23 January 2013

23 January - Espousals of the Blessed Virgin

In some of the old calendars, today commemorated the wedding day of Mary and Joseph.  People are always interested in weddings, and the espousals of the Virgin received a goodly amount of embellishment.  

 The Golden Legend recounted:
“And in the fourteenth year of her [Mary’s] age, the bishop commanded in common that the virgins that were instituted in the temple, and had accomplished the time of age, should return to their houses and should after the law be married.  All the others obeyed his commandment, but Mary answered that she might not do so because her father and mother had given her all to the service of our Lord.  And then the bishop was much angry because he durst not make her to break her avow against the scripture, that saith: ‘Avow ye vows and yield them to God’.  And he durst not break the custom of the people.

And then came a feast of the Jews, and he called all the ancient Jews to council, and showed to them this thing.  And this was all their sentence: “That in a thing so doubtable, that counsel shall be asked of our Lord.” And then went they all to prayer, and the bishop, that was gone to ask counsel of our Lord.  Anon came a voice out of the oracle and said that, “all they that were of the house of David that were convenable [suitable] to be married and had no wife, that each of them should bring a rod to the altar, and his rod that flourished, and, after the saying of Isaiah, the Holy Ghost sit in the form of a dove on it, he should be the man that should be desponsate [betrothed] and married to the Virgin Mary.

And Joseph, of the house of David, was there among the others, and to him it seemed to be a thing unconvenable, a man of so old age as he was to have so tender a maid, and whereas others brought forth their rods he hid his.  And when nothing appeared according to the voice of God, the bishop ordained for to ask counsel again of our Lord. And he answered that, “he only that should espouse the virgin had not brought forth his rod”.  And then Joseph by the commandment of the bishop brought forth his rod, and anon it flowered, and a dove descended from heaven thereupon, so that it was clearly the advice of every man that he should have the virgin.

And then he espoused the Virgin Mary, and returned into his city of Bethlehem for to ordain his meiny [attendants] and his house, and for to fetch such things as were necessary.  And the Virgin Mary returned unto the house of her father with seven virgins, her fellows of her age, which had seen the demonstrance of the miracle.

According to the Protoevangelium of James, when Mary was twelve, the priest Zacharias inquired of the Lord concerning her, and an angel came to him and said, "Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and assemble the widowers of the people, and let them bring each his rod, and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be.” And Zacharias did as the angel commanded, and made proclamation accordingly.  Joseph the carpenter, a righteous man, threw down his axe, and taking his staff in his hand, ran out with the rest. The high priest took their rods and entered into the temple to pray; when he returned to the gathered suitors, there was no sign forthcoming until Joseph received his rod, from which a white dove issued and settled on him. Then the high priest said to him, "You have been chosen by lot to take into your keeping the virgin of the Lord." At first, Joseph refused, citing his advanced age, but the priest reminded him of the fate of those who contradicted the Lord, and Joseph succumbed.  He took her home to his house, and said to her, "Behold, I have received you from the temple of the Lord, and now I will leave you in my house, for I must go and follow my trade of building. I will return to you, and meanwhile the Lord be with you and watch over you."

The visions of Catherine Emmerich included the betrothal and the wedding of Mary and Joseph.  In one vision, she heard two widows who had attended the wedding in their youth describing Mary’s wedding dress and recalled:
“She wore a white woolen undergarment without sleeves: her arms were wrapped round with strips of the same stuff, for at that time these took the place of closed sleeves.  Next she put on a collar reaching from above the breast to her throat.  It was encrusted with pearls and white embroidery, and was shaped like the under-collar worn by Archos the Essene, the pattern of which I cut out not long ago.  Over this she wore an ample robe, open in front.  It fell to her feet and was as full as a mantle and had wide sleeves.  This robe had a blue ground covered with an embroidered or woven pattern of red, white, and yellow roses interspersed with green leaves, like rich and ancient chasubles.  The lower hem ended in fringes and tassels, while the upper edge joined the white neck-covering.  After this robe had been arranged to fall in long straight folds, a kind of scapulary was put over it, such as some religious wear, for instance the Carmelites.  This was made of white silk with gold flowers: it was half a yard wide, and was set with pearls and shining jewels at the breast.  It hung in a single width down to the edge of the dress, of which it covered the opening in front.  The lower edge was ornamented with fringes and beads.  A similar width hung down the back, while shorter and narrower strips of the silk hung over the shoulders and arms; these four pieces, spread out round the neck, made the shape of a cross… The full sleeves, over which the shoulder-pieces of the scapulary projected, were lightly held together by bracelets above and below the elbow… They caused the full sleeves to puff out at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists… Over all this she wore a sky-blue mantle, shaped like a big cloak, which in its turn was covered by a sort of mourning cloak with sleeves made after a traditional fashion… This cloak fell back over the shoulders, came forward again at the sides, and ended at the back in a pointed train.  Its edge was embroidered with gold flowers.” 

You can read the full account here, with further descriptions of her hairstyle, shoes, accessories, and trousseau.

Joseph’s outfit merited a much shorter description: “Joseph wore a long full coat of pale blue, fastened down the front from breast to hem with laces and bosses or buttons.  His wide sleeves were also fastened at the sides with laces; they were much turned up and seemed to have pockets inside.  Round his neck he wore a kind of brown collar or rather a broad stole, and two white strips hung over his breast, like the bands worn by our priests, only much longer.”


