A Lenten Novena

February 18, 2015

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, 
During the Holy Season of Lent 
You call us to a closer union with Yourself. 
Help me to prepare to celebrate
The Paschal Mystery 
With mind and heart renewed. 
Give me a spirit of loving reverence
For You, our Father, 
And of willing service to my neighbor. 
As I recall the great events
That gave us new life in Christ, 
Bring the image of Your Son
To perfection within my soul. 

This great season of grace is Your gift
To Your family to renew us in spirit. 
Give me strength to purify my heart, 
To control my desires, 
And so to serve You in freedom, 
Teach me how to live 
In this passing world with my heart set
On the world that will never end. 

I ask for the grace 
To master my sinfulness 
And conquer my pride. 
I want to show to those in need 
Your goodness to me by being kind to all. 

Through my observance of Lent, 
Help me to correct my faults 
And raise my mind to You, 
And thus grow in holiness
That I may deserve 
The reward of everlasting life. 

In Your mercy grant me this special favor: 

(State your intention(s) here...)

The days of the life-giving Death 
And glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 
Your Son, are approaching. 
This is the hour 
When He triumphed over Satan’s pride, 
The time when we celebrate
The great event of our Redemption. 
The Suffering and Death of Your Son 
Brought life to the whole world, 
Moving our hearts to praise Your glory. 

The power of the Cross reveals
Your judgment on this world 
And the kingship of Christ crucified. 
Father, through His love for us 
And through His Sufferings, Death and Resurrection, 
May I gain eternal life with You in heaven.

Happy Mardi Gras from Novena.com!

February 17, 2015

Saint Valentine

February 14, 2015

st.v2Feast Day: February 14

Patron of: beekeepers, engaged couples, greeting card manufacturers, happy marriages, love, lovers, young people

Invoked against: epilepsy, fainting, plague Symbols: birds, martyr’s palms, rose, sun, sword

His feast day is embedded in Western civilization. His name has become synonymous with a certain type of romantic card, yet few realize that Valentine actually existed. As a saint, his first great work was to unite young couples in marriage. In the year a.d. 269, when the Roman Empire was under constant attack from barbarian tribes, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Claudius issued an edict outlawing marriage for young men. He speculated that more soldiers would join the legions to defend it if they were unfettered by wives and children. Valentine was a respected healer and priest in the outlawed Christian faith. He had great sympathy for those young couples whose plans for a life together were shattered by the state and he encouraged anyone who wished to wed to come to him to be married in secret. He was arrested and imprisoned in Rome for defying the emperor. But his reputation as a learned man remained untarnished and many of his followers would visit him in prison for counseling; others came for health cures. Personally afflicted with epilepsy, Valentine was particularly drawn to treating those also suffering from the disease. The jailer, having witnessed many successful healings at Valentine’s cell door, asked the saint to treat his daughter, who had been blind since birth. During her subsequent visits to the prison, Valentine read to the girl, taught her mathematics, and beautifully described the natural world. Valentine’s wisdom and kindness so impressed the jailer and his family that they converted to Christianity despite the fact that the young girl remained blind. This conversion established Valentine’s status as a true threat to the state, a charge punishable by death. His execution came on February 14, the eve of the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Valentine was beaten with clubs and then beheaded. Before his sentence was carried out however, he sent a yellow crocus to the jailer’s daughter enclosed with a note that read, “With love, from your Valentine.” The bright color of this flower was the first thing she ever saw, her eyesight having been miraculously restored. She is said to have planted an almond tree on Valentine’s grave, and to this day the almond tree is considered a symbol of friendship and devotion. Valentine was buried on the Flaminian Way in a catacomb that still bears his name. A church was dedicated to him there in a.d. 496. The wall of the city, the original Flaminian Gate, was a pilgrim’s first stop upon entering Rome and was known as Porta S. Valentino until the seventeenth century, when it was renamed Porta del Popolo.

