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Life Changing Christmas Gift Ideas

December 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Advent, Books, Christmas, Resources, Software

Life Changing Christmas Gift Ideas

A Christmas List that Will Transform Your Life and the Lives of Those You Love

If you hate shopping as much as I do or if you just struggle with ideas for some of those strange or much beloved but hard to shop for Catholics in your life, I have a few ideas that might help. They range in price from very expensive, to less than $20.00. All of these ideas are unique in that each item or opportunity will, in some small or even profound way, enflame and transform the hearts of your friends and family in ways that they will never have expected. Please don't forget to share this post!

For the On-Fire or Spiritually Famished but Committed Catholic:

The Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation is one of the most unique Catholic institutions on the planet. We know of no other faithful Catholic institution of higher learning that provides live/interactive online courses specifically focused on the rich and endless treasure of Catholic spiritual theology. If you know a Catholic who’s heart will be enflamed by exploring the teachings of the great Saints like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Hildegard Von Bingen, and others, this is the place for them. Here’s a brief list of the breadth of Catholic spiritualities covered in our coursework:

  • The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers
  • Benedictine Spirituality
  • Franciscan Spirituality
  • Dominican Spirituality
  • Carmelite Spirituality
  • Ignatian Spirituality
  • Salesian Spirituality
  • Carthusian Spirituality

Students can study one class at a time or engage in the full two-year graduate program. We have programs for all committed students regardless of past educational experience. To learn more go to or email to Scholarships and payment plans are available.

For the Studious Catholic Seeking to Explore the Vast and Glorious Truths of the Catholic Faith:

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 1.25.42 PMHave you ever visited the Grand Canyon or some other amazing site and then come home and try to explain the beauty you witnessed? Most of us start to describe our experiences and then realize that it is an impossible task. So it is with Verbum Catholic Study Software. It is by far the best Catholic study software available, bar none – they really have no competition as far as I am concerned. I have spent thousands of dollars reviewing, using, and then deleting software from the competition. The only software that has risen to my expectations is Verbum. Not only is it incredibly powerful, but I most often use it for primary research across thousands of Catholic documents and texts. To explain this experience I included THIS LINK where you will find videos and information galore.

For the Catholic Who Has Yet to Settle Into Their Faith or is Looking for Encouragement:

God's Bucket ListGod’s Bucket List – Heaven's Surefire Way to Happiness in this Life and Beyond  by Teresa Tomeo is a fantastic book for any Catholic. My work at the National Catholic Register and as the founder of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation requires that I dig into more books than I can count. In this quest, of course, my preference is in the deep waters of the doctors of the Church. Even so, on rare occasion, a modern popular author gives me the gift of surprise and delight. Teresa has done just this with God’s Bucket list. This book will be a fun and encouraging read for Along the Wayany Catholic but I particularly recommend it for those friends and family who seem to be just hanging out at the edges of the Church and who have not yet figured out that God really does love them and have a plan for their life. I would be surprised if any Catholic of goodwill, after reading this book, doesn’t respond with an increased interest in their faith. Go to to learn more. Another book that also falls into this category is Randy Hain’s fantastic work, Along the Way: Lessons for An Authentic Journey of Faith. You can’t go wrong with either of these excellent resources.

For the Discerning Catholic Seeking To Understand and Respond to the Events of the Day:

The National Catholic Register is the leading magisterium faithful news organization in the Church. There is a reason that millions visit our website annually and that while all other newspapers are losing ground, we are actually gaining ground and have more subscribers now than any time in recent decades. You can both subscribe to the Register via this link and you can also give a subscription to a friend. A subscription to the Register will weekly draw the hearts and minds of your family and friends to better understand and respond to the events of our time as understood through the lens of faithful Catholicism. To purchase a subscription at a $10 discount off of an annual subscription, follow this link: To purchase a gift subscription for friends or family follow this link: or just go to and click on the red “Subscribe” button on the top right.

For the Adventurous Catholic Who May be Longing for a Life-Changing Pilgrimage:

Israel 1-1 DB Final[1]-2For the Catholic who loves to travel and would be ecstatic about the opportunity to experience the land of Jesus’ birth, I am assembling a tour to Israel next summer that will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, change the hearts and minds of every participant. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City Kansas has said this about the retreat-master/tour-guide for this trip:

“I’ve been to the Holy Land several times before going on this pilgrimage and it was an extraordinary experience. The Biblical catechesis we received at the many sites made it the most meaningful pilgrimage for me personally as well as all those that were with us. I recommend everyone that has considered a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to journey with Mike Scherschligt and Trinity Travel.” 

This trip is about full so don’t wait to review the details CLICK HERE and/or contact Trudy at or call her at 816-863-8237

For the Music Lover Looking for Something New and Different:

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 9.04.49 PMFor those who love Catholicism but also appreciate some modern music, Audrey Assad is gift. Her latest release, “Fortunate Fall” has echoed through our home since we were able to get our hands on it. All of Audrey’s music reflects a deep love of Christ and the Church. In this release, she has put Humility Prayer and other profound prayers of the Church to music. This beautiful work will speak to both the devout and those on the outer edges. Click here to explore this beautiful gift. Of course, it is also available in the iTunes store or you can find out more about Audrey here.

