Monthly Archives: March 2016

Mother Angelica’s Passing

She passed away on Easter Sunday, which is certainly fitting.

With God’s help and for His glory, she started with a tiny apostolate and a garage, and ended up with two religious orders and a media empire.

Grant eternal rest unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.

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Good News, Bad News

The good news is that I have a day off.

The bad news is that I woke up with a cold.

I am now drinking soup with lots of garlic and chicken in it.

PS – Wednesday is the spectacular two-part season finale of Rebels. Be there or be square!

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The Legend of Serah, Daughter of Asher

Okay, I definitely have never heard about this female Biblical character before. I’m afraid my eyes went right over her name.

According to the Bible, Serah or Serach was a daughter of Asher who traveled to Egypt to live there under Joseph’s patronage (Gen. 46:17). And also according to the Bible, there was a Serah, daughter of Asher, who went out of Egypt during the Exodus. 210 years later. (Num. 26:46) (1 Chron. 7:30)

This of course was noticed by the ancient rabbis, and made her the subject of a lot of speculation and stories. (Hint: she was a good guy.) She was supposedly the one person who was able to identify Moses and Aaron as sent by God to save the Israelites, thanks to a prophecy passed to her by Asher. She was also the one who remembered where Joseph’s coffin was kept. Some legends even connect her to the “wise woman” in the Book of Samuel (2 Samuel 20:16) who negotiated with Joab and agreed to get the townspeople of Abel Beth-Maacah to execute Sheba son of Bikri, according to an interpretation that reads “I am peaceable and faithful in Israel” (2 Sam. 20:19) or “I seek the welfare of the faithful in Israel” [shelomei emunei Yisrael] as “I completed [the number of] the faithful of Israel.” [shelumai emunei Yisrael] Furthermore, it was said by some rabbis that because she was so good and wise, God allowed her to enter Paradise without dying first (just like Enoch).

The women of the tribe of Asher were traditionally supposed to have been very beautiful, refined, modest, devoted to their kids, and wise (and hence very popular as wives for priests, and for high status men of other tribes). The prophetess Anna daughter of Phanuel, whom Luke tells us never left the Temple and was waiting for the Messiah to be born, was from the tribe of Asher. Asher tribeswomen were all known as “daughters of Asher,” so obviously it might not have been the same Serah before and after the Exodus! But it is a cool story, and shows yet again that Mary’s Assumption is part of a long tradition about righteous Jews going to heaven body and soul.

The downside of the popularity of Asher tribe girls was that the tribe of Asher never got very big!

Here’s another article recounting legends about Serach, such as that her brothers and cousins looked to her to break the news that Joseph was still alive, without giving Jacob a heart attack. 🙂 Read the whole thing, including the footnotes, to find out about how Serach was supposedly a prophetess, and about how pious Jews invoked her name for a safe journey, and for protection against being harmed by wicked people.

More about Serah bat Asher. This article names her as the one who saw angels at the crossing of the Red Sea/Reed Sea, and elaborates further on the legend that she was able to tell later generations what it looked like to have the sea rise up on the right and left. It also elaborates on her fate: perhaps she still wanders the earth keeping an eye on the Jews (like some stories about Elijah); and perhaps she runs a women’s Torah school in Heaven, where all the saintly women who worked hard as caregivers can finally sit down and learn Torah instead.

This Jewish encyclopedia article has more about Serach’s legend, including the association of her name with the expression “serah ha-odef” [“something left over”, or “the remnant remaining”] in Ex. 26:12.

There’s also a rabbinical list of all the people who went to Paradise alive: “Enoch, Elijah, Pharaoh’s daughter Bithiah (1 Chron. 4:17-18), the three sons of Korah, King Hiram of Tyre, Jabez, Jonadab son of Rechab and his descendants, Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, Abraham’s servant Eliezer, the slave of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, and Rabbi Joshua ben Levi.”

And that’s a very mixed bunch!

Serah bat Asher on Wikipedia.

