Alison W Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

Give the World Your Gifts

I’m not a writer by trade. In fact, English was always my worst subject. However, when I saw the call for single parent writers, I submitted a story. Not because I’m a great writer. Not even because I’m a great Catholic, but because I feel like single parents need more support.

I know my long road was supported by Jesus. Again, not because I’m anything special, but simply because I turned to Him and trusted Him. I’m a sinner; I’m a brat sometimes. Those closest to me see my weakness and rottenness more than others. I’m so blessed they have stuck with me through this race of life. I regularly go to Confession because I know I’m a wretched sinner. But Jesus promises the most grace to the worst sinners. That’s just how great He is.

I’ve also come to know that people love to be encouraged. I have had many people thank me for encouraging them or for the stories I’ve written or posts I share. I encourage you to share your faith stories, too. I encourage you to encourage others. So much grace comes from this. Together, we are the body of Christ and we need each other to grow. God made you special; He has a job for you no one else can do. He has given you grace and strength different from everyone else. You have a purpose–to know God, love God, and serve God.

Satan has done a marvelous job of tearing apart the body of Christ. You don’t have to look far to see all the quarrels, division, and irritations. I challenge you to mend those broken relationships, to love your families better. I challenge you to see the people who hurt you as opportunities to love like Jesus does. Instead, strengthen the body of Christ and understand we are all the body of Christ. We need each other. The world needs your stories, your support, and your encouragement. The world needs the special gifts God has given you.

Jesus charged us with this task. He didn’t suggest it. He charged us to go and proclaim the good news.

And the good news is awesome! The good news is: Rotten sinners can be saved by our loving Jesus and go to heaven. The good news is, no sin can bind us to hell. Jesus died to make sure of this. It doesn’t matter how wrong you’ve gotten things; all that matters is that you reach out to Jesus and accept His mercy.

The sacraments of the Church help sustain us in this uphill battle of life. Use them! Go to Confession, receive the Eucharist, pray your rosary, accept grace, and then share it! I challenge you: Remind one person today how much Jesus loves him or her.

And remind yourself, too!

Ink Slingers

Theological Virtues

Did you know that faith, hope, and love are gifts from God?  Our catechism says of these theological virtues, “They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life (#1813).” The word merit causes angst in our separated brethren, but it means simply worthy. We are worthy of eternal life because we accept God’s gifts. Of course, we also have a responsibility once we accept them to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) because we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10) since “Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). They are both a gift and a task, and they work in concert.

My favorite philosopher Peter Kreeft illustrates the theological virtues several ways. He calls faith, hope, and love heaven’s actual gate, not just the way to get to the gate. He calls them the glue that attaches us to God and a three-legged stool that supports the whole Christian life. He calls faith the root, hope the stem, and charity the flower. He connects them: faith without charitable works is dead and without hope is impossible; hope without faith is wishful thinking and without love is selfish; love without faith is merely feelings and without hope is desperation. Like a pretzel.

The oft-memorized John 3:16 is a perfect example of the theological virtues moving from God to man: “For God so loved the world (love), He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (faith) in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (hope).” Our belief moves us to act upon these gifts and live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to sir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:22-15).” We are to take these theological virtues and do things: hold fast, help each other, perform good works, meet together. This will transform ourselves and the world; God’s kingdom will come.

“We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you, for our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 2:2-5).” What a wonderful mix of God’s love and faithfulness with his people’s labors of love and hope. Not mere assent, but conviction and action. That is how we can walk as children of light. This is our responsive obligation to God and his kingdom for the theological virtues he pours into us at baptism. This is how we nurture them to maturity as we run the race with perseverance.

And we do not even have to work and run on our own. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, sent to teach, convict, remind, and comfort us on this road that faith opens up for us. Pope Francis concludes
Lumen Fidei  (The Light of Faith) with a reminder that Jesus is the center of it all and a request of Mary to pray for us: “Mother, help our faith! Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, your Son, our Lord” We are also surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, all of us looking to our Lord, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Because these virtues are infused by God, I am humbled and mindful of my smallness near the great I Am who knows me and wants me to be happy with him forever. I am amazed and grateful that the Creator loves me and gives me gifts that will draw me closer to him. I am serious and attentive to the work involved in keeping these gifts supple and useful for the kingdom of God. When creation is fully renewed with a new heaven and new earth, there will be no more need for faith and hope, for we will have Jesus ever with us. But love will go on forever. Maranatha.

Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Mary Prayer Reviews

A New Marian Devotional You Absolutely Need

Whether you have a devotion to Our Blessed Mother or not, the Manual for Marian Devotion by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, is a handy little books for everything you need to know about Mary. It would be great for personal use and would make a great gift. And it will inspire you to take up a greater devotion to Mary if you don’t already have one.

