Thursday, October 20, 2016


Kevin Henkes is not a saint. But . . . hold that thought.

I want to announce that my two-year spiritual journey launched and sustained by a series of rejections is over. Simultaneously a period of grief and transformation, I've come out of it strong and grateful for everything I learned about addiction, psychology, spirituality . . . and I could go on but I don't want to.

Two situations helped me realize I was finished with that particular journey and ready to being new ones. The first was my latest Beach Meandering Treasure. (See Bonus Material below.)  The second were feelings that began to bubble up related to my son who's in his third year of college. I experienced visceral memories of all those delicious hours spent reading picture books while he sat on my lap with his sippy cup and blankee. I remembered kissing his left temple with every page turn. Yummy!

These memories and glints of sadness appeared here and there over several days. Then one afternoon, alone in the house, I experienced a flashback of sitting in the rocking chair with him all cozy and snug, thinking to myself how happy I was and how the moment was even more special because someday I was going to deeply miss reading to my little boy.

And 17 years later, as the ache welled up in my heart, I realized "someday" was now. 


But as I wept, a part of me was gleeful with relief because I understood my spiritual journey was over and no longer distracting me from the empty nest journey I should have taken during his first year of college. Two epiphanies occurred as I focused in on my feelings. 

The first is the occupation I pretended to have as a child was Mom. So when my son was was born, I felt as if I had been waiting for him most of my life, because, in fact, I had been. Fa-reeky.

The day he left for college, I entered semi-retirement because my daughter was still in high school. And then the day my daughter earned her driver's license, I entered mostly-retirement. As a stay-at-home mom, this transition comes with grief because I don't have a career that I can finally pay full attention to now that my kids have mostly grown up. They were my job, and I loved my job.

I mean, I've been working on it. I'm a youth ministry and blessed baker at my church, and I'm spending more time writing. Oh, and full disclosure, I take care of four cats. (I know. I know. *sigh*) I also have a hard-working husband who still needs clean clothes and food in the fridge. So, I'm good and gearing myself up for when my daughter heads off to college.

The second epiphany is I really love books. I  especially enjoy biographies, saintly and otherwise. But my favorite genre is children's books, particularly middle grade and picture books. A good picture book is a treasury of words, illustrations, repeated readability, and metaphors -- lessons that even adults can apply to real life.

Take, for example, CHRYSANTHEMUM, by Kevin Henkes. Now, Kevin Henkes is not a saint. But he is an author/illustrator and looked upon with envy by many picture book writers who desperately want to illustrate their own book but simply don't have the necessary talent. In other words, it's well known in the children's writing world that it's doable for illustrators to learn how the write, but nigh impossible for writers to learn how to illustrate.

Anyway, Kevin Henkes's books are wonderful. CHRYSANTHEMUM is my favorite with it's artistic phrases and narrative illustrations.

Chrysanthemum is the main character. She is loved exceedingly by her diligent parents. She loves herself and her name. She thinks her name is the coolest. But then she went to the first day of school where the other children teased her, "You're named after a flower!"

"Chrysanthemum wilted."

Best line in all of story-telling.

So this teasing goes on for a couple of days. Her parents tried everything to boost Chrysanthemum back up, they prepared her favorite dinner, "macaroni and cheese with ketchup," and the next night "chocolate cake with buttercream frosting" for dessert. They played her favorite board game with her, secretly read parenting books, and filled her up with hugs, kisses, and encouraging words. Chrysanthemum shored herself up with a pocket full of "her most prized possessions and her good-luck charms." But the teasing continued to hurt her feelings. 

On the third morning, the class met the indescribably wonderful music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. Everyone wanted to impress her! But when she heard some of children tease Chrysanthemum for being named after a flower, she said, "I'm named after a flower, too. My name is Delphinium Twinkle! And if my baby is a girl, I'm considering Chrysanthemum as a name. I think it's absolutely perfect."  

Guess what Chrysanthemum did when she heard that?

"She blushed. She beamed. She bloomed."

Mrs. Twinkle is a metaphor for adults who work with youth or anyone who leads a group of people. Her message is, be your authentic self. When you share your authentic self, you might discover that your most unique aspect is the one thing that will connect you to a particular person in your group who desperately needs a connection. It takes real courage from the heart to do this. It might even take a spiritual journey to stumble upon your authentic self, but it's worth every step.

