Devotionals: A Gift that Lasts All Year

Devotionals are wonderful spiritual gifts for friends and family members. These beautiful books offer food for the soul; the three daily devotionals are all saint-focused, and the weekly devotional is designed with busy women in mind. You’re sure to find one to add to your gift list (or your own wish list).

In Caelo et in Terra: 365 Days with the Saints

by the Daughters of St. Paul (Pauline Books & Media)

This big, beautiful book of the saints is a collaborative effort of the Daughters of St. Paul, often nicknamed the “media nuns.” Their mission is to spread God’s word and make disciples through a variety of media, including writing and publishing.

In Caelo et in Terra features a saint for each day (and contrary to the subtitle, they’ve covered February 29 as well). As the book is larger than an average hardcover (about 7X10 inches), there’s plenty of space to include two substantial paragraphs about the life of each day’s saint on the page, along with a short reflection (with a great journaling prompt) and a prayer. Information on the saint’s patronage and feast day are included. You’ll also find a robust index, which lists the saints by name, liturgical feast day, and patronage – so this is a reference book as well as a devotional.

Each page is beautifully embellished not only with designs of leaves and clouds, which symbolize earth and heaven, but also with drawings of the saint of the day or sacred symbols related to that saint. The interior art, by Sr. Danielle VIctoria Lussier, FSP (who also designed the cover), is done in a consistent style that is simple and beautiful without being distracting.

A great gift for: RCIA and Confirmation candidates, teenage godchildren, and any teen or adult.

Brotherhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration

by Melanie Rigney (Franciscan Media)

Melanie Rigney has a special love for sharing stories of the saints. In Brotherhood of Saints, a page-a day devotional for men, she has gathered the stories of 366 saints — ranging from the well-known and beloved Peter, Paul, Anthony of Padua, and John Paul II to more obscure but no less inspiring holy men. This book includes many men canonized within the past 50 years, such as Francisco Marto, Oscar Romero, and Louis Martin.

Following a paragraph about each saint’s life and a short analysis of how this saint is an example for us today, each daily entry contains an inspiring quote either written by the saint himself or from Scripture, and a challenge — a call to action. While all the saints in Brotherhood of Saints are men, women will find their stories equally inspiring.

A great gift for: the men in your life. Dads, grandfathers, brothers, teenage and young-adult sons, and RCIA and Confirmation candidates.

Sisterhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration

by Melanie Rigney (Franciscan Media)

The sister volume to Brotherhood of Saints, this book was published in 2013.

Sisterhood of Saints spotlights 366 female saints, many of whom are little-known but far from little in their holiness. Of course, the book begins on January 1 with the Blessed Virgin Mary and includes Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux, Clare of Assisi, and Catherine of Siena, among other well-known saintly women. But author Melanie Rigney gives equal time to the lesser-known saints whose stories of virtue, sanctity, and challenges overcome will inspire any reader.

Following a paragraph about each saint’s life and a short analysis of how this saint is an example for us today, each daily entry in Sisterhood of Saints contains an inspiring quote either written by the saint herself or from Scripture, and a challenge — a call to action.

A great gift for: any woman, including teenagers, RCIA and Confirmation candidates.

Are you giving Christmas gifts to a couple (perhaps newlyweds)? This pair of books would make a lovely gift for the two of them!

Awaken My Heart: 52 Weeks of Giving Thanks and Loving Abundantly

by Emily Wilson Hussem (Ave Maria Press)

If you prefer a weekly devotional with a slightly longer (but still totally do-able, even for the busiest woman) format, Emily Wilson Hussem recently published a yearly devotional for women. Awaken My Heart: 52 Weeks of Giving Thanks and Loving Abundantly offers reflections designed to inspire moments of prayer during the week ahead.

Each of the 52 entries in this book runs about 4 pages and begins with a personal reflection by the author, who shares her own vulnerabilities before gently leading readers to prayerfully consider how God calls them to love themselves and others more deeply. Following the reflection, a Soul Exercise invites you to take time in the coming week to ponder, pray, and journal about that week’s topic. A short prayer concludes each week’s entry, and a simple border evoking bouquets of flowers runs along the bottom of every page.

Some of the topics covered in Awaken My Heart include jealousy, body image, fear, loving the elderly, choosing to change, saying no, giving thanks, becoming childlike, and letting go.

