Thursday, July 20, 2017

Once I Was Blind But Now I See - Book Review

Charles Piccirelli grew up in an Italian Catholic family in Baltimore, Maryland. Like many, he lost his faith in his early teens. But although he lost his faith, he did not lose a thirst for the deeper meaning in life. He did for a while, however, search for it in all the wrong places. While he searched in the wrong places, he also engaged in behaviors which reflected the places he was in – the occult, the entertainment industry and a local gang.

God has a way of changing our game plan, often not overnight, but eventually. While enjoying a singing and dancing career with his older brother, Bud, Bud broke his leg and that put an end to the dancing. Regrouping they became a singing duo and enjoyed success regionally, eventually taking their act to Hollywood. After a few months, the brothers were back in Baltimore disillusioned with Tinsel town.

Meanwhile, Charles was living at home and somewhat at loose ends. His mother urged him to invite Mary, a family friend, out to a big Italian celebration. Reluctant to do so, affection for his mother wins out, and Mary is invited. What a surprise Charles has while he and Mary are riding over to the Italian banquet. He hears the voice of God telling him that he is going to marry Mary. Confused and yet ecstatic that the God he has been searching for has spoken to him, he begins a lifelong relationship with the Lord that reflects both the ordinary means and some extraordinary charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Once I Was Blind But Now I See is one man’s witness to the Lord’s presence in his interior life and the call to follow the Holy Spirit in the nitty gritty of his daily life and in the lives of all that the Lord brings to him. The book is divided into two parts: Once I Was Blind which is nine chapters and Now I See which is twenty-one chapters. In the early part of the book the Lord is drawing Charles out of himself and into the life of the Holy Spirit, from a life of sin and selfishness to a life of grace and the struggle to be faithful to the Lord’s work in his life.

Many chapters in the book reveal ordinary situations that many of us have found ourselves in. But in the case with Charles, the Lord often interrupts Charles’ thoughts to give him direct answers to the prayers he prays and the guidance he seeks. In these interruptions, as Charles describes them, God speaks to Charles and directs him to take certain actions for himself or for others. Charles also has visions which have affected his faith life dramatically and that of his family and friends.

There are many miracles and beautiful lessons in this book testifying to Charles’ journey as he becomes a fuller disciple of the Lord. Those lessons are not just for Charles. They are for all of us! I remember thinking as I was reading a chapter that God worked a miracle for him while he was still in sin.  “Does God work miracles for sinners? I don’t think so!” I thought. Then it struck me. “Of course, he does.” God works miracles for sinners, you and me all the time! So often we don't recognize them.

One thing becomes clear as you read the book and follow Charles’ relationship with the Lord. Each one of us must learn to listen to the Lord more closely, to pray to recognize the “still small voice” in our lives and to “cast out into the deep” when we are directed to do so.  We may not experience the same gifts as Charles, but the Lord has many things to tell each one of us and gifts to give. Read this book, be inspired, and thank the Lord for the many miracles he has performed and continues to perform through Charles.  Pray, and ask the Lord to help you learn how to listen more closely to him as he speaks to you. You cannot read this book without coming away with lessons and guidance for your own journey with Christ and with his Holy Spirit. Thank you, Charles for sharing the Lord’s work in your life with us and Kim for assisting him with the book. To purchase the book go to,

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Moving this Summer?

Are you moving this summer? You may find this book helpful. 
Adventures of Faith, Hope and Charity - Finding Patience is a sweet children's story which is sure to appeal to children who have recently been uprooted.
Three sisters find themselves in a new town. Their Dad has taken another job, and Mom is busy unpacking and helping everyone settle in, except Faith. Faith is the oldest and she is anxious about the new environment: the neighborhood, school and friends. Hers is a wise Mom and Dad who provide just the right amount of guidance, love and understanding to enable Faith to wait for a good friend.
 This story offers the child who has just moved a comforting ending and for other young children a lesson in prayer and patience. It's one of those stories that you cozy up on the couch with a throw and snuggle together while reading it to younger family members or as an enrichment story in your classroom. Children will love the vivid colors of the illustrations and will want to page through them many times over.

This book can be found on

Friday, June 30, 2017

St. Junipero Serra, O.F.M, July 1

The feast day of St. Junipero Serra is sure to bring back memories of his canonization on September 23, 2015, at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Serra was the first saint to be canonized on U.S. soil. Born on the island of Majorca in 1713, he was educated by the Franciscans from an early age. Entering the order when he was fifteen, the date of his ordination is uncertain but December of  1738 is given. He studied for and received a doctorate in theology in 1742 and later in 1749 was assigned to America as a missionary to the Indians. He is best known for founding nine of the twenty-one California Missions. For more information on St. Junipero Serra,

Washington, D.C. and its surroundings were alive with excitement over the visit by Pope Francis on the occasion of the canonization and subsequent visit to the United States Congress. 

