Wednesday, December 8, 2010
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen
baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals,
and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,
I'm just another cook.
If I work at a soup kitchen,
carol in the nursing home,
and give all that I have to charity,
but do not show love to my family,
it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels
and crocheted snowflakes,
attend a myriad of holiday parties
and sing in the choir's cantata,
but do not focus on Christ,
I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love does not envy another's home
that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return,
but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things, and
endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break,
pearl necklaces will be lost,
golf clubs will rust,
but giving the gift of love will endure.
Now, how about a quiet cup of tea with some prayers--and kisses and hugs all around to our beloved family members!
(My thanks to Barbara Falk who gave this to me, from a church bulletin.)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Thanks to my daily companion, In Conversation with God, (in volume 7) I was able to understand this feast!
It explains that The basilica of St. John Lateran was one of the first churches built by Christians following the early persecutions. It was raised in Rome under the Emperor Constantine and s the first Western church to have the invocation of the Saviour. The Lateran Basilica was consecrated by Pope Sylvester on this day in the year 324.
Originally celebrated in Rome, the feast became universal in the Roman Rite as a sign of unity with the Holy See. This church continues to be the Cathedral of the Roman Pontiff to this day. Its long history evokes memories of the many thousands of people who have received Baptism within its ancient walls.
Keep a look out!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I have often had recourse to this saint in extremis, and I thought it might be appropriate to consider some of the times when divine wisdom or intercession has saved us from what would otherwise be a culinary disaster.
Honestly, we have known so many disasters in our years of food preparation that it is hard to pick just one. But I think our family favorite would have to be the time that a birthday cake, lovingly prepared for the child of the day, was sitting on the kitchen counter. Somehow, someone jostled the spice shelf above it, and down came the pewter pepper grinder: right into the middle of the unsuspecting cake. With no time to do much—let alone bake another, my resourceful mother covered up the enormous hole with a nice spackling of frosting and no one (we believe) was the wiser.
So many times, when following a recipe, it seems like there is just no possible way you’ve done the thing right…and then, lo and behold, out comes your finished product, surprising you! My sister Anna and I recently had that experience with a recipe for Navajo fry bread. It just all seemed wrong, somehow. But at the end of the day, after we decided we’d go ahead and complete the seemingly-failed project, it was delicious.
I encourage you all to post your favorite experiences with “Rescued Disasters”—in honor of St. Jude, that great intercessor in all those “hopeless” cases. If you need a little additional comic relief, I recommend "Cake Wrecks"....
Friday, October 22, 2010
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month--in which we remember and pray for all the women who suffer from this disease, and their families as well.
How can we, on this blog, take up the challenge to honor and encourage these women? Many of them are so heroic in their courage!
I think we will draw on the memory of Agatha, that 3rd century Sicilian martyr, whose torture by the Roman authorities included the cutting off of her breasts. She is an inspiring figure because--like so many other martyrs--she triumphed over her suffering through her faith in God. (We'll return to her on Feb. 5, her feast day.) This is why, in Christian art, Agatha is always shown carrying her breasts boldly on a platter, as in this great painting by Zurbaran. (It is perhaps useful to explain that there is a long tradition, in Christian art, of showing the martyrs cheerfully displaying the instruments with which they were tortured and/or the parts of their body in which they suffered--this, to demonstrate that they rose above that suffering; they are not victims but victors.)
What shall we eat for this commemoration--and to remember Saint Agatha? I vote for foods that remind us of the breast and of Agatha's--and many women's--triumph over suffering!
I propose, for our main dish, ravioli (flat on the bottom, rounded on the top) with Pink Sauce. If you are feeling ambitious, here is a lovely recipe for Lobster Ravioli with Pink Sauce.
For dessert--keeping to our pink theme--how about a nice mound of strawberry ice cream with a strawberry on top?
And let's all raise a glass to the endurance and courage of all these women--and the families and friends who cherish and support them!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Isaac Jogues. We named our sweet second born Isaac for this saint who had spirit of courageous apostolate. Many boys have remarked that St. Isaac Jogues is "so cool" or "awesome" and there is no wonder why!
St. Issac Jogues came to the New World from France in the 1630s and was the first Catholic priest to set foot on the island of Manhattan. (A fun fact considering that my husband grew up on that island!) St. Isaac then set out to his mission near Lake Superior to bring the message of Christ to the different Indian tribes there. He was captured, tortured and taken to a town near present day Albany on the Mohawk River where he was enslaved. He managed to escape and was sent back to Europe where he arrived on Christmas morning.