“Serah Bat Asher in Rabbinical Literature”: PDF. An academic article about Serah’s legend, which points out that unlike Dinah and Miriam, the other famous and named unmarried women of this part of the Bible, tradition never provides Serah with a husband or children. She’s a virgin all her life. This article goes into detail about the Persian tradition that she died in a horrible medieval synagogue fire in Isfahan, and that her mausoleum was a place of pilgrimage for Persian Jews. Only people of good character could get past the doorposts of the tomb, because the doorway shrinks to keep out the unrighteous. She also shows up as a character in Thomas Mann’s novel, Joseph and His Brothers.

This article says that during the Exodus, Serah was the only one able to look upon God and live. She showed David the Foundation Stone for the Temple, and she helped Jeremiah to hide the Ark and the sacred vessels. This article gives a different version of the Persian synagogue fire: it was caused by a fiery chariot coming to pick Serah up, the fire did not harm the Isfahan synagogue, and the grave is just a memorial cenotaph with no body in it.

This article talks about the connection between Joseph’s words in Gen. 50:24-25, and Moses’ words in Ex. 3:16, as well as Gen. 21:1 and the story of Sarah and Isaac. Traditionally it is Serah who points out the similarity of words.

An interesting analysis of the meaning of the Hebrew name “Serah.” It would seem that her name means something like “free” or “unrestrained” as well as something like “abundance” and “overlapping, excess.”

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Interesting Talk about Wright Field’s History

There is now such a thing as the Fairborn Historical Society, and they held a very interesting talk today about the history of Wright Field. There were two speakers. The first one had written several short histories about Dayton aviation and Wright-Patterson AFB, and the second one was the architect in charge of restoring Wright-Patt’s historic buildings. There was a lot of good information.

One thing that was new to me was the existence of a POW camp at Wright Field during WWII, almost literally next door to several classified research areas. The German and Italian POWs unloaded train cars. They also left a 120 foot mural behind.

One of the base’s contributions to the war effort was Project LUSTY, which stood for LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY. (Yeah, a little bit of acronym torture….) Captured planes and documents were brought over to the US and studied. One pristine Messerschmidt jet plane was delivered fresh from the factory to the Americans in France, courtesy of its ferry pilot’s decision to defect. Thanks to test flights, this plane eventually ended up as wreckage in a field two miles outside Xenia. The farmer held out for money from the government before permitting retrieval… and he’s still waiting! It’s still there!

We also learned about the amazing airminded skullduggery of Colonel Deeds, something that I certainly had never heard about. What was really amazing was that he was never indicted. Dayton’s local heroes are a very mixed bag!

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The Petty Habits of Losers

I recently learned that a certain Republican Women’s Club in Greene County has directed its members not to write the standard congratulation letters to Republicans who won the primary or who won posts in the state Republican Party — if they are connected with the Tea Party in any way — even if they had been members of this particular club for many years. Nor is this a new club policy, one understands.

Really? Could you be any more passive-aggressive and petty?

Basically, you’re saying “we support Republicans whom we like, but we won’t even be civil to lifelong Republicans we don’t like. In fact, we will be less civil than we would be to Democratic Party members.” (And indeed, this club has invited Democrats who have county jobs to come speak, and treated them with hospitality and friendliness.)

If you want to lose both elections and political influence, this is the way to go.

If you don’t want to represent Republican women who vote and run, this is the way to go.

Be serious about party politics and binding yourselves to work together to win, or go home and lose on your own time.

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That Margaret Barker Person Is Creepy

I wondered where the weird Episcopalian raisin cake thing was coming from. Now I know.

Basically, she is a Methodist theologian who wants to paint every mysterious figure in the Bible as referring to Asherat, and apparently that doesn’t except Melchizedek. I feel like I am back reading neopagan feminist fantasy novels from the Eighties, crossed over with Jack Chick tracts.

Her basic theory (and that of some other feminist theologians) is that “El Shaddai” does not mean “my all-mighty/all-sufficient god”, but rather “goddess of the breasts”. Obviously there are problems with this, starting with “el” being the masculine word for a god; the feminine form is “elat” or “elath”. Also as you would predict, she calls this notional deity “the Lady” and “the Queen of Heaven”. Supposedly, all Biblical references to Wisdom are really about this female El Shaddai. (I’m not sure how the Shekhinah glory fits into all this.)