Here's the thing about my son, I loved reading to him so much because I love reading. So when he asked to read the last Lord of the Rings on his own because it was faster, I didn't argue because I understood his desire.

And then, we grew apart because I didn't like to play video games, and he didn't like to do anything else.

I believed this for a long time, but it's not true. We both enjoy the koi pond he and his dad built in the backyard. He enjoys playing with our cats and helping me with gardening tasks. Lately, his practical take on people and situations has been spot on and surprisingly helpful to me. Oh, and he likes to play board games. Especially, when cousins and unlimited quantities of food are involved. I, on the other hand, would rather read than play a board game, even if cousins and unlimited quantities of food are involved. It would help if these games started earlier than 10 p.m., just saying, but I digress.

My point is my son didn't abandon me by growing up. He simply outgrew picture books, and I still love them. Aha! 

Know what else? My son shares my love of cooking and EATING! So here's a grown-up version of  
Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

For those with the palate of a five-year-old, swap out the pepper jack for mild cheddar and leave out the hot sauce and mustard. But don't forget the ketchup!


1 14.5-ounce box elbow macaroni
1 8-ounce block sharp cheddar cheese
1 8-ounce block pepper jack cheese
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked broccoli or peas
About one cup of crushed potato chips


 1. Cook macaroni according to box instructions, drain, and set aside.
 2. Grate cheese and set aside.
 3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add flour. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
 5. Turn heat to medium, add milk, and stir with a slotted spoon or whisk until thick, about three minutes.
 6. Stir in mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.
 7. Stir in cooked macaroni.
 8. Stir in half of each type of cheese.
 9. Stir in broccoli or peas.
10. Spread mixture into lightly-greased 13 x 9 casserole dish.
11. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. 
11. Top with crushed potato chips. 
12. Bake, uncovered at 350 degree F for about 30 minutes until bubbly and golden.

Serve with a heart-healthy salad and a good book!

Bonus Material

Facebook Post, September 23

There are times, especially right after posting deeply revealing insights about myself to my blog, when my confidence falters and I focus a little too much on the possibility that I'm simply imagining most of what I believe to be true about how God works. I say to myself, that's called faith, and you are just filling in the blanks.

And then I'm compelled to go to the beach so I can find a treasure that I can interpret into an angelic message and everything will be all right again. This morning, as I put my rosary into my pocket, I prayed a petition to Mother Mary that she and all the saints and angels whom guide me would come with me to the beach.
When I got out of my car in the Johnnie Mercer Pier parking lot, I dropped my phone. The "miracle" that I didn't crack the screen was because I had paid the money for the protective cover. But when I picked up the phone and looked at the screen, I saw a recipe about chops that looked familiar. When I scrolled to the top, I recognized my post "Preparing to Celebrate St. Mary the Virgin," from the Grow Christians archives which includes a section on how to pray the Rosary!
What the?! Who the?! What are the odds that my dropped phone would randomly open up to the archive of a website, to a post with my own words promoting the act of praying the Marian Rosary which I happened to have in my pocket?!
And so, message received -- I am NOT making this stuff up. 
I could have gone home at that point. But I walked in the drizzly morning air and, following my instructions, I prayed a casual version of the Rosary, (because I didn't have a guidebook handy).
Sometimes when I walk along the shore, I dip my hand in the surf like it's holy water and then make the Sign of the Cross. I usually don't do that when anyone's around, because, you know, it's weird. But I did it right as a jogger ran by. He said nothing.
But I said out loud, "Oh my God!" Because as I looked up I saw a pod of dolphins! I haven't seen dolphins out there in a really long time. So I'm all like yay, dolphins! What a treat from Above, because I'm being open about my faith. But I bet I won't see them jumping out of the water, though, because I'm only interpreting this as a sign, it's not really a sign.
And then two dolphins jumped. And then they did it twice more. 
The pod swam (and probably ate) with me as I walked and ran a little to the Oceanic Pier.
I turned and walked back calmed by the notion that even if there are folks out there who don't like it, I'm doing EXACTLY what I'm supposed to be doing right now. There's a peace in knowing that, even though I'm not sure what's coming next.
I looked to my left along the row of beach houses and saw a flock of pterodactyls gliding serenely along in the rain, just like me.
I mean, pelicans. I saw pelicans. Okay? #authenticity #beachmeanderingtreasure

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


This post originally appeared in Grow Christians.