He was allowed by Pope Urban VII the very exceptional privlege of celebrating Mass, which the mutilated condition of his hands had made canonically impossible; several of his fingers having been eaten or burned off.
Then St. Isaac Jogues requested to go back to the missions he had left behind in the New World. He was well received by his former captors and the treaty of peace was made. However, a small group of Iroquois stripped him naked, slashed him with their knives, beat him and then led him to the village. On 18 October, 1646, when entering a cabin he was struck with a tomahawk and afterwardsdecapitated. The head was fixed on the Palisades and the body thrown into the Mohawk.
So why name our son Isaac? While we know that our boy would most likely never be called to be a blood martyr for his faith- we are well aware of the fortitude necessary to be a martyr as we witness our faith in the simple, everyday moments of life. A conversation shared with a friend, a job well done, daily small sacrifices are all ways to give your life to God and witness your faith.
Last year, Isaac's Godfather, Uncle Colin, helped to organize a trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs. It was a wonderful place to visit, and well worth the trip!Here is an image from the shrine showing St. Isaac carving a cross and the word "Jesus" into a tree. He was known to carve this into trees as he would pass through the forests to help his contemplative prayer- and he would use it also as a teaching tool!
What to eat? Perhaps your family may enjoy succotash. Our family will enjoy our usual feast day cake!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Denis (or Dionsysius), Bishop of Paris, an early martyr (AD 272) who, along with his companions, was beheaded for the faith. Sent to the Gauls, Denis appears to have had much success in his missionary endeavors. He and his friends suffered under the persecution of Valerian (though it's not entirely certain which persecution). The martyrs’ bodies were originally thrown into the Seine, but they were later retrieved and buried. A couple of centuries afterwards, a church was erected over their graves which became a favorite among pilgrims.
It seems appropriate to mark the feast of this early and devoted martyr with foods typical of the Gauls, the people whom he came to convert. The Gauls were very involved in pig-farming and so the most natural foods to look at are pork products of all kinds. Blood sausage would be appropriate for St. Denis, but for the more squeamish (or those without ready access to blood sausage like most of us living in North America), pork chops, roasts or other pig-products would also make sense. As this is also apple season, I am suggesting a dish that involved both pork chops and apples (and is quite healthy, as an added bonus)!
(This recipe is taking from Cooking Light)
Pork Loin Chops with Cinnamon Apples
Cooking Light says "Warm flavors like sage and cinnamon play up the contrast between the juicy chops and caramelized apples. Tart Granny Smiths and slightly sweeter Braeburn apples both work well for this dish."
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 pork chop and 3/4 cup apple mixture)
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon butter
4 cups (1/2-inch) slices peeled Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
Combine first 3 ingredients, and sprinkle over the pork. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove the pork from pan. Cover and keep warm.
Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add apples and remaining ingredients, and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Serve the apples with pork.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
On October 6, we honor the great 11th-century German founder of the Carthusian order of monks, St. Bruno. The form of monasticism that he founded was (unlike the Benedictines) based on a solitary, hermit-style of life, inspired by the early Christian hermits who lived in the Egyptian deserts.
The Carthusians, though always rather few in number, have had great influence on the spiritual life of the Church throughout the centuries.
If you have not yet seen the film "Into Great Silence," this is a good time to do so. It is a truly remarkable film about the Carthusian monastic experience. Note: it is almost entirely silent and it is long, so be prepared to settle in for several hours--but it is well worth it!
Rather than eating something in St. Bruno's honor, I propose that we take a sip or two of the famous liqueur made by the Carthusians ("Chartreux," in French) called Chartreuse. This is a sweet, strongly herbal (130 Alpine herbs to be precise) alcoholic drink, that promotes digestion. (The drink also gave the name to the color: a bright yellow-green.)
Many other orders of monks and nuns have made foods and drinks enjoyed by millions around the world. Soon we'll devote a special post to some of these delicious concoctions.
Monday, October 4, 2010
I was traveling all day and nearly let the day go by without remembering with you the man who is probably the most famous saint in Christendom: Francis of Assisi, beloved by Christians of every stripe, and many others besides. (In particular, his love for animals has endeared him to a great many people.)
May I refer you to pp. 273-4 of A Continual Feast for a discussion of his remarkable life--and for a recipe for the one and only food that he is known to have loved: Mostaccioli, which are delicious little almond cakes.
