Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ALL SAINTS, JESUS, & RICE AND BEANS

Fra Angelico

The Feast Day of All Saints is November 1. It is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church. Many other Western Christian churches, including Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist celebrate the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls, November 2, together on the first Sunday after. Eastern Orthodox Christianity celebrate many of same feasts as the Western Orthodoxy but utilize a different church calendar, so their celebration of All Saints falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

All Saints' Day was founded in the early middle ages by Pope Gregory III and is a way to honor and remember all the Holy Saints and all the ordinary saints.  

Ordinary saints are those for whom Christ died -- all Christians. We are a part of the Communion of Saints, here on earth and when we enter heaven. We share this spiritual space -- or Mystical Body with Jesus as the head, with all Christians living and dead. This includes the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, as well as our personal saints – the souls of our departed family and friends. That’s why All Souls’ Day is celebrated either with or directly after All Saints’ Day.

All Souls’ Day is usually celebrated in church with the reading of names of those who have died, particularly during the last year, with special honor and prayers said for their sake. The combined celebration of All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day reminds us that just like we ask living people to pray to God with us, we can ask our personal saints - as well as the Saints to pray with us.       

Then we pray:

“God our Father, Source of all Holiness,
 the work of your hands is manifest in your saints,
 the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith.”
                                                Roman Catholic, Collect, November 1

Then we sing:

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.

They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.
                   Number 93 in the Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982, Words by Lesbia Scott

How can we become saints? And isn’t it rather presumptuous of us even to aspire to such a thing? Here’s the good news, in the eyes of Jesus Christ, we already ARE saints because we’ve accepted Him into our hearts through baptism. He is a part of us and we’re a part of Him.

He asks us to open ourselves up and shine out:

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
           From the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew (5:13-16)  Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

In other words, open ourselves up to the Jesus inside and allow His love to strengthen us in good works fulfilled as an inviting example to others and in dedication to God.
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These are pretty clear cut instructions from the Man Himself on what we’re supposed to be doing as ordinary saints on earth. Why then, do we study the lives of the Holy Saints and venerate them in heaven?

It’s because the Holy Saints are extraordinary. Their lives on earth serve as examples for us. Not so much that we aspire to be exactly like them, but so that we can say to ourselves, "If they can do all that, perhaps I can take this one difficult step for now, and then maybe the next one later on."

My research for this blog has led me to discover the main differences between the Catholic and Protestant viewpoints of the Saints. And I see now why many of my friends although in support of me, are not so much in support of a blog dedicated to the Saints.

At the time of Martin Luther’s Reformation, many members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy promoted the buying of Indulgences. An Indulgence was forgiveness, or special prayers said for the dearly departed for which the parishioners had to pay to the priest or bishop. The grief stricken would do it especially if it was in the name of a beloved Holy Saint. But some priests and bishops would keep the money for themselves.

So when the Reformation occurred and so many people protested by breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and becoming Protestant, they broke away from the Saints as well because they didn’t want their new worship to in any way remind them of the wrong doings -- rejecting the piety along with the corruption.

It’s the piety that draws me:  the Sign of the Cross, lighting of candles, reciting memorized prayers, kneeling in penitence, venerating the Holy Saints, and partaking of special food and traditions on feast days. 

Engaging in these devotions helps me to focus on His Words, plus I find comfort in the tradition which reminds me of home. The home where I lived as a baby, so alas, I have no real memory of it. I have only the memories of my parents and those hints of memories from later visits.

Until the age of three, I lived with my older brother and parents in the basement apartment of my Grandmother’s house in Mamaroneck, New York. My great Aunt Anna and Uncle Phillip lived in the upstairs apartment. Right before my little brother was born, we moved to a big house “out in the country.” Then my great aunt and uncle moved back to Collepietro, a mountain village near L’Aquila in the Abruzzi Region of Italy.

My brothers and I had a wonderful childhood including good schools and friends, a big back yard with a swing set and a pool, plus a baseball diamond in the front yard. But there lives inside me a nostalgia for what we missed out on when we left – a bilingual upbringing, close proximity to extended family members, school and church in walking distance and the traditional Italian food prepared by first generation Italian Americans. Sigh.

My father feels this same nostalgia, only his comes with vivid memories and over time, the passing away of his beloved family members.

It helps him to know that his relatives are waiting for him in heaven. It helps him to know that he can talk to them whenever he wants and they are listening. It helps him to know that he can call upon and honor their special Saints.

