Friday, November 28, 2014

Let's Help Religious Book and Gift Stores

Do you know where your closest religious book and gift shop is located?  May I humbly ask you to find out.  The future of these little shops depends on it.  You might wonder why it matters if these little brick and mortar shops exist when there is the internet with inexpensive prices and merchandise that comes right to your door... fair question.  If one knows exactly what they are looking for, the internet may be the most efficient and possibly most inexpensive way to get what you want.  But what if the book or picture that would truly touch your heart you have not seen yet?  What if while you were walking through one of these shops you stumble on something completely different from what you were looking for and in that moment the Holy Spirit is able to guide you in a new direction.  Maybe on that turn around the corner you see just the right thing for your child that they absolutely would love.  A gift that doesn't involve a battery but stirs their soul and leads them on the road to sanctity.  What if the person who happens on this store never set out to look for a religious gift at all and in looking through the store finds a spiritual awakening after years away from religion.  This is leaving out the most important piece that exists in a religious store that is completely absent on the internet.  There is a person there.  
Grace and her brother both members of the
Children's Rosary doing some
shopping for Christmas

Most of these shops are run by a family or a few individuals.  Not only do they want to help and answer questions there whole lives have been sacrificed and put on the line to be right there at just that special moment to help you. They have prayed and given up material dreams to help others on their spiritual journey. You may not realize that such sacrifices have been made.  Several years ago I knew very little about these stores or the people behind them.  However, over the past two years my children and I have attended the Catholic Marketing Network Trade show.  This past year I was a presenter at the Educational Day.  I had the blessing to meet these store owners.  They were deeply prayerful people.  Folks that would give their shirt off their back for you.  They were praying like crazy and drawing on their deep faith that help would come as times have been getting very difficult for them with big box stores, the internet and general lack of interest in religious items. As the children and I sat at our informational booth for the Children's Rosary. We were able to meet individual owners.  My minds eye goes back to a young married couple just opening a shop.  Two best friends in their twenties who had opened a store and were full of excitement.  A wonderful women who lectored at our daily Mass each day with a southern drawl.  An elegant women named Olga with a northern European accent who so wanted to help spread the Children's Rosary.  So many sweet people.  The last is an older man with a weathered face from Maine. He loved the Children's Rosary materials but sadly his shop had just closed.  We were too late to help him.

Yes many of these stores are closing.  I was told by a new store owner in Connecticut who just opened in Derby CT that she has seen 20 stores close in this state. She worries that she will be able to stay open as well.  It is a sad situation for sure.  

Okay so there is a value to these stores but you may wonder what can you do.  What will one purchase do to save all the little shops hanging on across the United States and beyond?  This is where I would humbly ask you to look at the situation as a child would.  A child sees someone in need and doesn't worry that their help is small, they simply want to help.  The rest is for people who know more to worry about.  It is in the smallest little ways that a tide of change can come.... an arm of help extended to these little stores.  As we know, the folks who began these little stores did not do this to make money but to touch hearts.  When they see someone in their store finding a treasure that touches their heart this goes a long way to sustaining them both financially but also spiritually.  

St. Anthony Book and Gift Shop, Derby CT
Each of us can surely help.  Members of the Children's Rosary are in a perfect position to help these stores.  While the internet and big box stores are the final nail in the coffin so to speak the real problem is that fewer and fewer people are praying.  When folks aren't praying what need do they have for Rosaries and other spiritual items that support growth in ones prayer life.  When prayer is gone quickly the glamour of the world distracts us.  However, when prayer comes back a thirst also returns to read and learn.  A hunger to understand Scripture and to read it.  An interest in saints and the rich faith we share.  This blossoming is so beautifully evident with children.  We have seen this thirst for all things that draw our heart to higher places in the little ones that come to the Children's Rosary.  The more time they spend with Our Lady and Our Lord in prayer the more They lead them to things that will continue to draw their hearts towards heaven.  Very quickly the children want little statues of Jesus and Mary, a special Rosary, a little scapular or miraculous medal. They love books on saints and the stories of the Bible.  They love music that involves prayer and celebration of their faith.  Yes it all begins to come together again.  So I write to you on the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States with people keeping vigil outside electronic stores for the best deal.  I wonder who thought to visit the little shop around the corner that sells religious gifts.  Presumably the presents that are being purchased are for the holidays and wouldn't it be fantastic if some of them had something to do with Christmas. 

A few weeks ago I had the blessing to meet the Children's Rosary group leader from Naples Florida and three of her children.  We spent the day at the Basilica of Mary Queen of the Universe in Orlando, FL.  During the day we visited their bookstore.  The children wandered around looking at the many books and gifts there.  With a $5.00 limit of what they could spend it was a hard decision as many presents were held for some time and then put back. It had to be right.  Mom made an offer the children could choose an additional present but it would be kept for Christmas.  Grace who is her 12 years old daughter had asked for a statue for Christmas of Our Lady.  There was no rapid decision though and we would spend an hour enjoying looking at everything they had and then we would come back after a visit to the Rosary garden for  a final pass.  This family of 6 had the tradition that each child could have 3 presents for Christmas and one would always be about their faith.  Indeed these children would not have been more excited in a toy store.  Her 6 year old son loved every minute in the Basilica store.  It was so beautiful to watch.

Indeed I think one would be surprised to see how many beautiful things are in these shops. The store owners certainly take so much time and prayer picking each thing out that they carry.  The store owners I met were also very willing to help with getting the word out about the Children's Rosary both by putting up flyers or spreading news of this by word of mouth. Indeed these little stores are powerhouses of prayer and faith.  For all agreed they have been tried these last years through a great deal of suffering and struggle.  Maybe we can help them and lighten the burden they have been carrying and visit their stores.  Let them know you are a member of the Children's Rosary and that we are praying for them.

Thank you all.

Your Friend in Christ,

For those who would like to buy our Children's Rosary materials in a gift shop we have a list of places that carry our books and CDs.  

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