You might like to do some reading about this amazing man, and if so I recommend The Little Flowers of Saint Francis--full of anecdotes about his life and miracles, and quite fun to read!
And as you remember him--and that great Franciscan spirit--you can also say the beautiful prayer that is associated with him:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
You can also sing this prayer as the beautiful hymn: "Make me a channel of your peace." You can hear it sung at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI1Gst7pEqc&feature=related
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I love this image of Saint Jerome--as the Renaissance imagined him: in his study. (I keep it on my desktop at work.)
On Sept. 30, we should thank him for the Bible: he was the great editor of the Bible, and in the 4th century he translated it into Latin--that's the famous "Vulgate"--to make it widely accessible. He said that everyone should read Scripture. Jerome was also a scholar of Hebrew: he went to the Holy Land to study with learned rabbis when he was already well along in years.
Jerome was clearly a rather crusty man--one who did not suffer fools (or heretics) gladly. But he was a great scholar, and we should remember him today and thank him for all he gave us.
What shall we eat in his honor? Let's keep it simple and to the point: how about a sheet cake baked in a large rectangular pan, with white icing like a page of the Bible, with some great Biblical quote written on top? Perhaps "In the beginning was the Word"?--but you may have other thoughts, and you can hardly go wrong.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
We have some powerful intercessors in the archangels!
In honor of St. Michael's role of conquering the devil, I made a "deviled" barbecue sauce from p. 273 of A Continual Feast. Together with the fiery kick to my sauce, I added a special ingredient to the charcoal itself -- alder wood chips. There are many different woods that can be used to add flavor when grilling (hickory and mesquite being perhaps the best known) and I was very happy with the results. Be sure to soak them in water for at least an hour before grilling so that they smoke rather than burn.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
So many people have a great devotion to Padre Pio, a recently canonized saint in 2002. I knew very little about him- other than the fact that he suffered the wounds of Christ in the stigmata.
I was surprised to find that his feast day is my son Simon's birthday, September 23rd- AND that Padre Pio's birthday is the same as my own, May 25th. Needless to say, I feel very confidant that he will be a particular intersessor and guide as I parent my sweet 4 year old!
Just a few quick things about his life
1. The pinnacle of his apostolic activity was the celebration of Holy Mass. The faithful who took part witnessed the summit and fullness of his spirituality. He said of the Eucharist: "Do not be afraid to come to the Lord's altar to be fed with flesh of the Immaculate Lamb, because no one will better reconcile your spirit than your king, nothing will warm it more than his sun, and nothing will soothe it better than his balm"
2. John Paull II spoke at his canonization about Padre Pio's "diligent dedication to the ministry of the confessional." He demonstrated to the full his love of neighbour by welcoming, for more than fifty years, countless people who had recourse to his ministry and his confessional, his counsel and his consolation. He was almost besieged: they sought him in church, in the sacristy, in the friary. And he gave himself to everyone, rekindling faith, dispensing grace, bringing light. But especially in the poor, the suffering and the sick he saw the image of Christ, and he gave himself particularly to them.
3. On the level of social charity, he committed himself to relieving the pain and suffering of many families, chiefly through the foundation of the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering), opened on 5 May 1956.
So how can we celebrate this beautiful saint? Why not follow his holy example. When was the last time we made a good confession? Can we make it to mass on his feast day? Can we make a cheritable donation for the poor/sick?
And as for the food for the feast...Padre Pio gives us a great oppertunity to go Italian! Originally from Benevento in Campania, Italy, where he was also ordained, it seems fitting to celebrate with pizza- as Campania boasts about it.
So whether you make it on your own, or order from your favorite spot- here's to Padre Pio!
Here is Simon (2 years ago!) helping us make pizza!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Who can forget the story of the calling of Saint Matthew? This tax-collector followed Christ to the end. There is a great deal we do not know about Matthew, but he has certainly left us with a tremendous legacy in many areas; his gospel is a great gift in and of itself. Much of our knowledge of the Nativity comes from Matthew. In addition, Matthew's is considered the most "Jewish" of the gospels; we see in St. Matthew's account of Jesus's life the strongest sense of Christ's Jewish identity.
But this beautiful example of a sinner-saint has been sadly neglected when it comes to culinary tradition. What, we wondered, did tax collectors eat? It seems that something expensive and lavish (skimmed off the top of many others' wages) would be appropriate. But also something somehow "Jewish". Here is our suggestion, with a modern twist: Matzoh Toffee. Decadent, and also (if you make it right), Kosher.