“The Designation of Joseph” from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (15th century)

“Espousals of the Blessed Virgin with Joseph” from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (15th century)
Artists have differed on the age and personal appearance of Joseph.  Early painters thought that Joseph should be represented as an old, nearly decrepit man with a white beard and nearly senile countenance – possibly because some of the early ‘authorities’ on the subject claimed that he was eight-four years old and a widower when he espoused Mary.  Later artists argued that the head and protector of the Holy Family must have been a man of mature age, but still strong and able to work at his trade, and portrayed him accordingly.

“Mary in her wedding dress” from The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: From the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.  Woodcut from the 1852 German edition.

“St. Joseph in his wedding garments” from The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: From the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich. Woodcut from the 1852 German edition.

22 January 2013

22 January - Saints Vincent and Anastasius; Kebabs

If the sun shines brightly on Vincent's Day, we shall have more wine than water (i.e. optimum growing conditions for the vineyards this year).

If the sun shines on St. Vincent, there shall be much wind. [I’ve also seen it written as “much wine”, which goes along with the prognostication above, and which I find preferable.  However, see below for a desire for wind]

To predict the harvest in the coming season, light a torch (a real torch, not a flashlight) and carry it to a high hill.  If the flame is extinguished in the wind, crops will be abundant; if the torch burns in spite of the wind, the season will be bad.

Remember, on St. Vincent’s Day
If that the sun his beams display,
Be sure to mark the transient beam
Which through the casement sheds a gleam;
For ‘tis a token bright and clear
Of prosperous weather all the year.

And glory be!  Snow overnight, but clear blue skies today with abundant sunshine and a sharp wind that will blow out any number of torches.  Good wine, good weather, good crops!

Today is the celebration of Saints Vincent of Saragossa and Saint Anastasius of Persia, men of differing walks of life from opposing parts of the world.  Saint Vincent was far more popular in medieval Europe, hence the weather lore for the day concerns him.  I wrote about Saint Vincent here.

The story of Saint Anastasius is less well known, although just as interesting, and like so many of the saints, serves as a model for us in our modern, more ‘enlightened’ day.

“At Rome, at Aqua Salviae*, St. Anastasius, a Persian monk, who, after suffering much at Caesarea, in Palestine, from imprisonment, stripes and fetters, had to bear many afflictions from Chosroes, king of Persia, who caused him to be beheaded.  He had sent before him to martyrdom seventy of his companions, who were precipitated into rivers.  His head was brought to Rome, together with his venerable likeness, by the sight of which the demons are expelled, and diseases cured, as is attested by the Acts of the second council of Nicaea.”

*A slight mix-up.  Anastasius was martyred near modern Kirkuk, Iraq.  It is possible that the saint’s head was brought to the monastery at Aqua Salviae.

Chosroes II, King of Persia, had, in his sweep through Palestine, conquered the city of Jerusalem and, among other things, stole the True Cross (the same which Saint Helena had found).  Magundat, a soldier in the Persian army, was curious to know, as soldiers generally are, just what was so important about the an old piece of wood, that they must needs risk their lives to take it.  Conquering a country is one thing.  Looting and exacting tribute from the inhabitants is one thing, and actually rather enjoyable.  But to put oneself in harm’s way for an old piece of wood?  Where’s the sense in that?

His mind exercised by this problem, he did not stop until he had received enough information and instruction to cause him to convert to Christianity.  He left the army, was baptized, taking the name Anastasius, and eventually became a monk in Jerusalem – the same place he and his friends had pillaged seven years before.

After seven years in the monastery, he found that it was again time for him to put himself in harm’s way for that same piece of Wood.  He went to Caesarea to visit the Holy Places and preach, but once there, he berated his countrymen for being such fools as to believe in magic and worship fire.  This didn’t go over well.  Christians were grudgingly accepted in the Persian empire (they had freedom of worship), as long as they confined themselves to their worship spaces and didn’t bring their religion into the public square – and noisy rude Christians who might easily call down the wrath of the Great Fire were definitely not welcomed.  Anastasius was arrested and put to heavy labor under horrible conditions to make him abjure his faith, and when that didn’t work, he was sent back to Persia where seventy more Christians were awaiting death, and his tortures increased.  This still did not make him turn, even with the added inducements of high government positions (“Listen, Mag, how about Secretary of Climate Control?  A plum job if there ever was one.  Nice office, good salary, great perks (all on the taxpayer’s dime) and a couple of really hot interns who don’t mind smokin’ if you know what I mean (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  Besides, the king is really into Climate Control, y’know.  Keeps his subjects’ minds off his really bad economic policies…”). 

Truly, they did all they could to keep Anastasius alive, even telling him the he could be a secret Christian and go back to the monastery, if only he would publicly renounce Christ.  “What’s one little lie to keep your life?  After all, we’ve got lots of supposed Christians in the government.  Yep.  They claim to be Christians, but they all worship the Great Holocaust in public, like they’re supposed to.  They would never dream of imposing their religion on the rest of the country…”

Not even these incentives could move Anastasius, and he was finally strangled to death and then decapitated.  He died in 628.  So also did King Chosroes. 

In 628, the armies of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius conquered much of the Persian empire.  Chosroes fled to a place of safety, which turned out to be not so safe, as he was assassinated a month after the martyrdom of Anastasius.  The True Cross, that old piece of Wood for which Anastasius risked his life, was returned in triumph to Jerusalem 15 years after it had been stolen.  But that is a story for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on 14 September.


To honor Saint Anastasius, have a Middle-Eastern dinner tonight.  KEBABS are always easy and you can make them under the broiler, or on top of the stove, if it is too cold to fire up the grill outside (as it is here).

To make kebabs in a skillet:
Cut up 1½ pounds of sirloin steak into 1-inch chunks
Cut 2 tomatoes into 8 wedges each (for a total of 16 wedges) or use cherry tomatoes
Cut up 2 green peppers into 1-inch pieces. [I like to mix colors – not just green peppers on my skewers, but red and yellow as well… the cook’s helpers used to make ‘stoplights’ on their skewers – red, yellow, green, red, yellow, green…]

Alternately thread the meat and vegetables on short or long skewers.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a large skillet and quickly brown the kebabs on all sides.

Reduce heat, cover the skillet, and let the kebabs cook for another five to ten minutes, or until they are done to your taste.  Serve with rice or between toasted rolls.

This icon is supposed to be Saint Anastasius, but that is one of the fancier monk’s outfits I’ve ever seen. No idea who wrote it, as everybody uses it, but nobody gives the attribution.

21 January 2013

21 January - Saint Agnes; Agnes Cookies; Lambswool

 “At Rome, the passion of St. Agnes, virgin, who under Symphronius, governor of the city, was thrown into the fire, but as it was extinguished by her prayers, she was struck with the sword.  Of her, St. Jerome writes: ‘Agnes is praised in the writings and by the tongues of all nations, especially in the churches.  She overcame the weakness of her age, conquered the cruelty of the tyrant, and consecrated her chastity by martyrdom.’”

One of the four great virgin martyrs of the Latin Church (the others being Cecilia, Agatha, and Lucia), Agnes was a Roman girl of twelve or thirteen when she met her death for her faith.  According to tradition, she was born into a Christian family, and early vowed her life to Jesus alone.  She refused all offers of marriage, including those of the son of the local prefect.  Instead of taking his rejection like a gentleman, Junior complained to his father, who, when he learned the reason why his son was behaving like a love-sick calf, at first besought young Agnes to accept the marriage; when she would not, he tried to turn her into a Vestal Virgin, and when she refused that, sent her to a brothel.  She was protected from that as well.

Finally, she was condemned to be burnt at the stake, but the flames being extinguished as she prayed, a soldier killed her with his sword.  Thus she earned her Heavenly Crown.

She is most often distinguished in art by the inclusion of a lamb at her side – a play on her name (Agnus = lamb).

The illustration above, from Pictorial Lives of the Saints, is taken from the tradition that she was sent to a brothel to be subjected to sexual assault.  On the way, the soldiers stripped her of her clothes, but her hair miraculously grew to cover her like a veil.  Left in the house of ill-repute, she prayed not to be dishonored, and an angel brought a shining white garment to cover her.  He also struck blind the man who attempted to rape her – in some accounts the same young man whom she had refused (she later prayed for his healing).

For centuries, two lambs have been brought to the Pope for his blessing on this day.  Their wool is woven into the pallium given to an archbishop as a sign of his authority.   William Shepard Walsh described the ceremonies in his book Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898):

“First, two chosen lambs are on St. Agnes’ Day brought to the church of St. Agnes at Rome by the apostolic subdeacons, while the Agnus Dei is being sung.  These lambs are presented at the altar, received by two canons of the Lateran church, and solemnly blessed.  After Mass, the lambs are taken in charge by the nuns of St. Agnes until shearing-time, when their wool is spun and woven into pallia by the nuns of Torre de’ Specchia.  On the vigil of the festival of SS. Peter and Paul, the newly made pallia are carried on gilded trays to St. Peter’s, where they are blessed by the Pope and laid by the subdeacons upon the tomb of St. Peter.  Here they remain all night.  Next day they are locked up in a silver coffer close to the relics of St. Peter, where they remain until required.”

In the 16th century, Naogeorgus condemned the practice in no uncertain terms (well, he condemned all Catholic practices, so that’s not surprising):

“Then comes in place Saint Agnes day, which here in Germany,
Is not so much esteemed, nor kept with such solemnity,
But in the Popish Court it stands in passing high degree,
As spring and head of wondrous gain, and great commodity.

For in Saint Agnes Church upon this day while Mass they sing,
Two Lambs as white as snow, the Nuns do yearly use to bring,
And when the Agnus chanted is, upon the altar high
(For in this thing there hidden is a solemn mystery)
They offer them.  The servants of the Pope when this is done,
Do put them into Pasture good ‘till shearing time be come.

Then other wool they mingle with these holy fleeces twain,
Whereof being spun and dressed, are made the Palls of passing gain.
Three fingers commonly in breadth, and wrought in compass so,
As on the Bishops shoulders well they round about may go.
These Palls thus on the shoulders set, both on the back and breast,
Have labels hanging something low, the ends whereof are dressed,
And tipped with plates of weighty lead, and vesture black arrayed,
And last of all to make an end, with knots are surely stayed.

O joyful day of Agnes, and to Papists full of gain,
O precious worthy Lambs, O wool most fortunate again.
O happy they that spin and weave the same, whose hands may touch
This holy wool, and make these Palls of price and virtue such.
For by the same the Bishops have their full authority,
And Metropolitans are forced, these dearly for to buy.
Bestowing sometime eight, or ten, yea, thirty thousand crowns,
Ere half the year be full expired, for these same pelting gowns.

Nor can they use the Pall that was their predecessor’s late
Nor play the Bishop, nor receive the Primates high estate,
‘Till that he get one of his own; with such like subtlety
The Pope does all men poll (tax), without respect of Simony.

