Benedictus Deus

Benedictum Nomen Sanctum eius

Preparing for Easter

Filed under: Lent,Liturgical Calendar — Posted by: benedictus April 18, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

Homemade Cannoli Shells

Like most people we have a lot of special foods we like to have at certain times of the year.  Our parish used to have cannoli sale fundraiser every year at Easter.  These were real cannolis, made by an older Italian couple.  We usually didn’t have cannolis any other time of year, so they became known as an Easter treat around here.  So much so that when I once ordered a cannoli for dessert at some other time of the year, my kids were scandalized.  ”Papa!  Cannolis are for Easter!”

Sadly, since last year we have not been able to have the cannoli sale.  I looked into buying them from reputable bakery, but the cost was more than double what we paid at the church sale.  We had to go without.  But I am a bit of DIYer so this year I took matters into my own hands.  I decided to make the shells on Palm Sunday, and make the filling Holy Saturday.  I bought some cannoli rolls from Amazon, and thought, “how hard can it be?  You make some dough, wrap it around the roll, dunk it in the oil.  Boom!  Homemade cannoli shells.”

The first batch

Turns out you have to be really careful with the oil temperature.  These things burned pretty much instantly when the oil temperature was above the recommended temp.  The next batch came out better, but they all came loose from the roll, and ended up as slightly curved circles.  Whoops, I forgot you are supposed to use milk or egg to press them together at the top.  At least those ones are still edible.  Most of the rest came out fine, so now we have about twenty six cannoli shells, included a batch of gluten free shells I made for my wife.

So, it was a bit of pain, but I think well worth it.  Family traditions are important to maintain, especially to children (and maybe to adults more than we realize).  All the better if the tradition involves family making the food together.  I need not repeat the many wonderful things that have been written about how important food is to our families and relationships.  Obviously we can’t allow holy days to become all about the food, or other externals (as has happened so much to Christmas).  But I believe when these external customs are observed in their proper relation to the holy days, they help water the seed of faith that we are planting in our children.

And for different kind of preparation, here is an excellent hymn for passiontide that stumbled on at youtube.


Saint Isidore the Farmer

Filed under: Saints — Posted by: benedictus April 16, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

Here is a post I did about St. Isidore the Farmer, at the site for our parish FNE group.

St. Joseph’s Day

Filed under: Liturgical Calendar,Saints — Posted by: benedictus March 18, 2014 @ 8:53 pm

St. Joseph IconTomorrow is the feast of the St Joseph.  Devotion to St. Joseph is certainly not the most ancient in the Church (at least in the West), but I think it is especially fitting that popular devotion to him has grown significantly over the last couple of centuries.  His feast day was put on the Roman Calendar by Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484) and was gradually increased in rank throughout the centuries.  He was added to the litany of Saints by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.  In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared him a patron of the whole Church, and elevated his feast to first class (source).  Finally, in 1960 John XXIII added him to the Roman Canon.

As a side note, you can tell his cultus is not ancient by the fact that he was not in the Litany of Saints, the cannon of the Mass, nor is he mentioned in the Confiteor.  In ancient times (and maybe still today) John the Baptist was always considered the greatest saint after the Blessed Mother, and the archangels, which is why he is mentioned right after them in the litany and Confiteor.

At any rate, the many problems facing modern fathers is no secret.  Catholic men today need a strong devotion to Saint Joseph.  To that end, in our family, we have replaced the “Hallmark holiday” of Father’s Day, with St. Joseph’s day.  Since we already observe Mother’s Day on Mothering Sunday (only 2 weeks away!) it seemed like a good transition.  Besides, it just makes more sense to associate a celebration of fatherhood, with a saintly exemplar of what true fatherhood is.

We used to go to an italian restaurant for dinner, but since my wife developed a gluten allergy, we change it up now.  But at least we will have some excellent Italian pastries, made special for St. Joseph’s day, thanks to the efforts of my friend who made a long trip to pick them up from a real bakery.

For some interesting reading, you can try the Protevangelium of James, which tells the story of how Joseph to be Mary’s husband (paragraph 9).

