Comfort, Comfort O My People


I’ve been laid a bit low this week. I hope to be back blogging shortly.

Please, in the meantime, enjoy one of my favorite Advent hymns (found on YouTube):

Comfort, Comfort Oh My People

Comfort, comfort oh my people,
Speak of peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load.
Speak unto Jerusalem
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell of all the sins I cover,
And that warfare now is over.

Hark the voice of one who’s crying 
In the desert far and near,
Bidding all to full repentance,
Since the kingdom now is here.
Oh that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
Let the valleys rise to meet him,
And the hills bow down to greet him.

Oh make straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher places plain;
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits his holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
Now o’er earth is shed abroad;
And all flesh shall see the token,
That his word is never broken.

Image from, CCO, creative commons.

Assist Our Pastors and All Consecrated, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests


O Jesus, Good Shepherd, raise up in all parish communities, priests and deacons, religious, consecrated lay people and missionaries according to the needs of the whole world, which you love and want to save.

We entrust to you in a particular way our parish community; create in it the spiritual atmosphere of the first Christians in order that it may be a cenacle of prayer where we lovingly receive the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

Assist our pastors and all consecrated souls. Guide the steps of those who have generously welcomed your call and prepared themselves for Holy Orders or the profession of the evangelical counsels. Direct your loving gaze to the many well-disposed young people and invite them to follow you. Help them to understand that only in you they can achieve their fulfillment.

We entrust these great desires of your Heart to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother and model of all vocations, and beg you to sustain our faith in the certainty that the Father will listen to what you yourself have instructed us to ask for.


Image, CCO, Creative Commons


A Winter’s Soup


As an avid vegetable gardener I have often kept a root cellar, or something similar, for storing harvested produce. In one house it was literally a hand dug portion of the basements exposed to tree roots and in another a field-stone basement. Putting food by just seems like a natural progression for those of us who celebrate life with soil between our hands.

At one time I lived in an old farm house on a double lot. My vegetable patch wasn’t very big, although it sure felt like twenty acres come harvest time. Many of my homegrown root vegetables—potatoes, carrots, parsnips, garlic and onions—would be set for storage in a cool dark corner of the basement.

In this farm house, I’d head down the back kitchen stairs into the Michigan basement—hand dug, dirt floor, fieldstone walls—and from inside the cellar, unlock the bulk-head doors over the cement steps that lead outside. I could then carry into the basement directly from the gardens bins and bags of barely cleaned root vegetables for storage.

A lot of these old fieldstone basements were formed with a ledge about four feet up. I’m not sure why, but thank the Good Lord for a perfect place to set the produce. The overhead beams were old and as hard as the stones, so twine was threaded between them and the up-stairs floor-boards to hang the garlic and onions; the herbs went into the attic. Once everything was hauled into place, the mouse traps would be set. Michigan basements are known for harboring the neighborhood mouse population.

There was also a fair amount of tomato canning that took place. That is until I got the upright freezer and stopped the boiling-pots-in-August insanity. I never made sauces with the tomatoes after that, preferring to freezer-pack them fresh and often unpeeled. When they thawed out, the skins just slipped off and the added flavor from them was worth the mess.

Feeling a bit out of sorts as the dark days of winter wore on, I would often look through cookbooks and old magazines for meal options. The publications from the Christmas season always showed fancy foods and fabulous families, neither of which were part of my world. The days were dark, and I was feeling much like the produce in the basement waiting for purposefulness.

I needed to do something, I needed to share. I had no idea who would be the recipient of the food I was fixing to cook, but I knew the Holy Spirit would make a suggestion.

I had a fair amount of pot roast left from the previous night’s dinner. To this day, I still haven’t figured out how to make a small roast! I decided that this would be the protein I needed in a soup. I grabbed a stock pot from under the sink and headed to the basement with my old black lab slowly following me down the steep stairs.

Loaded with the produce I would need, back up to the kitchen I went. The pot was so heavy that I plopped it down every other step until I got to the linoleum. Up and onto the counter it went, and out the veggies came into the sink that I now started to fill with cold water.

I had a sweet potato in the fridge; one of the magazine recipes had used sweet potatoes instead of white ones in a stew. It sounded like a nice note to add, so I pulled that out along with the meat, celery and seasonings.

With the wooden handled veggie brush, a Fuller Brush housewarming gift from long ago, I scrubbed the skins of the potatoes and carrots. Peeling the parsnips and store bought rutabaga; I set them all together on the over-sized walnut cutting board next to the cabbage.

