Saturday, February 6, 2016

Pastries for St. Agatha's Feast Day

St. Agatha, Pray for us!
St. Agatha holding her breasts on a plate

A recipe and some commentary here and here on these pastries for St.Agatha's Feast Day, February 5th.  I was surprised to read that the latter doesn't mention searching at Veniero's for the St. Agatha cake but does mention finding them at De Robertis, which, alas, is no longer in business.  Next year, if I'm in NYC on February 5th, I'll have to stop by Veniero's.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Snow Christmas Hymns

I thought I knew all the Christmas carols and hymns there were to know--Hark The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel, Good King Wenceslas, Joy to the World and so on and so forth.  Then, about 15 years ago,  I heard for the first time ever the beautiful Once in Royal David's City. From that point on, there have been every year carols that I've never heard before--Sussex Carol, Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming, Infant Holy, Infant Lowly to name a few.

Included in these unfamiliar carols or hymns were several what I'll call snow carols.  Invariably, one of these snow-themes would become wrapped up in another and I would take the verses from one carol and combine it with the refrain from another thereby mixing myself up as to just which snow carol I was singing. This past Christmas season, I finally sorted them out.  There are four: The Snow Lay On the Ground,  See Amid the Winter's Snow,  Gesu Bambino and  In the Bleak Midwinter.

"The snow lay on the ground, the stars shone bright, when Jesus Christ was born that holy night."  So begins the eponymously named carol's first verse.  "See amid the winter's snow, born to us on earth below," and in Gesu Bambino (English translation of the Italian lyric),  "When blossoms flower er'e mid the snow all on a winter's night." Jesus is born on a snowy night.  In Bethlehem  And not surprisingly, in Christina Rossetti's poem set to music,  the midwinter is bleak because "Snow had fallen snow on snow, snow on snow."  

Whence the snow and the birth of our Lord?   No surprise perhaps, but Irving Berlin's iconic 'White Christmas' of 1940 is not the source of Christmas as a snowy holiday.  Rather, Berlin's song evokes our almost 200 year old tradition of a white Christmas which dates to the Victorian era and to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol  in particular written in 1843. Prince Albert who was of German descent is credited with having imported German customs and traditions as well.  As for snow in Bethlehem, it is possible and as for the birth of Christ falling on or about December 25th, there is good reason for it to be so.

But whether fact or fancy makes little difference. Much like the flowers that appeared when Our Lady dispatched the peasant Juan Diego to request from the bishop that a church be built on the slopes of Tepeyac, Jesus comes when least expected and completely out of season.  The snow carols lay before us in rhyme and verse the utter implausibility of it all--the "tender Lamb appears" in a world "hard as iron," a rose flowers in the bleak midwinter, a "manger poor" is actually a throne, a poor baby who "built the starry skies" is the Savior of the world. The Light of the world comes into the world at the darkest time of the year.  He comes under cover of cold and buried in the mystery of snow on snow so that, unless we actually search to see Him amidst the world's snow and darkness, we may ourselves become caught up in only the bright reflections of the starry night and not see clearly that "He Whom Mary bore was God the Son."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Nano Farms

It's always a little bit iffy when we pray at our Wednesday Novena for a just distribution of the earth's wealth.  The word 'distribution' leads one's thoughts possibly to 're-distribution' which leads one's thoughts possibly to think of the Church's often politicized social justice ministries that lead one's thoughts possibly to Socialist ideologies.  Are we asking for a just distribution of the earth's wealth or for a re-distribution of people's individual wealth? I admit to muttering that intention half-heartedly.

Here, however, is a ray of sunshine in a Catholic approach to poverty.  A priest has seen fit to cash in on, if you will, that faddish business of sustainable agriculture, eating local, farm to table and farm to fork and so on and on with Nano Farms USA.

Father Larry Goode is the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in East Palo Alto, a small and historically low-income city in the San Francisco Bay area. Recently, Fr. Goode watched as big tech companies – Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – bought up most of the land surrounding his neighborhood, driving rent prices up and St. Francis' low-income families out.He started brainstorming with St. Patrick's seminary professor Father George Schultze and Ignatius Press founder Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio to come up with a way to create sustainable income for the poor in the area. That's how the idea of NanoFarms USA, a worker-owned farming cooperative, was born.
After receiving permission from Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and St. Patrick's seminary rector Father Gladstone Stevens, Fr. Goode and St. Francis parishioners started using seminary grounds to plant produce, which they then started selling at local parishes and markets.
Not only do they sell the produce but they also sell miniature gardens, the Nano Farms, and then supply the labor to maintain them. Fr. Goode says, "NanoFarms is responding to the Holy Father’s constant call to the Church to care for the poor."  

Perhaps at the Wednesday Novena, instead of praying for a just distribution of the earth's wealth, we might rather pray for the distribution and growth of many Nano Farms.