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Easter Teaches Us Hope, Even During Times of Loss

The Easter Season is upon us. 50 days of celebrating the time that Jesus spent on Earth after his Resurrection. Such a glorious time of year. Spring is all around us: trees are getting their leaves, flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and little baby animals are making their appearances into the world. Life is all around us. What could be better?

Unfortunately for many all this new life can be a painful reminder of what they do not have. For those who have experienced a recent loss, this season of new life can make you want to crawl back in bed and pull the covers over your head not to be seen again until fall.

Hope can seem like an impossibility in the midst of grieving a miscarriage.

Don’t talk to me about hope! How can you say we should be hopeful?

Don’t you understand what just happened?

Just as the death of any loved one brings on moments of despair as we grieve for the person we have lost, so does miscarriage bring about the same kind of despair and hopelessness. It is hard to see hope when all we see is death. And it gets harder and harder to see any hope if you continue to experience death through multiple pregnancy losses, as I have. When a child dies we lose not only the child but also the hopes and dreams of our own changed life. Hope seems to die.

But there is hope. This is the lesson of Easter. The Resurrection is our hope! Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead is not just hope for us, but hope for our children as well. They too will be resurrected on the last day and receive heavenly bodies.

In this Easter season, as we are surrounded by white lilies, spring bursting forth, and the life-giving waters of Baptism, we should think of our children who have gone before us. We should hold on to the hope we gained through our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. Hold on to the hope to see them one day again in Heaven. We must hold on to the hope that our families will be fully reunited in Paradise.

The pain of miscarriage, of any loss really, always stays with us. It might get easier as the years pass, but it never really goes away. And yet, this hope we have in the Resurrection is a reminder that all is not lost. If you have recently suffered the pain of miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss this may seem like too much to hope for.

I can’t imagine seeing hope in this way. Everything seems so hopeless right now.

That is okay. No one expects you to see hope right away. But trust me, in time this will be a great comfort. Easter is a beautiful time of year. The beauty of new life springing forth from the Earth will in time bring comfort and you will begin to see what a blessing it is to have a little one interceding especially for your family and praying for the day when you will be reunited.

Have hope. Look to the Resurrection and know that this is our future as well. The love of God is amazing!

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Time Immemorial: the Eucharist

One of my Protestant friends commented one day about the Eucharist. From his standpoint, Jesus’s “Do this in memory of me,” only implies that participating in the Feast of the Lord should be done to remind you of Jesus if you forget him. His thought process is that Jesus is never far from his thoughts, so he has no need to participate in the Great High Feast to remind him of Jesus. At the time of this conversation, I was struck dumb.

Since then, we’ve celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the biggest of all Easter Sunday. During the readings for these days we have been reminded of Jesus’s desire for us to imitate Him. We have also had several readings of Jesus’s visitation after His death. Each time Jesus appeared there is at least once commonality: the Breaking of the Bread, also known as the Eucharist. Most often, the disciples did not recognize Christ until this vital Sacrament. It wasn’t that the disciples had forgotten Christ since His death. Instead, they were so excited about His life, death, and Resurrection, they filled in a stranger on the road with the wondrous story. Christ had His reasons for cloaking Himself from them until He broke bread with them–He wanted them to associate the breaking of the bread with His True Presence. By the words of Scripture, the disciples understood this without a doubt. The Man breaking bread after Christ’s death was the same Man that broke the bread prior to His death. However, that man was not a simple human; He was truly God.

Some of our Protestant brethren discount the Eucharist as a mere symbol. While some sections of Scripture are taken literally, for some reason, Jesus’ words, “This is my body… This is my blood…” are taken as figurative. From a historical perspective, it was clear to the early Christians and even anti-Christians that the Eucharist celebrated was indeed meant to really be Jesus’s body and blood. Jews at the time were very familiar with symbolic meals: Passover Seder, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, etc. The Jews recognized these symbols, but also realized that Jesus was different. In fact, in John 6:50-60, Jesus chastises the disciples, Pharisees, Sadducees, and many other of His followers by proclaiming that His flesh was real food and His blood real drink. Many left Him at that time because it was too difficult to believe and even more difficult to practice that the Eucharist was really Jesus’ Body and Blood. If He were speaking figuratively, it would not have been difficult to believe or practice, because bread is just bread and wine is just wine when symbolic. After Jesus’ death and Resurrection, the early Christians were persecuted as cannibals because even their enemies knew the now-called “symbolic” meal of the Eucharist was no symbol, but instead “true food and true drink”. Jesus took a hard line against those who wouldn’t or couldn’t accept that in order to achieve Eternal Life, one must eat His flesh and drink His blood. As Catholics we are faithful to this exhortation from Christ. We literally believe He is present in the small wafer and wine once the words of Consecration are spoken. We also take Him at His word when He commanded His disciples in that upper room to “Do this in memory of Me.”