Carve out 30 minutes each week to sip your favorite hot beverage and ponder “how to live life present to the bountiful gifts God provides. … He leaves bouquets of blessings on every surface of our lives, and it’s up to us to notice.”

A great gift for: women of every age (college and up) who would like to live more intentionally instead of being carried along by the everyday distractions of our busy lives.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author. 
I purchased In Caelo et in Terra; all other books were review copies provided by the author or publisher. Opinions expressed here are my own; no compensation was provided for these reviews.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Gift Counselor by Sheila Cronin

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Lately I’ve been finding that good Catholic romantic fiction is out there–you just need to know where to look. I’m happy to share a great Christmas read by Sheila Cronin. (It may be too early to decorate for Christmas, but I’m always up for reading a good Christmas story.)

gift counselorThe Gift Counselor would make a great Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. I’m not saying that to disparage the book at all. It’s a wonderful, feel-good story with a main character I found to be easy to relate to.

Jonquil is a widowed mom with a 10-year-old son who, more than anything, wants a dog of his own–but she has her own reasons for denying Billy’s wish. Jonquil is a psychology student focusing on the topic of gift-giving for her doctoral dissertation, and when she finds herself out of a job at the Children’s Home, she takes a seasonal position at a local department store. Soon she’s blending salesmanship and psychotherapy, setting herself on a new professional trajectory as the Gift Counselor.

But let’s not forget the romance in the novel. Claude, the general contractor renovating a building in Jonquil’s neighborhood, falls hard for Jonquil and must prove that he truly wants what’s best for her and for her young son.

Sometimes it’s the peripheral characters in a novel who are among the most captivating. In this story, it’s the irrepressible Rita, who takes Jonquil under her wing in the fragrance department and becomes a mother figure to her. I couldn’t help but be charmed by Rita’s spunk and determination.

In every good story there’s a villain; Sheila Cronin has created a believable and vulnerable villain in Leigh, whose ambition and drive masks a heart full of pain.

I mentioned earlier that this is a Catholic romance. Jonquil and Billy have Father Tim, their parish priest, as one of their greatest friends and supporters. The flashback to how Jonquil and Father Tim met is one of the sweetest scenes in the novel.

Jonquil’s gift-counseling service at the store leads her to examine the motivations behind gifts, the reasons people give gifts and the reasons behind particular gift choices. The Gift Counselor is a great Christmas read, but why wait? Read it now, and you may gain a new perspective on your own gift-giving–just in time for Christmas.

When you purchase this book through any of the affiliate links in this post, you support at no extra cost to you!

The Fine Print: I was given a copy of this book, and no other compensation, in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: By Weight and Not By Volume

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday, co-hosted by Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb and Allison at Reconciled To You.

Elizabeth’s post was themed “Bringing Forth Our Gifts,” and looking back, I found this post that talks about how the way God measures the gifts he gives us is a model for the way we should measure the gifts we give to others.

By Weight and Not by Volume, from March 6, 2012:

Remember the fine print on boxes or bags of snacks?  You don’t see it so much anymore–I guess we’re used to seeing half a package of air when we open something.  But it would read something like:

This product is sold by weight and not by volume.  Some settling of the contents may occur during shipping and handling.

Even as a kid, I realized that this was a lame attempt at heading off at the pass some disgruntled consumer who wanted a package full of snacks, not air.  The disclaimer was never a good thing.

I was reminded of that bit of fine print this morning when I heard the Gospel.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Stop judging and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”  (Luke 6: 36-38)

There’s no disclaimer in that Gospel, because God’s love and God’s gifts don’t come with a disclaimer.  He doesn’t work that way.

If you bake, you know that weight and volume are not the same in terms of quantity.  In fact, they can be very different.  Depending on how much you “shake down” the cup of flour, you can get about another 1/4 cup in there.  The same is true with brown sugar–“pack” it down and you can really increase the quantity.  Too much (or too little) flour or brown sugar or any other ingredient can really mess up the finished product.  That’s why expert bakers insist on measuring by weight rather than by volume.

It’s a good thing that God is not a baker, though, because Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that God is not concerned by volume when it comes to love, mercy, forgiveness.  He’s going to pack in as much as our cups can hold–and then some, until they are overflowing.

And all that is expected in return is that we try to do the same for the others we encounter.