Keeping the Faith Incarnational (even under quarantine)

I have a blog post on Catechist magazine today on how we can continue to root our faith in Christ’s incarnation during the COVID-19 crisis:

Even as we use new technologies for catechesis, communication, and to live-stream liturgies for the benefit of those who cannot be present with the assembly (or, when public liturgies are canceled, with the priests who continue to celebrate the Mass on our behalf), these technologies should always lead us to a greater fellowship and faith in the real world.

With that in mind, here are some ways in which we can root our Domestic Church (our family home) in an incarnational practice of the faith while practicing social distancing and living under stay-at-home orders.

Read the whole post on Catechist magazine!

Lenten Recipe: Quick Quiche

This quiche recipe is an easy last minute meal. On non-abstaining days I’ll add whatever leftover meat is in the refrigerator; during Lent there are lots of choices of vegetables and seafood to add in!

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 tbls flour
  • 1/3 cup onion, minced
  • Salt, pepper, & garlic powder
  • 8 oz cheese, shredded
  • Choice of add-ins (broccoli, asparagus, shrimp, tomatoes, etc.)
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Methodology

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Whip eggs, half-n-half, mayo and flour together in a bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients.
  4. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.
  5. Allow to sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Catechesis When We Cannot Gather

What a difference two weeks make.

Two Sundays ago we were celebrating the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion with the Elect and candidates of the diocese. Today public Masses and catechetical programs are canceled, many of us are working from home, and we are all adjusting to a “new normal.”

With so much on people’s plates it may be tempting to wait to engage in catechesis. Where do we even begin?! But there are some simple things you can do to keep the catechetical process going.

  1. Focus on the faith, not programs. The plans and goals that we set for ourselves this year no longer apply. We are literally in extraordinary circumstances. So don’t worry about making sure kids “get through the textbook” this year. Instead, focus on helping them pray, grow in their relationship with Jesus, and find ways to practice the faith off parish grounds. See this time as an opportunity to help the faithful discover new ways of praying and being Church, even as we mourn not being able to gather for liturgy and fellowship.
  2. Keep in contact. Right now people want to know that the Church remembers and cares for them. Next week, call — don’t email — every family enrolled in your program. If you have a large program, enlist some lead catechists to assist you. Let families know you are concerned for them and praying for them. Find out if they have any particular needs or prayer requests, and try to connect them with services that can help. As we continue to practice social distancing, check-in regularly with families.
  3. Share home-based catechetical materials parents can use with their children. This is an excellent time to help families develop their Domestic Church and assist parents as the primary formators of their children. Our diocese’s Office of Catechesis is maintaining a list of materials, videos, and other resources families can use together. Email 2-3 suggestions to your families each week to keep them engaged and to offer new ways to keep their children practicing the faith.
  4. See what resources your textbook publisher is offering. Many of the major catechetical publishers are offering free resources and materials to help parents during this time. Check your textbook’s website or email your sales representative to see what you have access to.

Above all else, pray for our civic and Church leaders, that they may have the grace, perseverance, and wisdom they need in these times. And be assured that you and all catechetical leaders are in my prayers.

Lenten Recipe: Split Pea Soup

This split pea soup recipe is perfect for a busy day — just set it up in the crock pot in the morning and then forget all about it until dinner time.

Ingredients

  • 1lb split peas
  • 3 carrots, sliced thin
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Methodology

  1. Wash the split and discard any discolored beans.
  2. Layer the peas in the bottom of a crock pot.
  3. Place carrots, celery, and onion, and garlic on top of peas.
  4. Cover peas and vegetables with stock. (It should come about 1/2 inch above the ingredients. If there isn’t enough stock to cover the vegetables, add water.)
  5. Add bay leaves to the crock pot.
  6. Cover and cook on low all day.
  7. When ready to serve, remove bay leaves. Add water if needed.
  8. Optionally, use an immersion blender to blend soup; otherwise, just stir until ingredients are mixed well.
  9. Serve warm with a salad and bread.

Lenten Recipe: Zucchini Latkes with Tzatziki Sauce

Latkes are a Lenten staple in our house. While we often make the traditional potato variety, this zucchini-based variation is also a hit with the kids.

Ingredients: Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cucumber, patted dry
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbls dill, chipped
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper, as needed

Methodology: Tzatziki Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass or metal bowl and refrigerate 2-3 hours.