Each time Jesus visited His disciples prior to the Ascension, He blessed and broke bread with them. At the first instance, the breaking of the bread is just another way of Christ proving He is indeed alive again. A ghost or spirit has no need or ability to eat real food or drink real drink, yet Christ did both. His consumption of food was even more vital and telling than presenting His wounds to Thomas because none of the disciples had tested Him in His new form, yet they instantly recognized Him through the Eucharist. Thereafter, He had no need for further proof, however, He continued to bless the bread and wine at table. Immediately after these actions, the disciples recognized Him. Even in the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles gather and break bread together. The newly baptized “were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) If the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist, was not such an important aspect of early Christian lives, why does Christ only reveal Himself in this Meal?

All four gospel writers saw fit to include the Last Supper, first Eucharist, in their narratives. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Liturgy of the Eucharist comes from these accounts almost word for word. The Consecration repeats Jesus’s own words of blessing over the bread and wine verbatim to complete transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Eucharist. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is not simply a memorial; the sacred words of Christ allow the us to share in the Sacrifice at Calvary. Not only that, but we believe God lifts the curtain between time and space, so that, each time we share the Eucharist, we are not re-sacrificing Christ, we are present at Calvary. God allows His Faithful to participate in the Ultimate Sacrifice of His Son’s death each and every time Mass is celebrated. Each time we receive the Eucharist, we are joined ever closer to our Lord and Savior. This Communion is the reality of Jesus being the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. By faithfully adhering to His commands to “Take and eat”; we not only show our obedience, but also nourish our souls with the Bread come down from Heaven. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice at Calvary. Why would anyone want to pass up this glorious opportunity? Why would anyone forsake Communion with Jesus or only partake infrequently? We do not know the day or the hour He shall come again, but every hour of every day, Christ is present in the breaking of the bread in a Catholic Church somewhere in the world. Shouldn’t we be like the wise virgins and always be prepared to greet our Lord through the Sacrifice of the Mass on a frequent basis?

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The Real Love Story of the Titanic

Much has been written and said about the sinking of the Titanic these past 100 years. There are books and movies and books about the movies; yet none of these popular tales capture the truest story of love that rose above the sinking of a luxury liner – the Titanic. And how can one be surprised? In this age of promiscuity, how does one expect the story of a truly heroic figure to rise above the titillation of a beautiful young, albeit imaginary, couple and their ‘true’ love infatuation?

Yet there was such a story! This relationship of true love began when Rousell Davids Byles, the eldest of seven children to a minister, went off to Oxford to study theology. While at Oxford he converted to Catholicism and took on the name, Thomas. After having attended seminary he said ‘yes’ to the Call…and the Church became his Bride. Fr. Thomas Roussel Davids Byles spent around ten years as a parish priest in England before receiving an invitation to come to New York. His brother, William, wished for him to officiate at his wedding and this intent placed him on that fateful journey.

While on board, Fr. Byles served the people of every class by saying Mass and fulfilling other priestly duties. His homily on that fateful morning would be ironically relevant…it concerned ‘the need for a spiritual lifebelt in the shape of prayer and the sacraments when in danger of spiritual shipwreck in times of temptation’.[1][2] It is said that he was above deck, reading from his Breviary, when the iceberg was struck. As the fate of the ship and those on board became evident, Fr. Byles repeatedly refused the use of life saving measures and instead gave solace to those facing their demise. He heard confessions, gave general absolution and prayed the Rosary while encircled by members of all faiths.

