16th Day of Christmas: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord, bringing to close the season of Christmas.

 

“The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ, might have the power of baptism.”

-St. Ambrose of Milan

Words can hardly express how much we have grown as a family, and also as a Church community, during these last 44 days [of Advent and Christmas]. In the waiting, we experienced the joy of expectation. In following the star, we found the courage to carry on. In gazing into the newborn Jesus’ eyes, we witnessed the fulfillment of a promise. In the waters of Christ’s baptism, we begin anew.

And to sweeten the renewal of our faith, here is a traditional Greek recipe for Diples (more popularly known as Christ’s Diapers):

Christ’s Diapers
INGREDIENTS
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Grated rind of 1 orange
  • Vegetable Oil or shortening for deep frying
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Chopped pistachio nuts
  • Confectioners’ sugar

 

Directions

With an electric beater, beat the eggs until light and fluffy.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Gradually stir the flour into the eggs.

Turn the dough onto an unfloured board. Add the olive oil, a little at a time, and the grated orange rind. Knead the dough until it is smooth—about 10 minutes.

Roll the dough out paper thin on a well-floured board. Cut it into squares about 1 1/2 inches across. Fold these into triangles, then join the ends to form diapers. Press the corners together gently but firmly. (If you don’t press the corners well, the diapers will come undone!)

Drop the diapers, a few at a time, into hot fat (360º-370º F. on a deep-fat-frying thermometer). Turn once or twice and fry until golden brown. Drain thoroughly on paper towels.

Bring the honey and water slowly to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the cinnamon and lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 or 2 minutes.

Dribble the honey syrup over the diapers, and sprinkle them with chopped pistachios, then with confectioners sugar.

When the diapers are fully dry, pack them in a tin and cover tightly. These keep well, if well covered.

Recipe Source

Continual Feast, A by Evelyn Birge Vitz, Ignatius Press, San Francisco , 1985

15th Day of Christmas: Solemnity of The Epiphany of the Lord

The Solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrated either on January 6 or, according to the decision of the episcopal conference, on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.

For Christians, the Epiphany commemorates the coming of the Magi to the child Jesus, the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world, as had already been made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem.

[Image source: Wikimedia Commons, artist: Heinrich Hofmann]

By definition, epiphany also means:

"An appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being, or an usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking; or an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure"... which could arrive by way of "a revealing scene or moment"  

[source: "Epiphany." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2017].

The adoration of the Magi, in many ways, marks the beginnings of our Christian faith, the time “when the great mass of the heathen sets off to follow the star which summons it to seek its Saviour” (source: Catholic Culture website).

Scald milk in saucepan. Stir in butter, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reserve; cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Stir into above cool milk mixture. Add eggs. Sift 3 cups flour, remaining salt, spices together. Add to milk mixture; beat until smooth. Stir in fruits, peel. Add enough additional flour to form soft dough.

Turn dough out on floured board; knead until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl; brush with shortening. Cover. Reserve to rise in warm place 2 hours, until double in bulk.

Punch down dough. Turn out again on board. Divide dough in 2 parts. Bury a bean and a pea in each part. Shape into rounds. Place in greased 6-8 cup molds. Cover. Reserve to rise 1 hour, until double in bulk. Bake 45 minutes at 375°. Cool on rack. Glaze with thin white icing.  Yield, 2 cakes

Recipe Source

Catholic Cookbook, The by William I. Kaufman, The Citadel Press, New York, 1965

14th Day of Christmas: Memorial of St. Raymond de Penafort

Badge of the Order of St Raymond of PenyafortA most fascinating miracle is said to have occurred when St. Raymond de Penafort went to the went the Island of Majorca with King James to preach about Jesus:

“King James was a man of great qualities, but he let himself be ruled by passions. There on the Island, too, he was giving bad example. The Saint commanded him to send the woman away. The King said he would, but he did not keep his promise. So St. Raymond decided to leave the Island. The King declared he would punish any ship captain who brought the Saint back to Barcelona. Putting all his trust in God, Saint Raymond spread his cloak upon the water, tied up one corner of it to a stick for a sail, made the Sign of the Cross, stepped onto the cloak, and sailed along for six hours until he reached Barcelona. This miracle moved the King. He was sorry for what he had done, and he became a true follower of St. Raymond. St. Raymond was one hundred years old at the time of his death.”