Here is the recipe, courtesy of David Lebovitz:
Monday, September 20, 2010
Andrew Kim and Companions, Missionary Martyrs
Few nations on the face of the earth have demonstrated the unique welcoming of Christ and his missionaries as displayed by the Korean people. In most lands, men and women wake up one morning to discover Christians in their midst, hearing the Good News of the Gospel for the first time because missionaries have arrived unbidden on their doorstep. In Korea, the Gospel was known and revered long before any priest dared to enter the country. Actually, the Church was invited into Korea by a convert to the faith.
The title Martyrs of Korea has been bestowed upon Andrew Kim and 102 companions who died at the hands of brutal opponents of the faith over a period of years. These martyrs represent the more than eight thousand Koreans who died in demonstration of the faith in their native land, displaying calm bravery and heroic fidelity.
The Catholic faith was brought to Korea in a unique fashion, the result of curiosity by the intellectuals of that land who were anxious to learn as much about the outside world as possible. They discovered some Christian books produced through Korea’s embassy to the Chinese capital, and one Korean, Ni-seung-houn, went to Beijing in 1784 to study Catholicism. There he was baptized Peter Ri. Returning to Korea, he converted many others. In 1791, when these Christians were suddenly viewed as foreign traitors, two of Ri’s own converts, Paul Youn and Jacques Kuen were martyred. This is hardly surprising even though it was tragic. Korea had long been the victim of foreign aggression, in particular by Japan. The Hermit Kingdom—as Korea has traditionally been termed—was concerned about alien powers overcoming the nation once again. As the Empires of Europe were at that time extending their spheres of influence across Asia, the Koreans were doubly concerned about the Christian faith, seeing it as a prelude to possible Western attack and as a threat to traditional Korean life.
Despite these obstacles, the Catholic faith endured in Korea so strongly that three years after the martyrdoms of Youn and Kuen, Father James Tsiou, a Chinese, entered the kingdom and discovered more than four thousand Catholics. He labored in the country until 1801 when Korean authorities martyred him.
Pope Leo XII (r. 1832-1829) established the Prefecture Apostolic of Korea in response to a plea from Korean Catholics who needed a greater Church structure for the growing community. In 1836, Bishop Lawrence Imbert managed to enter Korea, despite the fact that the government had banned all foreign influences and was hostile toward all non-native religions. Others followed Bishop Imbert, who labored until 1839 when a full scale persecution claimed his life and the lives of other European missionaries.
Meanwhile, Korean young men who wished to enter the priesthood were sent to Macau, which was owned by China but administered by Portugal. There they were trained and ordained. Andrew Kim Taegon was the first native priest ordained. He returned to Korea in 1845 and was martyred the following year.
Severe persecution followed, and Korean Catholics fled to the mountainous regions, where they established new parishes in exile. In 1864, the Korean government instituted a new persecution, one that claimed the lives of two bishops, six French missionaries, a Korean priest, and 8,000 Korean men, women, and children.
Some of the better known martyrs are:
Andrew Kim The first priest (shown in the image) to die for the Catholic Faith in that nation. He is sometimes called Andrew Kim Taugon. Andrew was a member of one of the highest-ranked noble families in Korea. He was educated in the faith and despite the threat of persecution; he maintained his devotion even when a government-sponsored program began in earnest in 1939 in all regions of the land.
Andrew went to Macao, where he received seminary training and was ordained. He returned to Korea to labor in the missions but was arrested by the authorities almost immediately after reaching his homeland. Joining his countrymen and European missionaries in prison, Andrew was martyred by Korean officials.
Lawrence Imbert Born in Aix-en-Provence, France, Lawrence entered the Paris Foreign Missions Society and was ordained with the express hope of serving the Church in its distant missions. His aspirations were fulfilled in 1825 when his superiors decided he was ready for the missionary work and sent him to China. There he labored for over a decade and proved himself so capable and respected a missionary that he was named titular bishop of Capse.
In 1837, he entered Korea in secret and devoted himself to the very difficult task of assisting the faith in the kingdom. Known as Bom among the Koreans, he added his strength to the growing Catholic population, eventually surrendering to Korean authorities in 1839 when the persecutions worsened. Korean Catholics were being tortured to reveal the whereabouts of foreign missionaries, and, rather than have innocent men, women, and children die to shield him, Imbert gave himself up as did Fathers Philibert Maubant and James Honore Chastan on August 11, 1839. After severe beatings, they were beheaded in Gae Nam Do, near Seoul, on September 21, 1839.