Having already rinsed the kettle and set it on the stove to dry, I dumped in the stock and lit the burner and donning my apron, albeit a little late, I set about combining the soup. This recipe has fewer servings than the first over-excited-to-share version.

Winter Roots Beef Soup

6 cups beef broth (avoid cubes of bouillon, they give the root veggies an odd saltiness though bouillon paste works fine)

½ to 1 lb. leftover beef roast, diced

1 large potato diced, peeled if the skin is tough

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

½ rutabaga, peeled and diced

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

¼ head red cabbage (or green) shredded

14-16 oz. diced tomatoes, frozen or canned

2 stalks celery, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

¼ -½ sweet onion, finely sliced and then cut slices in half

¼ tsp. celery seed

¼ tsp. thyme

1 tbl. parsley flakes, or ¼ c. fresh parsley, diced

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Literally, dump all of it together into a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes are tender. Serve.

This is a hearty soup with a rich beefy flavor. You can use leftover turkey breast (only!) or chicken by switch the broth to 3 c. vegetable and 3 c. beef. Realize that using chicken or turkey stock changes the taste significantly, and not for the better in my opinion. Leftover pork does not work well at all.

I often freeze leftover roasts in anticipation of making this soup knowing that I can easily double or triple the ingredients. But be mindful of the herbs and seasoning if tripling. Double them first, and then after simmering a while, taste to see if want to add more.

Acts 14:17 …yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.


An Advent Call, Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns


Beloved Mother Mary hear our prayers for our Sisters and Nuns.

In this Advent season we ask that they seek to answer God’s call, as you had, through faith.

That they are encouraged to walk with trust on an unknown journey, hearts bound to your Son’s.

That you guide them to embrace fully the teachings of your Son, and to share unfalteringly his words.

Give them courage to continue to follow God’s will in the face of hardships or persecution.

Let them always look to you as a model of enduring love.

We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Image from, CCO, Creative Commons.

Prayer for Strength, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests


Dear Lord,

Hear my prayer for your priests in my life. I pray that they will persevere in their calling in the face of ridicule and hate for the sins of their brothers. I pray that they find strength in you in a world that devalues the purpose of their work, and often sees them as useless and archaic.

Sweet Jesus help me remember to thank them for the offering of their lives to lead mine towards you. I am only one small soul of the many that they touch, but may my heart be always grateful and pray for the priests who guide me to be more than what I think I can be.

In their blessing me, may I always bless them in return.


Image, CCO, Creative Commons.

Seasons in Anticipation of Change


The black tree limbs are naked of leaves and their outline contrasts against the gray November skies. The gardens too are naked and the lawns have turned the dull green of an old wool shirt.

Another seasonal change is moving through, and winter is coming. Growing up in the Midwest I learned early about seasons and signs of change. The winds from the north bring us colder temperatures, but those from the southwest are warm, humid and have a potential for creating storms. We learn to recognize the differences in clouds and the kinds of storms, rain or snow, which develop from them relative to their direction and the time of year.

In Luke 12:54-56 we read of Jesus speaking to a crowd “When you see a cloud rising in the west…when you see the south wind blowing…You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Most of us easily recognize the signs in nature that indicate movement in time, cycles and rhythms. But do we recognize similar signs in our spiritual life? Can we point to the cycles of faith in our present time and say “Yes, here again…this is Our Lord’s movement”?

There is the season of less light, when things seem dim. For those of us who live with depression, this season always returns and we are blessed with the opportunity to grow deeper in our faith. It is the time when I most arduously seek my Lord. It is the time when I know I am developing more fully my ability to find my way when hope seems distant.

During seasons of darkness comes rain, sometimes cold and persistent. The rain challenges me to willingly take in and draw up what is good. In nature everything depends on rain, or rather water. I think this is true of our souls as well. We cannot survive without the water of Mercy that God sends to revive our soul.

We can learn something from the darkness, where in nature roots develop. We grow stronger through our seeking God. We become a bit more grounded. With each passing season we develop strength not found the year before.

Once we have rested after the challenge of darkness and rain, storms and winds, we enter the next season of new growth. The development that took place in darkness now brings vitality for the next cycle of life.

We learn throughout our lives how to interpret Christ’s presence in it, much the same as knowing how to interpret the earth and sky. Through attentiveness and discernment we learn, and trust that one season will lead to another…a natural cycle to developing faith.

Image, CCO Creative Commons.


