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Posted by on Dec 17, 2023

Joy – Much more than simple happiness

Joy – Much more than simple happiness

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy these past few days. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, right up there with love and peace at the beginning of the list of them given to us by St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians. It’s not a passing phenomenon like happiness. It’s something much deeper that is rooted in the Spirit. Through good times and bad, joy is a response to the presence of God working in us and in the world.

Isaiah speaks of bringing glad tidings to the poor, healing to those whose hearts are broken, liberty to captives, a year of favor. The prophet rejoices in the Lord who brings salvation and makes justice and praise spring forth in the land. (Is 61:1-2a, 10-11) Isaiah spoke in and about the same land in which hearts on both sides of a war are being broken today. How will justice, peace, and joy blossom again? How does joy appear in the midst of sorrow and pain?

Yet in all things, we are called to rejoice. We are to pray unceasingly and give thanks for all that comes to us – we can and will learn and grow closer to God as we do. St. Paul promises that the God of peace will make us holy and ready for the coming of the Lord. (1 Thes 5:16-24)

John the Baptist came to testify to the light that was coming into the world. He was clear with all who came to him that he was not himself the light. His role was to be a voice in the wilderness calling all to prepare the way of the Lord. Another was coming. This other one would be much more important, but in the meanwhile, he himself would continue to call people to repentance and to prepare for the one already present among them, the one who was to come. (Jn 1:6-8, 19-28)

Joy is fundamental in each of these messages. Joy is a characteristic that is more stable than happiness. Even in hard times, one can be joyful, recognizing the sustaining presence of God in the midst of those hard times.

In Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis noted that like happiness and pleasure, anyone who has experienced joy will want to have it always. “I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.” Joy is enduring and deep rooted.

Author Michela Summa notes in Joy and Happiness, “joy is not only a direct emotional response to an event that is embedded in our life-concerns but is also tightly bound to the present moment…” She contrasts this to happiness which is experienced at the culmination of a process. Joy is present through the entire process.

Dr. Pamela King, of Fuller Theological Seminary has been researching joy in her work in Applied Developmental Psychology. In an interview in 2020 in Psychology Today, she said:

“I have observed that many people have an enduring and underlying sense of something that is deeper than the emotion of happiness, and I have come to describe this as joy. In my study of joy, I have also noticed that joy is more complex than a feeling or an emotion. It is something one can practice, cultivate, or make a habit. Consequently, I suggest that joy is most fully understood as a virtue that involves our thoughts, feelings, and actions in response to what matters most in our lives. Thus, joy is an enduring, deep delight in what holds the most significance.”

“An enduring, deep delight.” This is something much more than happiness and contentment. This is a quality of openness and acceptance and delight in the presence of God in all things. When all is well and when all is perfectly awful, God is present with us, giving strength and courage. This, as a priest I knew years ago once said, “is pretty good news!” In this we rejoice. In this we trust. In this we move forward on our journey of life.

As we move through this Third Week of Advent and quickly approach the celebration of Christmas, may we pay attention to God’s presence in our daily lives and activities. May we rejoice in those with whom we interact. May we find time to rest in the love of our God who took time to enter into humanity as a real human child.

Our family Advent Calendar now includes three candles for the first three weeks of Advent. Today the pink candle joins the festivities, reminding us all to prepare in joy for the Lord’s coming.

Rejoice. The Lord is near!

Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

 

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Posted by on Aug 6, 2023

One Like a Son of Man

One Like a Son of Man

“One like a Son of Man” is a phrase we hear from time to time in the Bible. It’s not a common term used for the men of those ancient times, though all are children of men (and women). Son of Man has a very particular meaning in Scripture. The reading from the Book of Daniel on the feast of the Transfiguration introduces this character.

Daniel described visions he had which made clear that the God of Israel was and is greater than any others who might claim that position. In this reading, Daniel speaks of the Ancient One whose clothing was bright as snow and hair white as wool. He sat on a great throne and wondrous power flowed out from him. As is the case in most royal courts, large numbers of people were present to meet his every need and carry out his orders. This Ancient One is meant to be understood as greater than the rulers of all the countries that had conquered Israel in its history. The most powerful God and ruler of all.

