have been especially enriched by Alfonso Maria De Liguori’s book, The Way of Salvation, Meditations for Every Day of the Year, translated by J. Jones.
It is an excellent daily devotional with deep meditations and prayers on various aspects of the faith by a Doctor of the Church. It will fan the flame of love for God inside the heart of any Catholic.
I have two book recommendations this Christmas season: one by my fellow parishioner Kevin Symonds, and one by myself. Kevin recently published Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael, a fascinating history that separates fact from fiction about the Leonine Prayers we recite after Low Mass.
I, on the other hand, have written Drinking With The Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour, a book that pairs beer, wine, and cocktail suggestions with the feasts of the 1962 traditional Roman calendar. I describe the book as one part bartender’s guide, one part spiritual manual, a dash of irreverence, and mixed with love. Readers have told me that they appreciate not only the drink recommendations but the saints’ stories as well: some have even made it their daily family reading as a result. And for extra stocking stuffers, check out the DWTS gift items found on our website.
These two books from Angelico Press are destined to be classics of the traditional Catholic revival. Phoenix is a wide-ranging and richly detailed account by a master historian who is looking at high and low points in Catholic history and then analyzing, in depth, how the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath constitute the single greatest crisis of identity the Church has ever faced. Sire is one of the few who grapples in a serious way with the Lefebrvist movement and the sources of hope in the Church today.
In the new edition of The Great Facade, the already formidable and incomparable account of the Church’s “auto-demolition” given in the original 2002 edition is supplemented by 250 pages on the pontificates of Benedict and Francis. Ferrara demonstrates that the same stubborn problems and flawed strategies continue to dominate the scene, offering a strangely hopeful perspective for Catholics who knew all along that the regime of novelty is simply not the Catholic Faith handed down from age to age.
Here in southwest Florida the things topping my Christmas list are another pair of flip flops and a new beach umbrella, but I know most people have other crosses to bear. Besides a new snow shovel, here are some of my ideas for things that people you know might appreciate:
For Baby: Teething items from FairyOfColor on Etsy. St. Nicholas dropped one of these wooden rings in my 8-month-old’s stocking and she adores it. It’s a gift for Mom, too- make it into a necklace and wear it to Mass- it’s good for a whole ten minutes of staying out of the cry room!
For Children: The Life of Our Lord for Children by Marigold Hunt. A beautiful retelling of our Lord’s life from a co-worker of Frank Sheed, just right for a read-aloud to the littles and independent reading for kids 8 and up.
For Teens: Two recommendations here, but they are not meant to be one for boys and one for girls; my daughters and I have both loved the “masculine” one: Beowulf – the Seamus Heaney translation. Splurge for the illustrated edition if you are so inclined. Anyone who appreciates Tolkien will also love this work.
Also, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – an incredibly beautiful story of perseverant love and suffering. Another epic poem, this one begins in Acadia with the British expulsion.
For Moms: A print of this painting, Jan Vermeer’s A Street in Delft, hangs in my home in a place that I pass many times a day. It is a scene of very ordinary life in Vermeer’s time, but it is rendered in such a way that it is exceedingly beautiful. A reminder that the most ordinary tasks are beautiful in the eyes of God, and are beautiful to us too when we offer every moment of the day to Him. (Tip: if you use Ebates there is 12% cash back at Art.com!)
For Dads: I have no idea. I can’t wait to read this post.
I want to recommend the biography from one of my favorite Dominican saint: St. Martin De Porres: Apostle of Charity, by Giuliana Cavallini. This book inspires me to grow in charity. The example of St. Martin shows that intense prayer life, or what Pope Benedict XVI would say “the friendship with Jesus Christ”, is the source of strength to do charity to our neighbour. I think the holiness of St. Martin would be able to enkindle the heart, and motivate us to grow in holiness.
One Man, One Woman: A Catholics Guide to Defending Marriage. Marriage is so foundational to our civilisation, and yet can be so hard to defend. For decades, Dale O’Leary has done her homework in the trenches of the culture wars — especially taking note of the tactics used by the enemies of the family. In particular, she has immersed herself in the research pertaining to same-sex attraction which has consistently been misrepresented. Her great joy and driving force is her firm belief that all we know to be true as revealed by Holy Mother Church is supported by honest scientific inquiry, and all we sense to be contrary to that truth is the result of clever manipulation of that data. It is essential that we understand the tactics of the sexual left in order to love with conviction, for love properly ordered will set all of us free from the lies enveloping our age.
The Combat Prayer Book is inspired by the original World War II pocket prayer book, My Military Missal. Even down to the size and appearance of the original World War II prayer book. The Combat Prayer Book contains just about every prayer essential for keeping and maintaining a strong Catholic prayer life. Packed into this tiny pocket prayer book are many typical Catholic prayers, including the Seven Daily Habits of Prayer, the Holy Rosary, Prayers for Mass, Prayers Before the Blessed Sacrament, Manner of Making a Confession, Stations of the Cross, and much more.
