This past year has been very busy in our family. We celebrated the marriage of one of my sisters and the engagement of another all within several months of each other!

My dad does not call our new family member a “son-in-LAW,” but “son-in-SACRAMENT,” because that’s the real truth of the matter, isn’t it?

As Christmas draws nearer, some of us are scrambling to find the perfect present for these new (or soon-to-be) additions to the family as well as my older siblings who are no longer interested in toys.

That’s why I have put together a list of the perfect gifts for any newly married, engaged, or dating couples you might know. [Dad’s note: And I added one book to Anna’s list to help your kids develop into persons whose hearts will not experience our modern culture’s heartbreak and confusion, but the lifelong love God wants for them. Think of this, then, as the list for “Newlyweds, Soon-to-be-weds, and hope-to-be-weds.”]

The book Courtship & Marriage: How to Prepare for Lifelong Love by Fr. John A. O’Brien has been in our home as long as I can remember (well, I’m the 5th child, and I like to pick up books I see and read them, so…). I think my parents originally gave this book to my eldest sister, Virginia, when she was in high school, because I remember I always saw it around the house, but this past summer when we helped move Virginia and her new husband, Nate, into their new apartment, I discovered that she had taken this book with her when she left for college!  I also noticed it was much more worn and had various multicolored tabs, marking the most important passages in it!  Knowing Virginia, I suspect she and Nate discussed this book together.

In this book, Father O’Brien explains the importance of maintaining chastity in your relationship and how to tell if your “significant other” is really marriage material. This book is a short read, under 50 pages, so it is perfect even for any non-readers.

Two more favorites of Virginia and Clara (who is engaged to be married this summer) are The ABC’s of Choosing a Good Husband and the companion book The ABC’s of Choosing a Good Wife by Stephen Wood.  I’ve seen my sisters reading them, but Mom & Dad haven’t allowed me to read them yet.  “Too soon—you’re nowhere near looking at some guy as husband material!” they say. Dad says that Mr. Wood (who is a friend of ours) told him that when he speaks, it is the BOYS who get the “Good Husband” book…because they want to see what the girls are interested in!  Again, I have seen these books around our house my entire life!  I’ve also seen Mom & Dad reading them…I think planning for when it will be time to have each child read them!

Now–back to a book which I have read: Christian Dating in a Godless World by Rev. T. G. Morrow is my personal favorite of our pre-marriage books. Written by a priest with many years of dating experience (Fr. Morrow didn’t enter the seminary until he was 34!), this book goes through all the steps leading up to marriage from pre-courtship until the wedding. My sister, Margaret, heard Father Morrow speak at a youth conference and really liked him.  He speaks unambiguously and directly, and he really knows the modern cultural environment—and he addresses what impact this can have on our thinking about the opposite sex and marriage and practical steps to re-orient ourselves as Catholic Christians.

We have received a lot of questions regarding the age-range appropriate for this book. This book has no “real” age range, but if you think your child is old enough to date, then they are old enough to read this book. (No, I’m not dating, but I read just about everything Mom and Dad will allow me to read!)  Father Morrow addresses straight-on the issues which all dating-age young adults really will confront today!

[Dad’s note: Fr Morrow also authored Overcoming Sinful Anger, which is a huge best-seller.  Excellent book for both the “angry” and those who are “victims of anger.”  Always sells out at our conferences where people can page through it and see how good it is.]

Our For Men Only & For Women Only two-book set is now by far our most popular product for people in relationships. The authors of these books, Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn, are researchers and Christians, so they recognize that men and women are made to be compatible, but that they were also made to be different! These books summarize (with lots of anecdotes and information) on their research which included thousands of in-depth interviews to get at the differences between how men and women think and how they, therefore, react to each other’s words and actions.  My dad has a copy of the For Men Only book on his desk at work!

OK—this is another book that I have NOT read, so let me tell you a story about Margaret’s reaction to them. 

Margaret is 19, a college sophomore, and my sibling who does NOT like to read.

Last summer, Margaret was with us at a conference and traffic was slow.  So, she picked up one of these books and started reading.  A twenty-something girl from one of the Catholic college tables came over and started paging through one of them, so Margaret told her to go ahead and take it to read at her booth.

Well, Margaret read right through the first book and then started the other one. (Did I mention that she is also the child who dislikes reading the most?)

By the last day of the conference, she was discussing the books with a several of the other college-table (and college-aged) people.  One of them ended up buying the set for her married sister! Margaret then told my dad that we should tell our customers that couples should read these books together, reading the book corresponding to their sex first, marking the things that most apply to them, and then trading with their boyfriend/girlfriend so that they can become better able to understand each other. My dad has given a set to Virginia and Nate and also to Clara and her fiancé.  He also gave one to my mom.  I think Margaret took a set with her from the conference…

Finally, Trey, Therese, and I really love one of our newest products, The Vatican Cookbook!

It’s a cookbook written by the Pontifical Swiss Guard, including favorite recipes of the Swiss Guards as well as several of our past popes and our present Pope Francis. My family is planning on giving this book to my brother-in-law (my dad calls him “brother-in-sacrament”), Nate, for Christmas as a reminder of when our family first met him.

Why? Here’s what happened:

Nate wanted to make us a gourmet meal from salad to dessert, but he had to do it in a tiny 6×6 kitchen in Virginia’s college apartment!  Very tough to do feeding a family of our size, especially when typical kitchen things are NOT in a dorm apartment, anyway, so soon things became very hectic and confused with almost no counter space to prepare or store things and no way to keep things warm and then some of Virginia’s college friends came by so there were suddenly even more mouths to feed.  Poor Nate! But the little girls loved all the commotion and Lillian just went around videotaping it all on Dad’s phone while making running commentary, with the smoke alarm blaring in the background!

But, he married my sister, anyway, so I hope he’ll enjoy the cookbook for Christmas.

I also hope these books I’ve recommended, books which have guided my sisters and are Mom & Dad-approved and selected, can be helpful for your children, too!

[Dad’s addition, for helping all your children become “marriageable” and to help them identify the one with the gentle soul whom they will want to love them forever: The Hidden Power of Kindness. It takes kindness to make marriage work, and it needs to be nurtured over time.  Especially in today’s world, this book is a must-have.]

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The mainstay for many of our Adventure videos. Anna has appeared in Glory Stories volume 13, "Codename: Cocol -- Undercover for God."