Our diocesan priests rode the metro to the Brookland/CUA station where we all disembarked, waiting to get a glimpse of the crowds and the set-up for the event that was just out of sight from our metro view.

It was a long wait to get beyond security and the ticket checkers. We found some old friends and met a few new ones while we waited. Fr. Peter from TN is with Rosemary and her friend's daughters from CA. We were not the only ones, waiting and praying patiently for our turn to go through security.

Finally the wait was over. At least the first leg of it. We rounded the corner and saw the staged altar with the large monitors to the right and to the left, which would allow many to watch the canonization Mass from a distance. That was us!

And finally, Pope Francis came out and Mass began. The excited crowd quieted and an experience of a lifetime began for all those present: the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra on American soil. What a grace for the United States.
When all had ended, we stopped and looked back at the basilica with its carillon
 tower left of the dome and the large banner of St. Juniper Serra barely visible to the top right of Rosemary's hat. It was a day and experience that we would never forget. St. Junipero Serra, pray for us and for the United States.

Closer view of the banner hanging on the front side of the basilica.

If you are inspired to make and bake an edible treat from St. Serra's birthplace of Majorca, here is a link below to the recipe I posted in 2016. Enjoy and happy feast day!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Divine Mercy Sunday - Divine Mercy Sundaes

Sunday, April 23, 2017, is Divine Mercy Sunday. Our Lord appeared to a Polish nun, Sister Faustina, in 1935 and instructed her in a prayer called the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The prayer is said on rosary beads and consists of an Our Father, Hail Mary, Apostles Creed and two other prayers directed to God. One offers the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in atonement for personal sins and for the whole world. The other for the sake of the Passion of Jesus asks for mercy on the one praying and on the whole world. This is a very powerful prayer given by Our Lord himself.
 Here is a link on how to say the chaplet,
For a fuller understanding of the Divine Mercy message, 

The Catholic Women of the Chapel at Fort Lee, VA, have come up with a creative way to celebrate this day with their young families. Called Divine Mercy Sunday/Divine Mercy Sundaes they will pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3pm with their families and conclude the afternoon by making dessert sundaes. Perhaps some of you might like to try this with your young families? Sister Faustina was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paull II. St. Faustina pray for us!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Family Lenten Activities with Grandparents, 2017

Every year the Church gives us the season of Lent. A season of penance and renewal.  Penance is the turning away from sin and the opening of our hearts to more fully receive God’s gifts. The renewal is a reminder of our baptism when through water and the words of the priest or deacon, the Holy Spirit of God first entered our souls, removing original sin and flooding us with grace. As Catholic grandparents, how can we help our grandchildren to make room for Jesus and experience more of his life and grace this Lent? The following are a few suggestions.

Praying Arms - Pretzel
If you live near your grandchildren, invite them over to make pretzels! Pretzels were traditionally Lenten fare. Made originally of flour, water and salt, their shape is in the form of arms folded in prayer. Serve the pretzel and use it as a springboard to explain prayer as a conversation with Jesus. Burying the Alleluia is a fun and instructive activity. Catholics do not say the Alleluia at Mass during Lent, the Church’s penitential season. Alleluia means “praise Yahweh.” The Alleluia returns at the Easter Vigil Mass, the Church’s season of rejoicing. For instructions for burying the alleluia or making palm crosses, go to

The Stations of the Cross are prayed in many parishes. When you go, invite your grandchildren to join you.  For younger grandchildren, outdoor Stations of the Cross are a better option, or The Stations of the Cross coloring book from Pauline Books & Media. Children’s Station of the Cross booklets are available from

Lenten Calendar from
Children need concrete activities. There are printable Lenten maps which take the child day by day on a journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. You and your grandchild determine the activities.  I like the linked paper chain activity made from purple construction paper. Every good deed adds a link to the chain. The challenge is to see how many good deeds can be made before Easter arrives! There are more children’s activities at  

Bread Dough Crown of Thorns

For your crafter/artist a bread dough crown of thorns or crucifix will draw them into the deeper meaning of Lent. 