Celebrating Epipany

Filed under: Christmas,Gueranger,Liturgical Calendar — Posted by: benedictus January 14, 2014 @ 10:01 am

Yesterday (1/13) we wrapped up the octave of Epiphany.  Christmas continued here, with lights and all.  For most of the world, even the Catholic world, it probably passed by without much notice. Even for Epiphany itself, at lease here in America, most customs associated with it have been condensed into Christmas day.  There are some places that continue to do Christmas activities until the new year.  But after the 1st?  Forget it.  Christmastide is well passed at that point.  It’s back to the grind!  Well, for Catholics the whole 12 days of Christmas, and Epiphany too should be time to celebrate.  For too long Catholics have gone along with the secular way of celebrating  Christmas. Even Dom Gueranger mentions this back in his day.  After describing the 12th night custom of a “King’s Feast” celebration:

King’s Feast is still a Christmas joy in thousands of families; and happy those where it is kept in the Christian spirit which first originated it! For the last three hundred years, a puritanical zeal has decried these simple customs, wherein the seriousness of religion and the home enjoyments of certain Festivals were blended together. The traditions of Christian family rejoicings have been blamed under pretexts of abuse; as though a recreation, in which religion had no share and no influence, were less open to intemperance and sin. Others have pretended, (though with little or no foundation,) that the Twelfth Cake and the custom of choosing a King, are mere imitations of the ancient pagan Saturnalia. Granting this to be correct, (which it is not,) we would answer, that many of the old pagan customs have undergone a Christian transformation, and no one thinks of refusing to accept them thus purified. All this mistaken zeal has produced the sad effect of divorcing the Church from family life and customs, of excluding every religious manifestation from our traditions, and of bringing about what is so pompously called, (though the word is expressive enough,) the secularization of society. (Volume III – Epiphany)

I think this is a part of why it was so easy to make all those changes after Vatican II.  To a large extent, home life was already divorced from liturgical life.  The traditional celebrations became mere customs without the faith to back them up.  And holy days, were just another day to go to Church.  But without that tie in between our celebrations at home and why we are celebrating it, it is much harder too pass on the faith behind these festivities to our children. And frankly many kids won’t appreciate their faith as much if they don’t see that it is the grounding for these memorable family times.

If you separate the liturgical feasts from the home feasts, then the celebrations loose their mooring.  When the liturgy isn’t at the root, you get an inverted Christmas season, and loose Advent altogether.  You get materialism and “holiday stress.”  Slowly but surely, the celebrations revert to paganism (although there is decent wassail recipe there).

Well, we have to stop going along to get along. We cannot accept the “Commercial” holiday. When it’s Advent lets observe Advent. When it’s Epiphany let’s observe Epiphany, continuing our Christmas celebration well into the new year. Things are too crazy in our world today to just Keep going along. The ancient Christians managed to live in pagan Rome , we Can live in the pagan modern world . But we can’t be afraid to do things the Catholic way.wpid-storageextSdCardDCIMCamera2014-01-14-22.28.27.jpg.jpg

I have said before that I think those who are able, should make it a priority to take off work and school for major feast days.  And lets try to keep the right customs at the right times.  A good resource for feast day foods is Evelyn Birge Vitz’s A Continual Feast.  It’s organized according to the liturgical year, starting with Advent of course, and has traditional foods from many different Catholic countries.  To Help spruce up our octave of Epiphany, we made some old fashioned egg nog.

I also believe this is the right way to restore our liturgical traditions as well.  Don’t wait for Rome to reinstitute octaves, and ember days.  When enough people observer them informally, they will be restored formally.

Oktoberfest and Michaelmas

Filed under: Festivites,Liturgical Calendar,Time After Pentecost — Posted by: benedictus October 25, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

This past Oktoberfest I was wondering if there was a connection between that grand fest and the feast of Michaelmas.  Bavaria is the main part of Germany that remained Catholic after the reformation, so it was hard to believe there was no connection.  However, the current Oktoberfest stems from the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Theresa of Saxe-Hildburghousen in 1810.  The royal couple kindly invited everyone, and also arranged for horse races.  The event was so popular among the Bavarian folk, that they continued to celebrate the anniversary of the royal couple each year.  The fest grew and grew, to eventually include a farm show, rides, and other entertainment as well (though the original horse race attraction was dropped).  So the modern Oktoberfest is not directly related to Michaelmas.