Then there is a bit of a shift. Another individual comes onto the scene, one who looks like a human man. Yet this man doesn’t come walking, or riding a horse, or in other ordinary means of travel. This one comes “on the clouds of heaven” and is presented before the Ancient One. And what does the Ancient One do? He gives this Son of Man “dominion, glory, and kingship” over all the world. This dominion is not going to end, nor will it be destroyed. It is to be everlasting.

The language of the Book of Daniel sounds very similar to that of the Book of Revelation. They are the same type of literature, apocalyptic. Both works speak of the end times and of the coming trials and hardships that will mark the end of the world. So why do we hear this one on the Feast of the Transfiguration?

When Jesus took Peter, James, and John up onto the mountain top to pray, they certainly did not expect what was going to happen there. Mountain tops are places traditionally known for meetings with God. But it doesn’t happen all that often! At least not obviously and dramatically. But this time was not to be the quiet, predictable, boring trip up the mountain of ordinary life.

On the mountain, they saw the appearance of their friend and teacher, Jesus, become totally different from a normal human being. “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Remember the description of the Ancient One and the brightness of the light shining out from his clothing? This is a different reality than the everyday Jesus they knew and loved. Peter recognized immediately the meaning of the brightness of light and the presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus. He offered to set up three tents, not unlike the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant rested until the Temple was constructed in Jerusalem. Tents for representatives of the Lord God, the Ancient One.

A bright cloud appeared over them all and a voice spoke from the cloud. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”

The apostles did the most reasonable thing possible at that point in time. They immediately bowed down prostrate on the ground, fearing for their lives. Who could see God and live? They didn’t know if they would ever return to the bottom of the mountain and ordinary life. It might very well all end there.

But the next thing they knew, Jesus touched them and he looked completely normal again. Everybody else was gone. He told them to get up. As they went back down the mountain, he cautioned them not to share the vision they had seen with anyone else “until the Son of Man has been raised form the dead.”

I suspect we can all understand why they might have been just as happy not to need to tell anybody what they had seen. It would have sounded absolutely preposterous and pretentious. Such things don’t happen to ordinary people. Who are you to claim to have seen Moses and Elijah and heard the voice of God? Crazy men, that’s all…. And rising from the dead? Really? Totally crazy.

And yet… Jesus did die and he did rise from the dead. The Son of Man, the one to whom the Ancient One had given dominion, glory, and kingship, was their teacher, the very same person whom the voice from the cloud had described as his beloved Son.

The disciples shared the story of what they had seen. It became part of the teachings of the early community. The author of the second letter of St. Peter speaks of this event, as an eyewitness. This is not something made up to try to fool the superstitious or poorly educated common folk of the time. This had truly happened. So pay attention. It’s like a lamp in the darkness or the dawn breaking through the darkness of night. The Lord, the beloved Son, has been honored and praised by God the Father.

We don’t hear these readings often at Sunday liturgies, especially not in August. The Gospel readings describing the Transfiguration are more typically part of the Lenten Sunday cycles. However, when August 6 falls on a Sunday, it takes precedence over the regular celebrations of Ordinary (counted) Time. We take a day to ponder the great love of the Father who sent the Son, becoming a Son of Man, a person like each human being. He lived a normal human life and gave us a glimpse of the wonder of the sharing in God’s life that we too receive.

Let’s take a moment today to relax in the beauty of creation and the presence of the Son of Man. Crazy things can happen on mountain tops. Sometimes, we should just take a moment to savor the memory.

For a fun activity to celebrate this feast, check out this puzzle in our OFS – Other Fun Stuff section of Theologika.net.

Readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord – Cycle A

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Posted by on Mar 13, 2022

Seeing the Glory of God – Deeper than at First Glance

Seeing the Glory of God – Deeper than at First Glance

A couple of years ago, a painting came home from school. It was a watercolor, folded in half, then in half again, and then yet again, until only 1/8 of the picture showed. The young artist was not happy with it and didn’t want even to talk about it. I looked at it and found it puzzling. There were blues and whites, with maybe a bit of yellow.   The colors had clearly run more than the artist had hoped. It looked like salt had been sprinkled on parts of the painting, resulting in irregular starburst-type shapes. There was a bit of red, some very light and some more streaked.

I didn’t understand what the picture was supposed to represent and he wouldn’t tell me. It was totally unclear to me which end was even supposed to be up! I put it on the side table with other things from school. There it lay for at least a week, probably longer, and I was still no closer to recognizing its theme.

I picked it up and turned it around once or twice to see if that made more sense. It still didn’t identify itself.

 

 

 

 

Finally, one day in early spring, I turned it one more time. And the image jumped out at me. My eyes, in a sense, had been opened to see its subject and its beauty. It was a snowman! I wondered how I could have not seen it all the other times I looked at it. It was so clear when my eyes looked at it from the right perspective.

It now proudly adorns our freezer.

The readings for the Second Sunday of Lent remind me of this experience with the snowman. In the first reading Abram and God have been talking. (Gn 15:5-12, 17-18) God has told Abram that he will have many descendants, even though both he and his wife are old and she has been unable to have children. Then God also promised that Abram’s descendants would possess the land into which they had traveled, following the Lord’s instructions. Abram and his extended family were not a lot of people. He questioned how they would ever possess a land belonging to so many other peoples.

There was a tradition among the peoples of the time to make covenants (legal agreements) in very visual ways. Animals were taken and sacrificed. The bodies were split in two and laid across from each other, making a pathway between them. Then the parties to the covenant would walk through the pathway. In this way they pledged that if they broke the covenant, the same thing might be done to them. It was not something to be taken lightly.

The Lord God told Abram to bring five animals – a heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtle dove, and a pigeon – and sacrifice them. He was to place their carcasses in such as way as to create the ritual pathway. As the sun set, Abram entered into a deep trance and saw the Lord, represented by a fire pot and flaming torch, pass through, entering into the pathway between the sacrificed animals. In this way, the Lord pledged himself to a covenant with Abram and his descendants. Abram did not have to pass through the pathway for the covenant to be established. Only the Lord passed through. The land from Egypt to Mesopotamia (current Iraq) was to belong to the descendants of Abram. (Today these lands are still peopled by his descendants – both Arabs and Jews.)

Abram saw the glory of the Lord that night, entering into a sacred covenant.

The psalmist sings today of the deep presence of the Lord. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” (Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14) Don’t hide from me, but hear the sound of my call. The Lord is a refuge, so there’s nothing to fear. “I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living…” All is focused on the presence and light of the Lord. All wait to see that goodness.

St. Paul writes to the community at Philippi (Ph 3:17-4:1) to encourage them to continue living in the way he taught them when he was with them in person. Controversies regarding whether it was necessary for Gentiles to become Jews in order to be Christians had reached them as well. Paul reassures them that all that is necessary is to believe and live in faith as they have first learned from him. As Christians, their citizenship, their loyalty, is in heaven. As such, all hope is in the saving power of Jesus, who will change our earthly bodies into heavenly, glorified ones, bringing all things to himself. At this point in time, all that is needed is to stand firm in faith and live as his followers.

The final reading, from St. Luke, tells of a very special experience of seeing. (Lk 9:28b-36)

Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. He took Peter, James, and John with him. As he prayed, his appearance changed, becoming filled with dazzling brightness. He was speaking with Moses (representing the Law and covenant) and Elijah (representing the prophets) when his friends woke up. They had fallen asleep as he was praying. They saw the glory that enveloped Jesus as he spoke with Moses and Elijah. Peter, ever the practical and impulsive one, offered to put up three tents, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. As he spoke, a cloud appeared and a voice spoke from the cloud. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Then the vision passed and Jesus was there alone. As they went back down the mountain, they were silent.