For the Would-Be Philanthropist Who Desires to Give to An Important Cause but Doesn’t Know Who to Trust:

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 9.06.23 PMThe Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is a relatively unknown but very important institution established by the Holy See to serve those women religious who have never abandoned their commitment to the magisterium of the Church. The Vatican recently completed a visitation with another organization representing many sisters (but not all) who have lost their way and who tend to get all the press (the real problem is in the leadership). All the while the CMSWR and the sisters they represent have quietly, prayerfully and faithfully continued to give their lives away for the benefit of Catholics and humanity worldwide. They represent more than 100 religious orders in the United States and any of these can be found on their website at Please consider supporting the CMSWR or any of the sisters they represent. You can also give a gift in the name of someone you love!

EWTN/National Catholic Register: After working for and with the National Catholic Register and EWTN for a number of years I am thoroughly convinced that there is no way to impact more people for Christ and the Church than through a donation here. Together we reach and impact the lives of millions of Catholics and would-be Catholics around the world at a cost that is far less than I have seen in my more than twenty years of work with other non-profit organizations.

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 8.27.12 PMGeneral Resources for Spiritual Growth: Here on this blog, you will find a solid and extensive list of recommended links for spiritual growth here, or just click on the “Resources” link above.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 9.15.26 PM

Finally, I will round out my list with a few of the most trustworthy publishers and unquestionable sources for solid Catholic materials. With respect to publishers, I suspect that there are very few who, if asked to sign a statement of fidelity to the magisterium of the Church, could or would do so. Three that I believe could and would are Emmaus Road Publications, Catholic Answers, and Ignatius Press. As far as retailers go, there is none more trustworthy than EWTN’s Religious Catalogue. EWTN’s Religious Catalogue is an organization that can make a claim that no other one can – all of its items are reviewed by theologians for fidelity. If you are looking to purchase Christmas gifts or resources for any other reason wand you don’t want to worry about whether or not they are trustworthy, these are the places to go.

Happy hunting and God bless you for your desire to love others through self-giving and by giving resources that will help them to heaven!

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • These look great! But most of them look too expensive to give as gifts here. Not to mention shipping costs, it wont arrive in time for Christmas. But I did ask my parents’ for Audrey’s new CD! Waiting for it to arrive… I know its on mp3 but CDs still have better quality. Gotta admit, it’s pretty cool that she turned the Litany of Humilty into a song! Makes it easier to pray a not so easy prayer. 🙂

    • Well, all told there are more than 20 items under $30.00. Maybe I should have made those more prominent! Audrey’s CD is really a blessing.

      • Sorry maybe I misunderstood. $30 is quite a lot of money here already. Goods here cost waaay less than in the States. No worries. Just a difference in currency plus shipping costs I suppose. Looking forward to Audrey’s CD! 🙂

        • Ah yes ­ typical American mentality. My apologies.

  • Gloria Laudes

    A wonderful list of many resources I was unaware of or just hadn’t checked into before, so thank you!

  • Thank you, Dan, and I can DEFINITELY vouch for Avila. It was the greatest gift I gave myself this year! Additionally, I have an affordable suggestion. Whenever I travel, I visit churches and charity shops looking for rosaries, especially pocket ones or finger ones I can give to the businessmen in my life. I am amazed at how even non-catholics appreciate them and carry them (especially during interviews!) My Reformed Dutch Protestant father-in-law thought catholics were heathens when his son married me, but when he passed away last year, the ONLY thing he was buried with was a wooden rosary I gave him that came from Brazil! It touched me so deeply! A rosary (even a used one) with a little card that suggests the recipient visit and view Fr. John’s retreat guide, “River of Wisdom: A Retreat Guide on the Rosary” could make a very nice and meaningful gift.

  • Sr. Dorcee

    I wholeheartedly recommend Avila Institute! I’ve taken one class and signed up for the next. Spiritual theology at its best.

    My second favorite is Audrey Assad’s album. Wonderful it is.

    • Camila

      I ditto Sr. Dorcee’s excitement and endorsement of the Avila Institute!

  • Audrey Assad’s album is AWESOME!! And I can’t recommend the Holy Land enough! If I might add one, The Faithful Traveler 2-DVD set is only $24.95 and features 13 episodes, exploring Catholic shrines in the US. Great for the arm-chair traveler, homeschoolers, and basically… everyone! 🙂 You can find them on our website:
    Now, I’m going to check out the Avila Institute! That sounds amazing!

  • Jeanette

    I placed an order for Audrey Assad’s CD “Fortunate Fall” through Amazon. She does sound amazing. Ha, I’m in Canada and the least expensive shipping and handling is almost as much as the album! Thanks Dan for the gift idea suggestions.

