Thursday, March 26, 2015

Scones for the Annunciation, March 25

The Annunciation is a solemn feast in the Catholic Church. It is a pivotal event in the life of the human race. God, the creator of the human family, sends one of his angels, Gabriel, to a young, virgin named Mary to ask her to become the mother of his Son. Gabriel greets Mary, "Hail full of Grace." Luke 1:28 The greeting troubles Mary. More troubling is the angel's message "Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." Luke 1:30 -31  Mary questions the angel, "How will this be, since I do not know man?" Luke 1:34  And the angel replied that the child would be of the Holy Spirit. And he continued that her cousin, Elizabeth,  had conceived in her old age. Mary replied to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Luke 1:38

 St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that when Mary responded in the affirmative to God's plan, she was affirming for the whole human race. For humanity had lost through the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, the grace and friendship intended for the whole human family. On the solemnity of  the Annunciation, we celebrate the acceptance by Mary of God's desire that she become the mother of his Divine Son. When the Virgin Mary replied in the affirmative to the angel, the Son of God became flesh in her womb.

The Annunciation and the conception of the Son of God in Mary's womb resulting from her, "Yes," and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit are great events for the whole human race and for each of us personally. Mary's, "Yes," changed the course of the human family's descent into sin and death to an ascent into grace and eternal life. It was an auspicious beginning, albeit a quiet one. It should cause us great joy and happiness when we consider how radical a change it made and continues to make in the souls of men and women, if we let it. God became man so that He might suffer and die for us and restore what was lost by our first parents, God's friendship and grace. This is why we celebrate the Annunciation both as a solemn feast because it is a principal mystery of the faith, and as a cause of joy for Christians because it was the beginning in time when the Word of God became man.

So let us celebrate by going to Mass if possible, reading of this event, Luke 1:26-38, or praying the Angelus. Enjoying a nice meal with family and friends or a special treat is another way to recognize the Annunciation's signficance.  Below is a recipe for Orange Scones which I made for the feast. It is a simple but, nevertheless, enjoyable treat, especially since the Annunciation falls during Lent when scones have been left off the menu at our house!


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 tbsp. finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice 
l large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds
Coarse sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place racks in upper and lower third positions. 
2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together. With pastry blender work butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. With a fork, stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk, orange zest and orange juice, egg yolk, and poppy seeds just until combined.
3. On lightly floured surface, place dough and knead several times. Form dough into a 7 inch square; cut into 9 squares, then cut each in half diagonally. Transfer dough triangles to two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until scones are lightly golden, 15 - 17 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cool on wire racks. Serve with butter and jam if desired.
This recipe is taken from Martha Stewart Living, 2014 with minor adjustments.


Without sugar on top


Thursday, March 19, 2015

St. Joseph, Hero of the Holy Family, March 19

 For someone who has no recorded words in Sacred Scripture, there is quite a lot to say about him. First St. Joseph was selected to be the protector of Mary and Jesus, the Virgin Mother and the Word made flesh! Of all the men ever created or ever will be created, St. Joseph was the one chosen. There is much food for thought in that fact.

St. Joseph was there in the beginning of Jesus' life when the shadow of Mary's pregnancy threatened his peace, Matt. 1:18 & 19. He was there when the cloud was lifted, and Mary's child was revealed to be of the Holy Spirit, Matt.1:20. He was asked to accept Mary, to give the family name to Jesus of the house of David, and to protect and raise the Son of God. St. Joseph was there for the joy of the Savior's birth and for the challenges which threatened their little family at every turn, Matt. 2:13 - 15. His life was not at easy one, but it was a greatly blessed one.

St. Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus, but he was Jesus' father in every other way: protector, guide, teacher, provider, and model of what it means to be a virtuous man. St. Joseph ate with Jesus, played with Jesus, helped His mother, shared their home and traveled to Jerusalem on pilgrimages. It was a silent life, but one we will only begin to plumb the depths in heaven.

St. Joseph is the universal patron of the Catholic Church.
He received that title in 1870 from Pope Pius IX. There are many miracles attributed to St. Joseph. The people of Sicily are devoted to him and consider him their patron. The St. Joseph altar that so  many parishes and schools set-up to honor him on March 19 developed out of their gratitude upon receiving the answer to their prayers for rain many years ago.

St. Andre Bessette of Montreal had a tremendous devotion to St. Joseph. Many miracles were worked by St. Andre through the prayers said to St. Joseph on behalf of the many sick and troubled souls who requested his intercession. St. Andre had such a great devotion to St. Joseph that he built the very beautiful St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, where many crutches and other medical aides hang from the walls in testimony to the numerous miracles received through St. Joseph's intercession.