What was there to say? Who would ever believe it? Did they even see it? Imagine if you were witness to this kind of transformation of someone you thought you knew! You too might be at a loss for words or uncertain whether anyone would ever believe your words if you spoke of it.

We call this experience of Jesus the Transfiguration. A transfiguration is a complete change of form or appearance from the ordinary to something quite beautiful and extraordinary. In many ways, it’s a question of what is seen. On certain days, or in certain lights, or under certain conditions, we perceive quite ordinary things differently. Somewhat like the painting of the snowman.

How does Jesus’ transfiguration speak to me today? How does it speak to you? What wonderful things are there in life that are just waiting for me to see in all their splendor? Where does the glory of God peek through into my days and my world? How about yours?

May our eyes be opened today to see deeper than first glance – to see the glory of God present in our world.

Here’s an activity you can do with children to celebrate the Transfiguration.

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Posted by on Apr 5, 2020

Palm Sunday – Jesus Comes to Jerusalem

Palm Sunday – Jesus Comes to Jerusalem

Palm Sunday has arrived once more. In 2020, as we deal with the challenges of a worldwide pandemic, it seems a good time to look carefully at the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as he began the last week of his public ministry.

Here’s a word search puzzle to try, share it with children and friends, and reflect on what it all meant then and now. If you can’t find all the words, check here for the solution, but spend some time searching for them and reflecting first!

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Posted by on Apr 4, 2016

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

The Annunciation - Henry Ossaw TannerGabriel’s visit to a very young woman in the small town of Nazareth was a momentous event, though mostly unnoticed at the time. Gabriel is the archangel tasked to serve as special messenger of God. On this visit, the message was actually a request: will you consent to become my mother? It wasn’t exactly phrased this way, according to the narrative we have from St. Luke, but in essence that was the question. Gabriel told Mary that she would bear a son who would be the Son of the Most High and would sit on the throne of his father David (as in King David), rule over the house of Jacob forever and have an unending kingdom. (Lk 1:26-38)

Now this would be challenging even to a married woman, but this young woman was not married. In her culture, having a child out of wedlock could result in death by stoning. At best, she would be shunned and excluded from polite society. Yet Mary had the courage to ask for more details about how such a thing could happen and to listen with deep faith to the response. Then she answered “yes,” Jesus was conceived, and God’s plan for salvation could go forward.

Christians have celebrated the Annunciation for centuries. Typically, the feast is scheduled for March 25, exactly nine months before the celebration of Christmas. However, in the West, when March 25 falls within Holy Week or the first week of Easter, the feast is moved to Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter (now known as Divine Mercy Sunday).

As adults we celebrate many events such as the Annunciation with prayer – Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, the Angelus, etc. However, for children, these ways of celebrating are not always experienced as much fun. So, with that in mind, I’d like to suggest an alternative way to celebrate: Make Angel cookies!

To make Angel cookies, take any recipe for a cookie that allows rolling out the dough and cutting out a cookie. (Even brownies could be used for making Angel Cookies if time is short.) Use an angel shaped cookie cutter to shape the cookies before baking. Be sure to decorate them with frosting/icing or with some  kind of “sprinkles” of colored sugar to make them festive. Then share them as part of a festive meal. Light a candle, have a special drink, use nicer dishes than normal, have a food that is a treat for your family — any or all of these things will make the day special for the children and family who share them.

As you share this day, keep your ears open for the voice of angels in your life. God’s messenger still comes, though perhaps not as momentously as in the visit to Mary. What is God saying to you and me today?

Peace.

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Posted by on Jun 13, 2014

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Crepe Paper and Sticks Become a Bird for Pentecost

 

Feathers all ready for flying

Feathers all ready for flying

The primary image of Pentecost is that of tongues of fire that accompanied the sound of a rushing wind and settled over the heads of the disciples, both men and women, gathered in the upper room of the home in Jerusalem where Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper with his friends and then appeared to them on several occasions after the Resurrection. In this unforgettable moment, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and empowered them to witness to what they had seen and heard of the love of God and the coming of God’s Kingdom to the world. The Church was born on that day nearly 2,000 years ago and the Holy Spirit continues to breathe life and love into God’s world through ordinary men, women, and children.

