December 23, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Calendar

Here it is, just in time!  The 12 Days of Christmas coloring calendar!  You can click this link to access the file as a .jpg to print and color.  Merry Christmas!  Enjoy!

December 17, 2014

Figgy Pudding, Stollen, and Tamales

Knowledge Quest generously has shared a free, 30+ page, recipe booklet, download with Christmas recipes from around the world to augment your holiday table next week.  Here's the link.  Enjoy!

Figgy Pudding, Stollen, and Tamales: Gathering the World Around Your Christmas Table

O Antiphons...for Your 'Fridge!

Here is a lovely, one-page sheet on the O Antiphons by Michelle Quigley, perfect for taping up on your 'fridge, kitchen pantry door, bathroom mirror, or wherever you will see it most often to read the brief meditation thereon.

O Antiphons - In Brief

Beginning on December 17th, as the final phase of preparation for Christmas, the Church recites or chants the O Antiphons preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. The O Antiphons express the Church's longing and expectation for the Messiah, her startled wonderment at the fullness of grace which the Christ-Child is about to bestow on the world. Their theme is the majesty of the Savior, His wisdom, His faithfulness and sanctity, His justice and mercy, His covenant with His chosen people, who in their ingratitude broke faith with Him. They are concerned with His power and love as King and Redeemer of the world, His relation to every soul as Emmanuel, God-with-us. (source: With Christ Through the Year by Bernard Strasser)

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one — Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia — the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion. (source: Fr. William Saunders, the Catholic Education Resource Center [CERC})

There also is a nice meditation and explanation of the O Antiphons over at the CERC by Fr. Roger J. Landry.  You can find it here.

Lastly, the book pictured above, The O Antiphons: Poetry, Reflection, and Song to Being the Season of Advent, is from Grace Episcopal Church, but much of its content is gleaned from the aforementioned Fr. William Saunders at the Catholic Education Resource Center!  It's a really beautiful PDF that you can download for your private prayer.  It's only 18 pages and that's including the full hymns -- an easy devotion nightly! Enjoy!

O Antiphons Bible Study

(This post is from an invitation to read about the "O Antiphons," which began today, during Advent with Thomas Smith as part of The Great Adventure, a Bible study for Catholics!)

The titles of Christ in the O Antiphons have been invoked by the Church for at least 1,300 years. The Medieval monasteries would ring their largest bell as the choirs of monks intoned Mary’s Magnificat and these Advent antiphons. All seven can be found in the oracles of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who gives us many memorable images of the Messiah. They are rich meditations on the One who is to come.

Although there are seven titles in the O Antiphons, only one has remained firmly in popular Christian culture, thanks to an Advent hymn: O Come, O Come Emmanuel. This Messianic title is the final of the seven O Antiphons. To help us pray and even SING these beautiful prayers, Thomas Smith uses a translation that matches that familiar Advent melody. The other titles are O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Light, and O King of the Nations.

Join us for What's in a Name? Reflections on the O Antiphons with Thomas Smith as we prepare for Christ’s coming and kinship by meditating on his names. This free 10 Minute Study began December 16th and ends December 23. Enjoy!

December 2, 2014

Little Sisters of the Poor and the HHS Mandate

The government abortion/contraception mandate (the so-called, "HHS mandate,") has receded from the forefront of news headlines.  But, once again, it is about to rear its ugly head in threat to the good conscience of Catholics everywhere, this time against the Little Sisters of the Poor.