Perchance such force does not in these same holy Lambs remain,
Nor of itself the wool so much, nor all the weavers pain,
As these same pollers seem to say; for thus these palls being wrought,
Are straightways to St. Peter’s Church by hand of Deacons brought,
And underneath the altar all the night they buried lie,
Among Saint Peter’s relics and Saint Paul’s (his fellow) lie.
From hence the sacred juice they draw, and power celestial,
As if the Holy Ghost should give these Clerks his virtue all.”

Agnesenpl├Ątzchen aka SAINT AGNES COOKIES

These are sandwich cookies, i.e. a bottom cookie spread with a smooth filling and topped by another cookie.  All of the English recipes online come from a book called “Cooking with the Saints” by Ernst Schuegraf  (you can find it in Google Books).  He uses a very simple refrigerator dough of sugar, butter, and flour, cut in rounds, with apricot jam for the filling.  (Possibly too simple; I haven’t tried it, but it seems too dry to be a workable dough).  The images for the German recipes online have different shapes and fillings, including (mmmmm) melted chocolate. 

With that in mind, you could make life easy on yourself by slicing a roll of store-bought refrigerator cookie dough into 1/8 to ¼ inch thick rounds, baking them according to package directions, and then spreading one round with your choice of filling and topping with another round, and so on.  [If your slices don’t come out in even numbers, I’m sure the cook’s helper(s) will be happy to hide the evidence for you.  Mine always did.]

Or make life even easier by sandwiching the filling between two store-bought cookies, like shortbreads or vanilla wafers.

Or make your own dough.

Preheat oven to 375° F.
Grind ½ cup of nuts very fine (blanched almonds are a good choice)

In a small bowl, sift 2 cups of flour with ¼ teaspoon of salt.

In a large bowl, cream together 2/3 cup of soft butter (or margarine, if you must) and 1 cup of sugar.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and the ground nuts.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and, with your hands, mix well to form a smooth dough [The younger of the cook’s helpers usually like this stage].  Gather into a ball and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap; refrigerate for several hours.

When firm, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness; cut out shapes with a floured 2-inch round cookie cutter (scalloped edges always look fancy) or other cutter (a little lamb cutter would be cute).

Carefully place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 – 12 minutes.  When done, remove cookies to a baking rack to cool.  Put together in pairs with jelly or jam (one recipe calls for currant jelly, another for raspberry jam, so go with what you have.  Since mint jelly is served with lamb, would that be too fanciful…..?)

For the adults, LAMBSWOOL, that lovely warm drink of mulled ale (or cider) and roasted apples, which makes cold winter nights less cold.

Heat oven to 450° F.  Place 4 - 6 cored apples in a baking pan and roast in the hot oven for about an hour or until they are very soft.

Heat 1 quart of ale or cider in a pot.  Stir in any of the hot spices: ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground cardamom, ground allspice (and depending on how many spices you use, don't let the total be more than 1 to 2 teaspoons.  1/4 teaspoon EACH of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves is good; more or less according to taste).  Add brown sugar by tablespoonsful - up to 1/2 cup - tasting after each addition for desired sweetness.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Place the roasted apples in a warmed punchbowl and pour the hot liquid over them.  Serve hot.

(If you use cider, it will be suitable for the minors in the family.  Not saying it will be enjoyed.  Mulled cider is an acquired taste.)

“Saint Agnes”, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (15th c)

“Agnes in the Brothel” from Pictorial Lives of the Saints by John Gilmary Shea (1889)

“Saint Agnes” from A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Catholic Laity (1896)

20 January 2013

20 January - Saints Fabian and Sebastian

On Saint Sebastian, we are quit of winter [yes, well, it may seem like it today, but don’t put away your long underwear just yet]

When the bearded saint,                     (Anthony, 17 January)
And the arrow-pierced saint,              (Sebastian, 20 January)
Ant the combed saint have passed      (Blaise, 4 February)
Then the cold is over.

[That is as may be.  Here it should actually say something like
“When the Dragon-slayer has passed      (George, 23 April)
Then the cold is over.”
“When the Dove has passed          (Pentecost, sometime in May usually)
Then the cold is over.”
(I have seen a chill in May kill my newly planted tomatoes…)]

The last twelve days of January rule the weather for the whole year.  [Which someone else can track.  I’ve done my part with the 12 days of Christmas and the first 12 days of January]

Speaking of which, the sun shone bright and clear here at Rudd’s Little Acre on the 4th of January, aka Saint Parailde’s day (corresponding to April (first 12 days) and also to November (12 Days of Xmas).  According to weather lore:
If the sun shines on Saint Parailde’s day, it foretells pestilence.
If the sun shines on the 11th day of Christmas, then will there be many deaths among men [probably from the pestilence].

Boo on both counts. 

Saint Sebastian (a manly man if evert there was one) was invoked against the pestilence, as the plague was often symbolized as arrows of death.  Perhaps those of us who DON’T think the eradication of men to be a Good Thing should ask Sebastian to intercede and keep both pestilence and death at bay.

Today is the feast of Saint Fabian, Pope, and Saint Sebastian, Soldier, both martyrs for Our Lord.

Fabian was the leader of the Christians during a time of peace for them.  The persecutions had ended, and the Church grew and thrived.  Lots of people became Christians (the ‘in’ thing that season) and used their substance to build churches and relieve the poor and sing a New Church into being and earn really neat quill pens blessed by the Emperor by telling him that his pet projects were really in line with Christian thinking. But this small pocket of peace ended, and the persecutions began again under Decius, of which Pope Fabian was one of the first martyrs.  Lots of the new Christians, and not a few of the old ones (especially those with souvenir quill pens), fell away and apostatized. 