Many ways of celebrating Pentecost exist around the world, beginning with the gathering of the community to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. For children, other activities can make this a special day as well.

Common symbols of the Holy Spirit include a dove, the wind, and a flame. A craft I learned many years ago makes an enjoyable activity for children to celebrate during Easter Season and Pentecost.

Crepe Paper & Stick Birds

Supplies:

2 thin sticks or branches – about 1 1/2 to 2 feet long
String or yarn – 1 foot length
Cellophane tape
Crepe paper – white, yellow, red, orange
Orange ribbon (optional)

Making your bird

Take two sticks of unequal length and tie them together in the form of a cross. Use string or yarn to tie them securely and help hold them in the cross shape.

2012-04-17 17.02.28

Next take a bit of the crepe paper and wrap it around the yarn to help stabilize the bird’s body.

Take the orange ribbon or a bit of orange crepe paper and wrap it around the tip of the shortest end of the sticks. Go around the stick enough times to make a beak and a head for your bird. If you use ribbon, you can use crepe paper to cover the body-end of the beak and build up a head.

2012-04-17 17.07.17

Once the head has been formed and the center stabilized, take a long strip of crepe paper, tape it to the stick or to itself, and begin wrapping it around the sticks.

2012-04-17 17.14.49

Cover both sticks completely with crepe paper. Leave only a little of the beak showing.

Close-up of head

Close-up of bird’s head

Take strips of whatever color of crepe paper you are using and tape them to the bird’s wings and tail. Some will want to tape them all along the wings. Others will put them only at the tips. Either way works just fine.

Feathers all ready for flying

Feathers all ready for flying

When the feathers have all been attached, the bird will be ready to fly.

Away we go!

Away we go!

 

This bird can be constructed to celebrate Easter, the Resurrection (as a phoenix), or Pentecost (as a reminder of the Holy Spirit who comes igniting the fires of love and settles like a bird on those called to God’s family).

Come Holy Spirit. Fill our hearts with the fire of your love. Blow where you will in our lives. Strengthen us to respond with the freedom of a bird flying in your love.

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Posted by on Nov 2, 2013

Soul Cakes in November

Soul Cakes in November

 

Pope Francis reminds us that the Feast of All Saints (November 1) is a day to celebrate peacemakers. Pope Francis also tell us to remember on the Feast of All Souls (November 2) that when we die what matters most is how we have treated the poor and those at the margins of society. Many traditions for celebrating these feasts are found around the world. El dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead in Mexican culture is an elaborate remembrance of the dead. A northern European tradition is making, giving, and eating of Soul Cakes.

Soul Cakes are small cake-like pastries. Typically they are made with spices including ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and/or cloves. They may have raisins or currents baked into them. They may be frosted or sprinkled with powdered sugar. They may also be made of sweet dough like a sweet roll.

During the Middle Ages, especially in northern Europe, England and Ireland, soul cakes were baked and shared as part of the celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Each cake was marked with a cross. People called “soulers” went from house to house, offering songs and prayers for the dead. They received these cakes as gifts and ate them. Each cake eaten was believed to represent a soul released from Purgatory.

Today, the custom of giving and receiving soul cakes, especially as a way of freeing souls from Purgatory, has fallen by the way. Nevertheless, making and eating soul cakes is an enjoyable way to mark these feasts and celebrate them in family or community.

The recipe for Soul Cakes here is one I have developed from several basic cookie recipes. I like it because it is easy to make and includes pumpkin, for a special seasonal flavor. It doesn’t include raisins or currants, but a handful of either could be added to the dough if you like. Nuts could also be added, but they are not essential.

