15 January 2011

15 January - Saint Paul the Hermit; Hermits (cookies)

As a young man, Paul fled to the desert to escape persecution, and lived in a cave for the rest of his very long life.  Most of his story, as related by Saint Jerome and in the Golden Legend, is about his meeting with Saint Anthony the Abbot, whose feast is in two day's time.

Saint Anthony, being rather proud of himself as the first hermit and one who had lived in the desert longer than any other, learned otherwise in a holy vision, and set out to meet the man who had been living in the desert for nearly 100 years.  They talked and shared a meal; Paul then revealed that he was going to die, and asked Anthony to bring the mantle of Saint Athanasius to bury him in.  

Anthony did so, but by the time he returned, Paul was dead, and two lions were digging a grave for him.  Anthony buried him in the mantle of Saint Athanasius, and took Paul's coat, made from the leaves of a palm tree, with him when he went back to his cell.
Almost daily I read, "Oh, I wish I could be alone; I wish that I didn't have to deal with the outside world!"  Most people don't mean it - they want to be alone for a little while to gather their thoughts, and then they pine to be back in the world again.

Professor Plineo Correia de Oliveira says, "In effect, the desire to talk and be with others is never so strong as when one is alone.  Human nature is made in such a way that when we are with others for a long time, we want to be alone; but after we are alone for a time, we want to be among others.  So, one of the greatest glories of the eremitic state would be to live alone and in silence."

"This is true in a certain way. But there is another aspect of the eremitic state to consider.  Its nobility lies not just in remaining silent, but also in speaking with God.  Speaking with God should be understood not as having continuous apparitions and revelations, but in keeping the spirit occupied with things of God, profound thoughts, elevated aspirations, noble causes.  It is to be familiar with the highest cogitations of the human spirit, which are religious thoughts.  This is, in my opinion, the excellence of the eremitic state, what constitutes its principal adornment and highest respectability.
What more suitable for today than to bake HERMITS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
Grease cookie sheets (this recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies, so plan accordingly)

In a bowl, sift together 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup of softened butter and 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar.  Add two eggs, beating after the addition of each egg, until mixture is light and fluffy.

Stir the flour mixture into the sugar/butter mixture.  Add 2 cups of raisins and 1/2 cup of chopped nuts; mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls (more or less) onto the greased cookie sheets.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.