Simon of Cyrene, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests


As a way to help our priests carry their cross this Lent, pray this novena as a Simon of Cyrene. It was written for the Knights of Columbus in 2019 by the sisters of The Handmaids of the Precious Blood. The link for the full novena is at the bottom..

My Lord and My God,

“…this Lent grant me the grace to accompany priests into the desert in preparation for the battle for souls, for my soul. May I be a watchman and guard to help prepare them for the conflicts ahead so they can lead their flocks, and me, through death into life. As another Simon of Cyrene, enable me to truly be with my priests on the march to Calvary. Like Simon, I may begin fearfully, but turn any reluctance into courage and
make me ever attentive to how I may assist my priests on this lifelong Way of the Cross.”

From A Lenten Novena for Our Priests, Handmaids of the Precious
Blood, New Market, Tennessee, 20190.

Image by erge from Pixabay .

The Passion Flower as Stations of the Cross


The passion flower, Passiflora incarnata, is an amazing plant rich in symbolism. It is one of the few plants that can be traced back to pre-literary times as a teaching tool for religious practices. I’ve written before — in articles and my books* — about the symbolisms associated with this vine, that when we feel ourselves faltering in our faith, we can reflect on this flower and within its beauty, find  the greatest love story ever lived.

The passion flower meanings are:

  1. Ten petals representing the 10 of the 12 apostles who did not betray (Judas) Jesus or deny him (Peter).
  2. The three stigmas (the topmost part of the flower that receives the pollen) as attached to their styles (tiny little stems) recall the three nails that impaled our Lord to the cross.
  3. The five stamens that hold the pads of pollen (the anthers) together signify the five wounds of our Lord.
  4. The anthers alone represent the sponge used to moisten Jesus’ lips.
  5. The central column of the three stigmas and five anthers signifies both the post to which Jesus was scourged and also the cross on which he was hung.
  6. The 72 radial filaments are for the number of lashes Jesus received throughout his passion. They also represent the crown of thorns.
  7. The leaves of most species are shaped like a lance and represent the spear thrust into Jesus’ side.
  8. The red stain on the corona at the base of the central column and the red speckling on the style holding the three stigma is a reminder of the blood Jesus shed.
  9. The fruit of most passion flowers is round and signifies the world that Jesus came to save.
  10. The tendrils symbolize Jesus holding firmly to his purpose, and being supported by God’s love.
  11. The wonderful fragrance is said to represent the spices that the holy women brought with them on the day of the resurrection.
  12. The duration of the flower’s life is three days: the time elapsed before the resurrection of our Lord.

*A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac: Cultivating Your Faith throughout the Year. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015.

Image by PixelAnarchy from Pixabay .

Lenten Prayer for Sisters and Nuns


Beloved Mother Mary, Mother of Sisters and Nuns, take to your heart your daughters who are close to you because of their higher calling and because of the power which they have received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs them so much.

In this holy season of Lent be their comfort, be their joy, and be their strength. Loving Mother help them to live and defend the ideals that your son suffered and died for so that we may have life eternal.


Image by pics_kartub from Pixabay .

Parsnips and Apples Soup, a Sweeter Fare for Meatless Fridays



I love apples! Seriously. Love them almost more than chocolate. Biting into a warm, crisp, just picked apple in autumn is only one step away from doing the same in summer with tomatoes.

Living in Michigan, where apple production ranks number three in the States, the harvest of this fruit peaks in late September through early October. There are so many apples to choose from that I would have a great time every week at the farm markets buying mixed bags. I’ve long since given up storing a bushel of apples through the winter, buying instead a few specialty varieties each week.

Apples are wonderful to teach the youngest of children about our faith. When you cut an apple in half along the equatorial plane, the cross section in the core looks like a star; the five-pointed Epiphany Star. The five seeds inside the five-pointed star stand for the five wounds of Christ.