Columbia Kim A devout laywoman, Columba was martyred with her sister, Agnes, in 1839. She was twenty-six when arrested. Imprisoned, the women were pierced with red hot awls and scorched without mercy. Stripped of their clothes, they were placed in a cell with male criminals, but, to the surprise of their captors, the prisoners refused to harm them. Columba complained about such treatment for women, even Catholics—who were criminals in the eyes of the Korean government—and the authorities heeded her objection, ceasing the practice. Nevertheless, Columba and Agnes were sentenced to death and were beheaded at Seoul on September 26, 1839.
Peter Ryau A Christian Korean, Peter was only thirteen when he presented himself to the authorities as was demanded by the law of the land. For what his captors considered obstinate devotion to an outlaw creed, Peter was tortured with such excessive cruelty that his arms and legs were shredded. To demonstrate to the judges the severity of his treatment, Peter pulled away some of his torn flesh and threw it at their feet. The horrified judges were joined by an equally stricken group of on-lookers, and Peter was taken back to the prison and strangled on December 31, 1839.
Companions Others are commemorated in this glorious gathering of the blessed, including: thirteen year old Peter Yu Tae-Chol, slain for confessing the faith; Anna Pak A-gi, a simple woman who was not advanced in her doctrinal knowledge but went faithfully to death as a disciple of Christ and his Mother; John Nam Chong-sam, a high-ranked noble who served as a model of chastity, charity, and poverty until he was slain; Damien Nam Myong-hyok and Mary Yi Yon-hui, both martyred, were models of family life; and John Yi Kwong-hai, who dedicated himself in celebrating consecration to the service of the Church.
The Martyrs of Korea were canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 6, 1984, in Seoul, Korea. At the ceremony, the Holy Father declared that the Church in Korea was a community unique in the history of the Church. The pope said: “The death of the martyrs is similar to the death of Christ on the Cross, because, like his, theirs has become the beginning of new life.”
This article is an excerpt from “John Paul II’s Book of Saints” by Matthew Bunson, Margaret Bunson, Stephen Bunson, Pope John Paul II
Korean barbecue is a dish that was most likely enjoyed by many (if not all) of the Korean martyrs and is certainly one of the more popular of Korean delicacies. Here is one you can try at home. It's quite easy and so tasty.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Chances are you haven't heard of Saint Ninian [whose feast we celebrate today]. But he is known in Scotland where a number of places still bear his name. And visitors and pilgrims still go to see the cave that was his hermitage, long ago, on the southwestern coast. (A Continual Feast, page 268)
The recipe for St. Ninian gingery muffins is a MUST ADD to your family tradition. They are so very delicious, my two sons simply could not eat them fast enough. They also fill the home with holiday scents- thanks to the molasses and spice mixture. I hope to experiment with this recipe soon and try a gingerbread loaf so stay tuned for future holiday posts!
*Tip: Melt the butter before mixing with the molasses, sugar and boiling water.
*Suggestions: These muffins make a great morning breakfast- or sprinkle them with confectioners sugar, or drizzle with a sugar glaze to pair with afternoon tea!
Thank you, St. Ninian- your muffins are now a new family favorite!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
One of the beautiful things about our faith is how it accompanies us in good times and also in the hard, sorrowful moments of our lives. So many individuals, families, and entire peoples have known such great suffering over the centuries!--but have felt comforted by their faith. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows commemorates the sufferings in the life of the Virgin, who consoles us in the sorrows of our own lives.
This feast has a complex history which I won't go into here. In any case the seven sorrows commemorated are: 1) The prophesy of Simeon. 2) The flight into Egypt. 3) The three day disappearance of the child Jesus. 4) The painful progress to Calvary. 5) The Crucifixion. 6) The taking down from the cross. 7) The entombment.
For this feast, we propose something bittersweet: a chocolate cake made with bittersweet chocolate. (Thanks to Ann for the idea, and to Rebecca for the great recipe.)
Flourless Chocolate Cake (from Epicurious/ Gourmet mag 1997)
4 oz. fine quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line
bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.
Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over
a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring,
until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar
into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift ½ cup cocoa powder
over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan
and bake in middle of oven for 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin
crust. Cook cake in pan on a rack for 5 minutes and invert onto a serving
Dust cake with additional cocoa powder.
Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream--or just solo.
NOTE: This is a good dessert recipe for those who suffer from celiac disease.
Let's close with another beautiful image of Our Lady of Sorrows:
(Note: This image is from a website that sells icons: http://www.crosses.org/icon/ )
Today the Church celebrates The Exaltation of the Holy Cross and our family celebrates our son, Simon's, feast day. We named Simon after the man from Cyrene who helped to carry the cross with Christ. We are all called to pick up our cross, daily, and carry it with love, but can you imagine what it must have been like to actually walk the path of Calvary and behold the eyes of Jesus as he offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. While Simon of Cyrene does not have a special feast day in the Church, we thought he would be OK celebrating him as our son's patron on this day.
What a glorious triumph the cross is! And what a beautiful feast found in ordinary time that asks us to pause and reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord. As we all know, the story of our Redeemer did not end with the cross- rather the cross points us to the glory of the resurrection.
The cross, which disappeared after the Crucifiction, was believed to have been discovered by Helena, around 355. Tradition says that basil grew all over the hillside where Helena discovered the cross. And so you ask what to serve to celebrate this feast? A Continual Feast has a delicious recipe for pesto!
And what would a namesake feast day be without a special dessert? We decided to fill the crumb crust recipe found on page 267 with a custard pie in order to make a cross tart!
A picture will come just as soon as I take it out of the oven!
Monday, September 13, 2010
On September 14 falls a feast called "The Exaltation of the Holy Cross," honoring the Cross itself as instrument of salvation of the world.
I discuss this feast in some detail in A Continual Feast (pp. 166-7), and give some recipes for dishes for this ancient feast.
But let me add a few extra images and thoughts here. Above, you see a cross-shaped cake pan (made by Wilton), and a beautiful cake that emerged from it. This sort of cake pan can also be useful for baptisms and other religious occasions.
But you can also make a cross cake by just putting together two store-bought pound cakes into the form of a cross (you'll need to do a bit of cake-surgery, of course), and frost and decorate them. This is something your children will enjoy doing!
If you want to read about the finding of the Cross--which had been lost for centuries--by St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, you must read Evelyn Waugh's marvelous, delicious historical novel Helena. (http://www.amazon.com/Helena-Loyola-Classics-Evelyn-Waugh/dp/082942122X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284420813&sr=8-1) Ahh! You have a treat in store for you!
One last thing to read, if you are so inclined: the great Anglo-Saxon poem, "The Dream of the Rood" in which the Cross itself speaks (the word "Rood" means Cross). Here is a modern translation of this grand poem: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Dream_of_the_Rood_%28translation%29
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The lights were out, but you can still hear his sweet toddler voice!
Our Isaac was born in May, the month of Mary, on the Feast of the Visitation at 11:54am. The first thing we did when they laid him in my arms was say the Angelus.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I am still humbled when I look back a few months to when our daughter was born. So many family and friends prepared meals for us as we settled in with our newest addition. The dinners were such a help, the visits were a blessing, and all of the personal details of the meal were signs of affection! It was so fun to try new recipes and to settle into the comfort foods that people shared with our family. And oh did little Miss Martha come with many loaves of bread under her arm. There were loaves to accompany the meal- and even sweet breads and muffins for our family to enjoy the next morning!
Rebecca reminds us that while we always remember that mothers with new babies need meals, newly expectant mothers often need help as well! So do families that have recently lost a loved one, or families with a loved one in the hospital or very sick at home. In these cases, perhaps you could help by organizing an online meal sign up for the family with one of these tools.
It is September, the start of a new school year, and every one is busy these days. But if we look around, there are so many great opportunities to serve those around us. The tradition of Christian Hospitality is so beautiful, and a great one to teach by example to our children.
We never know when we might be serving angels!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
On September 3 we remember Pope Gregory the Great, honored as one of the four major Fathers of the Western Church, along with saints Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome.
Gregory’s life is long and complex. (You can read all about him in Butler’s Lives of the Saints, as revised by Thurston and Attwater; this is a 4-volume work that anyone with a real interest in the saints should, if possible, have handy.
But three facts are key: Gregory was a great public servant. He was a monk. He was pope—and as pope, he combined, in extremely important ways, his roles as public servant and as monk.