Ingredients: Latkes

  • 3 zucchini, grated
  • Salt
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground tarragon
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbles
  • Olive oil

Methodology: Zucchini Latkes

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet. When shimmering, drop spoonfuls of zucchini mixtures into oil. Fry to 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  3. Keep latkes warm in a 175° F degree oven. Serve with tzatziki sauce.

Lenten Recipe: Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

This version of a Greek classic cheats by using prepackaged puffed pastry instead of filo dough. The end result may not have the same delicate, flaky texture of traditional spinach pie, but it’s a lot easier to make.

Ingredients

  • 2lb spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 package puffed pastry
  • 1lb cottage cheese
  • 2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbls flour
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Methodology

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Lightly steam chopped spinach (there’s a lot, so do it in batches).
  3. Saute onion in oil, then add garlic, oregano, and basil; salt and pepper to taste. When onion is cooked remove and reserve onion and garlic. Use the remaining oil to grease a 9x13x2 baking dish.
  4. Drain the cottage cheese and mix with the feta cheese, eggs, garlic and onion. Add flour as needed to keep the mixture dry.
  5. Roll out the puffed pastry sheets and place one in the bottom of the baking dish. Mix spinach and cheeses and spoon into the dish.
  6. Lay the second pastry sheet on top and tuck in, brushing with the remaining oil.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Lenten Recipe: Pesto Minestrone Soup

I love Lenten soups. They tend to be easy to make and a crowd pleasure for at least 75% of our kids. This soup is no exception. Using the crockpot means a little invest of time in the morning pays dividends when dinner is ready in the evening. And the use of a rich, flavorful pesto elevates this soup to something the kids love.

Ingredients

  • Two carrots, sliced
  • 2 potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbls basil pesto
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 cup small pasta (macaroni, orzo, etc.)
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese

Methodology

  1. Toss the carrots, potatoes, and onions in olive oil and put in slow cooker.
  2. Add 5 cups water, tomatoes, 2 tbls pesto, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook 6-8 hours on high.
  3. Add beans, pasta and remaining pesto. Continue cooking until pasta is cooked (about 10 minutes).
  4. Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese.

Three Kings, Three Wise Men, or What?

QUESTION: The feast of the Epiphany often describes the magi as three wise men — and even three kings, as in the old carol: “We Three Kings.” Yet we don’t find the word “kings” in the Gospel’s infancy narratives. Can you explain a proper understanding of who the magi were — and their significance — so I can teach my middle schoolers? — PAT W.

JONATHAN F. SULLIVAN Responds:

The wise men appear only in the Gospel of Matthew where they are described with the Greek word magoi, which in addition to “wise men” implies astrologers or even magicians. Little is known about them (the Gospel doesn’t even say how many there were!) except that they came from the East, where they may have been priests of Zoroastrianism or another religion in Persia.

Read the rest from Catechist Magazine…

Christ the Child, the Teacher

In his apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, Pope St. John Paul II reminds us that

“in catechesis it is Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, who is taught – everything else is taught with reference to Him – and it is Christ alone who teaches – anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips.” (no. 6)

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, this quote may prompt us to consider what lessons the Christ child teaches us.

That God condescended to become man — indeed, a child — demonstrates that he desires a relationship of affection and love with us. The Second Person of the Trinity cleaves to humanity in the closest way possible by taking on our flesh and blood. He is “God with us” and continues to reach out to each one of us by extending the love and mercy of the Father.

Jesus also came in poverty, foreshadowing his deep concern for the poor and marginalized. St. John Chrysostom says “His desire was not to destroy, but to save; and to trample upon human pride from its very birth, therefore He is not only man, but a poor man.” Today it is in the face of the poor and downtrodden that we see the face of Christ himself, and by serving them we truly serve Christ. (cf. Matthew 25:31-46)

Finally, in the infant Jesus we see the innocent victim who will one day be led to sacrifice at Calvary. Born in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” his sacrifice continues to refresh our body and soul whenever we receive the bread of life in the Eucharist, for he offers to us his very body and blood, soul and divinity which hung on the Cross for our salvation.

As we await the coming of the Christ child at Christmas, let us continue to reflect on the great gift of the Incarnation and the lessons taught by a little child.