In the ninth century, relics of the early martyrs were removed from the catacombs and transferred to local Roman churches. Valentine, too, was reinterred in the church. His body was moved to the church of Saint Praxedes, very near his original burial place. Many cities besides Rome claim his relics, among them Terni, Italy; Madrid, Spain; Dublin, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; and Rocamador, France. It is no coincidence that the liturgical feast day of the patron saint of love falls on the eve of Lupercalia, an erotic Roman fertility festival. It was common practice for church holidays to coopt pagan celebrations. The Romans considered this the official beginning of Spring, a time of reawakening fertility and warming weather. One of the activities held in honor of the goddess Februata Juno consisted of the city’s bachelors drawing the names of unmarried women out of an urn. They would then become a couple for the rest of the year, with many of these matches resulting in marriage. In twelfth century southern France, this practice was reawakened as part of the Langue d’Oc poetry movement. This was a time when art and literature took on a heightened importance to the ruling classes. Noble youths known as gallants wrote missives of love they called galantines. The local pronunciation confused this with the word valentine and Valentines clubs sprang up. On February 14, after a Mass in honor of Love, a silver casket containing the names of unmarried local men was presented to the single women in town. The men whose names each woman drew was required to be the guardian of that lady, providing her with flowers, poems, and gifts throughout the year. He was to guard her honor chivalrously. Marriage between these Valentines was strictly forbidden. Because of the wide dispersal of his remains, the cult of Saint Valentine became extremely popular in Northern Italy, southern France, and England. His head, which was reputed to be in England, was said to bestow incredible miracles and healings on those who kissed it. Since the middle of February was considered the time of year when birds began to pair, the English, like the Romans a thousand years before them, looked upon this as the beginning of mating season. Celebrating the Feast of Saint Valentine by citing the fidelity of doves seems to be an English tradition.

The oldest valentine note in existence today was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415, while he was imprisoned in the tower of London. By the middle, nineteenth century sending and receiving anonymous Valentine’s cards and poems declaring one’s love became common in both America and England. By then, the story of the saint who had inspired this industry might have faded away, but his name and feast day is celebrated universally. In art Saint Valentine is sometimes depicted as a bishop since it is believed he could possibly be the same person as the first martyred bishop of Interamna (Terni, Italy). Frequently a pair of doves symbolizing faithful unions, the sword he was martyred with, the sun of honest knowledge, and the rose of ardent love can be found as part of his portrait as well as martyr’s palms. Because he suffered from epilepsy, he is invoked against that disease, as well as fainting spells.

Prayer to Saint Valentine

O glorious advocate and protector, Saint Valentine, look with pity upon our wants, hear our requests, attend to our prayers, relieve by your intercession the miseries under which we labor, and obtain for us the divine blessing, that we may be found worthy to join you in praising the Almighty for all eternity; through the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

February 11, 2015

115_GrottoLourdes, an ancient village in the valley of the Pyrenees mountains, is in the extreme southwest of France near the Spanish border. It is the site of the most famous series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the most visited pilgrimage shrine in Christendom. Credited with exuding a powerful healing energy, it is inundated by those in need of physical and spiritual renewal. Attracting well over 200 million visitors since its discovery, Lourdes is a relatively modern holy site, having only been recognized by the Church as an official pilgrimage place since 1862. It became famous after a poor, illiterate local 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubirous saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near a great rock mound called Massabeille. Despite much ridicule and persecution inflicted on her by the local authorities, Bernadette could not be shaken from her story. While communing with the Virgin, Bernadette uncovered a trickle of muddy water in a place where water had never been. Today, that tiny spring gushes forth with thousands of gallons of water daily. Considered to contain inexplicable healing properties by the devout, many terminally ill people of all faiths flock to Lourdes as a last resort in curing their ailments. Catholics go to spiritually refresh themselves and to honor this visitation by the Mother of God.

Though officially ruled over by France, the villages of the Pyrenees had little to do with their country on any cultural or social level. Most spoke in patois, their own language, never learning French at all. They dressed in their own local costumes, disdained the central government and were known as the ‘Indians’ of France for the exotic way they lived. While the 19th century was celebrated as a great secular age, when France was finally freed of all political domination of the Catholic Church and science and logic replaced faith, the villagers of the Pyrenees defied all official teachings and held on to their religious beliefs. They were hostile to the French government and suspicious of any forms of official beauracracy. Living in a harsh, mountainous landscape, they held much of nature as sacred. They had little faith in modern medicine and combined ancient Celtic beliefs with their Catholic prayers. The love of the Virgin Mary was at the heart of their religious life. Since the 13th century shepherds and shepherdesses had reported direct contact with her, either through visions or the miraculous discovery of statues of her. Shrines to the Madonna were abundant and most towns had a special day of pilgrimage honoring her.