    Three federal appeals courts have heard cases brought by religious non-profit organizations, challenging the so-called "accommodation" (see my blog, explaining this "accommodation":  Unfortunately, all three courts have ruled against the religious organizations (which included the University of Notre Dame, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Priests for Life, and the Archdiocese of Washington DC).  While there have been many lower court rulings against the HHS mandate and accommodation, these rulings by appellate courts (which are just one step below the Supreme Court) are very troubling.
    The next major court battle is just around the corner.  On December 8th  the Little Sisters of the Poor will have their day in court in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.  This is a critical moment.  The Little Sisters present perhaps the best and clearest example of a religious organization that is faced with an existential threat by the HHS mandate (see my explanation here:  A victory by the Little Sisters will send a clear message to the Supreme Court, and will increase the chances that other religious non-profits will be protected from the ruinous fines that would be imposed under the HHS mandate.  A defeat could subject the Little Sisters to as much as $50 million in fines for following their conscience -- that would put them out of business, and also send an ominous message about the future of religious liberty in America.
    Sincerely in Christ,
    Director of Public Policy

And here is some encouragement from the Respect Life Coordinator for the Archdiocese of New York:

    I would urge you to spread word of this via all social media outlets (e.g. Facebook and Twitter).  It is vitally important that we show our support for the Little Sisters of the Poor and pray for the attorneys who will be representing them at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty  and also pray for wisdom for the three judges who will be hearing their case.   If you are able to offer some form of fast/sacrifice for this intention that would be great.
    Finally, since December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, let us ask our Lady, Patroness of the United States of America, to powerfully intercede to protect our nation and its God given freedoms.  For prayer resources see 
    Thank you and God bless you.
    Sr. Lucy Marie
    Archdiocese of New York
    1011 First Ave, 7th floor
    New York, NY  10022
    Mon-Thurs 9:45am-4:45pm

The Anticipation of Advent

Catholic Sistas has posted here a wide variety of articles, lists, tips, and simple ideas for making your Advent less focused on materialism and more focused on the coming of the Christ Child, Our Savior!  There's something here for everyone, without overwhelming your life and your Advent season with, "one more thing to do."

Take a deep breath, turn a blind eye to the visual, decorative cacophony in the stores, and quiet your soul in the peaceful presence of the Prince of Peace Himself.  Focus on Our Lord, the Infant Jesus.  Let Our Lady gently guide you to the Manger, drawing you ever closer to the Sacred Heart of her Son, Jesus!

Vive Jesu!

Your Handy-Dandy List to an Intentional Advent

Kerry Baunach over at Catholic Sistas has posted a lovely list of, "Your Handy-Dandy List to an Intentional Advent," filled with both easy and more intensive ways to make your Advent a spiritually enriching time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child.  Enjoy!

Vouchsafe, OMG

Allison H. over at, "Catholic Sistas," wrote a beautiful, succinct blog post last year about the St. Andrew's Christmas Novena, "where the theological truths of our Holy Faith crash like waves upon the rocky shores of our real lives."  You can read it quickly here:

Are you still praying your novena?  Remember, 15 times a day can seem overwhelming, so you always can break it up into five recitations, three different times throughout the day, etc.

Blessed Advent to you and those whom you love!

Hail and blessed by the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born
of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight,
in Bethlehem,
in piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God,
to hear my prayers
and grant my desires,
through the merits of our Savior,
Jesus Christ,
and of His Blessed Mother.

November 30, 2014

Christmas Novena - START TODAY!

While a novena is normally a nine-day [or nine hour] prayer, the term sometimes is used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days. The Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is often called simply the "Christmas Novena" or the "Christmas Anticipation Prayer," because it is prayed 15 times every day from the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle (November 30th) until Christmas. The First Sunday of Advent is the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Andrew.

The novena is not actually addressed to Saint Andrew, but to God Himself, asking Him to grant our request in the honor of the birth of His Son at Christmas. You can say the prayer all 15 times, all at once, or divide up the recitation as necessary (perhaps five times at each meal).

Prayed as a family, the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is a very good way to help focus the attention of your children on the Advent season.

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

(source: by Scott P. Richert at

November 29, 2014

Christmas Novena - START TOMORROW!

While a novena is normally a nine-day [or nine hour] prayer, the term sometimes is used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days. The Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is often called simply the "Christmas Novena" or the "Christmas Anticipation Prayer," because it is prayed 15 times every day from the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle (November 30th) until Christmas. The First Sunday of Advent is the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Andrew.

The novena is not actually addressed to Saint Andrew, but to God Himself, asking Him to grant our request in the honor of the birth of His Son at Christmas. You can say the prayer all 15 times, all at once, or divide up the recitation as necessary (perhaps five times at each meal).