My parents now live in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in New York. They attend a Roman Catholic church built by Irish and Italian immigrants. The story goes that the Italians conceded to the Irish naming the church St. Patrick's as long as they agreed to the installation of a stained glass window of St. Anthony of Padua above the Cross behind the altar.

Most Sundays at the early Mass, the rising sun shines through the stained glass window of the Patron Saint of Collepietro. In this weekly vision of God’s light passing through St. Anthony’s window, my father sees the love of his family in heaven, the model of a Saint who loves Jesus with all his heart, and he sees Jesus who loves my father and all of us with His whole infinite being.

What helps me is attending an Episcopal church where everyone is invited to the Communion Table; where my children and I engage in consistent service to God, worship, and fun fellowship; and where the Saints are honored in the liturgy, special lessons, and feast days.

And obviously, what also helps me is the research I do for this blog. Before each post I research, verify, corroborate, and balance what I discover. Somewhere between my Protestant uncertainty and my Roman Catholic devotion, I find the truth – the Saints were Holy yet fully human and, therefore, fallible. And that’s what makes their stories so inspiring.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saint in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
                      Collect, HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN:  CELEBRATING THE SAINTS
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Sources:

SAINTS FOR DUMMIES by Rev. John Trigilio and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti

THE LURE OF THE SAINTS:  A PROTESTANT EXPERIENCE OF CATHOLIC TRADITION by Jon M. Sweeney

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Update: 

November 1, 2014
This link is particularly for my dearworthy Episcopal readers:
 liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com.

For some reason, it took me FOR EV ER to find this link and I want you to have it handy. Here's why:

The list of Episcopal Saints is in flux. That's not a bad thing. It just means that the Church is in the process of tweaking. HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN: CELEBRATING THE SAINTS, although a printed volume, is a work in process. And in fact, even it's title will probably be changed.  

This site is a forum where everyone, including the lay members of the Church, has an opportunity to offer their opinions on which saints to honor on our Calendar and also offer edits for the short biographies that accompany each Collect.

I was very pleased to discover that I could offer suggested changes to the biography of St. Joan of Arc, because it's mostly wrong and her memory deserves so much better than that.    

So if your interest in the saints and Saints of the Episcopal Church runs this deep, I highly recommend that you explore around on that site and offer your opinion.

And remember that as Episcopalians, we are free to honor any saints or Saints -- be they Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or simply faithful people that inspire you.   


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What recipe goes with All Saints? A recipe that can be as versatile as every Saint in heaven and every ordinary saint on earth when we start with the same basic ingredients -- Jesus and us:

RICE AND BEANS



Rice and Beans Casserole

 Ingredients:

6 cups cooked brown rice
1 can or about 1 ½ cups of dried black beans
1 cup sautéed vegetables
1 or 1 ½ cups shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

 Directions:

 1. Follow package directions to cook the rice.
 2. Soak the dried beans in water overnight or open the canned beans, rinse and strain.
 3. Combine rice and beans in a 9 x 13 pan.
 4. Sauté chopped onion and/or pepper.
 5. Combine with rice and beans.
 6. Add salt and pepper. Stir.
 7. Top mixture with shredded cheese.
 8. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 30 or 40 minutes until cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbly and steaming.
 9. Serve hot. 

Options:

Last Meatless Monday, I made this casserole using leftover Ratatouille for the vegetables. I topped half with shredded mozzarella and the other half with shredded cheddar to account for individual preferences in my family.

Black beans can be substituted with other types of beans or even tofu.

Brown rice can be substituted with other types of rice.

Vegetables can be substituted as well. But they should be precooked. Left over steamed vegetables are fine. Canned vegetables also work.

Salt and pepper can be replaced or added to other types of spices.

Cheese can be substituted or left off altogether.

Make it any way you want. It’s your meal and it’s one that will sustain you along a spiritual path all your own. 

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, ANIMALS & APPLE PIE


Sermon to the Birds, Giotto Di Bondone
Basilica di San Francesco, Circa 1300

St. Francis of Assisi is a beloved and well-known saint throughout the world and is the patron saint of animals and ecology. He was born in either 1181 or 1182 in Assisi, Italy. He founded the Franciscan Order of Friar Minors, 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'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.
 

There a many significant episodes in the Life of St. Francis of Assisi:

See Young St. Francis of Assisi for his first steps toward Jesus Christ. 

For his next few steps and his inspiration in the life St. Clare of Assisi, see St. Clare of Assisi.

See the recently updated St. Francis and the Sultan for his attempt to create peace in the Middle East. 