But, proper Oktoberfest beer, Märzen, is.  In 1539 A Munich city ordinance was passed restricting the brewing of beer during the Summer to reduce the chance of fires in the city.  Brewing was allowed from Michaelmas to the feast of St. George (April 23rd).  So, at the end of the brewing season they would brew enough beer to last the summer.  I guess the last batches were started in March (März) which is how they got their name (That’s right, its a beer named after March to be served in September for an October festival).  I like how, in good Catholic fashion, they ordered their laws around the liturgical calendar.  At any rate, when Michaelmas (and the new brewing season) rolled around, they emptied the stores of old beer to clear the way for new beer.

There are in fact many fests in Bavaria throughout the year, especially the summer.  Oktoberfest is just one among many.  So, it’s hard to believe there wasn’t already a fest around that time before the royal wedding of 1810.  However I wasn’t able to find any information about it.  If anyone knows anything else about it, I would appreciate learning more.

Here is some amber ale I brewed myself with the intention of having it ready for Michaelmas, but I got a late start so it’s more of St. Luke brew.  But I put an icon of St. Michael with it anyway.

Homebrew amber ale intended for Michaelmas


Filed under: Church Issues,Saints — Posted by: benedictus September 27, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

“They openly declared that they were Christians, and that the Christian faith is necessary to salvation.”

This is from the third lesson of Matins for today’s feast of Sts Cosmas and Damian. This is what they told the Roman prefect when they were arrested on charges of being Christians.  What stood out to me, was not that these holy martyrs boldly proclaimed their faith in our Lord, but took the opportunity to inform their capture of the necessity of their faith for salvation. Why is it so hard to get a clear statement from our shepherds today about this necessity?

Maybe His Holiness’ recent public letter to an atheist has made me more sensitive to this topic. But why is that whenever the question of who can be saved arises today, the only thing we hear is an over emphasis on the exceptional possibility that those who are not in visible communion with the Church *could* be saved anyway. And whenever this is broached there is never any clarification that even in these cases, God is spiritually including them in the Church, in spite of their failure to enter it visibly.

I know, I know. We want to be inviting and not scare people off. I get that. If you get people to talk to you about the faith, you can get into the details later, when they are more open to it. Fine. But at some point you have to disclose the whole truth, and let people know that, yes, the Christian faith is *necessary* for salvation. What I wouldn’t give for one statement, spoken with the simplicity of the faith of the ancient martyrs, from a modern bishop on this matter! He wouldn’t even get his head cut off for it (in most places anyway)!


Beheading of Sts Cosmas and Damian, painting c1439

Beheading of Sts Cosmas and Damian, painting c1439

Feast of St. Louis

Filed under: Liturgical Calendar — Posted by: benedictus August 30, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

Last Sunday was the feast of King St. Luis IX.  To honor the feast day we had crepes for breakfast!  I was planning more variety, but due to illnesses during the week, I didn’t get a chance to get extra ingredients.   So, making due with what we had on hand I made two kinds of very simple banana crepe fillings.  The crepes themselves are simple to make.  The batter is based on the recipe at FishEaters (scroll down for the recipe), I just enlarged the portions.  I used this recipe for one of the fillings.  The other is just 8 oz of french vanilla yogurt, with about a teaspoon of cinnamon mixed in.  Then I chopped up one whole banana and mixed that in.  Both fillings were very good for being so simple.  Then we had some confectioner’s sugar for garnish.  I let the kids fill/top the crepes as they saw fit.



The Akathist Hymn

Filed under: Lent,Liturgy,Saints — Posted by: benedictus August 14, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

The wonderful feast of the Assumption reminded me of this other beautiful devotion to our Lady in the Easter churches.  We live about forty minutes from an Greek Orthodox church, and one of our family friends is a member there.  Our friend invited us there a while ago for their Akathist Hymn.  Every Friday evening for the first five Fridays in Lent, the Easterns pray this “hymn”.  I have never been to any Eastern liturgical service before, so I was curious to go.  I was a little hesitant since it seemed like a lot of travel time for a hymn.  I knew that nothing the Greeks do is short, but even if it was a half hour or more, that’s still a lot of driving.  Well, I didn’t need to worry about that.  What they call a hymn, is really a whole service with many prayers and rituals.  It lasted almost two hours!

