Catholic Social Teaching Gift Guide
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
December 2009

Still looking for Christmas gifts? Consider something related to Catholic social teaching.

Books All of these books are available at most Catholic bookstores or online booksellers.

Catechism of the Catholic Church Catholic social doctrine is an integral part of the faith. Anyone wondering what the Catholic Church teaches about a social issue should start with the Catechism.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council For Justice And Peace (USCCB Publishing) This compendium commissioned by Pope John Paul II is a must have for anyone who wants to understand the church’s social doctrine.

In Solitary Witness, Gordan Zahn (Templeton) This is the book that brought the story of Franz Jägerstätter to the world. Jägerstätter - now Blessed - was an Austrian peasant, husband, and father martyred for his refusal to serve as a soldier for Nazi regime. Blessed Franz’s letters and life reveal that he was more than a conscientious objector. He was a man of deep faith with a sincere desire to live his entire life in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Saint John Chrysostom on Wealth and Poverty (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press) A series of homilies given by the fourth century saint with lessons on charity and justice still relevant today.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien This Catholic infused book has layers and layers of discoveries, many of them mirroring Catholic themes of justice, the importance of community, and the dignity of persons.

The Radical Tradition: Revolutionary Saints in the Battle for Justice and Human Rights, edited by Gilbert Markus (Doubleday) This book tells the stories of saints throughout the church’s history who fought for charity and justice. It is an easy read and an ideal gift for teenagers. Although it is out-of-print, used and new copies are available through online bookstores.

iPhone and iPod Touch Apps

iPieta (iVerbum) This app has almost everything a student of social teaching needs - papal encyclicals, the documents of Vatican II, St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa. Plus you get the Douay-Rheims bible, numerous prayers, a Catholic calendar, and spiritual works by the likes of St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Siena, St. John Vianney, and more. In addition, most of the works are searchable and available in Latin. No internet connection is needed. ($2.99 at the iTunes app store.)

Other apps worth mentioning:
iBreviary ($.99) and VerseWise Bible Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition ($4.99).


Bella A pro-life film in the truest sense of the word. Beyond the story of redemption and pro-adoption message, the movie’s treatment of ordinary people, community, families, and even food reveal Catholic themes. Rated PG-13.

Amazing Grace The story of how William Wilberforce worked to abolish slavery in the United Kingdom. An example of politics conducted for the greater good. Rated PG.

Other videos worth mentioning:
Entertaining Angels, a biography of Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day; Romero, about assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero.


Saints Isidore and Marie Items Looking for a gift for a farmer or rancher family? Saint Isidore is the patron saint of farmers. His wife, Marie, is also a canonized saint. Prints, notecards, and prayer cards of the saint husband and wife are available from the National Catholic Rural Life Conference ( ($.20 to $4.00)

Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade Items Help eradicate poverty by supporting farmers and artisans working toward sufficiency. Coffee, chocolate, jewelry, and more are available from Catholic Relief Services and its partner SERRV. ( and

ONE This bi-monthly magazine is published by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) CNEWA is an agency of the Holy See supporting the churches of the east and providing humanitarian aid to the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe. Each issue introduces readers to the traditions, cultures, and social challenges in these diverse regions. ( ($24 yearly subscription)


For listeners of rock, U2’s
No Line on the Horizon. Although previous albums like How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb may directly tackle social issues, the lyrics in U2’s latest work get to closer to the heart of what it means to be a Christian in the world.

If you like contemporary sacred choral, try Arvo Pärt’s
Da Pacem Domine. Actually, I would recommend anything composed by Arvo Pärt, but if you want just a taste, download get the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir performance of this piece. Composed right after the Madrid train bombings, the voices sing:

Give peace, O Lord, in our time
Because there is no one else
Who will fight for us
If not You, our God.

A fitting Christmas message, indeed.