Pumpkin Soul Cakes

Ingredients:

Wet:
1 C Shortening (Butter or margarine)
1 C Sugar or 3/4 C Honey
1 Egg
1 C Pumpkin (cooked and pureed)

Dry:
3 1/3 C Flour (either white or whole wheat will work – I used whole wheat.)
1 t Salt
1 1/4 t Cinnamon
3/4 t Ginger
1/2 t Baking powder
1/4 – 1/2 t Cloves, Nutmeg and/or Allspice (to taste)

Cream shortening and sugar. Add pumpkin and egg and mix together well. Combine dry ingredients then add gradually to the wet ones, stirring well.

This dough can be chilled and rolled out for cut cookies or it can be baked as drop-cookies. I make them as drop cookies using a teaspoon to scoop about a tablespoon of the dough from the pan and drop it onto a greased baking sheet. Flatten them slightly before baking if you want to put a cross on the top of them.

Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes.

When cool, frost with a powdered sugar or other icing in the shape of a cross. A little bit of vanilla in the icing adds a nice flavor.

(If not planning to use the cookies as soul cakes, swirl the frosting over the top with a knife or leave them unfrosted. They’re good either way.)

Enjoy with friends and family — and remember to offer a prayer for those who have gone before us.

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on May 31, 2013

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Feast of the Visitation – Celebrating Blessings Hidden Within

The Visitation - Mary and Elizabeth meet - Luke 1:39-45

The Feast of the Visitation is a celebration of the meeting of Mary with her cousin Elizabeth when both women are expecting their firstborn children. Mary, a very young woman, has given her consent to become the mother of Jesus in response to God’s request. Elizabeth, a much older woman who has never been able to have a child, has conceived a son miraculously in her old age following the visit of an angel to her husband while he was serving in the temple. Word of Elizabeth’s pregnancy has been offered to Mary as a sign that “nothing is impossible with God.” Knowing how difficult the last months of pregnancy can be, especially for an older mother, Mary hurried to help her cousin.  The joy of their meeting and the song of praise Mary offers to God for the wonders they are experiencing have resonated through history. In fact, Mary’s prayer, known as the Magnificat from its first word in Latin, is part of the daily prayer of the Church, included as part of Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Celebrating the Feast

This feast is remembered among the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary. Readings and prayers for the Mass celebrated on this feast are all focused on the great joy of the gift of these two improbable pregnancies and of the women themselves, as well as our joy with and for them. The prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours also remind us of the event.

The Magnificat has been set to music by many gifted men and women through the ages. David Haas, John Michael Talbot, and Rory Cooney have composed some of my favorite versions.

One way to celebrate this feast is to make cream puffs and share them with family and friends. Praise God for coming to share life with us through the Incarnation of his son. Give thanks for all the women who have courageously born and raised children, treasuring the wonder of sweetness and life hidden within their wombs.

 

 JESUS MAFA. The Visitation – Mary and Elizabeth meet, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48279 [retrieved May 31, 2013].

 

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Posted by on Mar 16, 2012

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread "Cookies"

One of the great things about being Catholic is getting to celebrate the feasts of those who have gone ahead of us – the saints. There are so many saints to celebrate that every new day could bring with it a reason for a party! Some saints, however, are associated with certain nations or ethnic groups and their feasts get celebrated more widely, even by those who don’t share their faith or ethnicity.

Saint Patrick is one of those whose feast has become identified with the people of a nation. St. Patrick is remembered for bringing Christianity to Ireland. Though born in Wales, his feast is marked with great celebration of Irish identity in the United States, not just by those of Irish origin. In typical immigrant fashion, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with greater enthusiasm by the Irish in America than in Ireland. Music speaks of loves lost, homes left behind, and dreams of returning someday. Foods are not necessarily those that were eaten in the homeland, but rather those eaten by immigrants to a new land, with touches of the old ways for comfort.

With all this in mind, making Irish Soda Bread can be a good way to celebrate the life of a man who was taken to another land as a slave, escaped some years later, and then returned to bring the Good News of Jesus to the people of that land.