The Akathist hymn goes back to at least 626, and probably further than that.  It is basically a series of praises and supplications to our Blessed Mother embedded in the middle of Compline.  Byzantine Compline is not much longer than Roman, the vast majority of the service is the hymn.  At the church they had a large, very nice icon of our lady set out in front, with flowers all around it.  At the beginning of the service some young girls in white dresses brought more flowers up to the icon.  There were many Alleluias throughout the service which was a bit jarring for me.  It was already Easter for us, but for the Eastern churches it was still Lent.  Evidently they don’t have the same tradition of suppressing the Alleluia during Lent.

The service itself was very beautiful.  There was plenty of incense, and the whole thing (except a short prayer at the end) was chanted Byzantine style.  The priest alternated between Greek and English.  After the service the faithful can go up and venerate the icon (some people did during the service, and that seemed to be ok too).

My friend very kindly gave me a copy of this book, so I could follow along with the service.  It is quite a nice little volume, and in the introduction the translator notes that one of the first English translations was done in 1934 by Fr. Vincent McNabb (who wrote the Church and the Land among other things).  He quotes Fr. McNabb saying:

“No apology is needed for introducing the ‘Akathistos’ to the Christian West.  Indeed the West might well be apologetic about its neglect, or ignorance of such a liturgical and literary masterpiece!”

The translator also notes that Pope Benedict XIV granted a 50 day indulgence in 1746 for both Eastern and Latin Catholics who recite the hymn.  I think there is still an indulgence today, but it might only apply as an alternative to the rosary for Eastern Catholics.

Even though the public services of this Hymn are a Lenten practice, It seems to me that it would be a great prayer and meditation any time of the year.  Especially Assumptiontide.  So here are some brief excepts to give you a sense of the lovely prayers:

The Archangel was sent from Heaven to say “Hail!” to the Theotokos.  And with his bodiless Voice, beholding You O Lord embodied, he was wonder-rapt and stood crying out to her:

Hail! To You, through whom joy shall shine forth.  Hail! To You, through whom the curse will vanish.

Hail! The recalling of the fallen Adam. Hail! The redemption of Eve’s tears.

Hail! O Height beyond human logic.  Hail! O Depth invisible, even to the eyes of Angels.

Hail! For you are the King’s Throne.  Hail! That you bear Him, Who bears the Universe.

Hail! O star revealing the Sun.  Hail! O Womb of Divine Incarnation.

Hail! To You, through whom creation is renewed.

Hail! To You, through whom the Creator is born a Babe!

Hail! O Bride Ever-Virign.

Most Holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

In faith with voices of song O All-Praised we, sing unto You; Hail O fertile Mountain seasoned by the Spirit. Hail! O Lamp and Vessel containing the Manna, which sweetens the senses of the faithful.

Most Holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

Hail! O all-pure Lady, expiation of the world. Hail! O Ladder, elevating all from earth by Grace. Hail! O Bridge, which truly leads all who praise You from death unto life.

Most Holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

In order that we may greet You with “Hail” O Maiden, deliver all the faithful and partakers of everlasting joy from all temptations, barbaric sieges and every other affliction that befalls us mortal, because of the multitude of our transgressions.

As The Hen Doth Gather Her Chicks

Filed under: Bible — Posted by: benedictus August 9, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not?  (Matthew 23:37)

Sometimes it’s nice to also have a visual.

Our mama hen with her new chicks

Our mama hen with her new chicks

Look closely to spot the chicks!

Look closely to spot the chicks!

Some of the chicks, just because they're cute.

Some of the chicks, just because they're cute.

St. John’s Day Festivities.

Filed under: Festivites,Liturgical Calendar,Saints — Posted by: benedictus July 3, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

I thought I would share a few pictures from our celebration of the Nativity of John the Baptist.  The party was last Saturday the 29th (Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul) which would have also been during the Octave of John’s Nativity prior to 1955.   I’ll start by  noting that it had rained here (heavily) every day for the past six or seven.  But Saturday was one of the nicest days we have had all month.  It has also rained every day since then too.  Every year the weather turns out great.  Personally, I believe its beyond coincidence at this point.  I think Our Lord is encouraging others to have celebrations in honor of great feast days, instead of crap like “new season of American Idol” parties.  I do not mean to imply it has anything to do with me.  It’s a simple matter of Our Lord honoring his saints.  My wife figured we had about 35 adults and 70 some children.  So, here are a few pictures:


How about a sponge fight for hot summer day?


8-9 year old heat of the annual sack race. (sadly there are no pictures of the adult race)

Lighting the bonfire after Vespers.

Lighting the bonfire after Vespers.