[source: This story was derived in part from Saint Raymond of Peñafort written by Michael Morris, OP, published in Magnificat, January 2004/Vol. 5, No. 12]

Because St. Raymond was of Spanish descent, it would be fitting to make nothing other than the National Dessert of Spain, Flan:

INGREDIENTS

For Caramel

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

For Custard

  • 2 cups heavy cream, light cream, or milk
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Several cups of boiling water
Directions

Put 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in small saucepan (not aluminum). Over low heat, cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts, turns clear and then golden brown, approx 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour into bottom of six 4 – 6 oz custard cups.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs and 2 extra yolks with salt and sugar until pale yellow.

Place cream in small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to steam.

Add cream slowly to egg mixture, stirring constantly.

Pour into prepared custard cups.

Place cups in a baking pan and pour boiled water into the baking pan to within about 1 inch of the tops of the cups.

Bake until custard is just wobbly, about 30 minutes.

Cool, then chill.

To serve, dip cups into boiling water for about 15 seconds, then turn upside down onto a plate.

Recipe Source

Catholic Culture website, http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/recipes/view.cfm?id=1411

13th Day of Christmas: Three Kings Day

Lord's Prayer

“When you say the Our Father, God’s ear is next to your lips”[St. Andre Bessette]

Today is Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany of Our Lord (Traditional)...the solemnity of which will be celebrated on Sunday.

It is also the optional Memorial of St. Andre Bessette, whose life was filled with sickness, sadness, and the loss of his parents at a young age.  Encouraged by a pastor to pursue a vocation, he sought acceptance with the Congregation of Holy Cross.

“I am sending you a saint” [From Andre’ Bessette’s pastor to the Holy Cross Congregation]

Although initially denied acceptance at Holy Cross due to his poor health, Bessette was eventually accepted there as a Novitiate. For nearly 40 years, he served as the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal. During this time, he unselfishly served the poor and inflicted.  Having dreamt as a child of  “a beautiful church on the top of a mountain,” Andre saved every last nickel and dime he had in order to build a shrine to St. Joseph.  This shrine, which many a sick pilgrim would climb the mountain to see, would eventually become a church visited more than a million pilgrims annually. Hundreds of cures were attributed to Andre’s prayers with the sick every year.

Learn more about the life and work of Saint Andre’ Bessette at the Holy Cross website.

In honor of the Three Kings who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the young Jesus, we gift our children three gifts today that will aid them in their spiritual journey toward God-filled lives.

The first gift, representing *gold*, is traditionally a piece of jewelry, such as a saint medal, or a new rosary. This year, each of our children was given a set of Sacrifice Beads, named so after Saint Therese, who as a child wanted a way to keep track of her daily “presents” to God. Here is a sneak-peak at the one that I gifted my middle daughter. They are fairly easy to make (there’s an awesome tutorial here), I chose to support Holy Heroes, a Catholic family business, and ordered them pre-made.

The second gift, representing *frankincense*, is traditionally a book. Since I have three boys, who are a shoe-in for playing the parts of the three wise men in our family nativity scene, I humored myself this year and gifted them each a “kingly” book!

The third gift, representing *myrrh*, is traditionally something that can be worn or kept close to the body.  Last year, we gifted them with personalized Saint pillowcases.  This year, we chose Aroma Pets, scented with none other than…myrrh (blended with lavender or cedarwood for my older four) For my younger two, I will skip the myrrh and scent it with either lavender or cedarwood.

Since the three wise men followed the star to Bethlehem, I thought it fitting that at least one of the Aroma Pets be a star.  The others – among them a pony, a dog, a turtle, and two cats – are super cute as well.  Personally, my favorite is the turtle…but, shhhh, don’t tell!

This morning, as usual, I woke the kids up to music. During Ordinary Time, our usual wake-up-and-go-to-the-breakfast-table song is “Good Morning, Jesus” by The Renna’s.  However, during Christmas, it’s Christmas music…whatever song that seems appropriate for that day.  Today, it was this particular version of “We Three Kings”-

We also added the traditional Epiphany House Blessing to our morning devotion, that we hope will serve as a daily reminder to let Christ lead our day.

Merry Christmas and Happy Epiphany!

12th Day of Christmas: Memorial of St. John Neumann

By Nheyob, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

John Neumann was born in Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic). He came to New York at age 25 and was ordained a priest. At age 29, he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States. His missionary work took him to Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he became popular with the Germans.

At age 41, as bishop of Philadelphia, Neumann organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time.

Neumann is, perhaps, most well-known for introducing the “40 Hours of continual adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament” during a time in which there was great hostility against the Catholic Church.