Everything was all happy (instead of mother goddesses being a sign of female oppression and sex slavery, as they often are… but that’s another post) until EVIL King Josiah threw out all the symbols of feminine divine power, substituting a lot of FAKE stuff about Moses and Aaron. Everything that was ever lost from the Temple was not hauled off by God or by Egyptians and Romans, but was actually a SEECRRETT goddess worship thing that bad Josiah destroyed. But the SEEECRET TRAADITIONNNNNNN was handed down in secret wisdom among those who still followed the old religion, and eventually we got Mary worship.


The non-hilarious thing is that Mormons have taken up this stuff as proof that there really are multiple gods and goddesses, including both “the Heavenly Mother” and their cousin Bob who now has his own planet, and that all of their Temple stuff is really true.

The other non-hilarious thing is that obviously there is a lot to say about Temple theology and about the roles of women in Temple Judaism, as well as about what was expected about the Messiah and how early Christians interpreted the OT. Instead of writing those books, Barker is wasting her time on crap and on being a bad guide to others.

Finally, it would seem that Marquette actually invited this woman to give a Marian lecture. The University of Dayton has had some terrible speakers, but at least they’re not playing “Insults to Mary R Us.”

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Sensus Fidei

I really like Fencing Bear at Prayer’s range of sources and quotes about Marian hermeneutics of Scripture, and I think she is onto something. Yes, the early use and the use in so many sources of so many of the same abstruse Biblical references means something big.

The problem is that she has hitched her wagon to this Margaret Barker person and her theories, who wants to turn the known presence of Asherat worship in Israel and the raisin cake thing into an actual inspired theology and Scripture tradition that was killed off by evil evil Josiah and those darned rabbinical vowel pointings, and which came to life again through Virgin Mary worship.

(Seriously, people, is there a rule that every anti-Catholic lie has to be repeated twice: once by non-Catholics as condemnation, and then by other non-Catholics as praise?)

Well, I have been reading patristics and Marian Scripture interpretation for a long while too, and I have the advantage of knowing in my gut that Catholics and Orthodox and Copts are not Collyridian goddess worshippers. So what am I thinking about this?

  1. The entirely human gebirah or queen mother was important in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. She appeared in king lists and interceded with the king (and Esther also acted similarly in the more precarious Persian cultural position of king’s wife). Chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs is quoted from a gebirah. The dad’s mom was in a similar position of influence in most Jewish families, down to the present day, and so was the mom’s mom.

2. Since the royal gebirah was important to any king, people expected any Davidic king to have one. If the Messiah was going to be a Davidic king, his Davidic gebirah was also important, and possibly prophesied. If the Messiah was going to be more like a prophet or a Nazarite, his mom would dedicate him like Samuel or Samson’s mom (or Elizabeth). If the Messiah was going to be more than just human (as Daniel hinted with the God-like powers of the “one like a Son of Man”), his mom would have to be a special Daughter Zion figure. We do see a few Jewish apocalyptic texts attributing  mighty powers to the Messiah’s mom, while still portraying her as a human given these powers by God.

3. OTOH, since Asherat worship seems to have been a common temptation for Jewish women, and since a lot of early Christians may have mixed not entirely ex-paganism with their new religion (a la Roman occult synthesis of everybody), it is possible that some people wanted to turn the Messianic mom into a goddess, and hence the Collyridians. It is possible that one might wrest unorthodox interpretations of Scripture from such people, by teaching orthodox Marian stuff more heavily; but really we see more Marian stuff showing up versus Nestorianism, as a guard against bad Christology. We don’t know any bad interpretations from those Collyridian folks, so it would be just guessing now.

4. On the other side, however, the niche of “God’s highest creation and perfect human who is not God” is extremely persistent among people who don’t want to concede it to Mary. From the Arians on, a lot of people put Jesus there. The Muslims claim Mohammed is the Perfect Man. So it makes more sense to think Mary is important as being a human who manages to do it right, than having her be some goddess figure.

