Friday, December 28, 2012

Act of Consecration to the Holy Family

Act of Consecration to the Holy Family

O Jesus, behold our family prostrate before thee.  Once more do we consecrate ourselves to thee---our trails and joys---that our home like Thine, may ever be the shrine of peace, purity, love and faith.  Do thou protect and bless all of us both absent and present, and be merciful to those departed. 
O Mary, loving Mother of Jesus, and our Mother pray to Jesus for our family, for all the families of the world, to guard the cradle of the newborn, the schools of the young and their vocations.
O Joseph, Holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, assist us by thy prayers in all our necessities of life.  Watch over our home, at the pillow of the sick and dying, so that we may all be united to Jesus with Mary and thee for all eternity.  Amen


Jesus, Mary , Joseph.
Jesus , Mary and joseph, I give you my heart and soul.
Jesus Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you.
An indulgence of seven years for each vocation. the above are recommended as post communion prayers and for daily recitation by the family, together if possible.  Occasional recitation of the invocations is also suggested. 

Imprimatur Thomas E. Molloy
Archbishop of Brooklyn (1884-1956)
Family Communion Crusade

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

  We set Our Lady's altar and  then headed off as a family for confessions to end 2011 and enter 2012 filled with forgiveness and grace.   The neighbors have already launched a Chinese lantern and sent it off into space to celebrate the years end. I'll post the  video as soon an it can be uploaded.   My husband Steve and I are heading for Holy Hour at our local parish and then we'll stay for Midnight Mass, the same way we have ended each year together as a married couple.    We will join the rest  of the family here with the neighbors for a bonfire and s'mores, skits and jokes then up again early in the morning to ring in the year celebrating Holy  Mass as a family in the morning. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Hostage Crisis

Having attended Midnight Mass with the local Carmelite community and then Novus Order at 10:30 am on Christmas Day with our local parish, some family members went on to sing in the choir and play the organ for the Mission San Fernando, by the end of the day we were all well fed on Christmas dinner and found ourselves missing some of the family members far away from home. Christmas games and skits are the family tradition at our house and you-tube helps take it to a new level and share it with the family members who cannot be with us this Christmas. A holiday greeting was certainly order.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nativity Scene at Night

Our down home nativity scene is better at night. It doesn't have the amazement or the over the top XMAS design of  houses with light shows, music and dancing reindeer but we hope it does have the humble simplicity of a true Christmas Creche.

Nativity Scene

Getting ready for Christmas. No matter how simple or grand, a nativity scene is a witness to the birth of Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
We spent a good portion of the day mowing, raking and setting up our home-made Nativity scene in the yard. St. Francis, pray for us!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Search of Shelter: Las Posadas

Our Sunday parish bulletin included this announcement toward the bottom of the second page in both Spanish and English.
Posada Celebration:You are cordially invited to participate in our annual Posada Celebration on Sunday, Dec. 18th at 6:30 pm. If possible, please bring your children dressed as shepherds. There will be a pinata party in the Parish Hall afterwards.

Pinatas? And the chance to secure a pillowcase around my granddaughter’s head? This along with the possibility of pan dulce and cinnamon laced cocoa was more than enough incentive.
Over the years our neighborhood has evolved. At one time my Sicilian immigrant husband  was the only foreign born American for blocks. But that has all changed. Now we have street vendors selling corn slathered with mayo and chili in the spring. In the summer Mariachi bands don silver studded charros and wide brimmed hats, holding bright yellow tubas, trumpets, violins, and guitars of every size, they play and sing with rich clear voices their songs of passion to the hundreds of families out for a day of picnic at the local park.   It is wrong to think that all of these immigrants are from Mexico, many come from South America and a discerning ear can hear the difference in language.  With 51% of our local population now claiming heritage from south of the border, it is a natural flowering in our local Churches to find celebrations of Christ’s coming into the world marked with the pageantry and customs that members of our Latin American conference of Catholics bring.   

Las Posadas translates as "the inns" or  "the shelters".  
Reenacting  Mary and Joseph’s  journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter the traditional celebration is a novena of days beginning  on December 16th and occurs every night untill the 24th. Each night a party is held at the home of a participant. At dusk, the guests gather outside the home with their children dressed as shepherds and angels along with Mary and Joseph, sometimes small statues of Mary and Joseph are carried, an angel leads the procession of ‘pilgrims’ carrying lighted candles and booklets filled with prayers, especially helpful for the  first time Posada participant.  Standing at the door of the house  the pilgrims sing a song asking for shelter to which they first receive a reply, ”there is no room” until finally  the door to the home of the hosting family opens and the joyous celebration begins.  The host home is filled with delicious offerings, most notable are  hot ponche,a punch make of fresh and dried fruits, steaming tamales, the traditional sweet bread pan dulce,  Mexican hot chocolate and whatever specialties the hostess might offer.

The highlight of the party is the breaking of the pinata.  The original pinatas  were clay pots filled with treats and strung up in a tree.  One older friend shared how even today he remembers Las  Posadas to include  a yearly knock on the head from a flying piece of clay but modern  pinatas are now made from paper mache. Designed to be a Christmas Star for Las Posadas, the pinata is  filled with goodies and treats and made to be battered and beaten just as its clay counterpart, ready to release its booty to the eager children below.  My husband and I arrived at the church at 6:15 with our granddaughter ready to begin our journey.  Our children, we have two teens still at home,  stayed behind with the current strain of  flu, they were assured by their niece she would bring back whatever candy she could retrieve from the pinata.
Families arrived and both young and old  were dressed in traditional costumes. The prayer booklets provided a bilingual service so that all could participate. Starting out with Scripture readings in the Church the ‘pilgrims’, led by our pastor, paraded around the church bearing ‘candles’ and singing songs and stopping at each entrance to the church only to be turned away. Finally the last door brought a welcome song and the pilgrims piled into the church.
Mary and Joseph sat in chairs of honor at the front while everyone joined in songs to the Blessed Mother. We then moved on to our parish celebration to continue and much to my delight I found the sweet Mexican breads and cinnamon cocoa.  The evening was complete with the breaking of a silver star pinata.