Bernadette Soubirous was a 14 year old girl who’s impoverished family lived in a dank former dungeon. Stricken with asthma, she was considered slow and held back from receiving her First Holy Communion because she had trouble learning her catechism. On February 11, 1858 her mother needed firewood for cooking and could not afford to buy any. She sent Bernadette, her younger sister and a friend out to look for some. So that they would not be accused of stealing, the girls had to go outside of town to public lands. There was an outcropping of rock facing the river with a grotto at its base known as Massabielle. The pigs of Lourdes grazed there and respectable residents did not go to that area because it was considered filthy. According to legend, the Massabeille had been sacred to the pagans in prehistoric times and those passing by it always crossed themselves to ward off the aura of evil that they felt emanated from it. Because of her illness, Bernadette stayed behind while the two younger girls waded across the river to get wood. She decided to join them and began taking off her stockings. It was at this point she heard the sound of a wind and then saw a soft light coming from the niche in the grotto. A beautiful, smiling girl in white seemed to beckon to her. Bernadette was startled and instinctively reached for her rosary. She was unable to pick it up until the young girl produced one herself. They made the sign of the cross together and as Bernadette prayed the rosary, the young girl passed her own beads through her fingers in silent prayer. When Bernadette finished, the young girl smiled and disappeared. Despite her mother’s opposition, Bernadette returned to the site that Sunday after mass. She was joined by a group of friends. The girl in white appeared and Bernadette said, “If you come from God, stay. If you don’t, go away.” She then sprinkled holy water at the girl to make sure she was not from the devil. Bernadette was relieved when the girl laughed and inclined her head to receive more water. Bernadette was the only one who could see or commune with the girl. Her friends were astounded by the physical change in her demeanor. She had fallen into a beautiful rapture and seemed totally relieved of her asthma. One threw a large stone in the direction of the niche and Bernadette did not flinch. Fearing she had had some sort of fit, they ran to get help. The towns residents who came were shocked at the beautiful transformation in Bernadette. Word of her visions started to spread.

Each time she returned to the grotto she was joined by a larger crowd. Many thought the apparition was either the ghost of a devout townswomen who had recently died or a soul who had wandered away from purgatory. Bernadette’s third vision was on the 18th of February and two important townswomen brought along a pen and paper. The girl in white laughed when Bernadette held out the writing instruments and for the first time spoke to her, addressing her with great politeness, “Boulet aoue ra gracia de bie aci penden quinze dias?” she asked in the patois dialect. (“Would you have the grace to come here for fifteen days?”) When Bernadette replied that she would ask her parents’ permission, the girl said, “I do not promise you happiness in this life, but in the next.” During these next two weeks news rapidly spread through Lourdes about the apparitions and the civil authorities felt obliged to take action. Bernadette was taken to the local police station for questioning. The authorities tried to make her admit that it was all a hoax. When she refused, they began to threaten her family. The Church was also skeptical and embarrassed by what they regarded as superstitious worship. The local pastor, Father Peyramale did not want to give the apparitions any credence. Even though the girl in the visions had not named herself, the belief that she might be the Virgin was growing among the townspeople.

For her part, Bernadette did not speculate on the mysterious girl’s identity, always referring to her as ‘Aquero’, the patois word for indescribable being. It was on February 25th, the ninth apparition of the girl that Bernadette was told to go drink at the spring and wash in it. Thinking the girl meant the river, she went towards the Gave. In her words, “…Aquero called me back and pointed to a spot beneath the rock. I found some moisture there but it was mud. Three times I threw it away even though the Lady said to drink it. Then I washed in it only to have my face besmeared with mud. When the Lady left, my Aunt Bernarde slapped my face. ‘Stop your nonsense,’ she said as she sent me home to the jeers of the people…” By the afternoon the muddy area was flowing with pure water and many in the laughing crowd were amazed.because they had never seen a spring there before. In subsequent apparitions the girl asked for penitence and the conversion of sinners. Bernadette said that she was afraid that the people climbing all over the grotto would disturb the rosebush where the girl stood. “I was afraid she might fall, but she kept on smiling at the people. She loved them, and she always seemed sorry to leave them.” At 13th visit Bernadette was told to tell the priests to come to the grotto on procession and to build a chapel. Father Peyramale was enraged and told her that if the girl in white wanted a chapel she should say who she was and she should make the wild rose bush in the niche blossom. It was after this 13th visit that the water in the spring was first accredited with healing properties. A pregnant woman with a paralyzed hand became totally cured and a stonecutter had his sight restored after he bathed his eyes in the water. Before this, there had been no physical proof of Bernadette’s visits.