5. Actually, most patristic sources seem to use Lady Wisdom as referring directly to Jesus (not the Holy Spirit or Mary), although obviously it got important later and many Christ verses can also refer to Mary or the Church or the Christian soul. (I would be curious to see any stats showing otherwise about early use.) But yup, Song of Songs is used early for both the Church and Mary.

6. The Scriptural figure of Israel as wayward or faithful wife, of Daughter Zion, of the Valiant Woman and the various wise (or stubborn) Matriarchs, Esther, Judith, and the Jewish tradition of the Torah and Sabbath as spotless women or brides, would seem to relate more closely to Marian readings of Scripture than any guesswork goddess. (The presence of women in semi-liturgical roles at Jewish festivals, and the prayer roles of  both ordinary Jewish women in in the home and of priests’ wives in their homes, may tie in, too.)

So without reading this Bear’s actual book, or indeed any Barker books, I do not know if that is the orthodox direction she is going, or if she has another orthodox direction. I would hope so. If she is taking this in a weird heretical way (which was what the Marquette talk sounded like, at the end and unexpectedly), I hope she turns it around. Listening to Mary brings one toward Christ and the Church, not out into the darkness or into the company of Jezabel. Mary is the proto-Christian.

Just to be clear, however, I still like the cut of Fencing Bear at Prayer’s jib. I just hope she knows where she’s sailing. Even if she doesn’t, I’m pretty sure her observations will continue to be interesting!


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St. Augustine on the Sword and the Soul

A good quote found at the blog of Fencing Bear at Prayer, whom I should follow.

“[O Lord,] You grasp my soul, and topple my enemies with it.

“And what is our soul? A splendid weapon it may be, long, sharp, oiled, and coruscating with the light of wisdom as it is brandished.

“But what is this soul of ours worth? What is it capable of, unless God holds it and fights with it? Any sword, however beautifully made, lies idle if there is no warrior to take it up….

“So God does whatever He wishes with our soul. Since it is in His hand, it is His to use as He will.”

— Augustine of Hippo, Exposition of Psalm 34 (35), trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B.

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A Presbyterian Academic and the Virgin Mary

“Ironically, of course, that Mary even needs me to make this argument is thanks above all to Protestants like the Presbyterians, who in their insistence on sola scriptura managed to erase a whole tradition of reading with one fell swoop of the pen: “Medieval Catholics were making it up.”

Well, obviously I also wish she would come to Catholicism, but it’s perfectly true that the Scriptures are full of Mary and that Marian devotion is full of the Scriptures. I don’t know why most people don’t get this.

(Of course, I also think that Beatus of Liebana is fun and personable, so maybe I’m not the average person.)

But then, we modern Christians all find ourselves in a world that doesn’t recognize that the Old Testament is full of Jesus, even though Christians have been explaining all of that for centuries. I still keep finding “new” things in the Gospel that directly refer to the Old Testament, even though any early Christian or medieval scholar would have known all that from childhood.

Her forthcoming book sounds like it will be nifty. Here’s more from her blog post:

Would I have come to this way of reading the Scriptures about Mary if I had not been raised a Presbyterian, convinced that all the secrets of divinity lay hidden in the Book? Would I have taken the thirteenth-century Augustinian canon Richard of St. Laurent seriously when he insisted that Mary is the Book in which it is possible to read all the mysteries of God, if I did not already believe it were possible to find the whole of God’s plan for creation therein? Would I have paid proper attention to the thirteenth-century Franciscan Servasanctus of Faenza when he said that Mary is the book of life containing all the creatures of Creation, who herself promises, speaking as Wisdom: “They that explain me shall have life everlasting” (Ecclesiasticus 24:31), if I were not already seeking Wisdom in the Word? Would I have noticed the twelfth-century Cistercian Amadeus of Lausanne insisting that Mary is the key to the mystery, the one standing between the two golden baskets filled with the flowers of the Old Testament and the fruits of the New (he is commenting on Song of Songs 2:5: “Support me with blossoms. Stay me with apples, for I am sick with love”), if I had not been attending to the way in which he commented on the Song of Songs? As Amadeus tells it, one basket stands on the left of Mary and one on the right, while Mary is seen standing in the middle, mediating between the promise and the fulfillment, and “like the tree planted in the midst of paradise, she raises her head to the height of heaven and, conceiving by the heavenly dew, brings forth the fruit of salvation, the fruit of glory, the fruit of life, and he who eats of it will live forever.”