Fullness of Yes, Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns


Blessed Mother Mary,

You discerned in your heart and gave to God the fullness of yourself in love and faith. You did not know the demands your “yes” would place on you in the future as the mother of Jesus. You chose to walk trusting the will of our Holy Father.

Look now on our women, young and old, discerning a vocation as a Sister or Nun. Hear our prayers for them that they are open to God’s calling. Grant them peace in their seeking to know God’s will to enter into a religious life. Help them to persevere when confusion, fear, and discouragement may bring doubts.

Blessed Mother hear our prayers that the vocations of Sisters and Nuns be filled to overflowing!



Image from, CCO, Creative Commons.


Claude Monet Quote

The Poppy Field, near Argenteuil, Claude Monet

As a gardener who has enjoyed Monet’s work for decades, I’ve imagined him as a kindred spirit; his lifelong obsession with flowers included caring for gardens and not just painting them.

Only recently, as I’ve entered my sixties, have I begun to learn to paint. The more I learn about art, color and composition, the deeper my understanding and love for Monet’s work.

In learning to see God’s glory in nature with a new appreciation and perspective of light and shadows, the beauty of impressionism has evolved.

I was filled with with delight when I found this quote, since it too is the desire of my heart to bear witness to the Glory of the Creator as I learn to paint.

“All I did was to look at what the universe showed me, to let my brush bear witness to it.”

~ Claude Monet

Image, CCO, Creative Commons.

Coming Winter, Prayer for Priests


For some folks I know, their day is not starting off well, as mine had not several years ago when I faced the same issue; the furnace has stopped working and it’s really old.  Their house is cold, the water pipes are getting colder, and winter has just begun.

Let us pray for our priests who also struggle in the cold, that their dwellings remain warm and secure. That they are safe travelling when called upon during winter storms to aid a parishioner. Let us pray, and continue to pray until Easter warms us all.


A Bunch of Rubbish


I find November to be a transitional month—not quite past autumn and not yet winter. Skies are often filled with heavy dark-gray clouds that suddenly open into glorious sunlight, illuminating yellow leaves. The business of outdoor activities is ending, and the bustle of holiday celebrations is waiting to begin. This is the month when nature goes dormant. And we become wrapped in restfulness, drawing-down at home in heavy sweaters, flannel pants, and warm slippers. With hands encircling steaming cups we slow our pace and reflect.

This is when the true purpose of dormancy develops in our lives, when roots expand and the overt activities of life decrease. We become more grounded.

By definition, dormancy is a state of rest. Like hibernation, it is a time of minimal activity. Many organisms require this cycle of rest. Without it the future holds reduced productivity and impaired vitality—plants don’t flower, animals become obese, and people distraught.

For those of us who manage living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, dormancy is not always beneficial—too much stillness and my mood goes dark. I find it best both physically and mentally to remain as active as possible before the confining nature of winter sets in.

It had been cloudy and rainy for days. The afternoon cloud-breaks of sunlight were a welcomed sight. I saw from my upstairs windows that it was a breezy day. Remnant leaves were being stripped from dormant branches. Flocks of small birds were flying en masse with the wind, and their sudden turns reminded me of schools of fish.

I felt gloomy and angry, and hoped that going for a walk would improve my mood. I tied on boots, secured the hand-knitted ruana—a large shawl-like poncho—with a brooch, and headed out the door with the dog, she in a sweater as well.

There are few things happier than a dog on a windy day. My Lilly was no exception. Her tail wagged as she pranced, head up, sniffing the air. She wanted to stop at every sign and pole to mark her passing—but I was on a march and she needed to keep pace. My mission was to outmaneuver the dark thoughts that swirled.

Leaves and litter blew about, trees and shrubs swayed. As we passed an overgrown woodlot, a naked shrub at the edge had gathered debris…including a plastic bag snagged low in the branches. Caught and twisted the plastic crackled and jerked with each windy gust. Entangled by the previous storms it could not break away.

I really hate litter. It makes a place look worse than it is. With deliberate steps, maneuvering over tall grass and hidden limbs, I approached the shrub and snatched the plastic bag free. Continuing the walk, the bag was used to hold the litter collected as it blew into my way. The dog took advantage; each time I stopped and stooped, she piddled her message of passing.

It had been about an hour by the time Lilly and I returned home. Going through the back gate, I threw the bag of litter in the garbage can. My mood had improved, those bits and pieces of dark thoughts had also been gathered and trashed.

Image, CCO, Creative Commons.