QUAERITUR: Christmas present for a Protestant

From a reader:

With the upcoming Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, I’m trying to decide on the perfect gift for an “on the fence” protestant, who by all counts, agrees with all things Catholic…he just needs a “nudge” and I think a good book on conversion would do the trick.

Any suggestions? I’m sure there are others in my shoes with non-Catholic friends/family or those with fallen away Catholics (or cafeteria Catholics for that matter!). Perhaps a poll would help.


My immediate inclination is to suggest a very nice Rosary.  They move the heart.

I wish that Queen of Peace Rosaries was still up and running.  The finest rosaries I have seen, hands down.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. sekman says:

    Along with a rosary the great work of St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of the Rosary, would be highly appropriate.

  2. Joaquin says:

    That’s a really good question… sure the Rosary will help a lot. And about the book, I wold strongly recomend “The Catholic Church and the Conversion”, by G.K. Chesterton. I’m not sure wether it was published under that name, I just translated the spanish name of an argentinian edition of that work of GKC, in wich he tells us about his conversion process. Good luck Father Z!

  3. GregY says:

    I’m a big book-giver, but I must say to this one, proceed with caution!
    Each person is differnent, but using a Christmas present to try to evangelize someone that is not open can backfire. Just think, how would you feel if your staunch Mormon neighbor gave you a book about Mormonism for Christmas? Just sayin’, it may be taken that way…
    That being said I’d recommend:
    1) Novels. People love stories (why Jesus taught this way after all). Novels can evangelize in a different way than head-on apologetics. Something like “The Song of Bernadette” or “A Severe Mystery” by Vanauken (even though written by an Anglican at the time) can go a long way. Then follow up with it and see if doesn’t lead to some good disucssions.
    2) THe new Pithy, Profound sayings of Mother Angelica is supposed to be rotf funny, and chock full of Mother’s insights into the Word and the Faith.
    3) If someone is really open and interested in learning about the Catholic faith, then maybe a book or CD by Hahn, Corapi, et al would be appropriate, but again, I’d recommend using extreme caution here.
    Speaking as someone who’s been guilty of being overzealous in my life. Let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit, and be ready with a response when called upon (1 Pet 3).

  4. Kristen J says:

    Perhaps a one-volume Liturgy of the Hours, with many Psalms and beautiful prayers — the second greatest prayer of the Church after the Mass, would be helpful and not too strong.

    I have a brief overview of the LOTH, including info on the volumes, on my blog here:


  5. Rachel says:

    That’s interesting… when I was becoming Catholic, reading apologetics was much more attractive to me than praying the Rosary. You might say the former converted me to the latter. But I know it can also work the other way.

    For me personally, conversion stories like Scott Hahn’s and Marcus Grodi’s were helpful. And for shoving me off the fence, nothing was better than some sermons by Cardinal Newman: “Faith and Private Judgment” and “Faith and Doubt”.
    But those might be pretty heavy going unless your friend likes beautiful 19th-century English prose, and you probably can’t get them in book form without buying a huge volume anyway.

  6. Regarding Father’s suggestion of a rosary, a year or so ago I noticed in a Catholic bookstore a little book entitled “The Rosary for Protestants” (or something very similar; maybe it was “non-Catholics”). Mentioning it the the attendant, she said it was one of their best sellers, that apparently there was a growing interest in the rosary among non-Catholics.

    I should add that, upon this recommendation, I bought a rosary and of copy of the book and delivered them to an evangelical friend in the hospital. I was just demonstrating how to recite the rosary when in walked her evangelical pastor. In the awkward moment that followed, I tried to make conversation by inquiring whether he was aware of the growing interest in the rosary among non-Catholics. His denial of any such awareness whatsoever seemed unmistakably frosty.

    But if you went the LOTH route, I’d suggest a close look at the inexpensive and non-overwhelming “Shorter Christian Prayer” as perhaps just enough but not too much for the type of person you indicate.

  7. Anna Jean says:

    Nothing will convert like the daily Rosary. Give him a nice heavy, masculine one of blood red glass beads.

    For a book, I would give any number of vintage books on the American martyrs. If that doesn’t stir his blood, nothing will. eBay has plenty that need to be rescued by Catholics building libraries for their children and good causes like yours.

  8. paul says:

    What is your friend interested in?
    Some great all-around books for Protestants on the Catholic Faith are “Catholic for a Reason” and “The Catholic Passion” by David Scott or “Faith of our Fathers” by Cardinal Gibbons
    If authority, then try “Crossing the Tiber” by Steve Ray
    If Mary, then try “Hail Holy Queen” by Scott Hahn
    If he’s interested in conversion stories, then perhaps St. Augustine’s Confessions or “Surprised by Truth” (if he’s coming from a ‘Bible-Christian’ background)
    If spirituality then perhaps something about a saint like Therese’s “Story of a Soul”, St Francis de Sales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life” or my personal favorite, “The Fulfillment of all Desire” by Ralph Martin, which provides a superb intro to the spiritual writers like John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc.
    Hope that gives you some ideas.

  9. Kris says:

    I would suggest “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” by our late Holy Father, John Paul II. This book helped me tremendously and giving me quite a nudge with courage.