St. Joseph's feast day is a solemn feast. It is of the highest liturgical rank. St. Joseph is a saint of universal importance. His feast day is one of the ten Holy Days of Obligation in the Universal Church. In the United States we are dispensed from observing it as a holy day of obligation, but we should honor St. Joseph by going to Mass if we are able or say some prayers that are dedicated to him. We can make and eat treats to celebrate his life and virtues with family and friends. Because his feast day is a solemn feast we are dispensed of our usual Lenten sacrifices; it is like a Sunday in Lent.
Here is a picture of cream puffs with the recipe to follow that you might enjoy making today or on a Sunday during Lent. The French custard filling is very delicious.

St. Joseph Cream Puffs

INGREDIENTS: Cream puffs

1/2 Cup of butter
1 Cup of sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 Tsp. salt
4 Eggs


1. Melt butter in 1 cup of boiling water.
2. Add flour and salt all at once; stir vigorously.
3. Cook and stir till mixture forms a ball that does not separate.
4. Remove mixture from heat ; cool slightly.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each till smooth.
6. Drop by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on greased cookies sheet.
7. Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes, then at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes.
8. Remove from oven; split.
9. Turn oven off; put cream puffs back in to dry, about 20 minutes.
10. Cool on rack.

INGREDIENTS: French Custard Filling

1/3 Cup sugar
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 Tsp. salt
1 1/2 Cups milk
1 Slightly beaten egg yolk
1 Tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup whipping cream, whipped


1. In saucepan combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt.
2. Gradually stir in milk.
3. Cook and stir till mixture thickens and boils. Cook and stir 2 - to 3 minutes longer.
4. Stir a little hot mixture into egg yolk; return to hot mixture in saucepan.
5. Cook and stir till mixture just boils. Add vanilla and cool.
6. Beat smooth and fold in whipped cream.

INGREDIENTS: Chocolate Glaze

1 1/2 Cups of sifted confectioners' sugar
2 Squares (2 oz.) semisweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tsp. vanilla
2 to 2 1/2 Tbsp. hot tap water


1. Melt seemisweet chocolate and butter in microwaveable bowl on high for 40 seconds. Stir thoroughly.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and stir till smooth and of a glazing consistency.
3. Add a few more drops of water to thin, if necessary. Use immediately.


1. Split cream puffs in half.
2. Place 1/4 cup of French custard filling in bottom half of puff. Cover with top half of puff.
3. Drizzle chocolate glaze over top of cream puff. Repeat. Makes ten cream puffs. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick, Irish Soda Bread Recipe and Resources!

Happy Feast of St. Patrick, b. 387, d.461. Today throughout Ireland and many of the countries where the Irish immigrated, St. Patrick Day celebrations are taking place. St. Patrick was born on the western coast of the British Isles. His parents were Roman citizens. When he was about sixteen years old, he was kidnapped by a band of raiding pirates and taken to pagan Ireland and sold as a slave.

The conditions of his slavery were harsh, and it can be imagined that he wondered at times if he would ever be free again. Through the grace of God, he one day escaped and eventually found himself on the shores of his homeland.

 Patrick had a great calling by God. Throughout his young life many unusual and extraordinary occurrences took place. You can read about them in greater detail for children ages 8 and up in The Life of Saint Patrick by Quentin Reynolds or in a short version for younger children, Patrick Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola. There is a DVD, Patrick: Brave Shepherd of the Emerald Isle for children, too. For a short write-up for adults click on St. Patrick.

There are numerous ways we celebrate the feast of St. Patrick in the United States. Parades are very popular, as are evening events with Irish dancing, entertainers and special foods and drinks. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and his feast day is a solemnity in the Catholic Church in Ireland. Here in the United States it is an optional memorial. Many Catholics both Irish and "Irish at heart" attend Mass on the feast of St. Patrick. The prayer Saint Patrick's Breastplate is a favorite to be recited by many on this day. Breastplate Prayer

I have been busy baking my mother-in-law's recipe for Irish Soda Bread. There are a number of different versions of Irish Soda Bread, and this is one our family enjoys. It has a hint of nutmeg in it which gives it a slight flavor of this favored spice.

Here is the dough all ready for a short kneading.

Shaped, cut with the cross, the bread is ready for baking.

Fresh from the oven, the Irish Soda Bread is cooling before we enjoy our first piece!



4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Tsp. Salt
3 Tsp. Baking powder
1 Tsp. Baking soda
1/4 Cup sugar
1/8 Tsp. Ground nutmeg
2 Cups raisins (golden or others)
1/4 Cup butter
1 Egg
1 3/4 Cup of buttermilk

DIRECTIONS: Preheat over to 375 degrees F         YIELD: Two round loaves

1. Combine in a large bowl: flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and spice.
2. Cut in butter with the pastry cutter. Mixture should be crumbly.
3. Add raisins.
4. Beat egg slightly and add to buttermilk.
5. Add wet buttermilk liquid to the dry mixture. Stir well until blended.
6. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
7. Grease two round pans.
8. Divide dough in half and shape each into a round loaf. Place each loaf in a cake or pie pan (8 inches). Press down dough until it fills the pans. With a sharp knife, cut a cross on the top of each loaf, about 1/2 inch deep in the middle.
9. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  
10. Remove from oven. Let cool. Enjoy plain or with butter and jam!


Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Visit to the Blessed Sacrament with Children

 A wonderful practice to begin with our children this Lent is visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the consecrated Host, which remains in the tabernacle in the church waiting for us to come and visit Him.

Above is an example of a tabernacle. Jesus told us that He would remain with us even to the end of time. "And behold, I am with your always even until the close of the age." Matthew 28:20  His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament is one of the ways He is with us. He also said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God." Luke: 18:16

So what must we do to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with our children?  I would first suggest that you find out if your parish church is open during a time that you can take your children without a lot of other events going on - organist practicing for Mass, choir practice, etc. Quiet in the church is a prerequisite for visiting Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Once you know it is going to be quiet, then tell your children what you are going to do. "We are going to visit Jesus at church today". Let them know Jesus is looking forward to their (our) visit. Tell them He is in the Eucharistic host in the tabernacle. Explain that the sanctuary light, which is usually red, but in some churches is white, tells us that Jesus is really present in the consecrated Host in the tabernacle. Let them know Jesus can really hear and see them and that He loves the fact that they (we) are coming to say "hi" to Him and tell Him that  they (we) love Him.

I suggest having one short formal prayer for all of your children to say together: the Hail Mary, the Glory Be or an ejaculation: "Jesus, I love you. Bless us." Then if time permits and your children are not fidgety, have each child say a short prayer aloud to Jesus.  End by telling Jesus, "We love you, " and leave. They can wave good-bye and throw kisses to Jesus if they feel like it.

Make the first visit to the Blessed Sacrament short and sweet.

It is important that you as the parent help the children to understand that Jesus loves them and is looking forward to their visit, but also that Jesus is God and that we show our respect for Who Jesus is by our joyous and well-mannered behavior. Some characteristics of well-mannered behavior would be blessing ourselves with holy water when we come into church. Genuflecting before we kneel in the pew or before we kneel in front of the altar. Genuflecting when we leave church. If you as a parent do these things in a very natural way, your children will come to do them in a natural way, too. There is a balance that each parent must find with their own children. We want our children to love Our Lord and to share that love with joy and good feelings. However, church is not a free for all. It is not a place to run and race and hop all over the pews and run around the altar, even if you are alone in church. Our Lord is truly there and He is our friend, but He is also our Creator, through Him all things were made, our Brother, and our Savior.

You and your children will receive many graces for even a short visit of one minute. Just popping in and saying "Hi Jesus. We love you." Will bring inestimable graces to your family. Do not doubt it. Have great faith.

Next post, I will discuss more visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

St. Katharine Drexel, March 3

St. Katharine was born into the Drexel family of Philadelphia, a family of great wealth and prominence in 1858. Her mother died when Katharine was only 5 weeks old. A year later her father, Francis Drexel, married Emma Bouvier, who welcomed Katharine and her older sister, Elizabeth, as if they were her own daughters. Katharine and Elizabeth were joined by a baby sister, Louise, a few years later. Together the three sisters were raised in a loving and devout Catholic family.

Emma Bouvier Drexel was a woman who possessed a great love for the poor. She fed numerous families every week and paid the rent for 150 families every month. The example to her daughters inspired and modeled how a Christian woman entrusted with great wealth was to be a good steward of the Lord's gifts. Katharine's father also had numerous charities that benefited generously from his benefactions.

From an early age Katharine had a love of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and a love for those in need. However it was not immediately clear to her what vocation was to be hers. She felt called to the religious life and perhaps to the contemplative life, but her spiritual director, Bishop James O'Connor advised Katharine to "think, wait and pray." He thought that Katharine could better use the large fortune at her disposal to help the poor as a lay woman rather than as a religious. Torn between the direction of Bishop O'Connor and her inclination to the religious life and the perceived needs of Native American and African Americans, she decided to quietly ask Pope Leo XIII to send missionaries to regions in the United States that served both groups during a private audience. Pope Leo XIII surprised Katharine when he suggested that she become a missionary! Startled by this proposal Katharine wrote her director of the pope's challenge . Bishop O'Connor realizing that Katharine indeed had a vocation to religious life encouraged her to form a religious order of her own to serve the Native Americans and African Americans in regions where needed.  Katharine agreed. This was the beginning of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. To read more about St. Katharine's life and the founding of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Tarry, Ellen (2000). St. Katharine Drexel – Friend of the Oppressed. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.

St. Katharine Drexel's feast day often falls during Lent, as is the case this year. Instead of making some treat to celebrate her virtues of generosity towards those in need and her faithfulness to the Lord's call to found a religious order, why not make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in your parish with your children? Lent is a perfect time to introduce our children to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and how He waits to be visited by us. There are many times during Lent that a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament could be made. In my next post I will offer some suggestions for visiting Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament with children. St. Katharine Drexel, pray for us.