Heh, heh… and people think St. Alphonsus gets hyperbolic and overly poetic about Mary. Understated, he was. 🙂

And here’s a bit about the author’s religion and roots, which may be of interest.

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VENERABLE Brother William Gagnon of New Hampshire, 1905-1972!!!

Venerable Brother William Gagnon, was a member of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God. (As a monk, not a knight.) He was born in Dover, New Hampshire, entered the order up in Quebec, and died while performing heroic service to the poor in Saigon, Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.

Anyway, his sainthood cause received a decree of heroic virtue that was approved by the Pope back on December 14, 2015, in the same consistory that got Mother Teresa and Mother Hesselblad’s canonization miracles approved. This officially made him a Venerable. I missed that, so now I want to mention several times that he’s actually been named Venerable by the Pope! YAYYYYY!

The news of his title in Italian, from his order’s website.

An article about him in English, from his order’s website.

A news article from Dover.

“I was speaking to a brother from Vietnam who didn’t know [Gagnon] personally but had heard many stories about him,” said Provincial Secretary Stephen de la Rosa of the Hospitaller Order in Los Angeles. “What came out in those stories is that he was totally committed to every task from the simplest to the most complicated.”

…. “In this day and age, it helps us to understand humility in a person who reaches sainthood,” de la Rosa said. “He was a hard worker and didn’t seek praise for his work.”

The basics from an article about him:

Born and baptized May 16, 1905 at Dover, New Hampshire, U.S.A. of French Canadian parents, living both in New England and Quebec, Canada, he was called from his youth to take care of others. He discovered the fulfillment of this call when he entered the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God. He took vows on 20 November 1932 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His dedication to those who were sick and suffering energized his life….

After having occupied various functions, his dream of being a missionary became a reality when he arrived with two other Canadian Brothers at the Bui-Chu Mission, in the North of Vietnam, January 18, 1952.

During 17 years, his apostolic action concentrated on the implementation of the Order in Vietnam and ministering to thousands of refugees. Hospitality as a way of being and acting toward those in need was empowered by a deep sense of reverence for life and a devotional life of prayer. He was enlived daily by his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Exhausted after having given of himself totally, Brother William Gagnon died in Saigon, Vietnam on February 28, 1972.

Here’s the official prayer for his cause:

Lord Jesus, Your mercy inspired the Servant of God William Gagnon to live hospitality with the ill, the refugees and the poor. Grant that we may always minister to all suffering people with charity, as did this Son of St. John of God.

Lord, hear the prayer that we address to you (insert personal intention) by the intercession of the Servant of God William Gagnon, in order that we may be affirmed
in our faith and that Your glory and the joy of the Church be proclaimed.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory be….

So there you go! Sounds like a good guy to have in your corner! And go, Dover NH!

(Insert “the pro from Dover” jokes here, I guess….)

Here’s the US Hospitallers’ website. No news update yet.


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June 5th – Canonization of Blessed Elizabeth Hesselblad!!!


The soon-to-be SAINT Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad started out life as a Lutheran. To send money back to her family, she emigrated to the US at 16 and became a nursing student in New York. She got through and became a skilled nurse, despite a “prank” which left her locked into the hospital morgue all night on Halloween. (Which turned out to be a good thing… because a dead guy in the morgue woke up and started knocking on the wall because he needed help! AAAAAGH! She had nerves of steel!) She converted to Catholicism in the US, largely due to the witness of her patients’ faith.

