With first Communions, confirmations, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day just around the corner, spring is a time when many people are searching for an ideal gift. For Catholics, there are a number of creative gifts available through Catholic companies and Catholic entrepreneurs. In the following pages, explore various gift ideas perfect for family or friends this spring.
Lisieux Nail Polish
Kristen Popov, from Syracuse, New York, is the founder of a new Catholic company called Lisieux Nail Polish, and she found her inspiration in a 2016 gathering of young people.
“After attending World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016, I understood more than ever the importance of the New Evangelization and that even nail polish could be new and fertile ground for sharing the Gospel,” Popov said. “The New Evangelization calls upon Catholics to use new methods and expressions.”
The idea of nail polish named after St. Thérèse of Lisieux came after a visit to a cosmetic counter. “I found the best pink nail polish only to have to hand it back to the sales associate because it had the most inappropriate name you could imagine,” she said.
After her experience, Popov went home and searched online for a Christian-themed nail polish. Not finding what she was looking for, she was later prompted to start her own company when she heard Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles tell a story on Catholic radio about how the social media site Twitter had been the catalyst for someone’s conversion. The story was related this way: A few years ago — during the height of the Charlie Sheen “#winning” phenomenon — a woman was prompted to look at Sheen’s Wikipedia page. From there, she clicked on Martin Sheen’s page, which then led her to a link to Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Wikipedia page. She ended up watching episodes of Fulton Sheen’s show “Life is Worth Living” on YouTube, and the following Easter, she entered the Church.
In October 2016, Popov launched Lisieux Nail Polish featuring professional quality polish with colors named after saints, people or places in the Bible or Church tradition. For example, in her line of colors, there’s a medium-bright pink dubbed “Little Flower,” a magenta called “Martha” and a French blue aptly named “Lourdes.”
“[I]f God was willing to use celebrity tweets to prompt a conversion, nail polish named after Biblical events, the saints and Catholic tradition could also serve as a source of inspiration,” Popov says on her website.
Butter Nut Munch toffee
Butter Nut Munch from the sisters at Mount St. Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, Massachusetts, is the community’s best-selling and longtime favorite candy. Each piece of handmade almond toffee is covered in Belgian chocolate, then topped generously with roasted hazelnuts. Butter Nut Munch is available in 8- or 16-ounce boxes, and in either milk or dark chocolate. And the sisters even provide an option to add a ribbon, so that the box can be ready for gifting. For purists, the candy is also now available without the hazelnuts in “Simply Munch” (but only in milk chocolate!). Nearly 50 nuns live at Mount St. Mary’s as part of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, known commonly as Trappistines. Their website reads: “Trappistine Quality Candy, our candy making industry, allows us to be self-supporting. Through this work we are able to share with the poor the many blessings we have received. It also supports the communal life, giving Sisters the opportunity to work together for the common good. Through both prayer and effort, community members regardless of age can actively participate in this ‘labor of love.’”
FIRST COMMUNION & CONFIRMATION GIFTS
A first Communion or confirmation is the perfect time to introduce the young Catholics in your life to holy cards. This is where Catholic Prayer Cards comes in. Owned and operated by Peter Bond from Tallahassee, Florida, Catholic Prayer Cards is the largest printer of holy cards in the country, and it ships all over the world.
Each year, almost 1 million of the printer’s holy cards are donated to missions. Catholic Prayer Cards offers holy cards honoring Jesus, Mary, the Holy Family, the angels and archangels, the saints, popes and other prayers. They’re also available in Spanish and Latin. “Our mission is evangelization in every possible form available in this new springtime of the Church,” Bond told Our Sunday Visitor. “Our little cards find their way into prison cells, hospital beds, nursing homes and mission fields all over the world. They are like little seeds of faith scattered all around.”
In addition to Catholic Prayer Cards, Bond is the owner of three other Catholic businesses. He also owns Bee Holy Honey, which supports the Catholic radio station operated by Bond; Pete’s Pecans, which donates 20 percent of its proceeds to Catholic education; and Regina Cigars (see Father’s Day gift), whose proceeds help persecuted and displaced Christians.
Radiant/Valiant magazine subscription
Finding interesting, entertaining and faithful content for teenagers and young adults is a great challenge in today’s culture. That’s why Radiant and Valiant magazines, offered by Our Sunday Visitor, are the perfect gifts for confirmation. These gorgeous modern magazines for women and men invite young Catholics to explore the beauty and wonder of their faith in an enjoyable, approachable way — and to live fearless, virtuous lives, one page at a time. “I couldn’t be more in awe of the writers, speakers, musicians and artists I work with in creating each issue of Radiant and Valiant magazines,” said Rose Rea, founder and publisher. “To be able to see the breath of God moving in these young adults in each of their respective missions is so humbling and inspiring!” Gift subscriptions are available.
A Catholic T-shirt subscription club
Catholic homeschooling parents Andy Ciastko and his wife, Vanessa, launched their Catholic T-shirt Club at SEEK2017, a conference for college students hosted by The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). The Arlington, Texas, couple had been in the T-shirt-printing business for more than 10 years when they began to feel called to give a deeper meaning to the T-shirts they were designing. “Instead of just selling shirts that were punny and clever, we’d give people meaning behind the shirts we create,” Andy Ciastko told OSV. “They become more powerful for the wearer when there is a story behind it, and that’s what we build into our business.”
The company offers a basic subscription box — called “The Priest Box” — with one adult-size T-shirt and a monthly reflection. A more enhanced offering — “The Bishop Box” — includes one adult-size T-shirt, a monthly reflection and 4-6 sacramentals. For children, a “Little Saint Box” includes a children’s T-shirt, religious coloring page or craft, a sacramental and a parent discussion card.