Here’s a recipe we’ve enjoyed.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour *
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken **
1 large or extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Zest of one orange
2 tbsp caraway seeds
1 cup dried currants

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or lightly grease a baking pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 50 – 60  minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* You can use 4 cups of all-purpose flour in lieu of white whole wheat. Just omit the baking powder

** No buttermilk? No problem. Measure out 1 2/3 cups of milk and add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to bring the mixture to 1 ¾ cups.

Alternate Idea for Shaping:

After kneading the dough, roll it out to about ½ inch thickness. Cut with a shamrock shaped cookie cutter. Bake at 375º for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. The biscuits will be lightly browned.

Cool on baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

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Posted by on Feb 20, 2012

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Celebrating Lent – A Puzzle to Get Started

As Lent begins this coming week, we are called to turn from activities or things that separate us from God and instead do something positive to clear our way to return to friendship and union with the Trinity. It is a time to celebrate God’s love for us, trusting that God is in charge and even hard lessons help us become closer to the One who loves us unconditionally.

In the spirit of celebration, then, let’s start with a puzzle. Click here for the solution once you’ve tried it. Click here for a version you can print.

 

 

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Posted by on Nov 30, 2011

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

An Advent Calendar to Make with Children

Advent Activities calendar

Advent calendars are a traditional way to mark the passage of days in December leading to Christmas Day. Unlike Advent itself, which varies in number of days, Advent calendars only count the 24 days of December before Christmas. Some have a candy or other treat for each day. Some have a picture of a toy or tell a bit of the Christmas story. Each day, one door is opened. As the month progresses, it becomes quite clear how close Christmas is coming.

Advent calendars are a wonderful way to help children experience Advent as a season unto itself. They also help children to experience in both tactile and visual form the passage of time.

I developed this Advent calendar for the children in grades 3-5 when I was teaching in our parish religious education program. It’s an easy project to do in an hour or two and offers a daily reminder of things to do together or individually to prepare for the coming of Christ in our daily lives, on the Last Day, and as he came historically – the day we celebrate at Christmas.

 

Advent Calendar

You will need:

2 – sheets of white  card stock or construction paper – 8 1/2 by 11
1 – small brad
1 – 5 inch ribbon (wrapping paper type is fine)
Crayons, watercolor paint, colored pencils, pastels or other “coloring” medium of your choice
Adhesive tape
Scissors
Needle

To make your Advent calendar:

Advent Calendar Cover Page Template

Activities page
  • Draw/color a picture of a lighted candle on the larger circle that has only the “cut-out” marked. Be sure to draw your candle so that the cut-out points to the lower right side of the picture. Don’t worry if the coloring goes outside the lines of the circle. It won’t matter. The important thing is that the child draw the picture, not that it be a great work of art!

Advent Activities Picture

  • Cut out the cover picture (of the candle) and the activities page.
  • Cut out the area of the cover picture inside the dashed lines.
  • Make a loop with the ribbon and tape it to the back of the top of the cover picture, so the picture will look straight when you hang it up.
  • Poke a hole in the center of each page, where the black dot is.
  • Insert the brad through the holes, with the cover on top and the activities page underneath. Open the wings of the brad on the back side of the Advent calendar to hold it together. The activities page should be able to turn behind the cover.
  • Set the calendar to Day 1 and hang it where you will see it each day of December and remember to do something special to prepare for Christmas.

Happy Advent!

 

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Posted by on Nov 11, 2008

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Martinmas and Veterans Day

St. Martin as a bishop: modern icon in the chapel of the Eastern Orthodox Monastery of the Theotokos and St Martin, Cantauque, Provence.

St. Martin as a bishop: modern icon in the chapel of the Eastern Orthodox Monastery of the Theotokos and St Martin, Cantauque, Provence.

The feast of St. Martin of Tours, sometimes known as Martinmas, falls on November 11. In the United States, we celebrate November 11 as Veterans Day – a day we honor those who have served in the military of the country. It is a national holiday, though many businesses are open and retailers offer sales in the hope of luring people who are enjoing a day off!