Prayed as a family, the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is a very good way to help focus the attention of your children on the Advent season.

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

(source: by Scott P. Richert at

November 28, 2014

Christmas - Just a Peek!

It's here.  The absolute avalanche of recommended "preparations" for Christmas.  From Jesse trees to Christmas shopping, from decorating to baking, from Advent countdowns to spiritual reading, there are a plethora of resources out there to help you "prepare" for the Coming Of Christ.  And often, people place the visual, decorative preparations as if they are diametrically opposed to the interior, spiritual preparations.

Not me.

One year, I attempted the virtuous practice of banning the majority of Christmas decorations and paraphernalia until Christmas Day.  This works for some families.  Their lives remain uncomplicated and focused on the coming of Christ by making their surroundings calm and uncomplicated in the weeks leading up to celebrating His birth.

Not me.

One year, I tried this.

It was.  The worst.  Advent.  Ever.  For our entire family.  EVER!

(Almost as bad as the year I gave up chocolate for Lent.  Whew.  Bad idea.  Not pretty.  Good thing I didn't do them both in the same year!)

As a Catholic, I am enormously grateful for the visual richness of our Faith!  Our historical churches are filled with statues, stained glass, and breath-taking architecture, all of which tell the Scriptural and Traditional stories of our Faith for what was once a largely illiterate human population.  Visual beauty in our churches provides a worthy inspiration on which to meditate and place ourselves completely -- body and soul -- in the Presence Of God.  It raises our eyes, our minds, our hearts, and our souls to the True Artist, the Author Of All Beauty.


At Christmas, God's Only Begotten Son became present among us.  We believe and pray this every day around lunchtime at our house when we pray the Angelus:  "The Word was made Flesh. [all bow] And dwelt among us."

Similarly in our house, before Christmas, we rejoice in the anticipation of His coming by leaving no horizontal surface bare.  Anywhere our eyes rest, there is something of beauty to remind us of Him.

The creche, with its manger empty, though filled with a bedding of fresh hay, waiting to cradle His soft, warm, newborn baby's body.

The pine boughs, fragrant and evergreen, their pungency pleasantly reminding us of the eternal life His coming promises that we may share with Him.

The tiny, flickering, dipping flames of the Advent candles, touching the kitchen -- the soul of our home -- with a soft, suffused light in the evenings, just as He will touch our souls with the gentle light of His grace.  If we let Him.

All in all, by Christmas, our house is bedecked and bespangled to the rafters.  Alert.  Readying.  Waiting.  Hoping.  With barely restrained JOY*!  We look forward to the coming of the Greatest Guest Of All - JESUS!

This Christmas, take a page from the book of the early evangelists to the British Isles, especially Ireland, the sole country wherein Christianity was accepted without the bloodshed of its messengers.  In Scotland and Ireland, countless pagan Celtic traditions were washed anew and imbued with Christian significance.

Do the same in your own home.  As you prepare for Christmas, make every tiny touch something infused with His grace, His significance, His gifts, His coming.  Be reminded of HIM at every turn!

The picture of the candy cane and roses centerpiece above is a simple little gift of an idea from me to you!  The red roses remind me of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  And the candy canes originally were made to be a "J" for Jesus, with the white candy representing His purity and the red representing His Precious Blood.

This is a quick-cheap-'n-easy centerpiece, perfect for so many places!  Pop it on the table before your treasured family and friends arrive to share a meal.  Place it in front of a favorite statue in your home (ours is the Sacred Heart!).  Or maybe make one up as a house-warming gift for someone you love, whom you are visiting.  The possibilities are endless for this simple yet creative piece.

This Christmas, let the light of Christ reach every corner of your heart and your home by transforming your physical surroundings into a visual symphony of JOY!  Joy in the coming of Him, the Light of the World, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace!