Much is said about heroes and love these days. The current definitions fall far short from the pure intent of these words, however. A hero is someone who would give up his life for the good of another. Jesus showed us that on His cross and others have emulated Him ever since. The great St. Maximilian Kolbe comes to mind as one such hero. Fr. Byles is surely another! This type of heroics beautifully illustrates the truest definition of love – in its purest form. Love of God above all others and love of neighbor as oneself! On this, 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic AND Divine Mercy Sunday, let us reflect on the true meaning of love and heroes. Allowing Jesus to drive our desires and actions will speak of a great love – the love of creature for the creator. And in all things, surely we can do no less than to say, ‘Jesus, I trust in You!’.
[1] Fr Thomas Roussel Davids Byles – Titanic Biography – Encyclopedia Titanica
 The Scotsman and Extracts from the Diary of Father Patrick McKenna 
Easter Liturgical Year Splendid Sundays

Splendid Sundays -Easter

He is risen!

Alleluia Alleluia!!!

From all of the Catholic Sistas contributors, we hope you have a blessed Easter. 🙂

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Behold the Lamb Cake!

Warning: The following article does not contain any references to humility or penitence.

Our lamb cake tradition began the year my mother-in-law decided to purge her kitchen cabinets of  fifty years of accumulation.  My husband happened upon the scene in time to rescue an old pan from which he could not bear to be parted.  I’d never seen nor heard of it before, but dear husband spoke fondly of Easters gone by, when the family table had as its radiant centerpiece…the lamb.  This was the mold from whence it came.

I examined the pan with skepticism and disdain.  What did I want with an old lamb pan?  After all, if she was throwing it out, who were we to interfere?  And I certainly did not need someone else’s old junk in my cabinets; her trash pan was not my treasure.

You see, cooking is a touchy issue for me.  I’m not a great cook, nor do I (like some) enjoy the process.  It’s all about efficiency and necessity: do what must be done and get it over with.  But my mother-in-law is the consummate fifties housewife.  She bakes cream puffs from scratch and carefully arranges them on little doilies.  She makes pancakes that would more properly be called crepes; it takes fifteen of them to equal a single Hungry Jack.  In other words, she dishes up things that are inefficient and unnecessary.  And she does it with style.  I cannot compete.

Then there are my sisters-in-law.  My husband is one of the youngest in a large family of boys, so my older sisters-in-law paved the way for me by making every imaginable homemade delicacy that a ravenous pack of boys might enjoy: perfectly fried eggrolls and crispy wontons;  paper-thin sugar-cookie cutouts;  mile-high red-velvet birthday cakes; and pies—all varieties, all the time.

When I married, I quickly found that any dish made to impress my darling spouse had been done, and done better, by those who’d gone before.  In my tiny newlywed apartment, I spent a whole afternoon blithely peeling apples and rolling crust.  Hubby was kind, but unimpressed.  “Is this [name withheld]’s recipe?” he asked with trepidation.  “Her pies are the best!”  I saw the far-away look in his eye as he recalled pies of yore, and I knew I was like the cat who tenderly drops road kill at his master’s feet.

Twenty years later, I’d like to say I’m over all that pettiness.  But I’m not.  No matter that my culinary talents have soared to heights I never dreamed possible; as likely as not, my offerings are still not quite as good as my husband’s memory of what someone once made, long years ago.  That is, until I was redeemed by the lamb.

As Dearest reminisced over the reclaimed lamb pan and cakes of Easter past, he chuckled.  “The only problem with our lamb cake was that it never had a head.”  My interest in the dull aluminum pan suddenly piqued.

“No head?  What do you mean?” I nonchalantly picked dead leaves from a withered houseplant, one ear cocked ever-so-slightly toward him.

“Well, every year the darn thing’s head came off.  Mom never could get it to stay on.  We gave her a hard time over that head!”  He sniggered as he thought about it.  I casually took the pan under my arm and strolled away, plans for triumph slowly forming in my mind.

It became my mission to birth the greatest lamb cake ever sliced by man.  I scoured the internet for recipes, finally settling on a dense cream-cheese pound cake—guaranteed to provide firm neck support.  The frosting was trickier.  There was the fluffy, seven-minute boiled-variety.  Or cream cheese, to match the cake?  In the end, I went with a thick buttercream—the one that goes on the red velvet cake.  Should the head be tempted to depart, the frosting would act as cement and prevent any embarrassing mishaps.