Well, after all, persecution IS hard, no question.  You start by being one who “doesn’t play well with others”, followed by the loss of your job (not ostensibly because of your religion, because that would be illegal.)  Then there are government thugs intimidating your family (it only takes an APB on your car tags or your children failed in school for your beliefs, but don’t worry, your children will be trained to denounce you if they want to get ahead); your bank accounts frozen (so easily done, just ask Rhode Island) – which means your bills cannot be paid (which means that you have no electricity or heat, and eventually no house); no money, which means no way to feed your family, or even move away to someplace less biased.  And then you are moved to 'camps', so that you don't contaminate others... and then somebody decides that you have no right to live.

Sound familiar?  If not, stand by.  It will.  And then watch the apostatizing begin.  Pray for the strength not to be one of them.

As for Saint Sebastian, you can read several excellent posts by Mr. Nelson of Abbey Roads.  Please pray for to those sorry souls who co-opt the saints for their own wrong-doing.

And please pray for us sorry souls who don’t fly to the saints enough for our souls’ benefit.

This is also the Eve of Saint Agnes.  I hope you young ladies have been fasting today.

"Saints Fabian and Sebastian", The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (15th century)

18 January 2013

18 January - Daniel Webster; Turnover Apple Pie

“Yes, Dan'l Webster's dead--or, at least, they buried him. But every time there's a thunder storm around Marshfield, they say you can hear his rolling voice in the hollows of the sky. And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, "Dan'l Webster--Dan'l Webster!" the ground 'll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you'll hear a deep voice saying, "Neighbor, how stands the Union?" Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper sheathed, one and indivisible, or he's liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that's what I was told when I was a youngster.”

So begins The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet.

Today is the birthday of the lawyer, statesman, and orator Daniel Webster, born in 1782 in Salisbury, New Hampshire to Ebenezer and Abigail Webster.

You can read about this controversial but able speaker at Wikipedia, and explore his time as a student at Dartmouth at Daniel Webster: Dartmouth’s Favorite Son.  His birthplace is a New Hampshire State Historic Site; it is not open to the public until mid-June, but looks like a nice option for a day-trip come summer.

For me, it is time again to read The Devil and Daniel Webster.  The 1941 movie based on the story (with Walter Huston as Ol’ Scratch) is available on Hulu (online) and on DVD.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet, give it a try.

“But they say that whenever the devil comes near Marshfield, even now, he gives it a wide berth. And he hasn't been seen in the state of New Hampshire from that day to this. I'm not talking about Massachusetts or Vermont.”

For one of New Hampshire’s favorite sons, have something from the Granite State.  This recipe, from the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, is called NEW HAMPSHIRE TURNOVER APPLE PIE.  It’s not quite the ‘turnover’ that you are used to, and the cook’s helpers are likely to wonder (audibly) if you really know what you are doing.  Ignore them.

Preheat oven to 425° F.
Peel and thinly slice enough tart apples to make 5 cups.
Make or buy 1 pastry crust for a 9-inch pie.
Warm a serving plate (plate should be the same size as the top of the pie).

Fill a 9-inch pie pan with the apples.

Fit the pastry crust over the top of the apples (like a top crust) and trim the edge.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the apples a soft [how you are supposed to check if they are soft is beyond me.  I just leave them for 25 minutes.]

But… but… but… what about the sugar and cinnamon?  Fear not.  It cometh.

Remove the pie from the oven. [Here it comes] TURN THE PIE UPSIDE DOWN ON THE WARM SERVING PLATE.  [This is the ‘turnover’]

Lift off the pie pan, leaving the baked apples in the crust.  Carefully scoop out the apples from the CRUST back into the pie pan, and mash them with a spoon.  Now stir in ½ cup of sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of butter.

Spread the apple mixture on the crust again; dot with another tablespoon of butter.  Put it in a warm place until the butter is melted.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.



“Birthplace of Daniel Webster” from The Private Life of Daniel Webster by Charles Lanman (1858).
“The site of the house is two and a half miles from the beautiful Merrimack River, and in the immediate vicinity of that where his father built the first log-cabin ever seen in this section of country, and at a time when, between his residence and the borders of Canada, there was not a single human habitation, excepting the Indian's wigwam. The house in question is not now standing; but the engraving which ornaments this volume is from a drawing correctly representing it, as it appeared only a few years ago, and is the only portrait of the place which ever received the approbation of Mr. Webster. It was a good specimen of the more elegant farm-houses of the day, one story high, heavily timbered, clapboarded, with rather a pointed roof, one chimney in the centre, one front door, with a window on either side, three windows at each end, four rooms on the ground floor, and an addition in the rear for a kitchen."

“Young Daniel at the Saw Mill” from Life of Daniel Webster: the Statesman and the Patriot by John Frost (1868)
“Near his birthplace and in the bed of a little brook are the remains of an old mill which once stood in a dark glen, and was then surrounded by a majestic forest which covered the neighboring hills. The mill was a source of income to Ebenezer Webster, and he kept it in operation till near the end of his life. To that mill, Daniel, though a small boy, went daily, when not in school, to assist his father in sawing boards. He was apt in learning any thing useful, and soon became so expert in doing every thing required, that his services, as an assistant, were valuable. Hence the reason for his being employed there when not at school or absolutely required elsewhere. But his time was not mispent or misapplied. After setting the saw and "hoisting the gate," and while the saw was passing through the log from end to end, which usually occupied from ten to fifteen minutes for each board, Daniel was usually seen reading attentively the books in the way of history and biography which he was permitted to take from the house."  Charles Lanman, Personal Memorials of Daniel Webster, (1853)

16 January 2013

16 January - Eve of St. Anthony

Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Anthony, Abbot.  This evening is a time to try a love charm.