The vast crowds that had started to accompany her did not see or hear the girl in white. They only believed in these visions because of Bernadette’s great physical transformation. Thursday, March 4th was the last of the 15 days. Over 8,000 people went to the grotto expecting to see something miraculous. At the end of her vision, 45 minutes, Bernadette put out her candle and went home. The rosebush did not bloom, the girl in white did not declare any message. Bernadette, unconcerned about the wild emotions she had aroused, went home content. For the next three weeks, Bernadette later wrote, “The people pestered me, the police watched me, and the public prosecutor almost crushed me…” Then, on the night of March 24th she awoke with the familiar urge to return. On March 25th,the day of the Annunciation, she returned to the grotto at 5AM. The girl in white appeared and Bernadette asked her four times to say who she was. “Aquero extended her hands towards the ground, swept them upwards to join them on her heart, raised her eyes, but not her head to Heaven, leaned tenderly towards me and said, ‘Que soy era Immaculada Concptiou.’ (‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’) She smiled at me. She disappeared. I was alone.” Father Peyramale was astounded at this announcement. This expression meant nothing to a simple peasant girl like Bernadette. The Catholic tradition that Mary had been conceived without original sin so that she might be worthy to be the Mother of God had only been formally defined as Church doctrine in 1854. Eventually, the parish priest would be Bernadette’s greatest defender as she was harassed and examined by government officials, psychologists and church hierarchy.

She never altered the account of her story to any of them, “I do not ask you to believe; I only told you what I had seen.” Three eminent Parisian doctors declared that she was mentally and emotionally sound but that she suffered from asthma. (“My mother could have told them that and saved them the trouble.”) Under increased pressure from the authorities, the grotto was closed off and anyone visiting it threatened with arrest. On the 16th of July, Bernadette saw the girl in white for the last time. She knelt in the meadow on the far side of the river. “…I began my rosary and my Lady stood in the Grotto smiling at me. It was the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She looked more beautiful than I had ever seen her. This would be the last time I would see her on this earth….She left heaven in my heart and it has been there ever since.” While Lourdes developed into a world famous place of pilgrimage, Bernadette, disliking the attention her presence created, joined the Sisters of Nevers in 1866. Her novitiate was difficult and her health deteriorating. She never showed any interest in the miraculous healings promised by the water in the spring. Her insistence that the girl in white was no older than 12 was ignored and priestly experts stated that since Mary had to be between the age of 15 and 17 at the time of the Annunciation, the official image of the apparition should depict her at that age. Bernadette never liked the statue that was erected in the Grotto in 1864, declaring it “too big and too old”. She died of tuberculosis in 1879. When her body was exhumed in 1908, it was found to be uncorrupted. She was recognized as a Saint by the Catholic church in 1933. Gradually, the local officials had to relent and re-open the grotto to the public. The Bishop accepted the apparitions and approved the shrine in 1862. After the railroad line was finished in 1866, pilgrims began arriving in the tens of thousands. After 1873, when incidents of healing at the spring began to be reported, the shrine rapidly developed an international reputation for having healing powers. Bathing pools filled with cold water piped from Bernadette’s spring were created for visiting pilgrims. Much effort was put on the scientific community to repudiate the healings at Lourdes.

Many illnesses were declared to be hysterical in nature and therefore cured by the powers of suggestion. Studies of the water from the spring showed it had no special chemical properties In 1882 a medical bureau was established to test the validity of the cures. Before a cure can be officially considered, a patient’s medical records are studied by a commission of doctors and independent medical professionals. The alleged cure must be immediate and permanent to be regarded as a miracle. When an investigation does occur, the conclusion is placed in one of four possible categories: (1)There has been no cure. (2)A partial cure has taken place. (3)There has been a cure, but there are medical or psychological reasons for it. (4) There has been a cure for which there is not natural or scientific explanation. The pilgrim must then return after a year for further examination. Since March 1, 1858, the Church has recognized 65 miracles at Lourdes. There are countless undocumented healings and over 5,000 documented “inexplicable healings”. Father Peyramale completed the first basilica upon the rock of Massabielle in 1873. After the great “national” French pilgrimages were initiated where Catholics of all classes came to bathe the sick at Lourdes, a larger church had to be built. The Church of the Holy Rosary was consecrated in 1901.

Today, the Basilica rises in 3 tiers over the grotto. Across the stream is a cavernous underground church which seats 20,000. In the grotto the miraculous spring has been channeled into a long row of spigots where visitors may collect the “Lordais water” and take it home. A small hospital and a number of hostels serve the needs of the seriously ill There is a Rosary procession held by torchlight each evening and the entire shrine is active throughout the day and evening with various services, processions and blessings of the sick. At the heart of the Lourdes pilgrimage is service to the sick and the infirm. Many devotees do not go for themselves but to aid others and to commune with God in a holy atmosphere.