    • LizEst

      Love your new picture Jeanette!

      • Jeanette

        Oh thanks…I’d forgotten that I’d changed it.

        • LizEst

          Your right hand doesn’t know what your left is doing! How blessed you are, Jeanette!

          • Jeanette

            Well, I hope it’s not the beginning of memory loss!

          • Jeanette

            Well, I hope it’s not the beginning of memory loss!

            Oops, sorry I did the same post twice…I wonder if this means something?

          • Jeanette

            Liz, I just had to share this with you. I just opened my bible where my ribbon was and laid my eyes upon Matt. 6, 3-4 – “But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.” Great meditation!

          • LizEst

            I love this! Wow is the Holy Spirit ever speaking to you, today!

            …and as to the double posting, you are too funny! Ha!

          • Jeanette

            Dan’s posting is about suggestions for gift giving. Maybe Matt. 6, 3 – 4 is supposed to be a reminder to all of us regarding secret almsgiving, like it says, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing, during this Advent season…

          • LizEst

            Yes, it’s a most commendable way to give…and so fun, too!

  • MaryofSharon

    Thank you for all the suggestions, Dan.

    I’m going to throw in one more stunning addition to the list, which I think may warrant a separate review by Fr. Bartunek on this website and to which I can guarantee he would give two thumbs up, given that it was written by a brother priest from his own order and focuses on sacred art, which is so important to him: Meditations on Vatican Art. It is a beautiful, beautiful book of magnificent art from the Vatican collections presented as an object for meditation with prayerful food for meditation patterned on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius from Fr. Mark Haydu, the International Coordinator of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. I just got my copy in the mail and it is extraordinary!

    “My hope is that Meditations on Vatican Art will enable readers to experience masterpieces from the Vatican while meditating upon them, for it was the artist’s intention that these sacred art pieces inspire the faithful to pray,” said Fr. Mark Haydu.

    • Mary – this is a fantastic resource. It is absolutely stunning.

      Sent from my iPad

      • MaryofSharon

        Isn’t it? I just knew my RCSD friends would love this. I have been reading the introductions and skimming the meditations that accompany the art, and I can’t wait to pray with it! I can’t think of a much better gift for anyone who loves Beauty and the God who is its Source.

    • oooh! This sounds amazing!

  • Here’s an idea for a future post: what about gifts to give godchildren? Kids of various ages? I’m so clueless when it comes to gift giving for kids!

  • I tried to post before but I must have deleted it by mistake. I always pick up rosaries when I travel and visit churches and charity shops. I especially like to give pocket rosaries and ring rosaries to the businessmen in my life. You would be surprised how many of them, even non-catholics appreciate them and carry them for comfort (especially during interviews!) Children like these as well. My 5-yr old takes hers to school in her backpack everyday. So, I’d say, for those on a budget, consider giving loved ones and friends a rosary (even a used one!) with a card suggesting the recipient visit and view Fr. John’s retreat guide, “River of Wisdom: A Retreat Guide on the Rosary.” And, if you want to give yourself a gift this year that will set your heart on fire and bring great inspiration to those lives you touch, take an Avila course! I can’t recommend that highly enough! Thank you for all the great suggestions, Dan…my Amazon cart is suddenly overflowing with goodies.

  • Lydia

    Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ has a great book “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage” which is a nice gift (maybe for your priest) that has history, beautiful pictures, prayers and meditations for pilgrimage spots in Israel. You can use it too when you actually go to the Holy Land, it is an ebook too. I like to recommend anything by Fr. Thomas Dubay, especially “The Fire Within,” And for fun I’m getting these little flat statues of Pope Francis that can sit on your desk. It is SO cute:

    • LizEst

      Great suggestions. Thanks Lydia. We actually have the Dubay book in our “Resources” section: Those Pope Francis cutouts are so fun!

    • The Holy Land book looks amazing!!

    • I was fortunate to receive the Holy Land book as a gift. Here’s an example where it’s useful. My 10 year old son and I were reading the Bible one night and he asked me questions about how things looked during the time of Jesus. I gave him the book and he was able to picture Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. It was a great blessing.
      As I have continued through the book, I am impressed with Fr. Pacwa’s ability to tie scripture, prayer and sights from the Holy Land. It’s a great book and now I want to go on a pilgrimage!

  • I have to also chime in on God’s Bucket List. This is the second Teresa Tomeo book I own, but the first one was a gift for my wife (Wrapped Up). Although it’s a short book, it has depth and provoked thoughts and consideration on my life’s journey as a Catholic convert. I can relate to many of the experiences described by the author. Definitely a good choice for this list of gifts. Merry Christmas!

  • Jeanette

    Thank you Dan for your gift ideas. I gifted myself with Audrey Assad’s CD “Fortunate Fall” which I just received today and I have to say it’s fantastic! Merry Christmas to you and family!

    • You are welcome! Audrey is a gift. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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