Thursday, September 22, 2016

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, LEADERSHIP, & APPLE BERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE




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.) 

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

 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.










Monday, September 19, 2016

ST. BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE, & HOMEMADE HUMMUS


(This post originally appeared in Grow Christians.)

St. Bartholomew believed in Jesus immediately upon meeting him. As one of the Twelve Apostles, he’s mentioned always with Philip. Later tradition holds that he traveled with St. Jude to Armenia where they founded the Armenian Apostolic Church and were later martyred. The Episcopal Church celebrates St. Bartholomew’s feast day on August 24.

Most biblical scholars believe that because Bartholomew means Son of Tolmai, he’s the same person called Nathanael in the first chapter of John’s Gospel:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
                                                                                                John 1:43-46

I have to stop here because Nathanael’s question is so familiar. I’ve said it to myself many times over the years of raising my children in the Church. The memory that stands out the most does so because it’s a scenario that played out repeatedly: 

We are at a Christmas pageant rehearsal, and I’m standing in a crowded classroom, overheating, holding coats, and helping my angel and shepherd try on their costumes. Maybe I’m even smiling, but I’m thinking, I’ve got so much to do at home! Can any good come out of a Christmas pageant?

If the tears of joy I shed at every Christmas pageant I’ve ever witnessed are any indication, the answer is, of course, yes.

Sometimes though, it’s easy to forget that which hasn’t happened yet. And so we ask, can any good come out of Baptism, Sunday school, worship, vacation bible school, junior choir, acolyting, youth groups, youth conferences, community service, Confirmation, mission trips, or lay ministry?

It seems to be such a simple answer, except when we’re rushing kids out the door and into the car so we can get them there on time. That’s when we should think about what happened after Nathanael followed Philip to come see:

“When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
John 1:47-50

St. (Nathanael) Bartholomew reminds us that when we support our children’s participating in church youth programs, their unique hearts will be recognized, welcomed, and transformed by their connection to the light in the center of it all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To honor St. Bartholomew on his feast day, let’s see if anything good can come out of the kitchen when we make a biblical-era Middle Eastern (culturally including parts of Armenia) version of:

HOMEMADE HUMMUS



Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas (or two 15-ounce cans)
½ cup tahini (sesame paste)
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
About 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
About 2 teaspoons salt (or ½ teaspoon if using canned chickpeas), or to taste

Instructions

If using canned chickpeas, skip ahead to the second part of step 4.

1. Rinse chickpeas in a strainer. Place in large pot with 8 cups of water. Let soak at room temperature for about 12 hours.




2. Drain chickpeas and rinse. Place back in pot and add 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chickpeas are soft, about 1 hour.
3. Set aside one cup of the cooking water. Drain chickpeas and rinse under cold water.
4. Place chickpeas and cup of cooking water into food processor or blender and puree until smooth. (Or mush them up with a mortar and pestle, because authenticity.)   
If using canned chickpeas, skip steps 1 through 4 and pour into food processor or blender with about half the water from each can.
5. Add tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Puree until creamy.



6. Pour into bowl and serve with Apostle's Bread.

Optional add-ins: ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons chopped olives

Alternatively, because the apostles ate much of the same foods and because saintly feast dishes can be mixed and matched depending on what’s in season or what your family prefers, you could celebrate St. Bartholomew's feast day with Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini.