Feast of St. Monica, August 28

St.Monica copy
St. Monica 331-387
Patron of: Wayward Children, Abuse Victims, Adultery Victims, Alcoholics, Housewives, Married Women, Mothers, Patience.

Though she was greatly hurt and disappointed by her firstborn son, St. Monica never gave up the idea that he would change his way of living. After 17 years of what seemed like fruitless prayers, her son turned his life around, converted to her faith and became one of the world’s greatest philosophers and Catholic saints, St. Augustine of Hippo. We invoke St. Monica to help us when our own children disappoint us. She serves as a reminder that there are no lost causes in this world and that absolutely anyone can reform and change their life.

Born into a Berber tribe in North Africa, Monica was brought up a Christian. Her parents arranged her in marriage with a prominent pagan Roman citizen of Carthage by the name of Patricius. Monica had a hard time in her early married years as she had to put up with a cantankerous mother-in-law as well as a dissolute husband. There are some accounts which say that she turned to alcohol and was herself an alcoholic who recovered her sobriety through faith and prayer. She had three children who she raised as Christians. The eldest, Augustine, was the most brilliant and his parents had high hopes for his career. Both Patricius and Monica worked hard to get the best education for their son and it was the greatest sorrow of Monica’s life when Augustine turned out to live a lazy, pleasure-filled life. It hurt her even more when he threw out his Christian beliefs to embrace the Manichean heresy – a popular cult believing in the natural good and evil of every soul. In order to keep his blasphemous beliefs from misleading her younger children, Monica forbade Augustine to come back to their home. Inconsolable in her grief, Monica had a vision of a radiant being pointing to Augustine in a beam of light next to her, saying, “Your son is with you.” When she related this vision to Augustine he laughingly said it would all be true if she would only give up her religious piety. “He did not say that I was with you,” she answered him. “He said you were with me.”

When Augustine openly took a mistress and further humiliated his mother by having an illegitimate son, Monica turned to her Bishop for help. He advised her to pray and be patient saying, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” After the death of his father, Augustine decided to move to Rome to increase his worldly success, Monica vowed to follow him. In his own great treatise “Confessions”, Augustine relates how as his mother spent the night in prayer before their voyage, he tricked her and slipped away on an earlier ship. Devastated, she traveled to Rome anyway. By the time she arrived Augustine, had already left that city for Milan. By the time Monica tracked him down, she was overjoyed to find that Augustine was no longer a Manichean. He had met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan and was studying with him. Eventually, after several more years, Monica lived to see Augustine baptized a Christian. While waiting for a ship at Ostia to take mother and son back to Africa, Monica told her son that she had accomplished everything that she had set out to do in this life and did not need to live any longer. She died in Ostia, never returning to her native land. It is interesting to note that there are many great saints from Africa, especially the earliest ones and they are rarely depicted as anything but European in visage.


Dear Saint Monica, once the sorrowing mother of a wayward son, be pleased to present our petition to the Lord God of heaven and earth. (Your intention here.) Look down upon our anxieties and needs, and intercede for us, as you did so fervently for Augustine, your firstborn.

We have full confidence that your prayers will gain favorable hearing in heaven. Mother of a sinner-turned saint; obtain for us patience, perseverance, and total trust in God’s perfect timing. In His appointed hour, in His merciful way, may He respond to your prayer and ours, which we offer through you.


Feast of St. Clare of Assisi, August 11

St.ClareSt. Clare of Assisi
Abbess and Founder of the Poor Clares
Patron of: Television Workers
Quote: “Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love.”
Keywords: clarity, blindness, embroiderers, eye diseases, gilders, goldsmiths, laundry workers, telephones, telegraphs, television
Symbols: monstrance, lamp, lily