There are four traditional gifts imparted by Lourdes: 1) The gift of miraculous water 2) The gift of healing 3) The gift of reconciliation 4) The gift of strength and friendship.

Happy Feast of Saint Agatha February 5

February 5, 2015

s-agata_stree_procession_550agatha fireworksagathaincataniaFesta_S.Agata_Fercoloagatha.jpg

Saint Mary Magdalene, First Century

February 2, 2015

Le Brun,Charles (1619-1690)Feast Day: July 22 Patron of: Provence, contemplatives, converts, gardeners, glove makers, hairdressers, penitents, perfumers, pharmacists, prisoners, reformed prostitutes

Invoked against: sexual temptation

Symbols: alabaster jar, long hair, skull

Though the subject of Mary Magdalene’s true identity may be fodder for a heated debate, there is one aspect of her life that all ecclesiastical writers agree upon: She never left Christ during His crucifixion, and she was the first person to see Him after His resurrection. Because Jesus chose her as His first witness and because He told her to go and tell the others what she saw, she is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.” This title aside, it is the example she sets as a penitent and reformed sinner that she is most well known and honored. According to ancient Jewish texts, the seaside town of Magdala was known as a place of loose morals. This town was Mary’s home, and she took its name as her own, signifying her unmarried state. It was said that Mary had wealth and took great pride in her appearance, enjoying luxuries and lapsing into promiscuity. Many shunned her because of her reputation for lewdness, and it is as this sinner that we are first introduced to her. After Jesus had raised the son of a widow from the dead, a man named Simon invited him to be guest of honor at a dinner. While they were seated, a certain notorious woman walked into the room carrying an alabaster box. Weeping, she threw herself down and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair and then anointed them with the oil. Simon was outraged that Jesus would accept such tribute from someone so disgraceful. But instead of judging the woman, Jesus rebuked Simon, “Does thou see this woman? I entered into thy house–thou gave me no water for my feet. But she with tears has washed my feet, and with her hair has wiped them. Thou gave me no kiss. But she, since she came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou did not anoint but she with ointment has anointed my feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loves less.” He then told the penitent woman to go in peace, all her sins were forgiven.

Excerpt from Saints, now an ebook on amazon.

 

SAINTS: Ancient & Modern

January 23, 2015

SAINTS_COVER_web
Announcing the Electronic Version of “Saints: Ancient and Modern”

Journey through time as Saints reveals the wonder and power of God through full color illustrations, images and inspirational prayers.

For more than two thousand years, the Christian saints have had great influence worldwide. They lived full, passionate lives and remain compelling examples of God’s work here on Earth. Now, this new, inspiring collection of biographies reveals the legendary stories, little-known facts, and inspiring beliefs of some of the best-loved saints.

Saints explores a select group of these individuals whose influence can be felt profoundly in the modern day. Each profile includes an extensive biography with patronage and feast dates throughout the world, along with prayers both to and about each saint. These saints inspired countless classic artworks and you’ll also learn the symbols used to identify each.

Saints included in this collection:

Ancient Saints

Saint Michael The Archangel
Saint Anne
Saint Joseph
Saint Mary Magdalene
Saint Jude
Saint Cecilia
Saint Valentine
Saint Christopher
Saint Lucy
Saint Nicholas
Saint Ursula
Saint Benedict
Modern Saints

Saint Francis of Assisi
Saint Clare of Assisi
Saint Anthony of Padua
Saint Rita of Cascia
Saint Joan of Arc
Saint Teresa of Avila
Saint Martin de Porres
Saint Therese of Lisieuex
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Saint Pio (Padre Pio)

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, January 28

January 22, 2015

FullSizeCard_1@2“There must be must be a first mover existing above all – and this we call God.”

Patron of: Students

As one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages. Yet on his deathbed, this intensely popular teacher and lecturer, who had lived in the cosmopolitan environments of Paris, Cologne and Naples, was said to give the innocent final confession of a child. Known in his lifetime as “The Angelic Doctor”, Thomas lived through his higher mind, taking intense pleasure in intellectual pursuits. Because he was an excellent teacher, able to clarify the most complicated points of learning, Thomas Aquinas is invoked by students whenever they are presented with a challenging test, a demanding course of studies or difficulty in passing an entrance exam.

