If you still need a few gifts, I have some books to suggest, especially since I have been very remiss this year in reviewing and recommending titles — sorry, it’s been a strange and busy year. I never did get those podcasts going, as I’d planned, either. Here’s to getting all that off the ground in 2019!
In the meantime, some terrific books you might consider picking up, especially if you need some last-minute gift ideas:
In 2010 I had the opportunity to tour the Vatican Museums under escort of Elizabeth Lev and she brought us the history of Christian art — tying in everything from the first engravings of Jonah and the Whale to the design of St. Peter’s basilica — in a way that was staggering, flabbergasting and beyond anything I could have imagined. That tour remains a highlight of all of my travels.
Her just-released book examining how Catholic art of the counter-reformation essentially saved the faith is gorgeously put-together, featuring full-color reproductions you just want to stare at all day, put into historical context and minutely examined and explained as only Lev can do it. How Catholic Art Saved the Faith is an elegant and meditative gift for any art lover or student of the Church. Once you hold this in your hand you will very likely wish you’d ordered a copy for yourself. So you may as well!
Brant Pitre knocked me out a few years ago when he wrote Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist— a book which I ended up buying over a dozen copies of and giving to priests (who absolutely loved it as well) — and Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary is equally as compelling and instructive.
I’ve only just begun reading Mind, Heart, & Soul:Intellectuals and the Path to Rome, but I have enjoyed what I’ve read. R.J. Snell and Robbie George interviewed sixteen converts to the faith — writers, professors, priests and journalists among them — about what led them to Catholicism and what keeps them there.
The book was complied before this past summer’s new storms, so there is no discussion of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, or what steps must be taken on the question of the accountability of our bishops. Rather, what is here is meant to help reinforce a reader’s faith and bring a new perspective, as with this thought, expressed by Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule who says the Church, at its depths, is not disturbed by the roiling waters of her own trying times and scandals: “The Church seems to me an institution whose foundations are as strong as iron. The turmoil will pass away; episodes, scandals and debates will come and go; but the line and witness of Peter’s successors will never fail.”
Convert stories have a way of helping us re-appreciate the faith when it feels too familiar or as though it is in some ways failing.
Finally, this is not a “book” per se. The Mass is a video class taught by Bishop Robert Barron in which he explains the Mass, from the first moments of our gathering — even before the celebrant has processed into the Church — until our dismissal. This is, literally, the catechesis of the Mass that we have needed since the institution of the Novus Ordo. Barron is, as ever, accessible, humorous, but also deeply instructive and inspiring, and it was my honor to write the study guide for this presentation.
I’m recommending that you pick this up as a “family gift”, for your whole household to use together — watch a segment, work the study guide together, and if you like it, suggest creating a study group in your parish. Respondents have said this series has changed their outlook from “Sigh, we have to go to Mass,” to “Yes, we get to go to Mass!”
Any of the books I recommended recently for Advent reading can work as gifts, too, except (of course) the Advent daily prayer guides. As ever, when you purchase anything through these Amazon links, you help support this blog, which keeps me from taking on ads, so I thank you!