Together with her mentor and friend, Francis of Assisi, St. Clare shook the foundations of Medieval society by revolutionizing religious expression. Her given name, Chiara means clarity and we call on St. Clare whenever we need to shine a light on a situation or to find a way to communicate more clearly. She is also invoked to protect the blind and to help those with eye trouble.
Chiara Offreduccio, as the beautiful daughter of minor royalty was offered every worldly advantage available to one in her social class. When she heard St. Francis preach the Lenten service at her church in 1212, his simple message of living with complete trust in God inspired her to abandon going through with her arranged marriage in order to join the Franciscan movement. The first followers of Saint Francis were the wealthy sons of his town of Assisi. Their act of turning their backs on the material world to live at the mercy of the elements and on whatever alms they could beg was disturbing and controversial to both their families as well as to the church authorities. Attracted by the joyous way in which they comported themselves, as well as the enthusiasm they brought to religious worship, Clare was the first woman to join their order.
Fervently believing in a life devoted to the precepts of the gospel, the Franciscans did not believe in personal property. When Clare escaped her family to join them on Palm Sunday, Francis himself cut off her long blond hair and handed her the simple woolen robe worn by his followers. He then left her in the local Benedictine convent as there were no facilities in his order for women. It was not long before her entire family attempted an intervention type rescue of the girl. Revealing her shorn hair to her horrified father made them realize that she would never return to their world. Her younger sister, as well as other wellborn young women from the town soon followed her. In 1215, Saint Francis installed Clare as the Abbess of the Order of Poor Ladies. True to the Rule of St. Francis, they accepted no dowries from their families as other religious orders did. When they were left inheritances, the money was distributed to the poor. Highly intelligent, and known for the efficacy of her prayers, popes, cardinals, royalty and St. Francis himself came to her for spiritual advice. Her own correspondence shows her to be a clever, happy person.
Devoted to the eucharist and frequently immersed in prayer, the stories of miraculous occurrences around Clare abound. The most famous is that while she was ill, her convent which was outside of the walls of Assisi was attacked by the Saracen mercenaries of Frederick II . As the invaders stormed the walls with ladders, Clare calmly held up a monstrance containing the host. A child’s voice emanated from inside the monstrance, “I will always guard and defend you.” A feeling of dread overtook the invaders and they ran away from the town.
St. Clare was named the patron saint of television writers and workers due to a vision she had while too ill to attend Christmas Eve mass. She was able to view and hear the entire mass on the wall of her room. She spent much time embroidering linens for use in mass, so she is the patron of embroiderers. Because that trade is hard on the eyes and because of her name, she is the patron of those with eye problems and the blind.
Monstrance: Devoted to the Eucharist, Clare protected her convent by holding up a monstrance, which holds the host. Sometimes in art, this monstrance is re-interpreted as a lamp. Since Chiara means clarity, it is Clare shining the light of clarity.

O Glorious St. Clare! God has given you the power of working miracles continually, and the favor of answering the prayers of those who invoke your assistance in misfortune, anxiety, and distress. We beseech you, obtain from Jesus through Mary His Blessed Mother, what we beg of you so fervently and hopefully, (mention your petition) if it be for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of our souls. Amen.

