The Second Week of Advent this year has offered the chance to share a bounty of God’s saintly gifts. From The Immaculate Conception of the
Blessed Virgin Mary on Monday, Dec. 8, to St. Juan Diego Cuahtlatoatzin Dec. 9 to Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 and St. Lucy – also known widely as Santa Lucia on Dec. 13.
If your family has been as busy as mine this week, aside from the Immaculate Conception – observed as a Holy Day of Obligation on the actual day – the other saintly festivities will be celebrated in the home this weekend.
It’s wonderful to share the stories of these three special days with young and old alike, to prepare foods that call their memories to mind once again as we join in prayer and reflection on their gifts to the Church.
This week again, I turned to Loyola Press for insights to share with the family that convey the powerful story of St. Juan Diego, a 57-year-old Aztec, and the beautiful Lady who appeared to him on Dec. 9 and Dec. 12 on a hill in Mexico City in 1531.
The meetings are described in simple, lovely terms, explaining how in the first meeting, the Lady asked Juan Diego to have a church built in his honor, a request rejected by Bishop Zumarraga because he didn’t understand the Indian Dialect.
Three days later, Mary appeared to Juan Diego again and this time she gave him a sign to convince the bishop – roses that had bloomed despite the winter. He carried them to the bishop in his cloak or tilma. When he opened it and the roses scattered to the floor, the bishop saw the miraculous image of Mary as she had appeared to Juan Diego, and he believed, opening the door to a mass conversion of the Aztec people.
Among the activities Loyola offers in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of The Americas, is obtaining a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe so children especially can visualize the Blessed Virgin Mary as she appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak all those hundreds of years ago. The tilma with its image is still with us, still bringing millions of faithful every year to her shrine in Mexico City where it hangs above the main altar of the basilica which bears her name. It’s fitting to place roses – real or otherwise – near the image.
Bring a sweet delight to the table in honor of Our Lady and Juan Diego in the form of a favorite Mexican recipe: “Capirota” a sweet and savory bread pudding that met with favor when I brought it into The Monitor office for its closeup.
This dish, often served in Lent because it is satisfying and meatless, is also a staple of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I combined several recipes from the Internet to come up with this version.
Mexican Bread Pudding
– 1-1/2 cups water
-1/2 cup butter, melted
-2 tsp. Cinnamon
-1 cup brown sugar
-l loaf fresh French bread (1 lb.) cut into one inch cubes
-2 cups shredded low-moisture Mozzarella cheese
-1-1/2 cup raisins
-1-1/2 cup sliced almonds
-pinch of salt
Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees, toss bread cubes in a bowl with butter; spread on a baking and bake for 10 minutes. Mix raisins, almonds and cheese in a bowl and toss together. Place a layer of bread in a casserole dish and alternate with a layer of cheese, almonds and raisins until all those ingredients are used. Make at least two layers.
Dissolve brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in water and pour over the bread mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until all moisture is absorbed.
Serve hot or cold, as a dessert or a side dish.
I use a slight trace of Swedish heritage – one Swedish great-grandmother – as an excuse to celebrate St. Lucia’s Day by looking to Scandinavian cuisine with a main course of poached salmon and potatoes followed by a good strong coffee and baked goods including ginger snaps – my favorite cookie.
In Scandinavia, this commemoration of one of the earliest Christian martyrs – St. Lucia was killed by the Romans in 304 for her refusal to abandon her Christian faith – is a festival of lights. In many ways, it marks the official beginning of the Christmas season there and is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.
This recipe for Lucia Ginger Snaps was also adapted from several recipes on the Internet.
Lucia Ginger Snaps
Makes 60 cookies
2/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons boiled, cooled water
2-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Directions: Cream shortening and sugar together. Add molasses and water. Mix dry ingredients together with a whisk and add to creamed mixture slowly, blending well. Chill overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough on a lightly floured board and cut with cookie cutters of your choice. Bake on cookie sheets for 9-10 minutes or until browned.