After she became Catholic, she ended up becoming very ill. She went on pilgrimage to Rome and started to feel the call to become a sister. She tried out life with the Carmelites, but felt a calling to the Brigittines, a mostly-defunct order originally founded by St. Bridget of Sweden (a little visionary) and her daughter St. Catherine of Sweden (obviously the organizer). The group had originally been known for contemplation and for its close association with male religious (partly in imitation of the original St. Brigit of Kildare’s order, and partly for practical reasons).

Hesselblad felt that there ought to be a return to the original rule, including the unique habit which was based on St. Bridget’s visions. She was eventually given permission to try this out, but essentially had to go it alone for many years before other people joined her version of the order. Today it is fairly successful in Italy and in Sweden, as well as around the world.

One of her earlier recruits is also the subject of a sainthood cause: the Servant of God, Mother Maria Riccarda (Mother Richard) Beauchamp Hambrough. Since the medieval Brigittines were big in England, it was natural that an English Catholic would have been equally enthusiastic about bringing back the order.

Her life is full of exciting things and interesting doings, including her little Roman convent’s involvement in resisting the Nazis and the Holocaust. There’s a lot of good stuff in her story, and she’s a credit to the US and her other countries!

Her canonization miracle was approved back on December 14, 2015, and now her canonization is officially set for June 5th.

I haven’t been able to find out what her specific canonization miracle was. Back in 2007, however, it was reported that the Brigittines had submitted a miracle where a Mexican sister of the order (Sister Martine Kochuvelikakathe from India) had called upon Mother Hesselblad in December 2001, when a thug was going to fire a gun at her, and the gun miraculously jammed. Probably it wasn’t that one, though, unless there was more to it. (Sainthood cause miracles have a lot of requirements.)

A Swedish newspaper’s article in English. (Doesn’t remember St. Catherine of Sweden!)

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Corned Beef and Cabbage Is Too a Traditional Irish Dish!

I’ve been reading Traditional Irish Cooking by Darina Allen. (It’s on sale at Half-Price Books right now, in their St. Patrick’s Day display, and it includes tons of really useful information, both historical and modern, as well as scrumptious recipes and pictures.) She’s a famous Irish chef and runs a cooking school.

She says, on page 111:

“Corned Beef with Cabbage.

“Although this dish is eaten less frequently nowadays in Ireland, for Irish expatriates it conjures up powerful nostalgic images of a rural Irish past. Originally it was a traditional Easter Sunday dinner. The beef, killed before the winter, would have been salted and could now be eaten after the long Lenten fast, with fresh green cabbage and floury potatoes. Our local butcher corns beef in the slow old-fashioned way that, alas, is nowadays more the exception than the norm.”

Elsewhere on the page, she gives the procedure for corning beef. She also mentions the (delicious) existence of corned mutton on one of the mutton recipe pages.

So the next time some Irish guy on the Internet says that the Irish didn’t eat corned beef and cabbage, you can know that he’s just being ignorant about his ancestors (or other people’s rural ancestors).

Allen also says, elsewhere in the book, that other popular traditional Easter Sunday dinners included roast lamb and roast kid (especially in the Burren, where there were free feral goats to catch and eat). It probably depended on what was being raised and grown in what area of Ireland, and what a family could therefore afford.

Allen also gives a recipe for a dish more commonly eaten in modern times: Bacon and Cabbage. You boil a big old shoulder or loin of bacon (20 minutes for every pound), quarter some cabbage, and then add the cabbage to the boiling bacon about 30 minutes before the bacon should be done. She also includes a 19th century recipe for curing bacon the Irish way. (I told you that it’s a very thorough book. There’s a huge section on how to cook bits of animal organs and make sausages, including how to make goose blood sausage in the neck left over from a goose – might work with turkey.)

Oh, and if you make soda bread and don’t use it all up, you can fry any stale bread for breakfast, to go along with your bacon and eggs.

The weirdest bit is finding out that the Irish scorn soft potatoes as “waxy”, and want dry potatoes that split their skins when they’re done cooking. To me, a potato is a potato, so this strikes me as weird.