Saint Anthony of Padua, 1195 – 1231

St. Antonius a Paduasmall“Saint Anthony, please come around, there’s something lost that must be found.” Doctor of the Church Feast Day: June 13 Patron of: Lisbon, Portugal, Padua, amputees, barren women, domestic animals, draftees, oppressed people, orphans, paupers, the poor, pregnant women, prisoners, sailors Invoked for: finding a husband, finding lost articles Invoked against: debt, shipwreck, starvation Symbols: baby Jesus, book of Gospels, lily Wonder and miracles are infused with every story of Saint Anthony. Though he has been dead for almost 800 years, he is still the most popular saint in the world and his statue is found in every Catholic Church. Saint Anthony is best known as the patron saint of lost articles but he is invoked for help in all life situations. In his own day he was called the “Wonder Worker’ and credited with the ability to stop the rain, raise the dead and reattach severed limbs. He was such a charismatic preacher that when a crowd of heretics in Rimini refused to listen to his preaching, the fish raised themselves out of the water to hear him. Born Fernando de Bulhes in Lisbon, Portugal, he disappointed his noble family by rejecting his luxurious life and joining the Augustinian religious order. A scholar by nature, he read every book in the monastery, devoting his time to contemplative prayer. Eventually, he befriended a group of itinerant Franciscan monks and became fascinated with this new religious order. Much impressed by their dedication to simplicity, poverty and their belief in returning to the original words of Christ, he joined their ranks, changing his name to Anthony in honor of Saint Anthony of the Desert, the patron of their little church. Returning home from a failed missionary venture in Morocco, his ship was blown off course and he wound up in Messina, Sicily. A group of Franciscan friars insisted he go north with them for a great gathering of all Franciscans, with their founder Francis of Assisi. Anthony remained in Italy and discovered his great gift of preaching when a superior ordered him to speak at an ordination, telling him to say whatever the holy spirit had infused into him. He astonished his audience, not only by his skills as an orator but by the depth of his knowledge. He was sent throughout northern Italy and southern France on evangelical preaching missions which gathered crowds in the tens of thousands. His popularity among the people increased as he used his position to get real changes enacted for their protection. While based in Padua, he observed the crushing power of debt upon the common people. At Anthony’s insistence, the local municipality enacted a law protecting those who could not pay their debts that is still enforced today. Anthony exhausted himself preaching out in fields and in piazzas as there was not cathedral large enough to hold all who came to hear him. At the age of thirty six, his health began to fail him and a local Count donated a woodland retreat for his recovery. One morning the Count heard the sounds of a baby giggling and he looked out to see Anthony surrounded in light, playing with the baby Jesus. That Christ would choose to appear to one of his saints in such a vulnerable state is a testament to the loving and kind nature of Saint Anthony. Because he is depicted holding a baby, women having trouble conceiving invoke his aid. Being of Portuguese descent, Anthony’s feast day is very auspicious for marriages in Portugal and Brazil and in those cultures, he is known to assist women seeking a husband. According to legend, Saint Anthony earned the title patron saint of lost articles when a novice borrowed his psalter and failed to return it. Saint Anthony prayed to get it back and the novice was visited by terrifying visions that sent him running back to Anthony with the book. In iconography, Anthony always holds the baby Jesus and a lily for purity. Many times the returned book of the gospels is included. Novena to Saint Anthony of Padua Holy Saint Anthony, gentle and powerful in your help, Your love for God and charity for His creatures, made you worthy when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were always ready to request for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me (mention your request here). The answer to my prayer may require a miracle. Even so, you are the saint of miracles. Gentle and loving Saint Anthony, whose heart is ever full of human sympathy, take my petition to the Infant Savior for whom you have such a great love, and the gratitude of my heart will be ever yours. Amen It is customary to donate to Saint Anthony’s Bread, a charity started in Saint Anthony’s lifetime, in gratitude to answered novena prayers.



All Souls Day Novena Prayer

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of thy servants and handmaids departed, the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.



Novena for October


Saint Jude Thaddeus

First Century

 Patron of: Impossible Causes

Feast Day: October 28

Invoked: for help in Desperate Times

Attributes: Club, Cloth with image of Jesus, Flame over head

 When all else fails, when we are in the most difficult of situations, we turn to Saint Jude, “Helper of the Helpless” and Saint of the Impossible.

 One of the original 12 apostles, Jude is depicted with the flame of knowledge received from the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost burning above his head. Brother of James the Lesser and cousin of Jesus, Jude was one of Christ’s earliest followers.  He earned his title of Patron Saint of Impossible Causes because of a letter he wrote in 60AD to persecuted Christian converts in the East, exhorting them to stay strong in the face of all difficulties. 

 The name Jude means giver of joy and the name Thaddeus means great hearted one and  this saint was said to live up to his name, attracting immense crowds by preaching in an entertaining way, outwitting magicians and local priests.   Abgar, the King of Edessa was quite impressed with Jude and appealed to Jesus cure his leprosy. He sent an artist to draw Christ’s image. The artist was so shaken by the glow in Christ’s eyes, he could not draw. Christ wiped his face with a cloth and the image of his face was transferred to it. Jude brought the cloth back to Abgar and the king rubbed the cloth over his body, curing himself of leprosy. Many depictions and statues of Saint Jude include this cloth with Christ’s image on it. Jude was martyred along with Saint Simon in the city of Samir by being beaten with a club. This club, as well as the palms of martyrdom are also part of his iconography

The cult of Saint Jude all but died out after the Middle Ages because people confused him with Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Christ. Despite being cited as a great influence by the mystics Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Bridget of Sweden, Jude was rarely invoked by the faithful for anything. It is said that because of this, he became the saint to call on in the most impossible of situations. So anxious was he to be of help, he would turn heaven and earth to rectify a desperate situation. By the nineteenth century, it became customary to thank the saint for help with answered prayers by taking an ad in the newspaper. This helped to resurrect his popularity and these small “Thank you Saint Jude” ads can be found in many weekly and daily periodicals in present day.