Scones for the Annunciation

Hot cross buns, scones for the Annunciation and ceam puffs for the solemnity of St. Joseph will keep baking hands busy,, archive 2015.

Lent is a time for fasting. We associate fasting with food but it is also a time to fast from TV, electronics and technology. We can help our grandchildren fill their time with good books. Suggest reading  a saint whose feast day falls during Lent to fill their technology fast!  The Lent-Easter Book by Joan Marie Arbogast is full of activities, stories and printables suitable for grades K – 3 and 4- 8. More books for children can be found on 
Singh family benefits from Operation Rice Bowl with new farming techniques

Operation Rice Bowl or a similar charity is a way to share money saved from sacrificed treats.  Show your grandchildren pictures of how the money will be used, so they can see how their sacrifices help others.

Our love for Christ and the Church is the greatest gift we can share with our children and grandchildren.  Immerse yourself in the season, and be assured of the many graces and blessings the Lord will bestow on you and your family.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mardi Gras - Hush Puppies

Mardi Gras Hush Puppies
These Hush Puppies are delicious. They are from another recipe Doris Dean gave me. The Cajun Chicken and Andouille Gumbo recipe on my last post was hers. The Hush Puppies pictured here were my second batch and definitely an improvement over my first. I am not in the habit of deep-frying foods.It takes me awhile to master getting the temperature and the frying time right when I do deep fry. These puppies came out quite nicely, crispy on the outside and cooked on the inside. Below is the recipe. They go very well with gumbo. I am planning on making them again on the Monday before Mardi Gras to serve with a gumbo I just made. We will have a King's Cake from a local bakery for dessert or beignets. I have made the beignets dough but am waiting to fry them with my son-in-law's deep fryer. I will give you the beignets recipe in my next post with photos.

                                                              HUSH PUPPIES


2 cups cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (buttermilk is best but anything will do)
Cajun seasoning (or red pepper - 1/2 tsp)
Chopped green onion tops (one bunch)
2 Tbsp grated onion

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.  In another bowl beat eggs, add milk, and add this to the cornmeal mixture.  Add onion and red pepper.  Drop by spoonful in hot deep fat (375 degrees) and fry until brown.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mardi Gras - Cajun Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

This is my friend, Doris Dean's, recipe for Cajun chicken and Andouille Gumbo. Doris grew up in Louisiana and has given me a number of authentic Cajun recipes. I made it on Friday and served it on Saturday evening to family members, who only had good things to say about. I hope you will enjoy it, too. I will be posting more about Mardi Gras foods, customs and origins over the next couple of weeks.

                                   CAJUN CHICKEN AND ANDOUILLE GUMBO


1 large onion (chopped)
1 large green bell pepper (chopped)
1 rib of celery (chopped)
4 stalks green onion (chopped)
Tony Chacherie seasoning (if you have it), or salt, red pepper and garlic powder - I used 1 1/2 tbsp. of Tony Chacherie seasoning
1 Whole chicken
1 pound Andouille Sausage (smoked beef also works)

¾ cup flour
1 cup vegetable oil (or butter) – (NO Margarine or other kind of oil)

Chicken Stock
In a pot (at least 5 quart), heat 2 or 3 quarts of water to a boil and add seasoning (salt, red pepper and garlic powder) and boil the chicken until you can remove the meat from the bones (keep the liquid as your stock). Remove the meat and place the meat back into the stock. (Discard skin and bones). Return the stock to a slow boil.

Chop all ingredients before you begin making the roux. (The roux must be stirred constantly so no free hands to chop ingredients)

While the chicken is boiling, prepare the roux
In a skillet, heat the oil until a pinch of flour tossed in sizzles. 
Gradually add the flour and stir constantly (use a wooden spoon). 
Continue to stir until it is a dark caramel color.
Turn off the heat and add the chopped onion, bell pepper and celery (save the green onions for later).  Stir thoroughly for a few minutes. (This cooks the seasonings and cools the roux). Then set aside.

Slice the Andouille sausage in thin circles and brown in a skillet for a few minutes (some people prefer to not brown it and just add to the stock after slicing, either way is good).  Add to the chicken stock. 

Add roux mixture and green onions and stir thoroughly and cook for 25 minutes. (The longer you cook a gumbo, the better it tastes – the time given here is a minimum.)

Serve over rice and sprinkle with file’ (if you have it).


5 1/2 lb. chicken

Roux at the beginning

Roux as it cooks

Roux when it is ready - notice the color
Vegetables added to roux

Andouille lightly browned
Chicken and Andouille added to the chicken stock, and roux with vegetables