Image result for st luke
St. Luke's Episcopal Church, East Greenwich, RI

St. Luke fascinates me, and I plan on researching and writing more about him. Consider this post an appetizer. 

As a Greek physician who traveled, studied, and preached with Paul, St. Luke left us a legacy of written words in both the Gospel According to Luke and Acts of the Apostles. Tradition hold that he died at age 84 in Antioch, Syria, and his feast day is October 18.
It’s believed St. Luke was also an artist and that he painted a portrait of Mother Mary during a two-year period when they were both living in Jerusalem. With her insights, he wrote the most comprehensive gospel passages about Jesus’s miraculous conception and birth. Here’s a familiar passage from the poetic King James Version:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:8-14
In 1965, Charles M. Shultz placed these words in his cartoon followed by, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
For many people, a seasonal viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas is almost as necessary as producing a pageant or nativity scene.
In fact, centuries earlier, it was the above passage that encouraged St. Francis of Assisi to create the first nativity scene in the town of Greccio on Christmas Eve in 1223!
St. Luke’s words inspired these two people to create lasting traditions which inspire others in endless creative ripples.
One such ripple is called, “Just Drop the BlanketThe Moment You Never Noticed in A Charlie Brown Christmas,” by Jason Soroski in which the author shows how significant it is that Linus released his security blanket the moment he recited the angelic words, “Fear not.”
Perhaps without realizing it, all Christians strive for this connection to Jesus Christ -- the moment when we let go of our security habits in the trustful knowledge that we are safe with God.
For children, it can be a practical experience of putting away an actual blanket. Here’s a scene from our home in October of 2001:

Such coziness for story time!
Pages turn faster in the spring when things grow. My son dropped his blanket! And then he helped me create this:

Blanket Shadowbox Keepsake


1 shadow box frame
1 well-worn security blanket
Photos of child with blanket
1 index card
Optional: Other keepsake items


1. Wash and completely dry security blanket. Fold neatly and place into shadow box.
2. Arrange photos and other items on top.
3. Place pieces of double-sided tape on back of photos and items and adhere to blanket.
4. Personalize index card with name, birthdate, date of box creation, and message. Adhere to blanket.
5. Secure clear lid in place. Hang shadowbox on wall.

Children show us how easy it is to drop that which no longer serves. It seems harder for us adults to let go of security addictions or habits and leap fully into the hands of God. But when we do, our joy comes from the powerful connection to the Swaddling Clothes of Love in the center of Christmas.

In honor of St. Luke whose writing kindles the spark of Jesus Christ, let’s make sunshine-filled:




½ cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder


2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
½ teaspoon orange extract
Orange sprinkles


 1. In a mixing bowl, blend butter and sugar.
 2. Add orange juice, vanilla, ricotta, and eggs. Mix together.
 3. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir with fork.
 4. Slowly add the dry mix to the liquid mixture to form a sticky dough.
 5. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
 6. Combine powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange extract.
 7. Beat. Set aside.
 8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 9. Drop small spoonfuls of dough onto parchment paper-covered cookie sheets.
10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges golden.
11. Remove tray from oven. Quickly spread icing on each cookie while cookies are hot so that the icing melts and dribbles down each one.
12. Shake orange sprinkles quickly and carefully onto the liquid icing before it hardens.
13. Cool on wire rack.

Makes about 48 cookies.

*If “eating cookies” is the security habit you want to drop; fresh oranges are an excellent alternative.

This recipe first appeared in my post about St. Perpetua. The orange sprinkles in the photo are tiny Tiggers because I couldn't find orange sugar crystals at the grocery store. Tigger's a happy fellow, though. So there's that.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


This post originally appeared in Grow Christians.

Because Jesus called him, Matthew transformed from tax collector to apostle and evangelist within a few hours. St. Matthew also wrote the sayings of Jesus that were later translated into Greek and expanded into the Gospel According to Matthew. Tradition holds that he died a martyr, and his feast day is September 21.