For this you will need a door that leads to the street (for most of you, that would be the front door.)  Stand with your back to the door, a sufficient distance away.  Take a slipper in your right hand and throw it over your right shoulder.  Hopefully, you will not hit anything expensive, like your mother's heirloom vahz. Now, mark how the slipper lies: if the toes point toward the door, it is a sign that you will be married before another year has passed.

If not, not.  And better luck next time.

[Explain to your mother why you are throwing your slippers at the front door, instead of leaving them decently parked under your bed.]

15 January 2013

15 January - St. Paul the Hermit; Hermits

“In Thebais, the birthday of St. Paul, the first hermit, who lived alone in the desert from the sixteenth to the one hundred and thirteenth year of his age.  His soul was seen by St. Anthony carried by angels among the choirs of apostles and prophets. His feast is celebrated on the 15th of this month.”

That is the description on the 10th of January in the old Roman Martyrology.

On the 15th it says:

“St. Paul, the first hermit, who was carried to the home of the blessed on the tenth of this month.”

St. Jerome’s Life of Paul the First Hermit provided much of what is known of the man, and various subsequent accounts have offered further amplification.  According to them, Paul was young Christian man of wealth and education in Upper Egypt, when he was orphaned at the age of fifteen, during the persecutions of Christians under Valerian and Decius.  Fearing that he would not be able to withstand the tortures inflicted on Christians to make them apostatize, he moved his abode to the desert, trusting God to supply his needs.  There he stayed for the next ninety years.

In the Middle Ages, a favorite part of Paul's story pointed to the certain temptations of the flesh and the painful way that such temptations can be overcome.  As recounted in The Gold Legend, Paul fled to the desert when he saw two Christian men “cruelly tormented.”  The first was covered in honey and allowed to be bitten by wasps and flies, while the other was ordered to be put “… in a right soft bed between two sheets, among flowers and delectable roses and herbs sweet smelling, and therein was he bound so that he might not move."  The judge then sent a harlot “to him alone for to touch his members and his body, to move to lechery.  Finally, when the voluptuosity of his flesh surmounted him, and he might not defend himself nor his members, he bit off a piece of his tongue and spit it in her visage, which always enticed him to lechery by touching and by kissings, and so he voided the temptation fleshly, and the ribald also, and deserved to have laud and victory.”

Saint Anthony Abbot makes his appearance here as well.

Saint Anthony, who thought himself a pretty hot stuff as hermits go, learned that there was one greater and holier than himself, and set out (at the advanced age of 90) to visit Paul, who “has served God in solitude and penance for ninety years.”  After receiving directions from a centaur (above), a satyr, and a she-wolf, he found the cave which served for Paul’s hermitage.  They had long conversations together, and then Paul said that Anthony was destined to bury his body, and desired him to bring the mantle given Anthony by the holy bishop Athanasius, to be used as his shroud.  The abbot made his arduous way home, found the mantle, and once again set out to find Paul in the desert.  Before he arrived at the cell, he saw a vision of the shining soul of the venerable hermit ascending into heaven surrounded by angels, prophets, and apostles, and knew that the good man was dead.  Since he had only brought the mantle as a winding sheet, but nothing with which to dig a grave, two lions came and dug out a hole just large enough to contain the corpse.  Anthony then took Paul’s coat and wore it with great reverence.

St. Jerome ends his tale by contrasting the humble and simple life of Paul with the wealthy, materialistic citizens of his own day:  “… poor though he was, Paradise is open to him; you with all your gold will be received into Gehenna.”

The cookies called HERMITS would be a good treat today, especially if it is a dark and dreary and cold day.  There are lots of different recipes for these cookies – pick your favorite.  Here’s one of mine (because it uses sour milk):

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Grease cookie sheets.
Dissolve ½ teaspoon of baking soda in ½ cup of sour milk or buttermilk.

In a large bowl, cream together 1-½ cups of dark brown sugar with ½ cup of butter or shortening.  Drop in 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat until light after each addition.

In another bowl, sift together 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon EACH of ground cloves and ground nutmeg.  Stir in 1-½ cups of raisins and 1 cup of chopped nuts.  Add flour mixture to the batter alternately with the milk until well blended.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets.  [A sprinkle of white sugar on each is optional].  Bake for 10 to15 minutes.  Remove immediately from sheet and allow to cool on a baking rack.

Makes an awful lot of cookies, about 4 dozen or so.


“St. Paul receiving his daily provision from God” from Pictorial Lives of the Saints by John Gilmary Shea (1889)

Jean de Limbourg. “St. Paul sees a Christian tempted”.  The Belles Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry (c1405).  Paul turns away in horror at the cruel torment inflicted on the young man.  Look closely, and you can see the brave young Christian spit his piece of tongue in the harlot’s face. (the white spot in the center is from the original)

Jean de Limbourg. “St. Anthony directed by a Centaur”.  The Belles Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry (c1405).  The centaur points to the Red Sea (really red, so you know what it is), beyond which St. Paul sits reading beside a sarcophagus, unaware that a really big centipede is crawling his way.