* = JOY (JESUS first, OTHERS next, YOURSELF last)

November 24, 2014

Advent Coloring Calendar

Inspired by similar Lenten paths, I drew for you today an "Advent Coloring Calendar," to enjoy coloring with your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews.  (C'mon, admit it -- YOU enjoy coloring sometimes, too!)  The First Sunday of Advent is next weekend...ALREADY!

May Our Lady be your Joy this Advent as she leads you through the Rosary, drawing you ever closer to the manger and the Sacred Heart of her Son, the Infant Jesus, the Prince of Peace!  Vive Jesu!

Enjoy!  :-D

November 3, 2014

The Virtues of Minimalism

I doubt anyone who's ever been to my house would describe me as a minimalist.  Ever.  As a matter of fact, the opposite is true.  I seem to be a bit of a, um, an accumulator, shall we say?  Almost zealously an organized string-saver.  And a sentimental one, at that.  Talented, however.  "A functional hoarder," my husband maintains.  I decorate with most of it and justify the rest by organizing it into well-labeled boxes and bins.

But, after our recent move over 700 miles with two full size moving trucks, I'm sure my dear husband wishes I weren't so attached to...things.  And quite so many of them.

In some ways, so do I.

Oh, I'm not ready to part with my great uncle's paintings or my late father's favorite shoes yet.  But now, after experiencing first hand the effort it takes to MOVE one's belongings, I have a much greater appreciation for my husband's utter and nearly complete detachment from...things.  Items.  Stuff.  Belongings.

Baggage.  Literally.

(No, I'm not kidding.  I have two sets of luggage and haven't traveled in years.)

It seems that at no prior time in human history has there been a society wherein its individuals were such colossal collectors of clutter!  And I am one of them.  It's a byproduct of America's staggering general wealth, compared with the rest of the known world.  Just look around.  Look around your own home and see the piles -- literally small heaps huddled about -- of papers, books, clothing, toys, pillows, shoes, etc.

So, perhaps it's time to pare down.  A bit.  But, how does one purge?  Where on earth does one start!?  Especially when faced with numerous colossal heaps like mine?

Well, as a dear friend of mine likes to say, "How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."

Amidst the overwhelming avalanche of, "Clear Out The Clutter!" advice out there (which, personally, just makes my brain feel even more cluttered), I found a very quick, simple link (Pinterest, baby!) to a list of, "20 Things You Can Get Rid of Without Even Missing."

The list is simple, divided up by rooms, only two or three sentences per item.  No calendars.  No arduous 40-day schedules.  No household colonoscopy preparations.  No goals to feel guilty about, because you fell short.

And if you're not sure whether or not to purge something, try my personal tactic of putting the item(s) in a black garbage bag in the garage for six months.  Tape a slip of paper on the bag with today's date.  If, in six months, you haven't fetched back or needed the item(s) (or even remember what's in that bag!), then tell yourself it's time to let the contents of that bag bless someone else's life and throw it in the front seat of your car to donate it quickly to your nearest charity or thrift shop.

Believe me, you'll be amazed and thrilled with the fresh air, new space, and light that literally will swirl through your heart and your home when you clear out even just a few things that you truly don't need.

Either that, or your kids are gonna have one helluva yard sale when you're gone.  Don't worry, I won't be there though.  I've already been told I'm grounded.  Forever.

See you at the church thrift shop drop off!

October 24, 2014

On Babies: From the Trenches

And to think I thought it was just me!  Here's a Facebook post from a dear friend, who's pregnant with her second child:

I know my friends without kids hear all the time how much harder it is to get stuff done with kids. I know they get sick of it. But here's a little insight into the types of things that come up ALL the time:

 9:00 am : I decide to go run a quick errand with Cora.
9:00-9:10 am : Get Cora dressed while she squiggles and squirm doing everything possible not to get dressed
9:10-9:20 am : Cora starts throwing a tantrum every time I put her down leading me to think she might need a bottle
9:20-9:30 am: Give Cora a bottle
9:30-10:00 am: Cora continues to cry and want to be held.
10:00 am: I decide to try to put Cora down for a nap since it's close to nap time.
10:10 am: After napping for ten minutes, Cora continues to cry and want to be held.
10:30 am: After taking her temperature and holding her, I decide to go out anyway, hoping she is just overly tired and she will fall asleep in the car.
10:45 am: Due to excessive un controllable crying I decide to come back home
11:00 am: We strip her down and put her in the bath and she calms down immediately. We chalk up her crying to one of her toes possibly being squished back in her shoe.
11:30 am: A now fully wired and calm Cora and I decide to go out again.
12:00 pm: Cora falls asleep in the car.
12:30 -???: I write this post from the parking lot in front of the store I need to go to while Cora sleeps.