First let me tell you that I just love the feel and size of this little manual. It’s roughly the size of my hand and it is bound in leather. The embossing on it is lovely, the edges of the pages are silver, and there is a ribbon bookmark built in. Of all my prayer books, I especially love the ones that have ribbon bookmarks and leather binding. The nice small size is also nice for easily tossing in my purse on my way to adoration. This one will be part of my stack of favorites, for sure.

All that exterior stuff also makes it a nice gift, and it contains a page in the front for you to fill out if you are giving it as a gift. You can record the name of the person and the date or occasion for which you are gifting it, plus a large space for leaving a special note. Nice touch!

All that above is great, but I know you want to know what this book contains. Well, pretty much everything to do with Mary. The first four chapters are dedicated to preparing for Marian devotion. I really liked how this section was broken down and covered a lot of ground. It’s a very quick look at Marian doctrines, historical facts, and much more. So don’t expect a ton of details here, but it’s enough to get you interested. For a neophyte to Marian devotion this section is perfect, and if one wants more detail this gives them a jumping off point (there’s a bibliography in the back of the book). Or, move on to the next section of the book.

Part Two of the manual (chapters 5-11) goes into more detail with aids to Marian devotion. Here is where you’ll find prayers (lots and lots, from all the basics to some less well known ones), excerpts from the Catechism and other Church documents, Mary in the liturgy, quotes from saints, poetry, synopses of miracles and apparitions, and much more. There is a lot packed into this tiny volume!

While the first four chapters were a quick read, the remaining part of the book is much different. Here is where you may find one small passage to read in the morning and reflect on the rest of the day. This is the section you could flip open when you need a spiritual shot in the arm or a little inspiration. I’ve been reading through chapter 7 (The Saints and Other Spiritual Writers) and finding a lot of great passages for reflection. And I like how this chapter is divided up by time period, from Ancient writers to twentieth century writers.

I’m also finding a lot of new information in this book: things like the very first Marian prayer from 3rd century Egypt, Marian poetry I never knew about, and a list of flowers with their Marian meanings. Chapter 8 (Marian Miracles and Messages) looks absolutely fascinating (I haven’t gotten to it yet). And if you are interested in the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, the Consecration Prayer from St. Louis de Montfort is contained in this book.

I was especially pleased to find the four Marian antiphons that are traditionally said after night prayer (Alma Redemptoris Mater, Ave Regina Caelorum, Regina Coeli, and Salve Regina). As a Benedictine Oblate, my oblate prayer books contains all four, but only in Latin. The Manual for Marian Devotion lists them all together (in chapter 10, Mary in the liturgy, pgs. 275-282) in both English and Latin. So I’ve now been using the Manual along with my oblate prayer book so I can say those prayers in English. [Except the Salve Regina; I already know that one quite well.]

If there is one thing I wish were included in this book it would be an index. The table of contents does a great job breaking down large chunks, but if you are looking for something specific it can be hard to find. Maybe it’s just the librarian in me, but a few times I found myself flipping around a lot looking for something I knew I had seen and wanted to see again and an index would have been helpful. As a former librarian this may bother me more than the average person. Of course, if I use the book enough, I probably won’t have need for an index after a while.

After exploring this book and reading large chunks of it, I can definitely say that this is a prayer book that any lover of Mary should have. I have really enjoyed reading sections and using the prayers in it from time to time. And as I said above, it would make a great gift for many occasions. This is a great time of year for gift giving as well! You likely know someone making their First Communion soon or maybe receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. Plus, Mother’s Day is coming up, what a perfect gift for that special Mary devotee in your life (hint, hint to the guys reading this).

Manual for Marian Devotion is currently available from Tan Books for $29.95. You can also personalize your copy with a name or message stamped on the cover for an additional fee.

And as always, I received a copy of the book for this review and no other compensation. All opinions here are completely mine.

Advent Christmas Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Mary P.