The world around us is is creating its own ‘traditions’ for Christmas, and none of them are good. Stacks of boxes wrapped in bright ribbon and colored paper sit  in store windows under flocked trees meant  to make us feel worthless if our pile of gifts does not measure up to their pile of gifts.  Internet shopping now gives the false impression that somehow making Christmas shopping ‘easier’ will make Christmas more rewarding.  Struggling to be 10 lbs lighter or $100 richer so we can slip into and purchase that perfect holiday outfit and  experience the joy of the secular season is exhausting and empty. Nevertheless, for years now this is the Christmas that many in our society have lived. The results are particularly devastating on the family. Our  faith filled customs and traditions to often set aside and all but ignored.

Traditions like Las Posadas bring us closer as a community, engage and unite our families and better help us to live the faith we love while not only learning but enjoying the customs of Catholics from other countries.  
Through the litanies and songs,  we are introduced to the depth and meaning of the many cultures that make up our Catholic Church.  Continuing these traditions and even expanding them and bringing them into our families is a practice that can help us to live what we profess: the belief in a universal Church.  Our processions, litanies, songs and yes, our Catholic parties and food, instill in our hearts and  the hearts of our children the joy of embracing the Catholic life we must love to obtain the ultimate Catholic party we call Heaven. The  power of  Christmas lies in our ability to bring Christ into the world and we won’t find or learn that lesson in today’s secular driven culture. It is ours to bring into world.  I may not be able to change  the worlds ‘take’ on the Christmas season, but I can change the way my own family lives these holidays and one family at a time can change the world.  Go to a Las Posadas or whatever celebration is offered during this Christmas time at you parish.  Bring your children, a grandchild, niece, nephew or friend,  dress in a costume, pray the litanies, sing the songs, eat the food, live our  Catholic traditions and pass it on.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to make an Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths can be made fresh every year, or saved to last for years and years of enjoyment and tradition.

How to make your own Advent Wreath.


For the braid wreath

1 ¼ cups water (more or less, depending on the weather)
4 cups all purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons active yeast
1 tablespoon cornmeal

1.  Bread Machine Method 

Put ingredients in machine bowl, water, flour then yeast. Select dough cycle and allow machine to follow through til end of cycle. Check in the beginning of cycle while dough is mixing to add more water or more flour. Dough ball should have a nice soft plump feel, not to squishy but not hard like a rock either. When cycle is complete punch down and remove dough from machine. Onto step two.
By Hand, the old fashioned way
Place flour into a bowl and form a well in the center.  Add water that is just about body temperature and sprinkle the yeast on top. After a minute or two begin to mix adding flour or water as may be necessary. Turn out onto lightly floured board and continue to knead for at least 5 minutes.  Place dough back into bowl, do not grease bowl,  and cover with a tea towel. Let Rise until dough is double in size. Punch down and turn out onto board. Onto step 2.

2.  Place dough on lightly floured board and let rest for 5 minutes, this will make the dough easier to work with and to braid.  Divide dough into three pieces and roll each piece into three long sausage shapes.
Using a little water attach the three pieces at one end and then braid into long rope.  On a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal place braid and form into a circle. Attach ends to form circle. 

Brush top lightly with milk. Bake in 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until instant read thermometer reads 200 degrees. Remove from oven place on cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For the decorations

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 cup warm water

In a large bowl blend the flour and salt.  Add the water and mix.  Your hands are the best for this job.  You’ll want to knead this dough for about 3 - 5 minutes.  The more you knead the smoother it will become. You can add a bit more water if necessary but you don’t want this dough to be  sticky.  Think pliable clay and shoot for that.
Using your clever hands and creative mind form the different shapes you want for your wreath. In years past we’ve make stars, Jesse tree symbols (the red apple is always a good one as is a rainbow) or grapes and wheat as in the pictures.  

Place your shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, we use one of our pizza trays, and bake in a low oven, 200 degrees, for 1 to 2 hours depending on the thickness of your decorations.  
When done they will be hard but not brittle.  The idea is to dry them more than it is to bake them.

Painting and assembly

1.  Using your wreath as a pattern, place wreath on a piece of cardboard and trace. Any box works fine for this.  Cut out the cardboard slightly smaller than the wreath and glue the wreath onto the cardboard using a hot glue gun.  

1.  Paint your decorations with any acrylic paint.  We like the small bottles of acrylics found at any craft or discount store.  Costing from 59 cents and up, they dry quickly and there is always a big assortment of vibrant  colors to choose. Inexpensive paint brushes can be found at the same stores, look in the kids section not the artists section for the inexpensive brushes. This can be a messy process so be sure to spread out plenty of newspaper.
We used a small brush to paint the grapes a purple, the color is darker the the picture shows, and we accented a few grapes painted gold. The grape leaves are green and touched with a bit of gold and we left the wheat the natural color of the dough but brushed a little gold accent on these also.

2.  Using a hot glue gun begin first by gluing on the grapes one at a time to form clusters. Next place and glue the leaves. Lastly glue the  wheat stalks and top with the wheat tops.

3.  When all pieces are dry and cool,  spray with a clear gloss acrylic sealer.  You can find this at the craft store.  If you have it on hand you can also use marine spar varnish, this makes it super shiny and with a few coats and plenty of drying time your wreath  can last for more than one advent.

4.  Allow to  dry completely.  Place candles and enjoy.