Sometimes it's a challenge to remember that all children are a GIFT from the Lord.  Thanks, Annabelle, for reaching out to us from the trenches!  This young mother does all this AND takes absolutely exquisite portraiture of those people and occasions that really matter in life:


October 22, 2014

Pray for Phenomenal!

A dear Catholic friend of mine has taught her five children, whenever they hear an emergency vehicle's siren, to pray silently for all those involved.

Among her children is a teenage girl, Therese, who struggles greatly with cystic fibrosis.  Despite the enormity of Therese's personal challenge just to breathe, she has an incredibly sunny and generous disposition, ever mindful of the personal difficulties that others might be facing in their lives.

Therese and her mom were in her hospital room yesterday when they heard a siren.  Therese started praying immediately, but her whispered words puzzled my friend.

"What did you say?" her mother asked.

Therese paused, distracted.  "What?"

Her mother frowned slightly.  "Did you just say, 'phenomenal?'"

The girl brightened immediately.  "Oh.  Yeah!"  She tilted her head thoughtfully.  "You know, I used to just pray, 'Lord, please let everyone be okay,' whenever I heard a siren.  But, then I thought, you know, Jesus raised Himself from the dead!  I mean, why am I just praying for, 'Okay?'  I should be praying for, 'phenomenal!'  So, now I pray, 'Lord, please let everyone be phenomenal!'"


Therese's grin and her utter confidence in the Lord granting her supplication positively lit up the room. Beside her, I think my name is probably O Ye, as in, "O, ye of little faith."  If we all had the faith of a mustard seed like this girl (and like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, not be afraid to use it) we would indeed change the world!

Please pray for Therese during her current hospital stay!  Her lung function has dipped into the 40s and there are other complications.  Thank you!

August 22, 2014

Conquer the World

"Give me an army praying the rosary and I will conquer the world."  (St. Pius IX)

July 20, 2014

Whose Wealth Is It?

This evening, I enjoyed watching part of the movie, "Anna and the King," based upon the 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam, drawn loosely from the diaries of Mrs. Anna Leonowens, an English tutor to the children of the king of Siam (now Thailand).  One of my favorite scenes is the banquet given for the visiting British ambassador.  The sheer opulence, grand scale, and overwhelming beauty of the outdoor candlelit feast are utterly breathtaking!  I marveled at the depth of the wealth and comfort available to the king of Siam and the British upper class.

I thought how vastly distant it was from my own ordinary existence.

Then, I went into my kitchen and, without thinking, turned on my Keurig machine from Massachusetts and in three minutes had a cup of hot tea -- in a cup made in Italy, with tea leaves from India, sugar from Brazil, and cream from Florida, which I stirred with a silver spoon from Sheffield, England and sipped down scalding hot while eating fresh raspberries from California.  All within the comfort and privacy of my own comfortably air-conditioned home.


Now, who's wealthy?  Materially, that is.

Often, I'll remind my children that, as Americans, in general, we are fortunate to live a more affluent lifestyle than roughly 93% of the world's population.  Or are we?  Fortunate, that is.  With great wealth comes great responsibility.  "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." (Luke 12:48b)

We have more.  Are we giving more?  As a country, I would argue yes.  As an individual, that's entirely up to each of us.

While visiting the United States, Mother Teresa was asked why our country had so few religious vocations.  It was said she paused thoughtfully, then replied, "You have too much."

Mother Teresa went on to say on another occasion,

"The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give.  But the less you have, the more free you are.  Poverty for us [the Missionaries of Charity] is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance.  It is joyful freedom.  There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy."

I am first in the line of those who need to be less preoccupied with material things and more focused on spiritual things from above.  For while I'm certain God isn't displeased with the security and comfort both my husband and I work hard to provide for our young family, I'm equally certain (and rather embarrassed before Him) that He's not entirely pleased with the low spot on my daily To Do List to which I hastily and frequently relegate "my" time for prayer, adoration, Mass, or just sitting quietly with HIM.

Just as my material blessings are not entirely my own (just ask Job), so too are neither my time nor my spiritual blessings solely my own either.  Remember?  God put us on this Earth, "to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven." 

Whatever we have at our disposal, whether it be material wealth and comfort or spiritual gifts, we are meant to put these things at God's disposal, allowing them to be used as HE sees fit...which may not necessarily be as WE see fit.

Take a few moments this Sunday.  Take a step back.  Look at what you have.  Evaluate how you can make yourself, your soul, your time, your actions, and your blessings be even more of a blessing to those around you.

Start small.

- Pray specifically for someone.
- Stop to pray one extra time today.
- Put another dollar in the collection basket.
- Give your child an extra hug just because you love him.
- Make that casserole you've been meaning to make for your elderly, pregnant, or ill neighbor or friend.
- Donate a few extra belongings to your local thrift shop.
- Finish the dishes, then go laugh in the sprinkler with your younger children, or sit down to laugh and play cards with the older ones.
- Look up who the Saint Of The Day is.  Read for two minutes about that person.
- Pick up the phone and graciously call that relative or friend with whom you've had recent or long-standing difficulty.
- Cut that check you've been mulling over!  Add an extra zero before the decimal point and mail it out Monday to your church, your local pregnancy center, or whichever charity inspires you.  

Remember, "Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you." (Luke 6:38)

And, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure!" (Malachi 3:10)

(As an added bonus, read this beautiful treatise on, "Stewardship: A Discipleship of Love," by Bishop Victor B. Galeone, formerly of the Diocese of St. Augustine, FL.).

July 7, 2014

On Veiling

Here is another blogger's post on the changing custom of veiling for Mass:

I do veil and would encourage anyone to pray about and consider doing so for Mass and in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament!  You can read my other blog posts about veiling at these links:

Thank you!

May 27, 2014

A Bad Day of Homeschooling

Any "bad" day of homeschooling still is better than any "good" day in a government school!

March 17, 2014

St. Patrick Himself!

Here's a marvelous link to everything you ever wanted to know about St. Patrick!  And who wouldn't?  After all, he was Scottish, you know (!).  Enjoy!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tomorrow marks the feast of this great Irish saint and to celebrate here's my favorite recipe for good ole fashioned "Irish Soda Bread" (of which there would be no "soda" without the visit to Ireland of two Americans, Mr. Arm and Mr. Hammer!).  It's my favorite because it's won out over many other failures through the years!

I cut this recipe out of a magazine years ago, but unfortunately did not cut out the magazine's name.  So, if anyone recognizes this exact recipe, please let me know so I may ascribe proper credit.  Enjoy!

Irish Soda Bread

Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 1 hour

1/4 c. sugar
1 tbl. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbl. cold butter
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 c. golden or dark seedless raisins (optional - not authentic to original Irish soda breads, the addition of expensive dried fruits was a later American indulgence)

1.  Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Grease large cookie sheet.
2.  In large bowl, combine sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and flour.  With pastry blender or forks, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3.  Add buttermilk just until evenly moistened.  With floured hand, gently knead dough minimally into ball.  Do not over mix or bread will be tough.
4.  Place dough on cookie sheet and shape into roughly 7" round loaf.  With sharp knife, cut 4" long cross 1/4" deep in top and sprinkle loaf lightly with flour.
5.  Bake one hour.  Cool on wire rack.

This recipe yields a lightly buttery, moist bread with a rough, crunchy, crusty outside.  MMMmmmm!