Not much else is known about St. Matthew except that his name might have been “Levi” before Jesus called him, but not according to Matthew:

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
                                                                                                Matthew 9:9
I believe that Matthew should be the patron saint of transformation because he changed so suddenly and completely from tax collector to apostle!
Biblical-era tax collectors had a terrible reputation. In those days, Rome conquered and occupied other countries and cultures. They provided some services, like roads and aqueducts, but they ruled strictly and demanded payment in the form of taxes. Tax collectors were usually members of the communities being occupied and they were expected to collect extra taxes for their own wages. Their fellow countrymen deeply despised them because they were siding with the enemy, and everyone knew that they collected far more than they turned over to the Romans.
So here’s Matthew, by the shore of Lake of Gennésaret, sitting at a table in a tax booth collecting taxes, customs for trade items, and tolls from people arriving by boat.
Jesus, having just left Capérnaum, walked by all the people in line to pay, saw Matthew, and said, “Follow me.”
Now, we don’t know what Matthew was thinking as he counted his money. We don’t know how he felt about his own life or what he already knew of Jesus of Nazareth. But we can surmise that the first thing he did was look up. He looked up, listened to Jesus, and followed Him with absolutely no regard to what he was leaving behind on that table.
In fact, Matthew was so completely transformed by Jesus’s call that he immediately invited his friends to dinner so they could meet Jesus for themselves!
Raise your hand if you’re envious of Matthew’s clear call into the Lord’s service. Me!
Sometimes we are so focused on our distractions that we forget how simple it is to hear that call.
Step One:  Look up.

In honor of the transformation of St. Matthew, take in a live or recorded performance of the musical, Godspell based his gospel.
Or listen to the sound track as you transform the “salt of the earth,” and “grains of the field” into something sweet and scrumptious:



1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
About 8 cups (½ gallon) vegetable oil

1 cup honey
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
2. Stir in eggs, ricotta cheese, and vanilla. Mix gently with spoon until blended into a sticky batter.
3. Heat oil in a deep-fryer to 375 degrees F. Or use a large sauce pot over medium heat. The oil should measure about two inches in depth. If you do not have a deep-fry thermometer, roll up a small piece of bread and drop in hot oil to test the temperature. When bread ball attracts lots of bubbles, the oil is ready.
4. Carefully drop batter by tablespoons into hot oil, about five or six at a time. Watch astounded as the zeppole plunge to the bottom, rise up, and turn themselves over a few times. (Be careful to avoid splattering the hot oil. To be extra safe, young children should watch this step from afar.)
5. Fry until golden brown, about four or five minutes.
6. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a tray with two layers of paper towels to drain.
7. Whisk honey, water, and cinnamon in medium pot over medium-high heat until glaze comes to a boil. Remove pan from heat.
8. Dip zeppole into honey glaze with a slotted spoon and pile onto a platter. 
9. Serve warm. (The fried zeppole can rest for up to 6 hours on the counter before dipping into the hot honey right before serving.)

This recipe first appeared in my St. John the Baptist post. Many Italian Americans also celebrate St. Joseph's feast day with zeppole.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Oldest known portrait of “Brother Francis at Subiaco," a mural painted in a sacred grotto called St. Benedict’s Cave during the years 1223-1224

St. Francis of Assisi is a beloved and well-known saint throughout the world. He was born in either 1181 or 1182 in Assisi, Italy. He founded the Franciscan Order of Friar Minors and Sisters, lived the gospels in obedience to the Church, traveled in peace to the Middle East during the crusades, created the first Nativity Scene, saw God in everyone and everything, received the Stigmata of Christ Crucified, inspired countless people in his lifetime, and continues to inspire us today.

He is the patron saint of animals and ecology and he's honored in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran Churches. 
St. Francis is one of two patron saints of Italy (along with Catherine of Siena) and many other places throughout the world, including San Francisco, CA, in the United States. He died on October 3, 1226, and his feast day, October 4, is usually celebrated with a Blessing of the Animals.

October 3 is my birthday and October 4 is my daughter’s birthday. I love St. Francis of Assisi. Without him, Saints and Recipes wouldn’t exist at all.

*sigh* I thought this would be the post in which I return from my two-year spiritual journey and really get back to work in sharing my research about the saints. I thought maybe that instead of writing them in the form of academic papers, I would lighten up and shape them more like book recommendations.

This post in particular was supposed to be a zoomed in look at Francis’s (Second) Rule of Order based on what I believe he was trying to tell me via messages. Messages, although really unclear to me in the beginning, that were about leadership and my path. Something to do with accepting myself as a loving caretaker/badass. Someone like the imaginary Professor Minerva McGonagall. Someone like St. Francis of Assisi himself.