St. Francis and the Nativity describes the first time a scene was created to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Explore his final years in the The Stigmata and Death of St. Francis of Assisi

Why then, is he known mostly as the patron saint of animals and ecology and why is his feast day usually celebrated with a Blessing of the Animals?


Over the centuries, hagiographers (biographers of saints) have written much about St. Francis:  from The Little Flowers of Saint Francis by Fr. Ugolino Brunforte completed in 1328 to Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson, O.P., published in 2012 – from beloved legends to cross-referenced, historical-document proved facts. But stronger than all the words written about St. Francis are the words he wrote himself:

Canticle of the Sun

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

St. Francis wrote “Canticle of the Sun” as a hymn and sang it with his brothers often before he died. Also know as “Praise of the Creatures,” it is believed to be one of the first works of literature written in the Italian language. 

He names all life forms directly “creatures.” Human beings fit into this category. And like all other life forms, we praise God through our very existence, as God is within us and within all life. 

St. Francis takes it a step further, by naming that which is inanimate starting with Brother Sun. Francis delights in the similarities between the sun and the Son, radiant light and all. God is everywhere, in what He created like the moon and the stars, or in human actions such as forgiving someone, or enduring sickness and trial.

This ability to see God in everyone and everything is remembered through St. Francis’s love of animals. On several occasions, he wept so passionately at the sight of a lamb being brought to slaughter, that alms were quickly collected in order to purchase the lamb and allow it a full life.

Many other stories grew out of the love Francis had for all animals, some true, some legendary, and some that are based on truth but exaggerated into legend:

One day while traveling near Bevagna in the Spolento Valley, Francis approached a large flock of birds by the side of the road. He greeted them, “May the Lord give you peace.”

They didn’t fly away. So he preached to them about the glory of God. He told the birds to sing the praises of God, too. As he raised his hand to bless them with the sign of the cross, they flew off with a great flutter and loud bird song.

This simple story was later exaggerated into the “Sermon of the Birds,” which first appeared in The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

Whether Francis loved birds so much because of their appearance in the Gospel, or if his biographers made their own connections to Francis’s love of birds and Jesus’ use of birds in his teachings doesn’t really matter. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to birds as an example of appropriate living and trust in God for all needs:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 
                                                              Matthew 6:25-27 (New International Version)

Francis lived his life following the Way and words of Jesus Christ – do not store food for tomorrow, trust that the Lord will provide.

By living day-to-day, Francis depended his labors to earn his food or on the hospitality of others.

If invited to a meal, Francis ate whatever was served to him with great appreciation and humbleness. One could wonder how he could eat meat when he loved animals so much and experienced such pain at the thought of their slaughter. Mostly, it was due to his gracious acceptance of a gift. Through his host or alms giver, God provided food to Francis, and he would never refuse such a blessed gift.

Sources:

The Little Flowers of Saint Francis by Fr. Ugolino Brunforte
Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson, O.P.
The Francis Trilogy: The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano

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What would I serve St. Francis of Assisi if he showed up at my house? Definitely something that I love to eat and reminds me of home:

Cheerie’s Apple Pie



Cheerie is my mother. She made 50 pies at a time in our family’s bakery. Apple is my father’s favorite. A is for apple and Albert.

Use local grown or organic apples. Since writing my last post St. Jude and Applesauce, I’ve discovered that the use of pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer makes commercial apples big, juicy and sweet. But compared to organic apples, commercial apples are lacking in nutrients, and natural antibacterial and antioxidants. (See sources.)

Plus, commercial apples tend to be too juicy for pie. If you do use commercial apples, prepare the filling then put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or over night so that the extra juices can leach out of the apple slices. You can then drain away the juice before placing the filling in the pie plate.   

Apple Filling

Ingredients:

Approximately 10 cups of peeled, sliced apples. (Go with your favorite variety, mine is mountain grown Honey Crisp.)
1 ½ tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
½ teaspoon of salt

 1. Mix dry ingredients together before sprinkling into bowl of apple slices. Combine with spoon or your clean hand. Set aside.

 2. Spray cooking oil into 9-inch glass pie plate. This will help the crust turn golden brown and crispy.

 3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Dough

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cups cold butter
½ to ¾ cup very cold water

 1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

 2. Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two knives.

 3. Slowly add water and stir.

 4. Eventually you’ll need to mix the ingredients with your hands.

 5. Being careful not to over mix, knead until the dough is in a ball shape with a smooth texture.

 6. Cut in half.

 7. Sprinkle some flour on a clean counter and roll out the dough with a rolling pin until about ¼ inch thick or can fit into the pie plate and overlap the edges a bit.