As a child, I remember hearing people from my grandparents’ generation speak of the day as Armistice Day. This was the day, in 1918, on which World War I stopped. The Armistice was declared and hostilities were set to end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – and so they did. That was a war called “The War to End All Wars,” but unfortunately, it didn’t. So, when World War II followed all too soon afterwards, the name of the day was changed to Veterans Day, in honor of all veterans.

It seems appropriate that the feast of St. Martin of Tours coincides with this day of honoring those who have served their countries militarily, as he too served in the army. His life and contributions to the Christian community are discussed in greater detail in an earlier post, and they were impressive. Nevertheless, he is most commonly known for the legend told about him, in which he is approached by a begger and asked for help. Martin is said to have cut his military cape in half and given half of it to the beggar. Later, in a dream, he saw Christ in the form of the beggar, wearing the cape.

Martin was not a Christian at the time he served in the Roman cavalry, but had entered the Catechumenate before entering the military. Before he left the army, he had been baptized. As his faith grew and deepened, he became convinced that as a Christian, he could not kill, even as a member of the military. He accepted arrest and imprisonment rather than fight. He volunteered to go to the front of the troops, unarmed, but a peaceful solution was reached before the battle, so he did not have to prove his courage and commitment to non-violence in that way.

It seems to me that Martin’s insight that killing is not the calling of Christians is one that has been shared by many men and women who have served or refused to serve in military forces through the centuries. Certainly, there have been times when Christians have turned their backs on this belief, even claiming that killing was done on behalf of God. For those times we must beg God’s forgiveness and that of those harmed. However, the veterans I have known generally will say that war is never the best answer to human disputes. Terrible things happen in war. It does not really resolve the problem between nations. Sometimes it seems to be the only way to stop a terrible evil, but it’s never the best option. (Stopping the Holocaust is often given as an example of a good reason to go to war, but it must be acknowledged that even World War II was fought not to stop the Holocaust – of which there was very little awareness outside of Europe – but rather to stop the military aggression of certain nations.) Martin of Tours would agree that war is never to be the first response of nations or their people to conflicts with others.

But what, you ask, is Martinmas? Martinmas is the name of the celebration of Martin’s feast in Europe. I first experienced the celebration of Martinmas when my sons were little and attending Waldorf school. (Waldorf schools celebrate many European Christian holidays.) It is a harvest festival. It is a festival that marks the end of Autumn weather and the beginning of Winter weather in many nations. The thing that was most fun about the feast was the custom of making lanterns and going out after dark to walk with the lanterns.

For a week or more before the feast, the children would make lanterns of paper. Some were simply construction paper colored by the children and rolled into a cylinder with a bottom and a wire handle. Others were more elaborate. Sometimes a balloon was inflated as a base and tissue paper layers glued over the balloon to form the lantern. Once a wooden frame was built in the form of a star. Then layers of tissue paper were applied to form the walls. Leaves and glitter were included on that lantern. That one hangs in our living room to this day, a beautiful reminder of a school festival and a saint’s feast day.

(In some schools, glass jars are decorated for lanterns. They are also beautiful, but tripping in the dark can result in dangerously broken glass. Plastic peanut butter jars might be a reasonable solution to that problem!)

Once completed, the lanterns are hung by wire from a stick, a candle placed in the bottom, and children and parents sally forth in a procession around the school or neighborhood. In some countries, children visit neighbors and receive candy or other treats – much like Halloween in the US.

Martinmas Lantern Walk - From Today in Faerie School

Martinmas Lantern Walk – From Today in Faerie School

If you decide to celebrate Martinmas with a lantern walk, be very careful with lighted candles. There are now battery-operated “candles” that you might consider using, especially for very young children. We never had any serious accidents, but I’m sure Martin wouldn’t mind opting for safety on his feast.

After you go out for a little lantern walk, follow up with a warm dinner and/or dessert, lots of laughter and fellowship and a happy night’s sleep.

Happy Martinmas! Happy Veterans Day! And may the Lord help us all to find better ways to resolve our differences.

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