So I began reading where I left off two years ago in Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson, O.P. I love the fact that the author is a Dominican and not a Franciscan because he was able to be objective about his subject. The book reads more like history than legend and includes lots of source material, yet the author's love for St. Francis is clear.

So I’m reading along, minding my own business, when I get to the part shortly after Francis returns from Rome with his first few followers having received papal permission to form an order based on three gospel passages. He and his group stayed in an abandoned hut by the Rivo Torto about two miles outside of the city of Assisi, close to a hospital for people suffering from leprosy. Francis, and his increasing number of followers, assisted in caring for the lepers, and also worked as day laborers to provide for the group. And then this paragraph appeared and I suddenly felt like St. Francis was speaking directly to me:

Francis quickly learned the burden of responsibility involved in caring for his few subordinates, especially when conditions were hard. On one occasion at Rivo Torto, a brother woke in the middle of the night and cried out that he was dying of hunger. Francis, showing already the sensitivity that would make him a revered doctor of souls, had the whole community get up and eat with the brother so that he would not be shamed by having to eat alone. This also involved the entire group in resolving a difficulty that might merely have remained a private one between superior and subject. Francis used the event as an opportunity to counsel moderation in fasting and self-mortification. His first followers were prone to exaggerated and destructive mortification that had little to do with the Gospel texts that inspired their leader. Francis’s natural feelings of compassion for suffering, the same trait that drew him to the lepers, found expression in the care of sick and confused brothers. pg 30-31 Francis of Assisi: A new Biography by Augustine Thompson O.P.

And then I wept. Because I realized that this was the message he’s been trying to send me. This is an example of true leadership. This is the type of leadership I’ve been searching for without ever realizing it.

And so while I do wholeheartedly recommend the above biography, I won’t continue reading or posting about his Rule of Order at this time.

My assignment is clear now. Francis wants me to write about my spiritual journey from the point of view of leadership. You get that “spiritual journey” is code for hurt/breakdown/exploration/renewal right?

God knows, I don’t want to write these words. God knows, I’ve held these people accountable and forgiven them. God knows I don’t want to keep reliving this stuff, I want to break the pattern, I want to let go and move on.

And yet, through St. Francis, I know God is telling me that it’s time to share my shame story. That I’ll never be able to get past it until I do, that it’s a major step in my healing. And so I post this on the last day of Mercury Retrograde and the first day of Autumn. Maybe the release of these words will clear the way for 50th birthday sunshine and daisies. At least, that’s my hope for the future. Here goes:

When you are my leader, you don’t get to tell me that I’m not good with youth and that I’m a terrible public speaker. You don’t get to tell me that I’m overreacting, and you don’t want to talk about it. And no matter how kind you are to me on the surface, you don’t get to beam undercurrents of unspoken rage at me for months on end.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to berate me in a global email and then offer an obscure, late night, private, apology email. And when I ask in person for clarification in the hope of reconciliation, you don’t get to accuse me of taking over the group, seeking glory for my daughter, over promoting non-diocese conferences, and being boring with all that saint stuff. And when I say to you twice, “Do you realize how much you are hurting me right now?” You don’t get to say, “I have to do it for the youth and I’m speaking for everyone.” Twice. You don’t get to say that, because that was a lie. You lied to me and I believed you. You don’t get to lie to others that I “attacked” you, when I did nothing more than defend myself and try to appease you. You don’t get to pretend that this event never happened, or worse that you did a good thing by kicking me out of the group. You don’t get to get away with never apologizing to me for your tirade.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to refuse my repeated requests for a conflict resolution meeting. You don’t get to keep the lid on the flames that erupted with the youth volunteers and assure the staff that you have the situation under control. You don’t get to “counsel” us individually and never actually deal with the problem. You don’t get to lie to us to keep us quiet.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to treat me with condescension and chauvinism. And when I’m finally desperate enough to ask you for any kind of help with this situation whatsoever, and mention to you that I believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary is sending me messages through angelic signs, you don’t get to tell me, “In time, you will see that that’s not so.” I mean, as far as delusions go, it’s pretty harmless. (Also, not a delusion.) You don’t get to tell me that I’m doing healing prayers all wrong and that I shouldn’t say those nontraditional phrases. God knows I’m laity! And when I finally speak the real problem of the unresolved conflict, you don’t get to tell me that it doesn’t matter what she did to me because you think she’s good with the youth.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to tell me that you trust my parish’s clergy to handle the matter and that you’ll make sure we aren’t in the same small group or cabin, but that’s all.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to hold my book proposal for a full year before a yay or nay when your policy is six weeks. You don’t get to give me an article assignment without guidelines, edit my words dramatically and embarrassingly, and publish without my knowledge of the changes. And when I let you know that I am upset about this, you don’t get to say I’m overreacting and then offer fake apologies which I force myself to believe for the sake of peace. And the next year, you don’t get to hold our exchange against me and lie about there just not being enough room for my words at all.