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Lenten Food: Stuffed Mirlitons/Chayote Squash

One of the local grocery stores had a bag of five chayote squash sitting on their “clearance veggies that are just about to go bad” trays. They looked un-rotten and felt firm, so I took them home. I figured they must be good, because I’d vaguely heard of them.

Fortunately, I looked them up all over the cooking parts of the Internet, and not just on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia entry lacks some important facts.

SAFETY WARNING: Chayote squash have an itch-causing juice that lies just underneath the peel. If you peel them, or even if your fingernail just happens to break the skin a bit while you’re removing the grocery stickers, your fingers will itch and all the skin can come off by the next day. (I grabbed my jewelweed soap and washed thoroughly several times, on the theory that anything that beats poison ivy can beat a chayote rash. It worked, but my thumbs itched for at least two hours.) So wear gloves, or cut out the grocery stickers without ever touching the squash. The juice’s itchiness breaks down completely when exposed to heat, and then the entire squash is edible, including the nutty-tasting seed.

Now to the more fun parts. Chayote squash comes from Central America, but it’s so tasty and hardy that it is now grown all over the world and has tons of different names. It’s big in southwestern US cooking. People in Louisiana call it “mirliton,” and they also have lots of tasty things they make with it (many invented by Canary Islanders who settled in Louisiana). One of the tastiest is stuffed mirlitons, which are baked as a sort of casserole. These are almost entirely unlike stuffed peppers. Like stuffed peppers, though, you can just make the stuffing and eat it by itself, or you can use it with other things that are easier to find (like bell peppers).

First bit: the mirlitons.

Get a big pot. Put water in it. Put salt in it. Put the mirlitons in it. Boil water. Once the water gets to a boil, cover the pot and turn the pot down a little (but keep the water boiling). Boil the mirlitons until they are “fork-tender.” This will take forty minutes or maybe a bit more.

Put the mirlitons in a colander or on a rack and let them cool off and drain a bit.

Cut the mirlitons lengthwise and scoop out the pulp in the middle. (If there are any icky bits on the skin, you can cut them out now.)

Keep the pulp. Chop it up into small pieces and set it in the colander to drain. You can even squeeze or press the pulp to get some of the water out, if you feel like it.

Preheat your oven to 350 or 375 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how fast you want this cooked.

Second bit: the yummy stuffing.

Get crab and shrimp, or get fake crab that’s already cooked. Chop it up. Season it with Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, or whatever you like.

Chop up onions. Saute them in a large saucepan. I mean large.

Dump in a bag of frozen Cajun mirepoix, or a bag of frozen veggie soup mix. Saute that with the onions.

Dump in the mirliton pulp. Saute that.

Dump in breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs. Saute that.

Dump in the shrimp, crab, or fake crab. Saute that.

Dump in an egg. Saute that.

Your stuffing is now done.

Third bit: the casserole.

Put your cut mirlitons in a greased baking dish. Pile the stuffing on top of the mirlitons.

Dump the stuffing on top. It’s okay to pile it high.

Cook that sucker for forty minutes to an hour, depending on how hot your oven is.


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Another Saintly Woman You Should Know

Today, Venerable Maria Antonia de la Paz y Figueroa, also known as the “beata” Maria Antonia de San Jose, or “Mama Antula,” or even “Mama Tula,” just had a miracle approved by Pope Francis. That means that she’s now going to be beatified. She was just named a Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, so that is quick work!

This one is a clear case of favoritism! She worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for twenty years, and she was a buddy of Jesuits!! 🙂

She was born in 1730 in Villa Silipica near Santiago del Estero, Argentina, the original capital that was founded before Buenos Aires. In her teens, she went through the Spiritual Exercises with the local Jesuits, and was so impressed that she began to help them out with fundraising to put other people through the same kind of retreat. In 1760, at the age of thirty, she organized a lay religious community of women who lived in common, performed charitable works, and helped the local Jesuits run retreats for the Spiritual Exercises, invented by their founder, St. Ignatius Loyola. The laywomen were not called “sisters,” but rather “beatas,” “blesseds.” (This group of laywomen would eventually become known as the Sociedad Hijas del Divino Salvador, the Daughters of the Divine Savior Society. They became a religious order in 1878, and are still around today. There’s also another group with almost the same name, the Hijas del Divino Salvador, that is a bunch of Salesians founded in 1956 in El Salvador.)