A Guide to Intentional Christmas Giving

guide to intentional giving image

A few years ago, I started making an effort to do my all my Christmas shopping before the start of Advent. I wanted to be free during Advent to focus on spiritual preparation for Christmas, rather than rushing around trying to buy everyone’s gifts at the last minute. As a born procrastinator, this proved to be a difficult task, and I have not yet had a year where I reached my goal. This year, between being in my first trimester of my fourth pregnancy, and being sick with a cold, I barely even got started on the Christmas shopping before Advent began. If you are one of those organized people who has your shopping and wrapping done already, I bow down to you (in a totally non-idolatrous way of course). I hope to be like you one day. But I have a feeling that there are a lot of people out there like me – people who, despite their best intentions, have barely even gotten started shopping.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Christmas gift-buying can feel overwhelming, even onerous and unpleasant (which is not exactly how a charitable act should feel). I have written before about my desire to be more of a minimalist. Ever since I’ve realized the burden of “stuff” in my life, Christmas shopping has been even more difficult. It’s a bit easier to buy things for people who don’t live under the same roof as I do; but even still, I feel a sense of responsibility not to add to other people’s stuff problem as well. It can be a challenge to figure out gifts that are going to be meaningful, and are not going to add more clutter to people’s lives. It’s definitely easier to buy indiscriminately, without thinking much about the true value of the gift for its recipient, or about what will happen to it after the initial excitement of opening it wears off. But when I’ve shopped that way, I always have regretted it later. I believe that gift-giving, especially at Christmas, should be very intentional. 

Besides reducing clutter and pre-holiday stress, intentional gift-giving can help focus the giver on the reason they are buying the gifts, and the recipient on the reason theynativity silhouette are receiving – that is, love, inspired by the birth of Love Himself. We Christians are giving and receiving in the name of Jesus at Christmas. We can’t let consumerism make us forget that. It’s easy to get stressed out and even resentful when you are in the midst of chaotic Christmas shopping. But, intentionality helps restore the good will, thoughtfulness, and generosity that should be hallmarks of giving. And opening a limited quantity of thoughtful, useful gifts is more conducive to the gratitude we should have as gift recipients.  With that in mind, I’ve written some ideas on how to simplify the gift-giving portion of Christmas, so that both giver and receiver will be less distracted by stuff and more free to focus on the Lord.

  • Limit the number of gifts. A popular number for children is three, because that is how many gifts baby Jesus received at his birth. I like this idea a lot because it’s inherently a reminder of why we have presents on Christmas at all. I have also heard of people giving one single gift to each of their children. This is sometimes out of necessity, but oftentimes is done on principle. Usually, the more gifts someone receives, the less each one will mean to them, the less appreciative they are, and the less they remember what Christmas is really all about.
  • Have a formula to follow. Last year we used “want, need, wear, read” for our children. This gave me direction, and made me think long and hard about each gift I purchased. We will probably do the same this year. I have also seen “play, wear, read, share,” and various other formulations of the same concept. The point is to both limit the number of gifts and give you a simple guide to what gifts to purchase. For some people (me), just limiting the number without having any specific direction about what to get makes the process much more complicated and challenging for me. Should I buy two toys and a book? Should I buy a toy, an outfit, and a book? Should I buy three toys? But the beauty of the formula is that it’s not too limiting. For example, “something to wear” isn’t limited to everyday clothing. It can be something fun like dress up clothes (which is what my kids got last year) or a piece of jewelry. Don’t tell my oldest, but she is probably getting a miraculous medal for the “wear” category this year.
  • Cut back on your budget (if you’re not already being thrifty out of necessity). Just because you have $100+ to spend on each person on your list doesn’t mean you have to spend it. If you vow to stay within a smaller budget than what you are used to and can afford, then you have to be more creative and considerate about how you spend your money. It’s difficult to buy indiscriminately on a tight budget.
  • Give the gift of an experience. A zoo or museum membership, movie tickets, restaurant gift cards, ballet (gymnastics, karate, sewing, art, etc.) lessons, are all clutter-free gifts that are likely to be appreciated more than something you picked up off a shelf.
  • Make all your gifts. When you make a gift for someone, it automatically forces you to be intentional and thoughtful about the gift. Instead of giving your sister in-law another infinity scarf from Old Navy, how about a basket of homemade goodies, which will be consumed, leaving behind no clutter? These goodies can be food or personal care products. There are plenty of ideas and recipes for the latter floating around the internet. For years, I’ve had the intention of making homemade vanilla extract to give out as gifts at Christmas, but I have yet to do it. I told you I was a procrastinator!

I’m sure there are many other ways that people simplify their Christmas and keep the focus where it belongs – on Jesus. I’d love for you to share your secrets for combating the consumerism, stress, and ingratitude that can be a by-product of Christmas present mania. 

Advent Christmas Colleen Ink Slingers Our Favorite Things Resources Your Handy-Dandy List

Your Handy-Dandy Guide to Catholic Christmas Shopping!

I know, I know! Thanksgiving is still 2 weeks away, and Christmas isn’t even on your radar. But when it comes to Christmas shopping, the earlier, the better, especially if you’re relying on the USPS to get your stuff to you. One year, Martina made a commitment to get ALL her Christmas shopping done before Advent began, to prepare for a peaceful, less-stressed Advent. What a great idea – it is a little stressful to track your package online on December 23 and see that it is currently in Denver, 600 miles away from you, and that your city is expecting a huge snowstorm overnight, and you may have to show up at the relatives’ house with an “IOU – your present is on its way!” card. (raises hand.)

