Finding the perfect Christmas present can be a daunting task, especially for people who don’t want or need anything. But don’t let stress get to you. Let your faith guide you to spiritual gifts.
One of the newest and hottest items to hit the shelves is the just-released album by The Priests. The group is comprised of Fathers Eugene O’Hagan and Martin O’Hagan, who are brothers and tenors, and their childhood friend Father David Delargy, the group’s baritone. All are parish priests in the same diocese in Northern Ireland.
The Irish trio, who signed a $2.3 million dollar contract, said some of the proceeds will go to charity. Their self-titled debut CD contains classics in the ancient tradition of spiritual music and church liturgy, some of which was recorded in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
The CD contains parts of the Latin Mass and hymns that have become timeless, like Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” Cesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus,” and Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu.” Recorded in part at the Vatican to the accompaniment of two Vatican choirs, the album also includes favorites like “Abide with me,” “O Holy Night;” some traditional Irish music and other classic opera pieces.
Check out www.thepriests.com to watch them perform on YouTube.com. The CD can be found online or in stores for about $13.
Another suggestion for the music lover on your list is “Infinite Love,” the new album of songs by Spanish tenor Placido Domingo. The songs in English, Spanish and Italian are based on poems written by Pope John Paul II before his election in 1978.
The late pontiff’s poems have been published by the Vatican Press under the titles “Meditations” and “The Poetry of Pope John Paul II.” A 1994 work published by Random House also collected the pontiff’s poetry under the title “The Place Within: The Poetry of Pope John Paul II.” The poems were translated from the original Polish and put to music by various composers.
Domingo sang “Panis Angelicus” for Pope John Paul and most recently for Pope Benedict XVI at the papal Mass celebrated in Washington on April 17 during his first pastoral visit to the United States.
The album is on sale in Italy now and goes worldwide Dec. 23. The CD can be preordered at www.amazon.com, and costs $31.99. Search for “Amore Infinito” under the music category.
A visit to the Trappist Abbey of our Lady of Mepkin and a stroll through the beautiful gardens is a spiritual gift any time of the year. During the Christmas season, the monks host their annual Crèche Festival, which is another wonderful outing. While there, stop at the gift shop and knock out your Christmas shopping.
Drizzle fruit syrup is one of the best sellers, but they also have coffee, a variety of candy, preserves made by the monks in Spencer, Mass., CDs of music performed by the late Abbot Francis Kline, or Earth Healer Tea.
If a personal visit to Mepkin Abbey is not possible, view the gift selection online at www.mepkinabbey.org and place orders by fax or mail.
For literary friends and family members, Pauline Books and Media in Charleston, www.daughtersofstpaul.com/bookcenters/charleston/index.html; St. Anthony’s Catholic Store in Green ville, (864) 288-0335; and St. Francis Catholic Shop in Columbia, www.stfrancisshop.com, offer books galore. The stores also have jewelry, art and music.
Some of the best-selling authors in the non-fiction category include Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Walter Kasper and Kathleen Norris. C.S. Lewis tops the list for non-fiction and fiction, where he is joined by authors such as Willa Cather and Mary Higgins Clark. Another nice Christmas gift is “Jesus of Nazareth” by Pope Benedict XVI.
At the church
Gift-givers don’t have to travel far to find wonderful presents that also provide income for parishes. Churches across the state sell a variety of items. Culinary artists can find cookbooks. Music lovers can purchase CD’s from church choirs, including St. Joseph in Columbia, (803) 254-7646; St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg, (864) 582-0674; and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston (843) 724-8395. Call your local church and ask what they have available.
You may have a Mass celebrated for your special intentions or in someone’s name. This is a touching gift for devoted Catholics. Contact your local parish office.
Another heartfelt gift is a prayer card. They are available at many locations, including Catholic book stores, or try www.catholicdirect.com.
In the hectic times of the season, it is important to remember to spend personal time helping those in need. Catholics can be good stewards by giving of themselves through the many social outreach programs affiliated with local churches. Call to find out about their specific needs:
Echo House, North Charleston, (843) 554-1244.
Franciscan Center, St. Helena Island, (843) 838-3924.
Neighborhood House, Charleston, (843) 723-7784.
Our Lady of Mercy Outreach Services, John’s Island, (843) 559-4109.
Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center, Glover ville, (803) 593-2623.
Ridgeville Dominican Sisters, Ridgeville, (843) 875-4817.
St. Ann Catholic Outreach Center, Kingstree, (843) 354-9415.
St. Cyprian Outreach Center, Georgetown, (843) 546-1470.
And then there’s the Web …
Shopping doesn’t have to mean jumping in your car and driving to 12 different places in search of the perfect gift, wasting time and gas. Visit the many Internet sites that serve Catholics and shop from home.
Go to www.monasterygreetings.com and choose from selections ranging from clothing to artwork. One of the most unique and beautiful gifts at this site are rosaries made from the petals of flowers.
Catholic Relief Services offers a variety of ways to help on a global scale. Look into the CRS Fair Trade Program. It connects struggling small-scale coffee farmers overseas with consumers in the United States. Buying Fair Trade coffee guarantees that the small farmers who grew it will get a fair price and helps lift them out of poverty. Go online to www.crsfairtrade.com or www.crs.org.
More fairly-traded handcrafts and gourmet food items from low-income producers all over the world can be found at Work of Human Hands, a partnership between CRS and SERRV International. When you buy gifts from the catalogue, the people who produce them earn a fair price, receive access to credit and training, and maintain long-term relationships with SERRV, rooted in the principles of human dignity and economic justice. Go online to www.serrv.org.
Sponsor a child through Catholic World Mission. This program exists to bring education and the message of Christ to our poorest brothers and sisters throughout the world. Through donations, children receive academic and religious education, and faith activities for the whole family. Mission workers also teach Christian virtues to strengthen family ties, and provide instruction in trade skills. Visit www.catholicworldmission.org.
Or try the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, a lay Catholic organization committed to creating relationships between sponsors in the United States and children and aging persons in 25 developing nations around the world. You can pray, sponsor, make a contribution or volunteer. Through sponsorship you have the opportunity to connect one-to-one with a poor child, aging person or vocation candidate at a mission site. Your sponsorship offers hope in the face of malnutrition, inadequate medical care, poor housing and lack of access to education. Go online to www.cfcausa.org.
If you’d prefer to see your gift assist someone or something in your own back yard, consider a donation in a loved one’s name to Catholic Charities. By supporting Catholic Charities USA, you will help sustain its work to assist local Catholic Charities agencies nationwide and provide consulting and technical assistance programs. Go online to www.catholiccharitiesinfo.org or www.supportcatholiccharities.org.