And then, in 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from the entire Spanish empire.

She was not defeated. She found a Mercedarian priest and friar, Fray Diego Toro, and asked him to do the preaching and hear confessions, while she and her “beatas” did the rest of the work to offer the Spiritual Exercises. She stayed in touch with her Jesuit advisors by letter.

And then, she expanded the work. She began to travel the length and breadth of Argentina (always accompanied by two of her fellow beatas, for safety and propriety), walking in sandals to many towns and organizing thousands of Spiritual Exercises retreats. Whenever she was injured or broke something, she relied on prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and was quickly healed “by an invisible hand.” People started to call her the nickname “Mama Antula.”

Finally she traveled to Buenos Aires, where people thought she was nuts and maybe even a witch. The Bishop of Buenos Aires was very skeptical of her, and kept her waiting nine months for permission to run the Spiritual Exercises. Her patience won him over, and he became a great supporter and donor to her works. (And now, one of his successors is paying back those nine months big time! Ha!) Her other opponent was the Viceroy himself, who hated Jesuits and all Jesuit stuff. He denied her permission to run any retreats, so she ended up going to other cities and continuing her work, traveling over the river to what is now Uruguay. Eventually she got permission thanks to the bishop, and her beatas started to take on more of the trappings of a religious order.

By 1784, one contemporary observer estimated that Maria Antonia had arranged the Spiritual Exercises for over 15,000 people in Buenos Aires alone, and in 1788, another observer said that in the course of her work she’d given the Exercises to 70,000 people throughout the area. The Bishop of Buenos Aires decided that he would not ordain any seminarian without having one of the beatas certify that he’d gone through the Spiritual Exercises. It became a big Argentinian spiritual tradition. Meanwhile, her letters to her Jesuit friends overseas were widely circulated by Jesuits still in Europe, and were published and read in many languages.

Venerable Maria Antonia de la Paz y Figueroa died in 1799, on the 7th of March. She was a tough lady.

Venerable Mama Tula, pray for us!

Antula: a 45 minute video from the archdiocese. It’s a mixture of dramatized scenes and a documentary. You will see lots of Colonial Spanish artwork of Jesus, so if you don’t like it don’t watch it. There are some sad bits, like the part where one of the nuns traveling with Mama Antula is killed by a puma; and the one where a retreat guy goes crazy and tries to cut people up with a knife, and she has to save him from being killed by the police. (In Spanish.)

A video about her from Villa Silipica. It’s nice to see something pretty set up with such small resources. The little kid was blessed by the Pope on a visit to Rome.

An article from Argentina about the relics of Ven. Mama Antula, with a nice statue.

Zenit says that the beatification miracle accepted was of Sister Rosa Vanina of the Hijas del Divino Salvador. (The miracle occurred in 1904 and was documented and submitted in 1905, which tells you something about the speed of the Vatican bureaucracy.) Sister had acute calculous cholecystitis which had gone bad to the point that she was suffering from septic shock. This was the days before antibiotics, so she was clearly dead woman walking (or more likely, lying there suffering). Only prayer and God’s favor saved the woman, as the doctors carefully documented.

To be fair, most of the processing time for the cause was having the Congregation of the Saints try to find and read all those letters and check them for bad attitude or heresy. A prolific literary saint takes a while!

The beatification will now take place in the Year of Mercy, 2016, which is also Argentina’s bicentennial as an independent country. It is scheduled for Santiago del Estero, where the saint’s remains lie.

A video tour of the retreat house founded by Mama Antula, La Santa Casa de Ejercicios. It’s a beautiful building., featuring a nice picture of the Venerable’s signature.

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Filed under Causes for Sainthood, Church