A few details. He was born in 540 to a very distinguished Catholic family in Rome—one that had already given two popes to the Church; his mother, Silvia, is also considered a saint. Quite a family! We know little about his education, but by age 30 Gregory was already prefect--essentially, mayor--of Rome. And this was a terrible period: for centuries now, Rome had continued its decline, and the city had been sacked four times during the previous century. As Gregory once said in a letter: "Ruins everywhere!" The imperial authorities were increasingly weak, and Gregory himself had to negotiate with the new Lombard invaders.
But then he decided to leave the world and become a monk. He turned his beautiful Roman home into a monastery.
But he was called out of the monastery, first to ordination to the diaconate; then he was sent as the papal ambassador to the Byzantine court in Constantinople.
But let’s jump ahead. When Pope Pelagius died of the plague in 590, Gregory (who had at some point become a priest) reluctantly accepted election to the papacy, He was, in many respects, a great pope--one who combined a deep love for the monastic life with genuine concern for his people’s welfare and for pastoral care. He provided a new model for the papacy, one that lasted throughout the medieval period.
We can thank also Gregory for the conversion of England to Christianity: it is he who sent missionaries there.
Gregorian chant bears his name.
He died in 604. He wanted to be known as "Servant of the servants of God"--a great title!
So, to honor Saint Gregory the Great, perhaps we should serve some nice Italian food--indeed, it should be Roman cuisine: he was as Roman as they come. But, to be authentic, it will have to be Roman food from before the existence of tomatoes and pasta--not to mention coffee and chocolate! (It is before tea, as well, but then Italians aren’t so apt to miss that.)
What would this Roman food be like? What did those old Romans eat? (To know about late Roman cuisine, read the Cookery Book written by Apicius.
The Romans loved spices, and used them very generously. Favorites include many we enjoy today--coriander, cumin, dill, ginger, mint, oregano, parsley, pepper, saffron, savory, sesame, thyme, and others--but also some spices we aren’t very familiar with, such as rue, lovage, and asafoetida.
They enjoyed most of the meats we do today--but also stuffed dormice, and stuffed cow wombs and udders (these latter must have been a bit like the Scottish dish haggis; anyway, I think we’ll give those dishes a miss). They loved fish, crayfish, and octopus, oysters and mussels.
They loved sauces. Their favorite sauce, which they put into just about everything--the way people do chicken stock, or A1 or Worcestershire Sauce today--was a fish sauce called liquamen.
Here is the menu I propose--all tasty stuff, but nothing too fancy. Recipes are provided below.
Fava (or cannellini) bean salad with garlic, green onions, and mint.
Grilled fish steaks (tuna, ideally) or fillets, with a sauce of anchovy paste and pine nuts
A lettuce salad (the Romans loved their lettuces, and their cucumbers as well)
Black olives (they already loved olives)
Sheep or goat cheese (the Romans were specialists in the cultivation of cheese from an early period and, among others delighted in mozzarella and pecorino type cheeses. (Have a look at this history of cheese.
With this meal you can drink some Italian red wine--if possible, Castelli wine from the region of Rome itself. Check out Roman wines.
For dessert, fresh peaches or figs? (Do you want something fancier?- the Romans loved fruit stewed in honey, with nuts.)
There is another option--but I propose this only to those who will be celebrating this feast on their own, not to mothers feeding a family. This option is to fast in honor of that austere and serious monk, St. Gregory the Great.
2 cups cooked beans
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
Drain the beans.
Mix with the garlic and green onions.
Add oil and vinegar.
Stir in the mint, and mix thoroughly.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 4 lightly
4 fish steaks or fillets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (this is the closest convenient equivalent we have today to the taste of liquamen, the fish sauce so prized by the ancient Romans).
1 Tablespoon wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
Sauté the pine nuts until golden-brown in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.
Mix the remaining oil, anchovy paste, wine vinegar, oregano and coriander
Brush the fish steaks or fillets generously with the mixture.
Grill or broil the fish, basting frequently.
Sprinkle the fish with the pine nuts.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
For us husbands who have the blessing of coming home to a lovingly-cooked meal every day, grilling provides a wonderful way to show some appreciation. And what better day than Sunday to give our wives a little rest in the kitchen. There are hundreds of different ways to cook virtually any cut of meat or fish. Vegetables, bread, and even a few desserts can also be prepared on the grill while enjoying the late summer evenings outside -- perhaps while the kids roam so that mom has that much more freedom to kick up her heels.
