Not your grandma’s religious gifts

The religious gift market has seriously stepped up its game in the past few years. Gone are the days when an inspiring gift meant a Precious Moments figurine or another Bible. Now, fun and aesthetically pleasing inspiration can be found in everything from jewelry to toasters (seriously–toasters). Here are some of our favorites:

Deck the Halls

Cloister candles

Candles are pretty much the perfect gift. They make a flattering light scheme, smell good, look cute and are soooo relaxing. These are even better than normal candles because they’re handmade by sisters! The Dominican Sisters of Summit, New Jersey, support themselves through their shop. They offer jar candles, in addition to 100% beeswax tapers, votive candles, and tea lights. Their store also includes soaps, room sprays, Christmas ornaments and all other kinds of goodies. Order now at http://summitdominicans.3dcartstores.com/ .

Soul Stirring gifts

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St. Joseph plaque from Soul Stirring Gifts

Anyone can hang a picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the wall, but it takes someone special to make a mixed-media wall hanging complete with antique holy cards and vintage medals. However, that’s exactly the kind of thing you can find at Soul Stirring Gifts Etsy shop, located at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SoulStirringsGifts. It’s all antique Catholic meets shabby chic decor, with the occasional journal or bracelet thrown in.

Pope Toaster

It burns the pope’s face onto your toast. And–I have to say it– Pope Francis toast sure would be good with some Eggs Benedict (ba dum CHING)! It’s available from  ToastThePope.com

Solar Powered Pope FrancisSolar powered Pope Francis

Using only the power of sunlight kept pure by initiatives in Laudato Si’, this adorable Pope Francis doll will wave at you all day long. Tattered Cover sells them, or you can order online at http://www.kikkerland.com/


Merry and bright 

Pink Salt Riot

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Amen cuff links from Pink Salt Riot

For the lady who loves to read, and also loves Jesus. This Etsy shop is run by a Catholic mom in Oklahoma, and is full of cute, bookish Catholic wares. Everything is made out of recycled books pages. She has “Amen” cuff links, “Love Jesus” stud earrings, and even coasters made out of old book pages with Pope St. John Paul II quotes laser printed on top. The full store is at https://www.etsy.com/shop/PinkSaltRiot.

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St. Francis necklace from Gail’s Design’s

Gail’s Designs

Probably some of the loveliest religious jewelry and rosaries out there. The owner has been an artist most of her life, and was inspired by her grandmother’s vintage European rosary. She manages to get medals cast from the original European vintage molds, and the results are stunning. She has rosaries made with Swarovski crystals, St. Patrick pocket rosaries and Hail Mary chaplets. She has earrings shaped like the Cross of Lorraine and the Seven Sorrows of Mary, garnet rosary bracelets, and St. Francis necklaces complete with tiny nests. The precious stones and Swarovski crystals are a recurring theme. You can browse her full catalog of beautiful sacramentals and jewelry at http://gailsdesigns.net/

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Advent journal from Blessed Is She

Blessed is She Advent journal

If you’re a Catholic woman who hasn’t heard of Blessed Is She, prepare yourself for the best news you’ll receive this year. Blessed is She (BIS) is an initiative to unite Catholic women across the country in prayer. Every day, BIS sends out an email with the day’s Mass readings and a (short!) reflection by a another Catholic woman. The writers are a mix of single women, young moms, grandmas and everything in between, but all are rock solid in their faith. The website includes affiliate links to meet up with other Catholic women in your area, host a BIS brunch, join a regional group, or even attend a BIS retreat. There’s also a store that sells everything from T-shirts to digital downloads. The real winner, though, is this year’s BIS Advent journal. Every page contains a list of the day’s readings, followed by a short reflection by popular Catholic artist Audrey Assad and space to write out your own reflections. You can buy it now at http://blessedisshe.net/ .

Tiny tots

Chews Life Rosaries

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Chews Life rosary from Organic Mama

Probably one of the best innovations in Catholic parenting since donuts after Mass. These are rosaries made out of soft, food-grade silicone. Instead of a typical cross, they have a rectangle with a cross on one side and bumps to soothe teething gums on the other. They’re sturdily made, but come with a lifetime repair or replacement guarantee. You even get to decide what colors you want! These are made by a mom, and she has tons of other clever ideas, like nursing charm bracelets that let you keep track of feeding and feeding necklaces specifically designed to keep nursing babies from scratching you.  You can find the whole catalog at http://www.organicmamasshop.com/ .

Mass kit from Wee Believers

Mass kits

Let’s be real–Ritz crackers and grape juice in a sippy cup are soooo nineties. Today’s kids have the option of vestments, cruets, patens and all kinds of minuscule Mass trappings. Some are plush, like the Wee Believers My Mass Kit from http://www.catholiccompany.com/ . Some are brass and even include little monstrances, like this Montessori-approved one from http://www.ourfathershouse.biz/ . Denver’s own Lisa Cotter also has a post on how to create a DIY Mass kit on her (retired) blog, http://www.catholicmissionaryfamily.com/

Whole Parenting Goods

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Leggings from Whole Family Parenting

This shop is run by Catholic blogger mom. She has a wide variety of products, but she’s most famous for her huge variety of organic knit baby leggings with the cutest whimsical patterns. Think everything from woodland scenes to bicycles to multi-colored airstream trailers. She also has almost illegally precious baby bonnets and cloth banners. Check out her stuff at http://www.wholeparentingfamily.com/parenting-goods/

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Dominican habit with belt and rosary from The Little Habit

The Little Habit (tonsure kits sold separately. Probably.)

This is an etsy shop that makes religious habits for dolls. Seriously! Does your goddaughter’s American Girl doll have a vocation as a Carmelite? Maybe her Jenny Gymnast is leaving behind the uneven bars to become a Benedictine? Well, here’s a habit. But they don’t stop there—they have are tiny rosary belts, monstrances, rose wreaths and even a tiny Book of Kells. Go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheLittleHabit to swoon over the cuteness.

Better than sugarplums (whatever the heck they are)

Benedict’s Brittle

Classic. The monks at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, KS make more than Benedictine College grads. They also make delicious, sweet, crunchy peanut brittle that should probably be classified as addictive. The monks make it, often from peanut plants they grow and using the captive labor–er–volunteer time from college students. Also, the tins the brittle comes in are super cute. Visit http://www.kansasmonks.org/brittle/ for more info.

Candy from Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey

Candy from Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey

Candy from Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey

Caramel. Chocolate. Caramel filled chocolates. Loads of other sweets. It’s all delicious, and it’s all made by contemplative Trappist nuns in Dubuque Iowa. Go to http://www.monasterycandy.com/ to order and read about how the sisters use this candy to support themselves. You can also watch a couple of interviews with the sisters, which may or may not help with your shopping but are definitely adorable. There’s also a picture of a nun who appears to be sweeping a lawn. The whole site is a win, basically.

Honey and/or candy from Holy Cross Abbey

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Creamed honey from Holy Cross Abbey

They sell truffles, but the real eye-catcher on these Cistercian monks’ website is honey. Specifically, creamed honey. According to their website, creamed honey is “All natural honey that’s smooth, creamy, with the consistency of whipped butter.”  They offer it in flavors cinnamon to brandy, lemon to almond. Their website is https://www.monasteryfruitcake.org. Fruitcakes are only available at the actual monastery gift shop in Virginia.

 

 

 

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”