A couple of last-minute gift ideas!

This landed in my mailbox yesterday: James Hitchcock’s History of the Catholic Church

Looks delicious, and I can’t wait to read it, but before I could even peer at it, my son — who likes reading all sorts of history — grabbed it. He’s been outside on the porch, reading and smoking, and reading, and he says he’s loving it. So…a Buster recommend! If he didn’t like it he’d say so, succinctly and in no uncertain terms.

I was really happy to receive a signed copy of Amy Welborn and Ann Kissane Engelhart’s latest (and beautiful) picture book,Be Saints! An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI.

Once again, Welborn and Engelhart use actual discussions Pope Benedict has had with children, and created a wonderful book, but I actually like Be Saints! a little better than Friendship with Jesus because it is briefer, and I think geared a little more specifically to the everyday concerns of children, and His Holiness delivers accessible words and ideas. On Friendship with God, for instance, “The key to it is very simple…we need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in wordly success or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he an satisfy the deepest needs of our heart.” The pope explains that, “Everything is part of the bigger picture…always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrow, they can lead us astray.”

Interspersed throughout are quotes from various saints — Thomas More, Francis of Assisi, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta — and Engelhardt’s warm illustrations which invite lingering and thinking. This is a wonderful book; it’s the sort of excellent combinations of ideas and images that I would have lingered over and visited again and again, as a kid.

Finally — this might be a little late for Christmas (I meant to mention it earlier) but this is a great little gift for the new year: The Christophers’ annual Three Minutes a Day which is a constant spirit-lightener, because the Christophers always look for the beauty, wherever one can.

Tony Rossi describes the book in detail, here and I can testify that it is one of those books worth keeping by the nightstand and visiting often. There is something about The Christophers; their motto is “light one candle” against the darkness, and, perhaps because of the infectious positive energy of their founder, Father James Keller, but I find that I cannot come into contact with a Christophers-related article without feeling buoyed up by their reminder that people are good and very often heroic; the world is good; the light is good; life is good.

And if you don’t think we will need lots of handy reminders of that during 2013, well…I’ve never known a year that didn’t need it. The book’s only ten bucks and it supports the light-bearing work of the Christophers. Perhaps give it to yourself. By February you’ll be saying, “thank you, self!” And, “you’re doing, alright, too. God is good.”

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About Elizabeth Scalia