Chews Life Baptism Gift Set
What better baptism gift than one that can double as a teething toy?
The Chews Life Baptism Gift set offers a beautiful Silicon Rosary in mint, pearl and gold, and matching mini decade. The Chews Life brand is the brainchild of Shannon Wendt of Michigan, who, from 2008, has been designing and selling jewelry on Etsy. In 2015, the homeschooling mother of six added colorful and chewable rosaries and other sacramentals — including a remarkably detailed silicone Miraculous Medal — to her line of products.
Wendt employs 11 other Catholic moms — dubbed the “Chews Crew” — nine of whom work part-time making the rosaries and jewelry and two who are part of her executive team.
“It is a true blessing that my business helps women support their families and to live out their vocations,” she says on her website.
“To me owning a Catholic business is all about building Catholic culture,” Wendt told OSV. “We’ve set up shop right at the intersection of faith and commerce. We create products that are truly practical, so our customers use them on a daily basis out in the world. Giving a soft rosary to a fussy baby brings Our Blessed Mother right into the dirty, messy parts of motherhood.”
MOTHER’S DAY GIFTS
‘The Catholic Journaling Bible’
Give the gift of creatively wandering through Scripture this Mother’s Day with “The Catholic Journaling Bible.”
The first of its kind, “The Catholic Journaling Bible” is published by Blessed is She, a women’s ministry and publisher, and Our Sunday Visitor, and offers users the opportunity to journal, draw or doodle while reading the Word of God. The text is single column, leaving plenty of room in the margins for writing or artistry. Blessed is She publishes media designed especially for women, including the Blessed is She Liturgical Calendar Planner 2018, Lenten devotionals and more. And “The Catholic Journaling Bible” is something Jenna Guizar, founder and creative director of Blessed is She, had been dreaming of for a long time. Erica Tighe, artist and creative manager for Blessed is She, said, “We got a lot of requests to make one, so when Our Sunday Visitor approached us to make one for them, we jumped on it. We spent a day in prayer and work trying to figure out the direction of the Bible. We kept coming back to this idea that the seed is the Word of God.”
While Tighe did the artwork, she and the rest of the Blessed is She team were surprised to discover how many Bible verses pertained to seeds, plants, sowing and growing, she said.
For each section, Tighe drew the seed growing into a fully rooted tree. “We couldn’t believe it when we got to Revelation and in the very last chapter of the Bible it says, ‘On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.’”
Blessed is She has created an inviting and beautiful Bible that they hope will be passed down from mothers to daughters.
Aptly named for a publication that comes out in the spring, summer, autumn and winter, “The Seasonal” is designed to be a “mini-retreat” for busy women. Part journaling book, part spiritual companion, “The Seasonal” is a handmade, made-to-order publication that “offers spiritual mentorship through spiritual friendship letters, a self-care guide, prayer manual and a spiritual journal,” according to the website.
Cay Gibson, the director of religious education at Our Lady of LaSalette Church in Sulphur, Louisiana, publishes “The Seasonal” through her own Cajun Cottage Press.
“I have enjoyed making retreats in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, for many years but remember when I did not have the finances, time or energy to go on retreats every year,” Gibson told OSV. “That stirred a desire in me to offer busy Catholic women a ‘mini-retreat’ of sorts. A love for the seasons and a passion for the liturgical year blended with that desire to create ‘The Seasonal.’”
Illustrated by Anna Cantrell, the book features monthly calendars, liturgical prompts and meditations, space to write and make life-goals, and more.
Father’s Day Gifts
The Road to Bethlehem’ Board Game
In 2016, “The Road to Bethlehem” board game was first released in Poland, and it was a hit. The next year, it made its debut in the United States, and 2,000 games were sold right before Christmas.
Jacek and Ewa Malkowski, designers of “The Road to Bethlehem,” told OSV they created “The Road to Bethlehem” to help their three children, Basia (15), Zuzia (11) and Jaś (5), unplug from technology without forcing them. “Instead, attracting them to spend time together with the family in a meaningful and joyful way,” Jacek explained.
Intended as a family bonding tool and a way to evangelize, “The Road to Bethlehem” incorporates Biblical themes as players travel through space and time to journey on the road to meet the Christ Child. Using the included “Book of Adventures,” various scenarios are created, and players’ choices influence the outcome of the game. It is designed for families and teams to work together, and what makes the game special is players take part in real physical challenges. “The Road to Bethlehem” is recommended for ages 8 and up.
Hand-rolled Regina Cigars
Through the sales of his Regina Cigars, Pete Bond has donated thousands of dollars to Aid to the Church in Need (ChurchInNeed.org), which helps Christians around the world. Bond’s cigars not only raise awareness about the plight of persecuted Christians, but they also are intended to communicate the Faith — with their striking religious-themed cigar bands — in a non-threatening way.
In an EWTN interview with Jim and Joy Pinto, Bond said, “I don’t want to impose Jesus. [With the Marian cigars bands], I propose Jesus through his mother.”
“The bands are like holy cards wrapped around the cigars. When you peel the cigar band off, it has a quote from a saint, Scripture, or some ancient Marian hymn on the back side,” Bond explains.
The idea for the bands featuring religious artwork developed with the input of 10 priests. People have asked Bond, “Aren’t you using Mary to sell cigars?” His reply: “No, I am using cigars to sell Mary.”
|Did You Know...
... you can request a papal blessing for special occasions? Granted from the Office of Papal Charities in Vatican City, apostolic blessings can be obtained for baptisms, first Communions, confirmation, marriages, priestly ordinations, religious professions, secular consecrations, ordinations of permanent deacons, milestone anniversaries, milestone birthdays and, on special occasions, for individuals and families. The request form can be found online in English at vatican.va