Unfailing Prayer to Saint Jude

Glorious apostle, Saint Jude Thaddeus, I salute you through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through his heart I praise and thank God for all the graces he has bestowed upon you. I implore you, through his love, to look upon me with compassion. Do not despise my poor prayer. Do not let my trust be confounded! God has granted to you the privilege of aiding mankind in the most desperate cases. Oh, come to my aid that I may praise the mercies of God! All my life I will be your grateful client until I can thank you in heaven.

(Mention your request here).

Saint Jude, pray for us, and for all who invoke your aid.

(Say this novena nine times in a row for nine days in a row. It is customary to place a small ad in a newspaper or on some public posting thanking Saint Jude after a request is granted).

(Excerpted from the soon to be released Novena App: Praying with the Saints by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua).


Novena for May

Novena to the Holy Spirit

To be said between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost

(For 2012 Ascension Thursday falls on May 17th)

This is the oldest novena, dating back to the very birth of the church and its importance cannot be underestimated. When Christ first appeared to the apostles forty days after the crucifixion, he sent them to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit and instructed them to pray for nine days. This novena, written in the Middle Ages, is said for nine days prior to Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter, and is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. Addressed to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, it is a powerful plea for the light, strength, love, and wisdom needed by all. In art, the Holy Spirit is always depicted as a white dove.

Each of the nine days was given a different prayer with a different subject to contemplate. After each daily prayer, the Our Father and Hail Mary are to be recited once each and the Glory Be is to be recited seven times.

The following two prayers are said every day with your novena:

Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit

On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses I offer myself, soul and body, to you, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of your purity, the unerring keenness of your justice, and the might of your love. You are the strength and light of my soul. In you I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve you by unfaithfulness to grace, and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against you. Mercifully guard my every thought, and grant that I may always watch for your light and listen to your voice and follow your gracious inspirations. I cling to you and give myself to you and ask you, by your compassion, to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced feet of Jesus and looking at his five wounds, and trusting in his precious blood and adoring his opened side and stricken heart, I implore you, adorable Spirit, helper of my infirmity, to keep me in your grace so that I may never sin against you. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son, to say to you always and everywhere, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Amen.

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

O Lord Jesus Christ, who before ascending into heaven promised to send the Holy Spirit to finish your work in the souls of your apostles and disciples, to gran the same Holy Spirit to me that he may perfect in my soul the work of your grace and your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom, that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal: the Spirit of Understanding, to enlighten my mind with the light of your divine truth; the Spirit of Counsel, that I may ever choose the surest way of choosing God and gaining heaven; the Spirit of Fortitude, that I may bear my cross with you and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation; the Spirit of Knowledge, that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the saints; the Spirit of Piety, that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable; the Spirit of Fear, that I amy be filled with a loving reverence toward God and may dread in any way to displease him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of your true disciples and animate me in all things with your Spirit. Amen.

FIRST DAY: The Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit! Lord of Light!

From thy clear celestial height,

Thy pure beaming radiance give!

Almighty and eternal God, who have vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Spirit, and have given us forgiveness of all our sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us your sevenfold, Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

SECOND DAY: The Gift of Fear

Come, thou Father of the poor!

Come, with treasures which endure!

Come, thou light of all that live!

Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart that I may set you, my Lord and God, before my face forever; help me to shun all things that can offend you, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of your Divine Majesty in heaven, where you llive and reign in the unity of the Blessed Trinity, God without end. Amen.

THIRD DAY: The Gift of Piety

Thou, of all consolers best,

Visiting the troubled breast

Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart; enkindle therein such a love for God that I may find satisfaction only in his service, and for his sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen

FOURTH DAY: The Gift of Fortitude

Thou in toil are comfort sweet,

Pleasant coolness in the heat;

Solace in the midst of woe.

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in times of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weaknesses, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from you, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

FIFTH DAY: The Gift of Knowledge

Light immortal! Light divine!