It is also stressful trying to figure out WHAT to buy for someone who seems to have everything. Maybe you want to buy a religious-themed gift, but don’t want to go with the ol’ standby of a Bible (which is a great present, by the way, but just in case they already have one, or two, or five…)

I present to you: Catholic Sistas’ Favorite Things, a compilation of our favorite religious gift items for young, old, and everyone in-between.

(Click on the title of each item, and you will be redirected to their site to purchase.)


Something to Wear




1. Holy Hair Bows (email to order)
2. Little Flower Heart Necklace
3. Blessed Virgin Dress-Up Outfit
4. Lego Pope Shirt
5. Veils by Lily
6. Keep Calm And Pray Your Rosary Shirt
7. St. Gerard Rosary Bracelet
8. Miraculous Medal



Something to Listen To




1. Brother Francis CD: Let’s Sing!
2. Stories and Songs of Jesus
3. Hug Me Jesus
4. Blessed John Paul II Glory Stories (also see St. Kateri & St. Cecilia, Blessed Imelda & St. Juan Diego, and more)
5. St. Catherine of Siena Audio CD – Mary Fabyan Windeatt
6. Advent at Ephesus – Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles
7. Mater Eucharistae – Dominican Sisters of Mary
8. Pursuing Holiness: Lessons from St. Francis de Sales



Something to Watch




1. Holy Baby! The Rosary in 7 Languages
2. Nicholas, the Boy Who Became Santa – CCC Saints Movies (Also see Juan Diego, Messenger of Guadalupe, Patrick, Brave Shepherd of the Emerald Isle, Francis, the Knight of Assisi, Bernadette, Princess of Lourdes, and other titles)
3. Brother Francis Movies
4. Retreat With Fulton Sheen



Something to Play With




1. Forever Treasured Wooden Saints – St. Miriam & Friends
2. Brother Hubert Rag Doll + Story Book
3. Sister Mary Clara Doll
4. Fr. Juan Pablo Doll
5. Shining Light Dolls
6. Tiny Saints Charms
7. No Room At the Inn Puzzle
8. Saints Pillowcases
9. Make-A-Rosary Hanger Kit
10. Catholic Coloring Poster
11. Little People Nativity (a classic!)
12. Playmobil Nativity

Something to Pray With




1. Children’s Miniature Mass Kit
2. St. Edmund Campion Missal (for Traditional Latin Mass)
3. Rosary Steering Wheel Cover
4. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Art Print
5. St. Paul Daily Missal
6. Magnificat Subscription
7. Laudamus Te (like Magnificat, but with the 1962 Missal readings/propers)
8. Children’s Colorful Rosary
9. Wooden Sick Call Crucifix
10. Sterling Silver Military 4-Way Medal
11. Shamrock Rosary
12. Madonna and Child with Lamb Statue



Something to Eat




1. Mystic Monk Coffee – Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
2. Trappistine Creamy Caramels – Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey
3. Trappist Beer
4. Hazelnut Fudge – Brigittine Monks
5. Clover Honey – Cistercian Nuns @ Redwoods Monastery
6. Monks’ Bread
7. Prayerfully Popped Corn from the Cloister
8. From A Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook



Something to Read




1. The Friendly Beasts – Tomie dePaola (also, see The Night of Las Posadas, The Legend of the Poinsettia, and other titles)
2. Who is Coming to Our House?
3. E is for Eucharist – A Catholic Alphabet
4. An Alphabet of Catholic Saints
5. Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms
6. Small Steps for Catholic Moms
7. Catholic Daily Planner by Michele Quigley (if my husband is reading this, hint hint!)
8. Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer

(see our Pinterest board for over 100 other book ideas!)


Honorable Mention

Looking for a unique, non-religious gift, but still want to support Catholic shop owners? Check out these:


1. Handmade Toy Soldier – Steadfast Tin Soldiers
2. Nest Egg Charms – BlueJayBabies
3. Handmade Soaps – Corner Shop Soaps
4. Lady Mary Hat & Fingerless Gloves Crochet Pattern – Nat’s Niche
5. Handmade Tote – Sew Sweet by Shannon
6. Artisanal Soaps & Lotions – The Little Flower Farm
7. Yellow Dotty Vase – Donnabelle



Be sure to check out our Pinterest gift boards, Christmas Gift Guide and Gift Ideas, as well! In case none of these 67 gift ideas struck your fancy. 😉

Got any favorite Catholic gift ideas or shops you support? Planning on purchasing any of these items for a loved one? Please share in the comments below!