Combine

 1.  Carefully lift the edges and drag into the pie plate.

 2.  Pour apple mixture into pie plate.

 3.  Roll out other half of dough.

 4. Drag onto top of pie.

 5. Pinch the edges of the pie to seal. You can be as creative or as carefree as you want here. My mom's instructions in the bakery were, “Do it sloppy so it seems more like homemade.”

 6. With a fork or knife poke holes into the top of the pie to let out the steam.

 7. Using a pastry brush or your hand, spread a little water onto the pie dough to help it brown nicely.

 8. Place pie plate on a baking sheet with foil.

 9. Place baking sheet on the bottom oven rack.

10. Bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes.

11. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F for another 45 minutes or until browned. The bottom and sides of pie should be a golden brown and the filling should be bubbling and steaming.

Since oven temperatures vary, keep some foil handy to loosely cover the top of the pie or the edges of the pie if the top of the pie browns significantly before the bottom. 

Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before you serve with vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ST. JUDE & APPLESAUCE


Apostle Jude, by Anthonis van Dyck

St. Jude was born early in the first century, most likely in Galilee, and became one of the Twelve Apostles. He is honored in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Aglipayan Churches, as well as in Islam. It's believed that he was martyred with St. Simon around 65 A.D. in modern-day Beirut. The Eastern Churches honor St. Jude on June 19 and St. Simon on May 10. Their feast day is celebrated together on October 28 in the Western Churches. St. Jude is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes and in his name, dedicated people create miracles every day. 

Here’s the list of the original Twelve Apostles called by Jesus:

Peter
Andrew
James the Greater
James the Younger
John
Phillip
Bartholomew
Matthew
Thomas
Jude Thaddeus
Simon the Zealot
Judas Iscariot

Jude and Simon are near the end of the list because so little is know of them. Further, there is some confusion regarding their names and their connections to the other Apostles.

Peter’s name was Simon before Jesus changed it to Peter (the rock). So Simon is sometimes confused with Simon Peter. Simon was known to be a zealot or excited about Jewish law, and then excited about the Way of Jesus.

In an effort to avoid any confusion with Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus and also happens to share the same name as Jude, Jude’s name appears in a variety of forms in historical documents. As it appears in Greek, Jude is a nickname of Thaddeus in the same way that Peggy is a nickname for Margret. Jude is also referred to as the son, or more likely, the brother of James the Younger.

Jude appears only once in the Gospel:


After the Last Supper it was Jude who asked Our Lord why he chose to reveal Himself only to the disciples. He received the reply: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." 

                                                         John 14:22

The Epistle of Jude, a letter written to the Church warning of corruption concludes with these words:


“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding great joy, to the only wise God, or Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” 

Unfortunately, we have no historical evidence that the apostle Jude is the same Jude who wrote the Epistle of Jude. Therefore, October 28 is the feast day of Jude the Apostle, Jude the writer of the Epistle of Jude (whether one and the same or not), and Simon the Zealot.

Simon the Zealot and Jude Thaddeus are remembered together because, after Pentecost, they traveled together spreading His Word. It's believed that Jude was a calming presence to Simon’s excitable ways. They spent much of their time in far away places which is another reason why they do not appear in many historical records. However, it's generally believed that they were martyred together in Persia (modern-day Beirut).

St. Jude’s history is sparse, convoluted, confusing, and contains the name association with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. If one is to pray for intercession from a saint, there are plenty of other saints with clearer identities and more inspiring histories. The tendency to ask St. Jude for prays of intercession only after all other prayers have failed has given him the reputation as the saint of lost causes. Nowadays, many people, when faced with what they see as a lost cause, will go directly to St. Jude for prayers of intercession.

O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect, HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN: CELEBRATING THE SAINTS

Sources:

HOLY BIBLE: NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION
James Kiefer's Christian Biographies
Domestic Church
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It's extraordinary what people can do when faced with a lost cause or hopeless case. My decision to research St. Jude came from an article in my local newspaper – St. Jude’s Church Celebrates 20th Anniversary by Amanda Greene.

The idea for establishing this church came from a tragically desperate cause -- the brutal murder of Talana Quay Kreeger in an anti-lesbian hate crime and the difficulty her friends and family had in finding a church willing to host her funeral. (The Church of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church stepped up after another church reconsidered hosting a lesbian’s funeral.)

Born out of a terrible situation, St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church is a Christian parish filled with creators and doers of good works.

