Sunday 30 December 2012

Choose a Patron

It is time to take the challenge of choosing a Patron Saint for 2013. Last Year I drew St. Ulric of Augsburg, which was rather confusing, as his areas of expertise included protection from birth complications, dizziness, faintness, fever, frenzy, and the infestation of mice and moles! He is also the patron of pregnant women, wanderers, weavers, winegrowers and a happy death. Around the time of his feast I took time to consider how any of that little lot could be relevant to me and concluded that: 'I would love to weave, would do anything to have the opportunity to make wine, and hope one day to have an 'easy birth' or two, or three, or four..... Eventually, with a tribe of family around me, I hope to die a good death, around the age of 99 or so...' Perhaps, this year I have set the foundations for some of that, who knows? I am currently crocheting a blanket...

Choosing a Patron Saint for the year used to be a custom amongst religious communities for New Year's Day, and perhaps, in places it still is.  Modernity has caught up with this ancient practise by means of a Patron Saint Generator by Jennifer Fulweiler. 

St Faustina, of Divine Mercy fame, shows that this custom was alive and well in the 1930's with an excerpt from her diary:

“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year’s Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn’t read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 – the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament,where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”

Excerpt from “Divine Mercy in My Soul, the Diary of St. Faustina”

The ways of the future are unknown, but this year the patron chosen for me is St. John of God, whose feast falls on 8th March. His patronage is listed as follows: Against Alcoholism; Against Sickness; Alcoholics; Booksellers; Dying People; Firefighters; Heart Patients; Hospitals; Nurses; Publishers; Printers; Sick People.

I'll write more about him in time, and invoke his intercession throughout the year. 

Do you dare or care to find a Patron for 2013?  Just click here: Patron Saint Generator. :-) 

Let me know, via comments or via Facebook, who is chosen for you and their feast day, and I'll be sure to write a little something for you during the year. 


Wednesday 26 December 2012

Hold on

I am quite sure that 2013 will contain many adventures. I am very nervous of some of them, and some of them fill me with hope. I cannot see the road ahead any better than anyone else. But, hopefully, the grace of Christmas will light the way.

Any reader of this blog will know that I love to cook, and indeed, I spent much of Christmas Day cooking. However, Christmas Day is not my favourite day of Christmas, there are other quieter moments I treasure. When all the crowds have gone, I love to creep down the side aisle of my local Church to visit the beautiful crib scene. The figures there look real to me, I am child enough in my heart to make-believe them alive. The Christ-child reaches up a tiny hand, and I imagine that if I were to place my finger near he would grip it tightly, the way babies often do. I wonder what would happen if I did such a thing? What would happen if I had the courage to hold on? 

Then there are the other quiet moments of Christmastide. The night I get to stay up later than everyone else and look at the tree. The winter walk with a loved and treasured friend. Time to sit and crochet little granny squares for the blanket of my dreams. I adore those moments, when all the talking has been done, and there is time to settle down with loved ones and say nothing. Too much of my daily routine is spent amongst hustle, bustle and noise. I like to turn off the telly, the radio, and yes, even the internet.

And in the quiet, this:

260ml semi skimmed milk
1tsp English Honey
60g dark chocolate, grated

Place the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the honey and bring it to a simmer. Whisk the grated chocolate into the hot milk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Simmer for one minute more. Serve.

Add Brandy for a festive treat.

Tuck up into the sofa and relax.

Monday 10 December 2012

The tender time of Advent

When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defence. It is not selfishness; it is not egotism. It is absorption into the life within, a folding of self, like a little tent around the child's frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish, and some day bring forth, the life. A closing upon it like petals of a flower closing upon the dew that shines in its heart. This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation.
By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart. Today Christ is dependent upon us.
This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us. During this tender time of Advent we must carry him in our hearts to wherever he wants to go, and there are many places to which he may never go unless we take him to them.
The Road of God - Caryll Houselander, 2006

I thought of this reading the moment a friend of mine posted a striking and completely absorbing image of the visitation on her Facebook page. It has taken me this long to dig it out. I love these words - I love their tenderness, and their femininity. I love the gentle grace of which they speak.

Sunday 2 December 2012

All change

Last year when I wrote about Advent, I wrote about the 'Unexpected Expected'. I had been one term in a new post, and rushed off my feet to catch up, meet expectations, make the right impression and do the right thing. Advent, it seemed, followed on from summer. How different are my feelings this year. This year I am aching for the peace that comes with Christmas, and, of course, the Christmas holidays. Advent has been an age coming, and I know it will be an age in passing. After a mammoth term (8 weeks, then 7), we break late. Secular preparations are going to be rather crammed into the 22nd, 23rd and 24th December. Today, however, begins the New Year. All change.

The last few weeks of the school term will be busy - there is no doubt about it, but I am determined to take some time to just 'be'. Advent is a time to look at things and wonder. 

Life never stops changing, and change never seems to come more quickly than at the end of the year. Instead of letting things creep up, Advent is a time to stop and look at what might come. It is likely that I will move house soon - heading to somewhere nearer school. I do not want to leave Oxford, but the daily commute makes me too sleepy, and there is little time to 'live'. I am beginning to look for a new town to make my home. I cannot believe that I find within myself the longing to 'settle down'. Since I was 18 I have never stayed anywhere more than about 3 years. I have been in Oxford just over four. To go somewhere new will feel like I am uprooting, but perhaps from that will come new life.

As last year I feel the need to be with those I love most when the days get dark. I long to find time to cosy up, watch movies and eat delicious dinners. Today I went out running in the cold sunlight of a December Sunday, and soaked up the precious short lived rays of the winter sun. Port Meadow was flooded. It looked beautiful. I stopped to say 'Hallo' to the horses that live there. To be out was bliss. Fresh air makes the world of difference, and is the perfect way to begin a new year. 

My Advent resolution is to make time where I think I have none. I am planning on making my evenings time to prepare for Christmas. I will make those gifts for my loved ones I need to prepare; give time to marking to keep weekends clear; go out and sniff the winter air when jogging round the block; write cards, emails and letters to those I love and give some time to prayer in the mornings and the evenings to think about my path through the next few months. You cannot expect to see your way through it all at once. We are asked only to 'Light the Advent Candle One'.....

I have a recipe to share, but it is an experiment. I have dreamt about it, but I have yet to test it. I think it will be delicious, wintry and hearty.

Venison Bolognese

225g/8oz minced venison
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 beetroots (raw), grated (use rubber gloves to prevent dying your hands pink)
1 celery stick, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
125g/4oz smoked bacon lardons
1 tbsp mixed dried herbs
400g/14oz tinned tomatoes
150ml/5fl oz red wine
salt and pepper

Preparation method

Heat a non-stick frying pan and add half the mince. Cook over a high heat to colour the meat, breaking up any lumps with the back of a fork. Repeat with the rest of the mince and drain off any fat.

Heat the oil in another large pan and cook the onion, beetroot, celery and garlic until they start to soften.
Stir in the bacon lardons and the herbs and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and the wine and season well. Add the mince and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until thick.

Serve with fresh spaghetti and grated parmesan.