Children love stars, and while stars are not traditionally associated with the Lenten season, there is a weekly program for children, six and up, called The Seven Stars of Lent. This worship resource helps to prepare children’s’ hearts to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

A second apple story used to teach about the Trinity is cut an apple in half from top to bottom and note the three parts: skin, meat and seeds. The outer skin represents the Father who encompasses all, Jesus is the meat of the fruit that feeds us, and the seeds are the Holy Spirit that when planted, will bring new life. An apple wouldn’t be an apple if any one of these elements was missing; so, too, with the Trinity.

Now, since you’re cutting up all those apples for educational purposes, how about a recipe! This is a savory and sweet soup more for the adult pallet; try cutting the spices by half for kids.

Parsnip and Apple Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped sweet onion (Vidalia is best)

2 1/2 cups (about a pound) peeled and chopped Pink Lady apples (or any slightly tart apple is fine—Granny Smiths are too sour!)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dry

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) chopped peeled parsnip

1 clove garlic finely chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup apple cider (don’t use apple juice)

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sour cream dollops when serving

In a stock pot, sauté onions in oil until tender. Add apples, curry, ginger, and cardamom.  Simmer for about a minute to dissolve spices, stirring constantly. Add broth, parsnips, garlic, and cider. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until parsnips are tender. CAREFULLY blend soup until smooth using a blender (or use an immersion blender). Serve with sour cream.

A side note here, I like to use oven roasted parsnips. They tend to be sweeter and lend a fuller flavor to the soup. Of course, your stove-top cooking time will be reduced.

Photo, by marybaird.

Leaning into Light


Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message. ~Psalms 19:2

It had been weeks since the last time it was warm enough to walk—a relative statement since it was only twenty degrees outside. I discovered my boots leaked while I walked along Leeward Drive. I stepped around slush puddles as best I could.

My cheeks and nose tingled from the cold. Today the sun had finally come out, and with all the snow it was blinding. The amount of snowfall since mid December set a record. Not only had there been a lot of snow, but nearly every day for the past month had been overcast. I wanted to feel the sun’s rays on my face, not filtered through glass.

Sunlight is important for us and the same is true for plants. Like houseplants, I too can become dull and stressed from an unusually dark winter.

There are specific terms for how plants respond to light. The one we are most familiar with is photosynthesis. This is how the plant absorbs sunlight, and through a series of metabolic processes, grows. Even when sufficient water and nutrients are present, without light plants die.

One houseplant that makes it obvious when light is low is the Maranta. It exhibits a photonastic response to light by folding its leaves together—and this is how it got its common name, Prayer Plant. This response to the lessening of light is also true of Oxalis (shamrocks), and the flowers of tulips and South African gazania. When light dims, they fold.

When a lot of houseplants are crowded around a window we see a directional movement—stems and leaves bend toward the sun. Growing towards the light is called phototropism.

There is another way plants move in response to light. Heliotropism is a plant’s ability to follow the sun across the sky. We see this occurring in the rotating heads of the sunflower. The sunflower’s botanical name is Helianthus, from Greek comes helios, for sun.

Of all the plant responses resulting from light, the one I was most fascinated with as a grower was photoperiodicity. It signals the plant what season it is and when to flower…and ultimately set fruit. Photoperiodism is the specific duration of light—long day/short night or long night/short day—needed for a plant to set bud. A familiar plant that needs long nights to color up is the poinsettia. The longer days of summer allows the carnation and bellflower to flower, as well as oats and clover. In both situations—long day or long night—light duration is essential.

The parables I find with light are as familiar to me as the Bible’s parables of seeds and soil. And evoke as many questions as to who am I as a Christian.

How do we grow in the Light of Christ? Do we fold up when God does not feel near? When we turn toward the Light, are we so focused on it that we become lopsided and turn our backs on our world? Can we, like the sunflower, be attentive to the Light and follow it throughout our day? Do we in our long nights wait for the Light? In our long days do we trust there will be rest?

We are illumined by the light of the Gospels. I pray that the Light of Christ is always felt and followed. That we continue to grow and bear spiritual fruits. And in our days we carry the Light, in our nights console those in darkness.

Image by Marge Steinhage Fenelon,  copyright 2018, all rights reserved. Permission granted, 2019.