Sunday, December 14, 2014

Will you still be my friend when you discover I am a Catholic?

It seems people are ready to distance themselves from Catholics.  We seem no more popular than some politicians.  Why is this case?  Do they know the reason for their distrust?  Alternatively, is it the result of just old history? I have even heard Catholicism is not a Christian faith.

I will admit there have been times in history when some Catholics, be they individuals or a member of the faith’s hierarchy, lost Jesus’ message of love and peace.  However, “do not throw the baby out with the bath water,” as the saying goes.

I would like to take a moment to cover one of the major issues I have heard over the years.  Our Blessed Mother is often misunderstood. Many think that Catholics “worship” Mary.  This is far from the truth, and I would like to tell you of Mary’s story.  There is a reason why we ask for her intercession.

Mary was a child by today’s standards when the events that changed the world came to her. Imagine this happening to your young daughter, or sister.  As most accounts of Mary’s age put her in her mid-teens.

Mary had been living a devout life of obedience and prayer. She must have been her parent’s joy.  Do you wonder about her parents’ reaction to the glorious news?  How would you react to the news that your young child, whom you knew was a virgin, had become pregnant?  I am sure the explanations of receiving a visit by an angel telling her of God’s will must have been earth shattering.

Think of Mary for a few moments.  This woman, whom I would describe as the embodiment of amazing grace, was going to take on the role of the being the mother of our Savior.  The angel also tells her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Elizabeth being beyond childbearing age accepted her condition with great love.  Mary, not concerned for herself, travels from Nazareth to Judea to help Elizabeth, always concerned for others rather than herself.  She returns three months later and her condition is evident.

This was an extremely dangerous time for Mary.  By laws of her time, she could be stoned for being pregnant outside of marriage.  Had Joseph not chosen the path he did, it would have happened.  However, he decided to marry her, as they were betrothed, and then quietly divorce her.  That was not to be the case, Joseph had a dream in which the angel tells him to take Mary as his wife.

If we jump ahead about 30 years, we find Mary and Jesus along with Peter and the apostles attending a wedding.  Mary discovers that the wine has run out.  She does not ask Jesus to perform a miracle.  She simply tells Him about the situation and then tells the servants to do whatever He tells them to do.  Many view this as Christ’s first miracle but I see it defining Mary’s role as intercessor for us to her Son. 

Do you see why Catholics pray to Mary?  As a Catholic, I know why I love the Queen of Heaven and Earth. We beseech her to ask her Son for His aid.  This amazing woman, who would see her son tortured beyond comprehension for our indiscretions, intercedes for us with her Son.  She loves us and does all she can to aid humanity. 

I trust this explanation of Mary’s role in our faith will help others understand her true role as our Heavenly Queen, Mother and our greatest intercessor.

A beautiful invocation in a Catholic prayer sums up these thoughts: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”

Have a Blessed and Safe Christmas Season,



Thursday, June 26, 2014


Is Jan a poet?

I have never really talked about my poetry.  Most likely, due to the fact, I have limited experience with this form of art.

For what it is worth, I would like to share one of them with you. I welcome your honest opinions on my attempt to mesmerize you with choreographed words.  Published years ago I still remember writing these words as I sat looking out the window in an insightful mood.

My Window
The morning sun kisses my window.
The day has begun.  Am I ready?
Can I meet the challenge?
With a prayer in my soul and
love in my heart,
I embrace the day with a smile.

The moonlight caresses my window.
The day is done.  I am pleased!
God has granted me the day and the
warmth of love.
I shall thank Him before I sleep.
With his favor, I shall see the sun kiss my window again.

I wonder now if I have the mystique that surrounds so many poets whose words to take flight.  Maybe I should stick to fiction composition and leave the poetry to the wordsmiths. 

All I can say in closing would be in the form of another graceful thought; however, it is not my inspiration.

A man can be just about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.
Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, February 18, 2014



Sometimes I struggle for a blog idea. Today's idea came when I walked out of the study into the kitchen to find Michael making bread. He makes fabulous breads. It gave me an idea, why not do a blog on breads.

Thinking about the variety of breads and doing a bit of research, I found what seemed like endless types of breads, and I would like to share a few with you.

Being Italian, one of my favorite types of bread is Ciabatta, which means slipper. The loaves are shaped to resemble a lady's slipper. It is crusty and with wonderful airy interior.

Focaccia, another Italian fare was in all likelihoods enjoyed by my dad. Prior to Dad's enlistment in the army, he had never heard of pizza. Focaccia was usually a round dimpled bread often topped with herbs and sometimes tomato slices. The bread was made using a high gluten flour. This was my dad's version of Pizza.

Pizza; might as well cover this delicacy that so many of us enjoy. The pizza was originated in Naples, Italy. It was a flat round bread topped generally with tomato sauce and cheese. Today's pizzas seem to have an endless array of toppings.

Matzo is known by many, and is the bread generally served during the Passover celebration. It is an unleavened bread made simply from flour and cold water. This is a bread of memory and tradition recalling the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.

Still another favorite is Naan or Nan bread. There are several variations of this bread. I am partial to the Nan that utilizes milk. This makes a softer dough. This foodstuff is eaten in south and central Asia, as well as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I would love to make this bread, but it is traditionally done in a tandoor oven. This type of oven is a cylindrical shape vessel usually heated by charcoal or wood fire. Temperatures of this oven style reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit and the bread is definitely something to savor.

Lagana is a Greek provision reserved for “Clean Monday”, the first Monday of lent. This azymes style bread (Jewish matzah-unleavened bread) became one of the factors in the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Catholic church.

The South Africans have a bread known as Potbrood, made by the Boer people. Boer means farmer in both the Dutch and Afrikkan languages. This style is made in a cast-iron pot, something we would today identify as a Dutch Oven. The pot is placed in a pit surrounded by hot coals.

Still another choice is Borodinsky a Russian sourdough rye bread; often with molasses added for sweetness. A legend behind this morsel goes back to the Napolonic Wars. Nuns developed the recipe to produce a dark bread served for solemn occasions. However, the first mention of this bread did not surface until the 1920s. Definitely, beyond the Napolonic War days.

Hush Puppies is a favorite in the American south. A cornbread batter, it can be baked or fried. I have only seen it fried. It seems to be an accompaniment for seafood.

In Sardinia Italy, we find the Pane carasau, an ancient flatbread. This flat crispy bread was a common part of the shepherd's meals of past times. When in a dry environment it can last up to a year. Thus, making it suitable for the long period of times that shepherds would work the flocks.

Biscuits are a worldwide bread form with variations of this baked good. In Europe, these are enjoyed as a crispy dry substance, while in North America, light and fluffy version are preferred. These breads can be done in a drop method or a rolled and cut form. Other versions are made to be savory or sweet and can even be made as chocolate treats.

The Irish as well as the Scots and Serbians have Soda Bread. This stable is made using bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk to create tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide to give the bread texture.

How many more breads can I list? Well, how much time do you have? The list seems to be endless.