However, with so many options, it can be tough to know where to start. One of the cuts with which I have had success is boneless top sirloin steak. A simple yet delicious way to prepare this (or any) cut of meat is as follows:
1) make small stabs on both surfaces of the steak and insert slivers of garlic
2) rub the steak generously with salt & pepper, put the meat in a tall-sided dish, and pour in beer (here you can have a lot of fun testing what brews give your favored flavor)
3) marinate the steak for 30-60 minutes
4) cook the meat for 6-8 minutes per side for medium rare*
5) remove the meat and let it sit, covered, for 15 minutes before carving (remember to cut across the grain of the meat)
*The final temperature for this cut of beef, medium rare is 145 degrees. However, the meat will continue to cook while sitting -- so take it off the grill at 5-10 degrees below that "done" temperature.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
August 28 is the feast of Saint Augustine--a great convert, and one of the most powerful minds in the history of the Church. Over the centuries, his thought and writings have had tremendous influence on the Christian tradition. And he is immensely readable - if you have never read his Confessions, you have a treat in store for you.
Augustine was born in 354 in Tagaste, a town in North Africa, which was then a province of the Roman Empire; that region is now part of Algeria.
Here are just a few details about his life, you can read all about him here .
Augustine's mother, Monica (her feast was celebrated yesterday), was a Christian. However, Augustine was not baptized as a child: the postponing of baptism until adulthood was a common practice at the time (Augustine wrote and preached against the practice later). As a young man, Augustine was deeply interested in philosophy, but was not attracted to Christianity. He was a student of Rhetoric--a common intellectual pursuit and profession at the time--and he was a seeker after philosophical truth. He was also a lover of women; he had a mistress for many years, by whom he had a son.
But while teaching Rhetoric in Milan, Augustine got to know Saint Ambrose, who was then bishop of that city. Ambrose was kind and gracious to the young Augustine--and helped him see Christianity as both reasonable and attractive. After a dramatic religious experience, Augustine converted to Christianity and completely changed his life. He was baptized, became a priest, and was soon bishop of Hippo.
He wrote a tremendous amount, on many topics: aside from his engagingly autobiographical Confessions, he wrote against several important heresies; on theology; on history (in The City of God); and other topics. Many of his sermons also survive. All his works still find many readers today.
Augustine died in 430 at the age of 75, as the Vandals--one of the many barbarian groups that attacked the declining Roman Empire--were storming the gates of Hippo.
Here is a prayer by Augustine that I have long loved:
O thou who art the light of the minds that know thee,
the life of the souls that love thee,
the strength of the wills that serve thee,
help us so to know thee that we may truly love thee
so to love thee that we may fully serve thee
whose service is perfect freedom.
What shall we eat--and serve to our families--in Saint Augustine's honor? There are of course various possibilities. But I propose that we return to the kind of food that Augustine himself might have eaten in Hippo, and that we ate in honor of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas . This is to commemorate and honor the great Christian tradition in North Africa. This Christian world was mostly swept away by the Muslim conquest of North Africa, then of Spain, in the 7th century.
PS I mentioned earlier that Saint Monica's feast day is August 27, the day before that of her great son. During his years as a pagan, Augustine's mother never stopped praying for him--and trying to help him see the truth of Christianity; this is why she herself is honored as a saint. A great quote from her: she died far from her home; before she died she said to Augustine, who was with her: "Lay this body anywhere; this only I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be."
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Thursday, August 26, is the 100th anniversary the birth of the great Mother Teresa. This tiny but altogether remarkable nun was one of the most memorable and important figures--and forces for good--of the 20th century. She is now well on the path to canonization, and is honored by the title "Blessed." You can read about her life in detail here: http://www.ewtn.com/motherteresa/ Tell your children about her: her life and her wonderful work with the poor, the suffering, and the dying of Calcutta--and all around the world.
Today let's remember her birthday--light candles on a cake, and sing to her in heaven! But, you know, if you can't quite get to baking that cake, and you're out of birthday candles, never mind! The important thing is to recall her and honor her memory--and try to imitate her, as much as we can. Here are two of her famous thoughts and sayings:
"God has created us for greater things – to love and to be loved."
And emphasizing the importance of family life and love, she said:
"Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family, we never know how much good just a simple smile can do."
And one more great quote:
"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."
Ahhh, now I can't stop!--she said so many great things! Here is one last one:
"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."
(There are lots more great quotes from Blessed Teresa at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html )