Visit thou these hearts of thine,

And our inmost being fill.

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for your glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to you, and your eternal rewards. Amen.

SIXTH DAY: The Gift of Understanding

If thou take thy grace away,

Nothing pure in man will stay,

All his good is turned to ill.

Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in your light, and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of you and the Father and the Son. Amen.

SEVENTH DAY: The Gift of Counsel

Heal our wounds – our strength renew;

On our dryness pour thy dew;

Wash the stains of guilt away!

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do your holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good, turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of your commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long. Amen.

EIGHTH DAY: The Gift of Wisdom

Bend the stubborn heart and will;

Melt the frozen, warm the chill;

Guide the steps that go astray!

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power, and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all passing joys and satisfactions of the earth. Help me to attain them and possess them forever. Amen.

NINTH DAY: The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Thou, on those who evermore

Thee confess and thee adore,

In thy sevenfold gifts, descend;

Give them comfort when they die;

Give them life with thee on high;

Give them joy which never ends. Amen.

Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with your heavenly fruits, your charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to your inspiration, may merit to be united eternally with you in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

(From the book, “Novena: The Power of Prayer” by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua)

Lenten Novena

Novena Prayer for the Forty Days of Lent

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 neighbour. 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 favour: (Mention your request).

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 judgement of 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.



Merry Christmas from Dining With the Saints



Lasagna for Christmas Day


Most Italians and Italian-Americans prepare a meatless meal, usually many fish courses, to celebrate La Vigilia, Christmas Eve. My family always made shrimp, calamari, clams, sea bass, and sometimes served caviar. It entailed a huge amount of preparation and we’d all be exhausted when it was over. The next day we’d get up early. My father would slice up a pannetone, make a pot of strong coffee, and we’d open presents. Then we’d all pile into the car and drive over to my grandmother’s house where she’s have a big antipasto plate already on the table. And then she’s bring out a beautiful ragu filled lasagna. This was pure heaven. The lasagna varied from year to year, but I was especially found of one she made with turkey and a creamy béchamel sauce. I never got her recipe but have come up with my own version. It’s pretty close in spirit to my grandmother’s but I’ve included fresh rosemary, an herb I don’t remember her using very much. She would have chosen fresh oregano or basil, but the rosemary gives it a real wintery aroma.

Merry Christmas to you.

Christmas Lasagna with Turkey and Rosemary

(Serves six as a main course)

 Extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup medium diced pancetta or guanciale

2 sweet Italian pork sausages, casings removed

1 1/2 pounds freshly ground turkey

A generous pinch of sugar

1 large onion, cut into small dice

1 carrot, cut into small dice

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves well chopped

1 fresh bay leaf

A few big scrapings of nutmeg

3 ground allspice


Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup turkey or chicken broth

1 35 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, well chopped, with juice

½ cup of whole milk

For the besciamella:

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 fresh bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of sugar
⅛ teaspoon hot paprika (I used the Basque piment d’espelette)


1 pound of very thinly rolled fresh egg pasta, cut for lasagna, boiled until just tender

1 1/2 cups grated grana padano cheese

In a large casserole fitted with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, the butter and the pancetta and let the pancetta brown. Add the sausage and the turkey, and the pinch of sugar, mashing the meat up with a wooden spoon, and brown it lightly all over. This will probably take about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, nutmeg, and allspice. Season everything with salt and black pepper and sauté until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the white wine and let it bubble until almost evaporated. Add the turkey or chicken broth and the tomatoes with their juice. Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn the heat down low, cover the casserole, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring it occasionally. Now add the milk and simmer for about 10 minutes longer. Turn off the heat and let the ragu sit and settle for about ½ hour. This will allow the flavors to blend and it’ll also make it easier for you to scoop excess fat from the surface. Check for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper, if needed.