Here is the story of what transpired (excerpted from St. John Neumann and the 40 Hours Devotion by Joseph Mary).  Keep in mind that at the time, two Catholic churches had already been burned down and another just barely saved.

One night, he was working very late at his desk and fell asleep in his chair. The candle on the desk burnt down and charred some of the papers, but they were still readable. He awoke, surprised and thankful that a fire had not ignited. He fell on his knees to give thanks to God for protection, and heard His voice saying, "As the flames are burning here without consuming or injuring the writing, so shall I pour out my grace in the Blessed Sacrament without prejudice to My honor. Fear no profanation, therefore; hesitate no longer to carry out your design for my glory."

The Forty Hours Devotion was so successful it spread to other dioceses. At the Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866, six years after Neumann’s death, the Forty Hours Devotion was approved for all Dioceses of the United States.

In honor of St. John Neumann, a Bohemian sweet bread called Vanocka is often baked. It is said that, “Such a cake you never saw. It was beautiful if I do say so myself. There was the Christ child, with the swaddling clothes as neat as though they were just wrapped.”

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 cups sifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 cakes yeast or 2 packages dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 6 Tablespoons warm milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 4 Tablespoons citron
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup chopped blanched almonds
Directions

Cut butter into flour (as for piecrust). Add sugar, salt and lemon rind. Dissolve yeast in milk with two tablespoons sugar and four tablespoons flour. Add to first batter. Beat in eggs and milk. Knead until smooth. Add fruit. Cover and let rise for two hours. Braid as described: Roll and pull the nine pieces of dough until they are long strands, each about three feet long. Braid four of the strands and place in a large pan on greased paper. On this wide braid, place another regular three piece braid. Finally, place a simple twist of two ropes on top of the other braids. Place dough in 11 by 18 inch tin. Brush cake with beaten egg white. Let it rise again for one and one-half hours. Varnish with beaten egg whites and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake in moderate oven (350°) about 75 minutes.

Recipe Source

Cooking for Christ by Florence Berger, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50310, 1949, 1999

9th Day of Christmas: Feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

source: Wikimedia Commons

As friends, bishops, and fellow saints, Saint Basil and Gregory Nazianzen are just two of 35 doctors recognized by the Catholic Church, “from whose writings the whole Church is held to have derived great advantage, and to whom “eminent learning” (eminens doctrina) and “great sanctity” (insignis vitae sanctitas) are attributed”  [source: New World Encyclopedia].

source: CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

In Greece, New Year’s Day is often referred to as St. Basil’s day and is celebrated with the sharing of St. Basil’s bread at midnight.   According to tradition, a silver coin is baked into the bread. Whoever ends up with the coin receives special blessings from St. Basil all year.

(If you’d rather not bake a coin into your bread, you can always substitute one whole almond instead!)

Vasilopita – St. Basil’s Bread

Ingredients
  • 6 cups + 1/2 cup bread flour, divided use
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons package dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm milk, divided use
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, divided use
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • Crushed almonds, for a topping
  • 1 coin (cleaned)
Directions

In a small mixing bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of warm milk, yeast, and 1/2 cup of flour. Let the mixture rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Place remaining 5-1/2 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise seeds. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add yeast mixture, 3 eggs, butter and remaining 1-1/2 cups of milk and mix well. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead for at least five minutes, adding more flour as needed to form a smooth though slightly sticky dough. Tuck a coin into dough before pressing into a well-greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Cover and let the dough rise until double in bulk, about1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. Beat reserved egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush top of dough with some beaten egg and then sprinkle crushed almonds over the top.

Bake until crust is a golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom (about 45 -55 minutes). Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and complete cooling on a wire rack. Yield: 1 large loaf or 12 to 16 pieces.

Recipe Source

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of the Orthodox Kitchen

8th Day of Christmas: Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Happy New Year 2017

On this day in our liturgical year, we celebrate Mary as the Mother of God – she who not only gave Jesus life, but who continues to breathe life in our hearts and minds as as Children of God.

“To celebrate Mary as Mother of God and our mother at the beginning of the new year means recalling a certainty that will accompany our days: we are a people with a Mother; we are not orphans” – Pope Francis

No matter who we are, whether we are mothers or fathers, Christians or Non-Christians, Mary’s faithfulness – her resounding “yes,” her willingness to stand for what she believed in, are virtues worthy of our embrace.

“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart!” – Luke 2:19.

Like the bright star that led the three wise men to the stable that glorious night, may the New Year bring hope in a brighter tomorrow. Like Mary, may we nurture life and love one another as she did her God-son.