My pan is like this, except the bottom of mine seals with a seperate "lid". This one looks more user friendly.

I mixed my batter with gusto.  Bur when it was time to fill the pan, I encountered a serious glitch.  My inherited pan did not come with instructions, and it was suddenly obvious that this mold had a significant design flaw.  The pan had two halves—front and back—that fitted snugly together on three sides.  The bottom, however, was flanged and open, so that the mold would sit upright inside a tight-fitting bottom lid.  In other words, I had a pan that would be filled with thick batter, and the only opening was on the bottom.

Faithful to my motto, “act in haste, repent in leisure”, I turned the pan upside-down (balancing it on the thin top edge) and filled it up.  I snapped on the bottom/lid, flipped it right-side up again and quickly slid it into the oven.  At least I had the foresight to set the mold on a large baking pan;  raw lamb was soon oozing everywhere.

Out of the oven it came.  I assessed the damages and tried to stem the leaks  Back into the oven it went.  I dusted off my hands and called it good.

When at last the baking time was over, and the cake cool enough to handle, I oh-so-carefully loosened the sides of the mold and ever-so-gently lifted them away from the tender cake.  My children gathered in awe for the unveiling of this long-awaited marvel.  As the top of the pan pulled free, we could at last see the cake in all its glory!  A gasp went up from the crowd.

It was headless.

Whereas my mother-in-law had trouble keeping the head on, it seemed that ours had never existed.  When the batter oozed out of the bottom, just enough was lost so that no amount of rising and swelling could fill the cranial cavity of the poor beast.

As the disappointed onlookers dispersed (not without a few hoots and cat-calls) my brain whirled.  On the counter were two loaf-sized cakes that I had baked with leftover batter.  Inspiration struck.  I ripped a few hunks from one loaf and shoved them into the head-portion of the mold.  It was a mold, after all.  I hadn’t suffered through years of Play-Doh for nothing.  I packed the cake into the head as tightly as I could, and snapped on the back.  I twiddled my thumbs while elevator music played, and when I could stand the suspense no longer, I popped the mold open again.

There, before me, was a perfect—if somewhat Frankenstein-ish—disembodied lamb’s head.  I used several toothpicks to join it with the pre-existing neck and body, and it looked like it was born that way.  A thick coating of buttercream later, and my lamb could have made it through airport security without a second glance.

The kids had fun sticking jellybeans in the face to create its mild ovine features and creatively added a few black jellybeans to its nether quarters to serve as…well, you know.  Quite realistic, too.

It was the radiant centerpiece of the Easter table, and my mother- and sisters-in-law were all green with envy.  Well, not really.  But everyone did admire it, and at least a couple of people ate it, including my loving husband, who proclaimed it  “Delicious!”   No one ever knew about the toothpicks, either.

Mission accomplished!

**For a more realistic lamb, try add a little red food coloring to your batter and leave off the fluffy white frosting. Button eyes and parsley are optional.


Lamb/Cream Cheese Pound Cake

  • 1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract (may substitute almond, lemon, etc.)
  1. Let all ingredients come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Grease and flour lamb mold.  (Extra batter may be baked as loaves and frozen.)
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add sugar in a slow, steady stream beating until well-incorporated.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour all at once and mix in. Add vanilla.
  5. Pour into lamb mold. Bake at 300 degrees F for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Check for doneness at 1 hour. A toothpick (or bamboo skewer) inserted into center of cake will come out clean.  Extended baking time may be necessary to achieve doneness; check every five minutes until the center is done.  *Lamb mold cooking times will vary.*
  6. Cool cake for fifteen minutes.  Gently unmold cake, or follow pan instructions.

*Recipe make approximately 8 1/2 cups of batter.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1  1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together.  Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes.  Cool to room temperature in fridge or freezer.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and add butter.  Beat with electric mixer on low until thoroughly incorparated.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and continue mixing until combined.  (From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  Their red velvet cake is pretty special, too!)

Lamb may be frosted when cooled.  Decorate with candies of your choice,  coconut, ribbons, etc.  Note: choose your decorations wisely or your Easter lamb will look like an Easter poodle.