February 24, 2014

Embrace the Grace!

This Lent, I'm starting a campaign to, "Embrace the Grace" of going to confession.  Allow the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which one of our priest friends calls, "The Sacrament of Peace," to cleanse your soul and refill it with His peace.

This Lent, go to confession.  Go.  Run.  Don't walk.  Go.  Go!

Encounter Jesus in all His eternal mercy and allow Him to love you and forgive you of all your life's mistakes, big or small.  Embrace the grace of the sacrament, endure your Good Friday with Him, so that on Easter morning you, too, may rejoice -- He is risen!  Alleluia!

February 10, 2014

Jesus Is the Living Water

We've just been through a spell during which, due to a widespread power outage from a winter storm, we were without electricity for a few days.  After pondering our (comparatively minor) difficulties, it was clear to me:

Electricity wasn't the problem -- we had daylight all day, and candles, flashlights, and lanterns all night.

Heat wasn't the problem -- we had two woodstoves within four fireplaces and cords of seasoned wood stacked up.

Modern technological connectivity wasn't the problem -- we had chargers for all our devices that could be re-charged in our vehicles.

Food preservation wasn't the problem -- we had a small generator to periodically give our refrigerator/freezer a shot in the arm for continued freshness.

Water wasn't the problem -- we had fresh snow blanketing the ground, water bottles stored in the garage, and a lake on the other side of the woods.

However, running water was the problem.  You can only wash so many dirty dishes, dirty clothes, dirty shoes/boots, dirty rags, dirty cars, and dirty people in buckets of water before the bucket quickly becomes soiled and the water within it fouled.  I could see our accustomed level of sanitation rapidly deteriorating.

Running water was the problem.  Cool, clear, fresh, continuously flowing, running water.

In the Bible, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well and refers to Himself as the "living water":

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” [The woman] said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:10-15)

The woman didn't initially understand that Jesus Himself was the living water of which He spoke, the wellspring of eternal life.

No matter how many other things we are juggling in life, and no matter how well we think we are juggling them, eventually we will face a need for cool, clear, fresh, continuously flowing, running water.  Running water not only will cleanse whatever is dirty, but it will cleanse it continuously and repeatedly, as well as carry away all the dirt and grime.

Isn't Jesus just like this?

Isn't His Sacrament of Reconciliation (which Bishop Victor B. Galeone refers to as, "the Sacrament of Peace") just like this?

No matter what we are managing to multi-task in our own lives, we will need at some point (whether we initially are willing to admit it or not) to stop and turn to Jesus for a true, thorough, and complete cleansing.  Of our lives.  Of our souls.  Only He can provide the endlessly fresh deep cleaning that we need.  Continuously.  Repeatedly.  Honestly.  And thoroughly.  For free!

If you haven't been to Confession in a while, start thinking about it now.  Lent is coming next month (Ash Wednesday is March 4th), and it's the perfect time to renew our purification in Christ.  It's the perfect time to clean out the dirt, to "scrape off and fluff up" as my friend Alice likes to say.  Through the priest, Jesus Christ makes Himself available to YOU during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to absolve you of your sins and, as he advised St. Mary Magdalene, to set your feet on a path toward Him to go and do this sin no more (cf. John 8:11).

We're never going to be perfect.  We're never going to be utterly, sparklingly, heavenly clean.  At least not here on Earth.  But in those few moments of Confession, the Lord will absolve you of your sins, wipe your earthly slate clean, and provide you with the graces you need to move forward in your life, beyond the weight and filth of whatever dirt your soul might be carting around.

So go.  Go.  Go to Confession!  Go!!!  I mean it.

Believe me.  There's absolutely nothing you can confess to the priest that he hasn't heard or heard of already.  He'll keep your secret, then let it go by handing it immediately over to God.

....and if you're still shy, pick a priest you've never met at a different parish and go screen.

But don't miss out.  Don't miss the gift, grace, and blessing of the true cleansing provided Jesus, the Living Water, every time you go to Confession.  Only He can fit your soul for heaven, and that's one power you don't want to be without!