There are two things of the year 2015 which were great blessings (next to my family!) which I would like mention to our dear readers: First, reading daily – and if only one chapter or paragraph – in the New Testament at night before going to bed; secondly, reading it on a Prie-dieu in front of an image of the True Face of God, the Holy Face of Manoppello. Once a photo of it is set up in a wooden frame and ready to be adored, one feels drawn to it again and again, seeing Jesus right into the face and looking into His eyes. This little ritual at night, even when I am very tired, has brought me and still brings me closer to God, full of love. I would wish this blessing also for each of our readers.
One of the downsides of publishing a website is that I do most of my reading online. By the time I’m done with all the articles I read, write, or edit for the day, I rarely feel like picking up a book. And this is a shame, because I have some fantastic books on my nightstand that deserve attention.
Foremost among these is the beautifully and lovingly created Treasure and Tradition from St. Augustine Academy Press. I’ve never seen a book on the Traditional Catholic Mass like this one. Charts, graphs, and photos are all combined in a visual tour de force that walk the reader through the sights, sounds, and smells of the Mass.
There’s so much to see and read on each page, a reader can come back to it again and again and find new things. And for younger readers, the visual richness provides something to take in even if they can’t manage all the text, acquainting them with the symbols, gestures, and actions of the liturgy. It’s the kind of book that every Catholic family should have on their shelf.
The second book I’d like to mention is Edward Pentin’s The Rigging of a Vatican Synod: An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. While some saw this as merely a preparatory work for the second session of the Synod on the Family held this past October, I believe it to be one of the seminal works of historical research that will help Catholics for many years to come to understand what happened at the Synod, what manipulations and agendas were in play, and why the Church headed in the direction it did during the Franciscan pontificate. Much like the work of Davies, Mattei, Amerio, and Wiltgen on what happened behind the scenes at the Second Vatican Council, this book, and the insights it provides, will be referenced by anyone seeking to understand this period of Church history.
(Full disclosure: I received review copies of each of these books from their respective authors or publishers.)
And going off the theme of specifically Catholic books and gifts, I’d like to recommend a great gift for the dads out there (since Suzan Sammons said she had no idea, so I thought I should pinch hit!) After all, the Catholic Gentleman must have other pursuits and interests beyond the academic. (If I’m not careful, this could turn into a bourbon and tobacco guide…)
Last year, my wife got me an old-fashioned safety razor kit from Merkur. It was this one, or very nearly like it:
It may not sound like much, but this was by far my favorite gift last year, and one I still use every day. For most men, shaving is a chore. It’s something you do because you have to, not because you feel like standing in front of the mirror for an extra ten minutes each morning. But spraying gel from a can into your hand and then whisking it away with a multi-bladed Gillette disposable doesn’t exactly enhance the experience. It’s a perfunctory way to do a necessary task.
The Merkur razor is solid stainless steel, and has a nice heft to it. The brush is real badger hair. The soap that comes with the kit now is different than the one that came with mine, but if you’re going to do this, do it right. After going through several kinds, I recommend the shaving soaps from Taylor of Old Bond Street – yes, all the way from London. The two I’ve tried both have an excellent, masculine smell, like an old-time barber shop, but with a good dose of erudition. Their Sandalwood shaving cream and their Eton College variety both smell excellent, and each is well-accented by their respective aftershaves. It’s like getting a bespoke suit – for your face.
Are they more expensive than Edge Gel? You bet. But each tub of soap has lasted me several months, even with daily shaving, and the quality can’t be beat. More importantly, the experience of lathering up a nice foam with your badger brush and getting the closest shave of your life is worth the extra outlay. And ladies, your husband will — to borrow a phrase from the Old Spice Guy and then one-up him on it — become the man your man should smell like.
The upside is that over the long run, the expense of the kit, and even the soap, is most likely undercut by the phenomenally low cost of the razors. I buy the Personna Double Edge blades in the 100-pack. And let me tell you, for only $12, I am destroying the yearly cost of Gillette blades (which are now about $40 for a 16 pack at Costco, I believe) and I can only imagine how long they’ll last me at about two weeks per blade. (Your beard, and thus your mileage, will vary.)
Men go to the barber, they don’t “get their hair done”; men grab whatever semi-sharp tool they can find to cut their nails, they don’t get manis and pedis…well, some do, but I’m guessing they probably don’t read this website. Shaving, though, is something we simply can’t avoid unless you prefer the full grizzly beard. Making that experience enjoyable, manly, and aromatically pleasing are all worthwhile pursuits.
That’s it for this year. If you have additional suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.