14 January 2013

14 January - Saint Hilary

Weather - St. Hilary's day is the coldest (or wettest) day of the year.

Well, not this year, at least not in Rudd's Little Acre.  Here we are in the midst of what I call the "January Teasers", lovely, warm days that gull the unwary into thinking that winter is over and spring is just around the corner.

O gullible ones!  Be not tempted to put away thy winter woolies and unpack thy summer outfits.  Within a couple of days, the thermometer will plunge once more to normal (i.e. very cold) winter temperatures, and many will be the sufferers from suddenly contracted colds.  Keep thy heavy sweaters and thy long underwear, for soon the day cometh again when thou shalt shiver and sit close to the radiator.

This is (or was) also the Feast of the Ass.

The Lord be with you.
And with your Ass.

(Works for me)

09 January 2013

9 January - St. Julian the Hospitalarian

Weather – The weather today foretells the weather of September.


“At Antioch, in the reign of Diocletian and Maximian, the birthday of the Saints Julian, martyr, and Basilessa, his virgin wife.  Having lived in a state of virginity with her husband, she reached the end of her days in peace.  But after the death by fire of a multitude of priests and ministers of the Church of Christ, who had taken refuge in his house from the severity of the persecution, Julian was ordered by the president Marcian to be tormented in many way and executed.  With him suffered Anthony, a priest, and Anastasius, whom Julian raised from the dead, and made partaker of the grace of Christ; also, Celsus, a boy, with his mother Marcionilla, seven brothers, and many others.”

Today we honor Saint Julian and his wife Saint Basilissa, patrons of hospitals.

Julian was the son of noble parents of Antinoe, in Egypt.  They wished him to marry, but he, preferring to devote himself to a religious life, was unwilling to consider the idea until Christ appeared in a vision and told him that he and his wife would live chastely together as brother and sister, and finally enter Heaven as virgins.  Upon this promise, Julian married Basilissa, a maiden noted for her piety, and enjoyed, on their wedding night, visions of their names written in the Book of Life.  With their considerable revenues, they turned their house into a hospital and devoted themselves to the relief of the poor and sick.  For this, Julian is called the Hospitalarian or Hospitator (It. Giuliano Ospitale; Fr. Julien le Hospitaller).

Basilissa died peacefully in her bed, but Julian gained the crown of martyrdom in the persecutions of Diocletian (early 4th century) with Marcianilla, a lay-woman, and her young son, Celsus; the priest, Antony; and Anastasius, a convert.  

Julian is often confused with another Julian, called “The Poor”, whose legend relates that he unknowingly killed his parents and in penance built a hospice for travelers and himself ferried pilgrims across the nearby river.

In honor of Julian and Basilissa, do something for a local hospital or nursing home.  Volunteer once a week to play checkers at the veteran’s home.  Knit small caps for newborns, or make blankets or quilts to cheer up the children in hospital.  Our church makes prayer shawls, which Father blesses and takes to nursing homes in the parish, with a reminder that the parish is praying for the recipients.  Donate books or movies.  Volunteer to run the library.  There are lots of opportunities to show the same love of God that Julian and Basilissa showed in their lives.

“Saints Julian and Basilissa”, from John Gilmary Shea, Pictorial Lives of the Saints (1889), p. 41.

07 January 2013

7 January - St. Distaff's Day; Plough Monday

Weather:  the weather today indicates the weather in July.


“Plough-Monday, next after that Twelfth-tide is past,
Bids out with the plough – the worst husband is last;
If ploughman get hatchet, or whip to the screen,
Maids loseth their cock, if no water be seen.”
                                                   Thomas Tusser, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry

This being the first working day after Epiphany, today is St. Distaff’s Day, when the women return to work after the Christmas holidays.

This being also the first Monday after Epiphany, today is Plough Monday as well, when the men return to work after the Christmas holidays.

In keeping with the spirit of the last twelve days, today is a mixture of work and frolic – of tricks being played on each other, of races to be first to finish their chores, with forfeits claimed from the losers.  In Thomas Tusser’s bit of doggerel above, if the ploughman can get his one of his field implements to the kitchen fire (the fireplace ‘screen’) before the maid gets a kettle of water on the fire, she forfeits to him the cockerel with which she would have celebrated Shrove Tuesday.  And Robert Herrick describes how the men would try to singe the spinning materials, while the maids would keep buckets of water with which to douse the men.

Have a bit of fun today, when you go back to work.

“Partly work and partly play
You must on St. Distaff's Day.”
                                            Robert Herrick

“Spinning with the Distaff”, found in Robert Chambers, The Book of Days (1863), p. 69

01 January 2013


Then came old January, wrapped well
In many weeds to keep the cold away;
Yet did he quake and quiver like to quell;
And blow his nails to warm them if he may;
For they were numb’d with holding all the day
An hatchet keen, with which he felled wood,
And from the trees did lop the needless spray.

“This month takes its name form the Latin Januarius, which itself was derived from Janus, the two-faced god, who looked both before and behind.  The Saxons called it the Wolf Month, because wolves, driven by hunger, were wont to come down into the settlements in their desire for food.”


Astronomy for January:

The full moon on the 26th is the Wolf Moon.
[Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night…]

Meteor Showers

The Quantratids peak in the early morning hours of January 3rd .  The waning moon will keep you company.


Novenas for January
January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus.

Holy Name                    
Epiphany                        continues from 28 December
Holy Family                   begins 4 January
Purification                    begins 24 January


January brings the snow
Makes our cheeks and fingers glow.