To make the besciamella: Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking it to blend it into the butter. Cook, while continuing to whisk, for about a minute, without letting the mix color. You’ll smell a sweet, lightly toasted flour aroma. Add all the milk, and continue whisking. Add all the seasonings, and continue cooking, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened. This will happen around the time it comes to a boil. When bubbles appear on the surface, turn the heat down a bit, and continue cooking for another minute or so or until the sauce is thick and very smooth.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In an approximately 8 x 12 inch baking dish, spoon out a thin layer of the ragu. Now put down a layer of the pasta sheets. Spoon on some beciamella, smoothing in out, and sprinkle on a thin layer of grated grana padano. Make another layer of ragu, another one of pasta sheets, more beciamella, and more grated cheese. Spoon of the remaining ragu, put down a last layer of pasta, finish up the beciamella, and then sprinkle on a light layer of grana padano. Give the top a little salt and pepper and a fresh drizzle of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the oven up to 425 degrees and bake until the lasagna is bubbling and nicely browned on the top, about 15 minutes longer. Let it rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Erica DeMane is a writer and chef. Find her blog: EricaDeMane.com

Painting: Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence by Caravaggio

Novena for October

Guardian Angels

Feast Day: October 2

Most of the world’s religions agree on one thing: the presence of angels in our lives. The word “angel” comes from the Greek word angelos, which means” messenger.” All angels are messengers from God. If we pray to the saints because, having been human, they fully understand our shortcomings, we pray to the angels because they are pure in spirit and so call us to a higher level of being. Angels do not have human natures, and so their perspectives are totally different than ours. We turn to them to be reminded of the higher goal we share with them. It is said that the more we pray to the angels, the less the material and physical problems of the earth will seem to matter.

Angels, who exist at the very throne of God, are said to number in the thousands of millions. They are divided into three hierarchies. The first is the heavenly counselors, who are nearest to God: the seraphim, cherubim and thrones. They regulate the movement of light in the heavens as it emanates from God. The next hierarchy is the heavenly governors: the powers, virtues and dominions. These bear the conscience of all humanity, transmit divine energy, govern the activities of all the angelic orders, and integrate the spiritual and material world. The third hierarchy has direct contact with the earth and mankind: principalities, archangels and angels. From infancy until death, human life is enveloped by the watchful care and intercession of the guardian angels

It is believed that each one of us has his or her own guardian angel. These angels are always with us and are responsible for keeping us on the right path, helping us rise when we fall, encouraging us to become more and more virtuous, assisting us in death, and, most important of all, acting as intermediaries, offering our prayers and good actions to God. They do not see our physical actions as much as our spiritual actions. By praying to our guardian angels, we open up a channel to the divine grace. The angels have perfect knowledge, or wisdom, and this comes from their vision of God. They are said to be endowed with blessedness from gazing enraptured at God, and this blessedness makes them view all creations and all creatures as the beautiful perfection they really are. The more we communicate with our guardian angels, the more we become aware of our own blessedness and perfect beauty. Though angels have free will, because of this beatific existence there can be no temptation but to do God’s will.

The more we pray to the guardian angels, the more sensitive we become to their advice. Intuitive thoughts and feelings become more pronounced, and we no longer rely on judgmental thinking in our decision making. We become less fearful, more accepting, more in harmony with things. This is what it means to live in a state of grace. The angels are said to be beings of light. We lighten our lives and existence when we pray to them and with them.


Novena to Your Guardian Angel

Bless the Lord, all you his angels. You who are mighty in strength and do his will, intercede for me at the throne of God. By your unceasing watchfulness protect me in every danger of soul and body. Obtain for me the grace of final perseverance, so that after this life I may be admitted to your glorious company and with you may sing the praises of God for all eternity.

All you holy angels and archangels, thrones and dominions, principalities and powers and virtues of heaven, cherubim and seraphim, and especially you, my dear guardian angel, intercede for me and obtain for me the special favor I now ask. (Mention your request).


(Excerpted from the book “Novena: The Power of Prayer” by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua.)


Alcoholism / Martin of Tours, 316–397,
Feast Day: November 11

Born into a Hungarian military family, Martin was named for Mars, the Roman god of war. As a soldier, he converted to Christianity and was elevated to the office of bishop by the people of Tours. It is said he could turn water into wine, and he died on the day when the new wine is traditionally tasted. Immensely popular for his charity, he is known as the “Thirteenth Apostle.”

Other patronages: geese, horses; cavalrymen, cloth merchants, innkeepers, potters, tanners, vine growers, vintners; beggars, oppressed people

Invoked: against poverty