  10. Mark says:

    I’ll tell you nudged me. Listening to the powerful voice and words of Truth on the Father Corapi CDs my wife bought. I already knew where I needed to be. I just needed the fine Catholic example of a masculine priest and patriot. I still listen to them when I’m driving.

  11. thomas says:

    especially for Anglicans, Wesleyans or Lutherans, i agreed with the recommendation of the Liturgy of the Hours: folks used to the hymnal/book of comon worship being more than just a songbook are apt to get confused by books in the pews of many parishes. The appropriate antidote is the Liturgy of the Hours

  12. Aelric says:

    Apologia Pro Vita Sua John Henry Cardinal Newman.

  13. Poinsot says:

    Try this website: http://www.jmjtcards.com

    Rosaries, nativities, cards et al., all handmade by the family’s 10 homeschool kids.

  14. Seminarian says:

    I would like to suggest “Rome Sweet Home”, the book that describes Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s journeys (independently) to the Catholic Church. This book is good in that it brings up and discusses almost all of the issues that Protestants who are thinking of converting encounter — and how Scott and Kimberly resolved those problems. It’s a wonderful book if your friend likes to be intellectually stimulated about Christianity. It may help him overcome any final hurdles in his conversion to the Catholic Faith.

  15. Kathy says:

    I am in the process of converting and have recently read a lot of books on the Catholic faith. One of the best books by one of the best writers (also a convert) is
    “On Being Catholic” by Thomas Howard. May God bless you as you pray for and reach out to your friend.

  16. Kathy says:

    Oh, and I want to also mention that the book listed above is actually entitled “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken. His book “Under the Mercy” chronicles his conversion to Catholicism. Both are excellent!

  17. Penitent says:

    Fr. Z. My websites for the best rosaries out there:

    Expensive, but exquisite flex wire art rosaries, crosses, medals, and centers cast from antiques

    You must see the hand-made European “bow construction” which replaces the usual flimsy jump rings on other rosaries … these rosaries will not fall apart — mine survived the washer and drier …

    I have never seen finer rosaries than what you will see at these sites. Enjoy!

  18. JohnE says:

    I haven’t read it yet, but “Catholic for a Reason III, Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass”, sounds like it would be good in getting your friend excited about the Mass and our Lord in the Eucharist. Chapters are written by Scott Hahn, Kimberly Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Edward Sri, Curtis Martin, Tim Gray, Leon Suprenant, and Michael Barber, among others.

  19. Fr. BJ says:

    I highly recommend this rosary maker: http://www.magnificatrosaries.com/

    A family member bought me a beautiful (and sturdy) lapis lazuli rosary as an ordination present, made by her. It should last a lifetime and beyond!

  20. Jose Moreno says:

    OCP’s “O Lux Beatissima” Chant CD

  21. Lcb says:

    The bad Catholics guide to wine, whiskey and song.

    Funny, serious, intelligent. Joy and mirth aid conversion.

    So does beauty: invite him to a midnight mass with a choral.

  22. As a convert, I can tell you that nothing is more Catholic than to think that a Protestant would be converted by a rosary. :-) (Or the works of St. Louis!) More likely to scare them away…

    It depends on the person, but I’d give something a little less in-your-face Catholic–you gotta give ex-Protestant-to-be’s time to warm up to the things that are very peculiarly Catholic. I was Catholic quite a while before I felt very much like praying the rosary…

    I’d also agree with the person who said that maybe a Christmas gift is not an appropriate evangelization tool.

    Anyways, what I would suggest, if they are a person who reads theological type stuff, is the Holy Father’s Jesus of Nazareth or, if you think they need to think more about Mary in a Catholic (but not over the top Catholic) way, his Mary: The Church at the Source, a compilation including his and Hans Urs von Balthasar’s works on Mary. Of course, I personally always like anything by the Fathers, too, and witnessing their Catholicism was also something that drew me to the Church.

  23. M. A. Labeo says:

    Maybe “Crossing the Tiber”. Here you can find a brief review: http://www.catholic-convert.com/Default.aspx?tabid=100

    I have not read it myself; just saw a mention of it not long ago and remembered it when I saw your question.

    Good luck

  24. Patrick says:

    I think one of the award winning collection of chant would be less “in your face” and these can be appreciated apart from denominational leanings, and yet tell our story.

    BTW, what do the expressions “just askin,’ just sayin’ mean? — and are they localized and are they newer expressions?. It seems like one is proposing but not committed to the proposal on the table, or equivocating or apologizing. I hear it more from midwesterners and I am a west coaster.

  25. Matthew says:

    How about Henry VIII’s Defense of the Seven Sacraments? Might start a discussion about the fallacy of Protestantism…

    I have also converted in the last couple of years, and I echo those who say anything to overtly “conversionalist” is likely to be counterproductive. I would either pick up on something they have asked you about the Catholic faith (for example something on Marian Feasts or the Rosary), but Pope Benedict’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ would probably be my choice, as it doesn’t necessarily suggest you are trying to convert anyone, but could have a profound effect.