Lost causes make me think of the term, “Nothing’s impossible.” This expression appears in many inspirational movies and is the running theme of Barbara Streisand’s “Yentl.” I heard it again last night while watching an episode of Glee with my daughter – only in the positive form, “Anything’s possible.”

Sometimes though, when dealing with lost causes, true goodness is found not in the ultimate outcome, but during the courageous battle as shown in THE GRACE OF EVERY DAY SAINTS: HOW A BAND OF BELIEVERS LOST THEIR CHURCH AND FOUND THEIR FAITH by Julian Guthrie.

The parishioners made a positive difference in their future that would not have occurred had they not fought for their church. It reminds me of what Galadriel said to Frodo in THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

I know of a person who must have felt pretty small as an out-of-work actor with a wife and a new baby at home. Inspired by a sermon at church, he placed his last few dollars in the collection basket and then bent his head in faithful desperation. He asked St. Jude to intercede for him and help him find his path. He promised St. Jude that if he found his way to success, he would build a shrine to honor him.

Within a week, he found a job that paid ten times the amount he placed in the collection basket -- a first step in a wonderfully successful career in show business.



Danny Thomas kept his word and with the help of some dedicated friends and community leaders, his shrine took the form of  St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a place where miracles occur every day. 


My mother-in-law, Carolynn Grow Ross, supports St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital as one of her favorite charities. She is also a great believer in the value of what others think of as lost causes -- used gift wrap, the wax paper bag inside cereal boxes and dinner leftovers which can all be reused or reinvented. What the woman can do with a bag of apples from the bargain rack in the produce department of her local grocer store is nothing short of a miracle:

Grammy’s Applesauce



Ingredients:

About 3 pounds of apples
About 1 cup cranberry juice
¼ or ½ cup sugar to taste
1 tablespoon cinnamon or to taste

Equipment:

Apple strainer or food mill

Directions:

 1. Procure apples, either from the bargain or sale rack, warehouse store, or local orchard. Carolynn suggests a mix of different kinds of apples, although Cortland apples are her favorite. I agree that mixing up different varieties is great fun and the mix of flavors is quite the tasty treat. Although, once I tasted a Honey Crisp apple, I measure all other apples against that perfect standard. Every autumn, I celebrate the arrival of the new crop of Honey Crisp apples at my local Trader Joe's. But even more fun for me is my quest to obtain North Carolina Mountain Grown Honey Crisp apples. It’s not so easy when I live in a town by the coast. Last year, with a little help from a friend, I got ‘em. Thanks, Beth! Applesauce made with these apples is true perfection. My advice?  Use your favorite apples. Except apples that are too mushy like Macintosh or Red Delicious which are great for eating out of hand but not so good for cooking. Fuji apples are excellent and my last batch was made with Golden Delicious apples from an orchard in Virginia.

 2. Wash apples carefully. Spray them with a fruit washing spray or lemon juice then rinse with cold water to help remove the pesticides on the skin.

 3. Cut into quarters. Do not peel. Removing the pits in optional.

 4. Pour cranberry juice into pot. It should cover about ¾ to 1 inch of the bottom.

 5. Fill the rest of the pot with the apple quarters.

 6. Cover and cook on high until boiling. Then lower heat but keep it bubbling. After 10 minutes, carefully stir the mixture moving the bottom apples to the top. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the apples become mushy.

 7. Turn off heat, remove pot lid and let cool for a few minutes, so you don’t get burned by splatters in the next step.

Food Mill

 8.  Strain the mixture by using an apple strainer set, or a food mill. Discard apple skins and seeds.

 9.  In a large bowl, mix the strained apples with ¼ to ½ cup of sugar depending on the sweetness of the apple variety and to taste.

10. Mix in about a tablespoon of cinnamon or to taste.

Homemade applesauce is delicious served warm. So good in fact that I’ve gone light on the sugar thinking that it was just right. However, when served cold the next morning, I realized it could have used just a bit more sugar. That’s something you’ll have to experiment with depending on taste and apple varieties.

This applesauce freezes very well. I pour mine into plastic containers, freeze, and then share some with friends and save some for eating during the winter and spring. 

As much fun as I have each autumn experimenting with apple varieties and filling my home with the luscious aroma of apples and cinnamon, there’s an ingredient that completes the experience for my family  – memories that transport us to a typical Labor Day morning at the 100-year-old beach house, Brewster’s Bluff, overlooking Duxbury Bay in Massachusetts. The family reunion winds down over packed bags, searches for missing socks, coffee, homemade waffles, bowls of  Grammy’s warm applesauce, and hugs goodbye.

Bonus Material:




New gadget purchase!