When you are my leader, and I announce that gun violence in our country is absolutely a political matter, you don’t get to tell me to shut up. Again.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to keep me small in that box you keep trying to shove me back into. You don’t get to tell me it’s better if I don’t visit you. You don’t get to tell me that you took me off as executor of your will and that you don’t want me involved with the doctors in case of medical emergency. And when you do, and I point out that you hurt my feelings, you don’t get to become irate, blame me for deserving it, tell me I’m too sensitive and then hang up the phone on me. Again. And later, you don’t get to call me up, pretend it never happened, and actually expect me to act happy, normal, and accepting. Again. You don’t get to tell me that you were raised by an addictive personality, too, but that you sucked it up and went on with your life and that’s what I have to do. Yeah, no. You don’t get to watch me raise my daughter the way your raised me because I stopped the cycle.

When you are my leader, you listen to me cry out and guide me without shame.


It seems such a simple thing.

But, there’s more to the message in the above paragraph from the Dominican’s biography. Francis’s humility got in the way of his leadership. Although, he had the ability and compassion to lead his followers, he wanted always to be a follower and not a leader. This would have worked out for him if he were able to choose the right leaders. And this is where a little bit of his crazy comes through. It was simply illogical for him to follow people who were not following his Rule of Order. And so he suffered.

To me it seems perhaps (and I’m not 100% certain), that St. Francis worked so hard seeking humility through obedience of others that he forgot that Jesus was his leader, that Jesus listened to him cry out and guided him without shame.

At least, that’s what I believe St. Francis has been trying to tell me about myself. That with Jesus in my heart and me in His, I don’t need another leader.

See, my audience is not anyone I need to impress with my knowledge or defend against with my neat list of resources. My audience is you. Those who recognize themselves as having the same types of problems with people that I did in the above situations.

In my case, it’s called freeing myself from the addiction to approval seeking and people pleasing.

Maybe St. Francis is telling me that because I’ve been there, I can be of help to you. Maybe I can help steer you towards healing. 

Maybe I’m one who can hear you cry out at night, maybe I’m one who’ll listen to your story and guide you without shame.

If you want, tell me your situation in the comments. I’ll probably suggest a particular book for you to read. Or maybe I’ll be granted an insight about your situation that I can share with you. At the very least, I can pray for you!

Meanwhile, let’s bake. But not just bake, let’s imagine that St. Francis isn’t only a saint in history books and legends. Let’s imagine, that he isn’t only an inspiration to countless people around the world, include Pope Francis, his namesake. Let’s imagine that he isn’t only speaking from heaven to the hearts of those on earth who seek him out and listen.

Let’s imagine that he’s coming to dinner! Let’s imagine that we want to make him the perfect autumn dessert. And so let’s do it for real with a cake that speaks to Francis’s sometimes upside-down logic. I think he would laugh and enjoy it, especially on a feast day:

Apple Berry Upside Down Cake

(More photos below.) 


1 ½ sticks butter, softened, separated
½ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup honey
2 organic or local apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (don’t thaw frozen ones)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla


 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 2. Melt ½ stick butter and pour into lightly greased 9-inch round 2-inch high cake pan.
 3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in medium size bowl with fork. Sprinkle mixture over melted butter in pan.
 4. Drizzle honey over brown sugar.
 5. Spread apple slices over brown sugar mixture.
 6. Sprinkle with frozen berries.
 7. With electric mixer, beat sugar and 1 stick butter at medium speed until blended.
 8. Add eggs, blend.
 9. In a medium size bowl stir together flour and baking powder with fork.
10. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, blend.
11. Add milk and vanilla. Blend.
12. Pour batter over berries in pan.
13. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
14. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
15. Carefully, run a knife around the edge of cake to loosen from pan.
16. Turn cake upside down onto a serving plate. Gently lift off pan.
17. Slice to serve.