  26. Sharon says:

    What about one of the “Surprised By Truth” series by Patrick Madrid. These books tell the conversion stories of former Protestants.

  27. sean hyland says:

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the Holy Father’s “Jesus of Nazareth”

  28. Chris says:

    I agree with Fr Z – a really nice rosary would do the trick.

    I sailed the Tiber just over two months ago, and more than anything I wanted a 1962 Missal.

  29. Delia says:

    How about ‘In the Light of Christ: Writings in the Western Tradition’ by Lucy Beckett (IgnatiusPress)?

  30. Fr. A says:

    _The Faith of Our Fathers_ by James Cardinal Gibbons.

  31. Christabel says:

    A novel – “In this House of Brede” by Rumer Godden, one of the best books ever written about Catholicism, and the main character is a convert (female, but that doesn’t matter).

    A fun book – “The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living” – very orthodox but very funny. Wish I could remember the author! – but it’s on Amazon.

  32. Ben Trovato says:

    What about a video? A Man for All Seasons would be a good choice; the story of St Thomas More, which incidentally shows how the English brand of protestantism was a political development….

  33. I would suggest “the Biblical Basis of the Catholic Faith” and “Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol I”, and to visit http://www.scripturecatholic.com this site presents both the basis for the Catholic faith and uses quotes from the Early Fathers.

  34. Ohio Annie says:

    If they love to read I would recommend “A Cry of Stone” by O’Brien. It has many things in it of interest, Native culture, art, and is written from a Catholic point of view. I found it very moving, maybe also because the protagonist has a disability like mine.

  35. Mickey says:

    I’d recommend “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas Kempis…once the most widely read Christian book besides the Bible.

  36. “Home at Last”, 11 who found their way to the Catholic Church
    Edited by Rosalind Moss, Preface by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan
    Published by Catholic Answers, San Diego, 2000

    Rosalind has left Catholic Answers, and has started a convent in suburban St. Louis, MO.

  37. Charivari Rob says:

    One definition for a good gift is one that you have reason to believe the recipient needs, wants, and/or will appreciate.

    A lot of the suggestions here (beautiful thoughts, to be sure) seem to be oriented to ‘pushing’ this potential convert over some final hurdle. Is that suiting the recipient’s needs, or the giver’s?

    Perhaps asking them what they need/want/desire, even within the specific context of supporting them in their time of discernment, would be a better approach.

    As respects encouraging conversion? Personally, a book or a movie might interest me or inform me. A rosary or a prayer might touch me and support me. If I was contemplating such a major change, however, I think it wouldn’t happen without an example. I’m not going into something like that without knowing someone who walks the walk.

    So, to that end, perhaps living as an example would be a useful gift.

    “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”


  38. Woody Jones says:

    I would recommend “The Cypresses Believe in God” by Jose Maria Gironella (available from Ignatius Press), not so much because it is a novel of the run up to the Spanish Civil War, but because of the portrait of integrated Catholic lives shown in some of the characters (and contrasted with the other elements in others). As I recall, it was this experience of living a fully Catholic life that converted the late Cardinal Lustiger, for instance. One may not be able to find the kind of thing that moved Lustiger (life in a small French wartime village) any more, but this novel is perhaps a decent substitute.

  39. Bo the Okie says:

    How about an artistic representation of Dante’s Satan, but replacing two of the mouths with Luther and Calvin? I’m sure that has “welcome” written all over…

    Of course, I’m just kidding…maybe in a pale way, I’m attempting an “imitatio” of the book I would suggest, which is a seconding someone up top suggesting John Zmirak books…mirth is the right word, and when I recieved it right after I converted (actually, I got “a bad catholics guide to good living”), it actually helped out a lot on understanding some things, all with a good laugh!

    Additionally, you should get them a green scapular. That’s what they are for, no?

  40. Richard says:

    Forget rosaries and books; give him relics. Preferably of a protestant convert.

  41. SF says:

    Interesting to read about an alleged ‘growing interest in the rosary among non-Catholics.’ Is this why the ‘Pearls of Life’ have been invented? See:


  42. alf says:

    Where would one easily obtain a relic?

  43. joy says:


    Unfortunately, ebay! They cannot ‘sell’ relics, but there are all kinds of reliquaries for sale, and the ‘contents’ are thrown in for free…

  44. alf says:

    Does that not count as simony?

  45. supertradmom says:

    I like to give the novels by Robert Hugh Benson to Anglicans, as he was once Anglican. Also, some of my Protestant friends have liked books on ancient saints, such as St. Nicholas, or the Fathers of the Church.

  46. berenike says:

    oh my! we’ve a reader who I don’t know who it is!

    (falls over in amazement)

  47. Richard says:

    Alf, try ebay.

    Seriously. At the moment they have a few dozen relics for sale. Most of them are advertised as being only 3rd class (they seem to be holy medals, presumably touched to the saint’s shrine), but thre are also a couple of second class ones advertised (bits of clerical collars of Pius X and Pius XIII (I didn’t think he was a saint, but perhaps if you buy it now it’ll be cheaper)).

    At the moment there are also a couple of “value pack” reliquaries on sale, one offering ten relics and the other thirty. Excellent value.

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