Roman Catholic Books (BooksforCatholics.com) is a small but vibrant publishing house that’s been around 17 years putting out new and reprinted titles touching on a wide array of Catholic topics. Here are some titles just in time for Christmas gift-giving:

---The Dark Night of the Body: Why Reverence Comes First in Intimate Relations(2013) is a cogently touching argument for chastity from one of the Church’s foremost living philosophers, Alice von Hildebrand. She speaks most persuasively on “Dictatorial Relativism” in relations and calls pornography “the cancer destroying our society.” Parents and teens can learn much about how a healthy sense of shame can keep them “awake to the dangers of this world.”  Last November, in recognition of her life’s work,Pope Francis raised Dr. von Hildebrand to the distinction ofDame Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory.

---Reflections from Rome (2013) is a cheerful collection of exercises in practical spirituality by Msgr. Richard Soseman. He works in the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome but was born in Peoria, Ill., and he’s not forgotten his rock-solid, Midwestern sensibilities: his muse is St. Martha, Jesus’ level-headed follower. Msgr. Soseman’s everyday reflections are bursting with holiness. He doesn’t just celebrate “Mass”; for him it’s “Holy Mass,” an edifying distinction seldom heard these days. His gems of spiritual wisdom take up no more than three or four minutes reading time so they can form an effective morning offering or evening thanksgiving. Be sure to spend time with these reflections for a smile, a laugh, and some thoroughly Catholic edification.

---Saint Peter and the First Years of Christianity (originally published in 1892) is a perfect volume to learn what the Church was doing from Pentecost to the Edict of Milan, AD 33-313. Abbe Constant Fouard’s theme is that “Revelation has … its History, though interwoven with that of the inspired Witnesses.” Citing Acts of Apostles, the works of the Fathers, Eusebius and historians of the Church’s first centuries, as well as secular writers such as Tacitus, Pliny, Martial and Josephus. Fouard takes readers on a fascinating journey filled with intriguing asides, such as showing how readings and homilies in Catholic liturgy have their origin in Jewish instruction, when the Halaka, “the dogmatic interpretation of the text,” was followed by the Hagada, “the moral homily thereon.”

---My brother-in-law, the late Dr. David Fliegelman, was a wonderfully considerate physician and a scholar with a sparkling, offbeat sense of humor. A cultural Jew, he was baptized shortly before dying this year. That’s why a book entitled Why Jews Become Catholicsby Rosalie Marie Levy (1924, republished 2013) piqued my interest. 45 men and women recount the singular event in their lives which brought them to the Church. One joined because of the respectful hilarity of boys taken to Coney Island by their priest; another, a young Jewish soldier in Flanders, was convinced by the reverence of the chaplain at Mass that bread and wine could really become flesh and blood. This is a book to make cradle Catholics more aware of our Faith, a beautiful treasure so often taken for granted.

Sean M. Wright, a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Santa Clarita, presents workshops and enrichment courses on Catholic topics throughout the archdiocese. He replies to comments sent him at [email protected]