Thomas was born in his noble family’s castle just outside of Naples, the youngest of four brothers and two sisters. As a child, one of his sisters was killed by lightning while sleeping in the same room as Thomas. He was forever fearful of thunderstorms, he is invoked by those with the same fears for protection against lightning strikes and sudden death. At the age of five Thomas was sent to study to the legendary Monastery of Monte Cassino. Considered the seat of Western Civilization through the dark ages, all manners of the arts and sciences were taught there. By the time Thomas left at the age of thirteen to attend the University of Naples, he was already tutoring his elders in their studies. While a student in Naples he horrified his noble family by joining the new order of mendicant Friars known as the Dominicans. Instead of begging in the streets with the Dominicans, his parents wanted to see Thomas using his great intellectual gifts to earn a higher ecclesiastical office. His brothers kidnapped him and locked him up in another family home, tempting him with every worldly thing they could think of. When they presented him with a prostitute, Thomas chased her out with a burning brand from the fireplace. After two years of confinement, his family relented and freed him The Dominicans sent Thomas to Cologne, Germany to study with Albert the Great, the most famous teacher of his times. Because of his quiet, kindly manner and his large size, his fellow students labeled him “the dumb ox”. Thomas quietly surpassed every student he ever had and Albert insisted he go to the University of Paris where he was made a teacher and received a doctor’s chair. His writings attracted both the Pope and the King of France who consulted him on matters of state. In 1272, the Dominicans sent him to Naples to run their school there. It was during the following year that experienced an ecstasy that caused him to suddenly stopped writing his greatest work , Summa Theologica, a tome that consisted of over two million words and he had spent the last seven years on. Compared to his vision, he declared, “all that I have written seems like so much straw.”

Novena:

Saint Thomas Aquinas, patron of students and schools, I thank God for the gifts of light and knowledge God bestowed on you, which you used to build up the church in love. I thank God, too, for the wealth and richness of theological teaching you left in your writings. Not only were you a great teacher, you lived a life of virtue and you made holiness the desire of your heart. If I cannot imitate you in the brilliance of your academic pursuits, I can follow you in the humility and charity that marked your life. As Saint Paul said, charity is the greatest gift, and is open to all. Pray for me that I may grow in holiness hand charity. Pray also for Catholic schools and for all students. In particular, please obtain the favor I ask during this novena.

(Mention your request).

Amen.

The Infant of Prague

January 10, 2015

The Feast of the Infant of Prague is on January 14. Dressing this child statue of Christ has a long and miraculous tradition. The Infant of Prague is invoked in dire emergencies. His novena is said in one day, in a span of nine hours.  Click on the link below to read the excerpt from the Novena App for more information:

The Infant of Prague.

Merry Christmas from Dining With the Saints and chef Erica DeMane!

December 22, 2014

Christmas Eve

 Zuppa di Pesce with Creme Fraiche, Leeks, and Thyme

My mother often made zuppa di pesce on Christmas Eve, as part of our traditional Italian fish dinner. It was full of shellfish and calamari, sometimes lobster. Every year it was a little different, always a surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fish soup I didn’t love.

Now I make zuppa di pesce for my own family, and in keeping with my mother’s style, it’s different every year. Here’s one with a base of leeks sautéed in butter and finished off with a dollop of crème fraiche. The result is rich and mellow. I’ve included only mussels and calamari in this soup, but please feel free to substitute clams or shrimp, or chunks of firm fish such as swordfish or tuna.

Have a lovely Christmas.

 (Serves Four)

 Extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 leeks, white part, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and cut into small dice

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

About ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

8 large thyme sprigs, leaves lightly chopped

A small glass of dry vermouth

1 cup of light chicken broth

A 28 oz can of plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

A pound of mussels, well washed

A pound of small to medium size calamari, cut into thin rings, tentacles left whole

Salt

Black pepper

A heaping tablespoon of crème fraiche

A handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves lightly chopped

Get out a big, wide casserole type pot and put it over medium flame. Add a big drizzle of olive oil and the butter. Add the leeks and carrot and sauté until fragrant. Add the garlic, nutmeg, and thyme, and continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the vermouth and let it bubble for a few minutes. Add the chicken broth and the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down a bit and let this simmer, uncovered, at a low bubble for about 8 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, add the mussels, giving them a good stir and cook until they’ve opened. Add the calamari and cook just until opaque, about another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Season with salt and black pepper, and add the crème fraiche. Stir, tasting for seasoning. Add the  parsley and take it to the table.

(Please visit writer and chef Erica DeMane at EricaDeMane.com).


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