"Big Four" Highlights


Solving the Christmas Gift Puzzle

A gift for him that is centered on home

By Jason Godin
Associate Editor, Fathers for Good

What do guys want? With Christmas shopping lists at many fingertips, it is a common concern at this time of year. The question gets more pointed – and the list more selective – when the guy in your life is a man of faith. If your father, grandfather, godfather, brother or husband already has the complete works of St. Thomas Aquinas or Bulter’s Lives of the Saints, a simple tie or sweater just doesn’t seem to do. Even an exhaustive search at the mall will not turn up the gift that will touch his religious heart.

So you make a last-minute mad dash to the nearby Catholic bookstore (if there is one nearby) or go online to one of the many Catholic websites selling statues, rosaries, prayer books, saint DVDs and the whole list of goods by Father Robert Barron. Decision, decisions. Does this guy favor G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis? Crisis or Commonweal?

But this year you may want look beyond parish precincts for a gift for your Catholic guy, and think outside the box – or, in this case, inside one particular box with lots of neat, little pieces. For an affordable gift that focuses on what you can do as a faith-filled family, it seems appropriate to consider an item where a home serves literally as the centerpiece.

For just over $30 (including taxes and shipping), you can purchase a made-to-order hometown map jigsaw puzzle. Begin by typing “personalized hometown puzzle” into your search engine. The puzzle I like the best, produced by Map Marketing Ltd., a cartography company based in London, has digital images based on the U.S. Geological Survey. Each puzzle contains 400 pieces that collectively measure 12-by-18 inches when fully assembled to display a neighborhood area of 6 miles by 4 miles. The attention paid to detail is incredible, with elevation contours, transportation routes, water features and landmarks all illustrated with crisp lines and clear color contrasts. The puzzle pieces are made of sturdy 1.5-mm handcrafted millboard. Picture your family gathering for hours as you put your town together, complete with streets you know, businesses you frequent, restaurants you enjoy and the church you attend.

What most catches the eye, however, is the piece located at the heart of the puzzle marketed as an “extra fun detail” and “the perfect place to start.” Growing up, we learn to put a puzzle together by first connecting the outside pieces. Such a lesson makes sense, teaching us the importance of perspective, paying attention to the periphery as well as framing the task at hand. This hometown puzzle turns that gaze inward with a center piece shaped like a house and, in the process, teaches an often overlooked but equally important lesson. It takes puzzle-doers to the essence of what makes a town truly their hometown – the house, your house, filled with your family, who together make it a home and the heart of a community.

The season of Advent is a period for preparing, watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord. “Watch,” we were warned in the Gospel reading of the First Sunday of Advent, for “you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning” (Mark 13:35). It is critical that men of faith take time in the weeks ahead to pause, ponder and pick up a pen to tell their family and friend what he wants for Christmas. Doing so speaks to the spirit of the season of giving (not to mention makes your loved ones’ lives a little less stressful). Perhaps a puzzle, where we see a house at the center, is a good place for him to begin that conversation with his family now and for Advents to come.

(Of course, if a puzzle does not fit the bill, you can always go back to Ignatius Press, Sophia Institute, The Catholic Company, Pauline Media, Emmaus Road, and that hard-working nearby Catholic bookstore that surely needs your business.)