Weather for January:
Based on the 12 Days of Christmas: Overcast and cold
Based on the first 12 days of January: Snow.
Based on the Ember Days: Overcast with high winds.


Weather Lore for January:

The first twelve days of January foretell the weather for the following twelve months, with each day relating to the appropriate month.
                                                    or, conversely
The last twelve days of January foretell the weather for the whole year.

A summerish January, a winterish spring.

A warm January, a cold May

Fog in January brings a wet spring.

Just as many foggy mornings as there are in January, there will be just so many frosty mornings in May and on the same days of the month.

The number of times it thunders in January indicates the number of frosts there will be in April.

January thunder indicates wind, corn, and cattle.

1/1 - If January calends be summerly gay, It will be winterly weather till the calends of May.
        If the sun shines on the 8th day of Christmas, then quicksilver will be easy to get.

        If the Kalends of January fall on Tuesday, then the winter will be dreary and severe, a windy heat and rainy summer, and many women will die; ships will voyage in danger, and kings and princes will die.

         If the new year begins on Tuesday, we will have a stormy winter: a wet summer: a diverse harvest, with corn and fruit indifferent, yet herbes in gardens shall not flourish: great sickness of men, women, and young children. Beasts shall hunger, starve and dye of the botch: [oh, no! Not the botch!] many ships, galleys and hulks shall be lost: and the bloody fluxes shall kill many men: all things dear [expensive], save corn.  [This guy was a real Dismal Desmond. People probably threw the rope over the beam and found a rickety chair when he walked into a room]

        If New Year’s day in the morning opens with red dusky clouds, it denotes strife and debates among great ones, and many robberies to happen during the year.

       If the wind blows from the south on the first day of January, it will blow from the south every day of that month,

1/1-3 - The first three days of January rule the coming three months.

1/2 – As the weather is this day, so will it be in September.

         If the sun shines on the 9th day of Christmas, then God shall send a great baptism that year.

1/3 - It will be the same weather for nine weeks as it is on the ninth day after Christmas.

        If the sun shines on the 10th day of Christmas, then will the oceans and rivers have a great supply of fish.

1/4  - If the sun shines on the 11th day of Christmas, then will there be many deaths among men.

         If the sun shines on St. Pharaildis, it foretells pestilence. [Well, that accounts for the many deaths.]

1/5 - If the sun shines on the 12th day of Christmas, men will be weak, and the earth will be quiet.

1/8 - The weather before noon today foretells the nature of June; after noon foretells the nature of May.

1/9 - The weather before noon today foretells the nature of August; after noon foretells the nature of July.

1/10 - The weather before noon today foretells the nature of October; after noon foretells the nature of September.

1/11 - The weather before noon today foretells the nature of December; after noon foretells the nature of November.

1/12 - If on January 12th the sun shines, it foreshows much wind.

           This day being the twelfth, doth foreshow the nature and condition of the whole year, and doth confirm the eleven days going before.

1/14 – St. Hilary, the coldest day of the year (or the wettest).

1/20 - On Saint Sebastian, we are quit of winter

1/20-31 – The last twelve days of January rule the weather for the whole year.

1/22 – If the sun shines brightly on Vincent’s Day, we shall have more wine than water. (Prosperous weather all the year.)

           If the sun shines on Jan 22nd, there shall be much wind.

1/25 - If St. Paul’s Day be fair and clear, it doth betide a happy year;
          But if by chance it then should rain, it will make dear all kinds of grain;
          And if the clouds make dark the sky, then neat and fowls this year shall die;
          If blustering winds do blow aloft, then wars shall trouble the realm full oft.

          Check the wind at midnight of Paul’s day – it will be the prevailing wind all year.

Of course, the one wise weather saying that makes the most sense is the one that I like the least, since, by the first of January, I am ready for Spring... but, as the saying goes,

"As the day lengthens, so the cold strengthens"

and, at least in New England, it is true - sadly, never-endingly, cabin-feverishly TRUE.

Gardening for January

January - Ploughing

The 1817 Almanac advises: “In this month uncover the Roots of Trees, and cover with Dung the Roots of new-planted Trees, to prevent the Frost from injuring them.  Cut all dead Branches off Fruit Trees.  Plant Quicksets, and cleanse Trees from Moss.  Sow Cresses, Mustard, Radish, Lettuce, and other small Herbs, in warm rich Soil.”

“Sow Hotspur Pease, put fresh Earth to your Sage, Thyme, and other sweet Herbs.  Transplant young Fruit Trees, prune Vines; trench and soil Ground for the Spring.”

Gardening from Cassell’s Illustrated almanack 1871
Flowers.— Turn over the soil in the borders of the garden, if it has not already been done, and make any alteration that may be desired in the arrangement of beds and paths. Choose fine weather for transplanting hardy shrubs, and carefully train your roses and other creepers. If you have any bulbs unplanted, get them in without delay. If tulips, etc that were planted early now show through the ground, protect them with a little litter.
Vegetables.— Beans may be sown now for transplanting in March, and you may begin to thin and transplant autumn-sown cabbages. In mild weather sow peas for an early crop. Dig over the ground where vacant, as the soil will derive munch benefit from exposure to the frost.
Fruit.—Trees, now that the sap is down, may still be transplanted, and you may prune away all weak and useless shoots.

Health for January
“Let not Blood, and use no Physick, unless there be a Necessity: Eat often, and avoid too much Sleep.”

January Engraving by Samuel Williams. William Hone, The Everyday Book and Table Book, (1838), p. 1.

January – Ploughing. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898), p. 565.