Easter Blessings

As thousands of new Catholics celebrate their reception into the Church, those of us who were received in years past look back with a mixture of gratitude and wonder. In particular, we wonder where has the time gone?

christopher-comm-brother-and-sisterIf I needed a visual, I have only to look at my children’s faces and see it. This one, taken for Christopher’s first communion in 2008, captures a time of sheer joy and innocence. They had been officially “ours” for just three years. Three years since they had been baptized, and had joyfully shouted “We have a new name!”

Fast forward nearly a decade, and …  Here the kids just received a surprise from my Chris and Sarahfriend (and theirs), Maria Johnson, handmade Franciscan rosaries. Seeing this image, I am reminded of the many friends (like Bego) who reached out to us over the last twelve years. And I remember how the kids have grown into their own faith. I smile as I watch Chris entranced in the flame of his own taper at the Easter Vigil, and thrill at the sound of Sarah standing next to me in the choir, belting out the high notes better than I ever could have hoped to do myself.

For Craig and me, it has been a journey of blind trust and faith in God, too. We have learned how limited are our own resources, and how bountiful are God’s mercies. We have experienced the power of prayer to create small miracles and change hearts. And we have learned how unique and unrepeatable is family life. To take small victories where we find them. And that the point of parenthood is not to turn small souls into replicas of ourselves, but to help them become — as fully as possible, in good times and bad — the best versions of themselves.

Wishing you and yours the richest blessings of the Easter season.

Wee Cook Wednesday: Ice Cream Cake, Anyone?

cakeThis weekend we were in Poughkeepsie for my goddaughter Ruth’s First Communion. The guest of honor had requested ice cream cake for the celebration, and . . . well, when I got a look at the wall of LOVELY cake pans on Elizabeth’s wall, I couldn’t help myself.

“No grocery story cake for us!  We’ll MAKE an ice cream cake!” We selected a seashell cake pan (the symbol of baptism), and got busy. We used (for this 10 cup mold):

1-1/2 half gallon cartons of vanilla ice cream
1 C crushed M&Ms (you can also use chocolate animal crackers and a squirt of chocolate shell syrup)
1 pint strawberries
1 recipe/jar your favorite chocolate sauce

Step 1:  Take ice cream out of freezer for about 1/2 hour beforehand to soften.

Step 2:  Line cake pan with plastic wrap. Open carton flat, and slice ice cream in 1/2 inch slices. Layer the ice cream in the mold, pressing into crevices with back of spoon. Repeat until entire mold is full about 1 inch thick.

Step 3:  Prepare filling as needed (crush M&Ms or combine chocolate cookie crumbs and chocolate shell), sprinkle over first layer of ice cream. Keep filling about 1 inch away from edges.

Step 4:  Layer another 1″ of ice cream over filling, pressing gently to seal.  When the mold is full, wrap with plastic wrap and freeze several hours or overnight.

Step 5:  When frozen, dip mold in warm water, pulling gently on plastic wrap to release cake. Invert onto plate. Return cake to freezer on serving plate.

Step 6:  Select 6 large strawberries, wash and pat dry. Slice not quite through from tip to stem to form about 6 thin layers (still connected to the stem). Fan by turning gently clockwise. Set on plate, repeat with remaining strawberries. Place on ice cream in decorative pattern. Freeze.

Step 7:  About 15 minutes before serving, remove from freezer. Squirt chocolate sauce in decorative pattern (I followed the lines of the shell).  Serve and watch it disappear!

I served this with my banana bread.

Weekend Ponderings: O Blessed Communion!

the-castThere is one hymn that always, without exception, gets me teary-eyed and choked up when they trot it out at church (usually, come to think of it, at funerals):  “For All the Saints,” and in particular the verse that goes

O Blessed Communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine,
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine,
Alleluia!  Alleluia!

This weekend we’re heading for Poughkeepsie to attend the First Communion of my goddaughter, Ruth Adele Milne, in the yellow dress, the youngest daughter of my dear friend Elizabeth. (Her oldest daughter, Emily Jane, is also “mine.” Though unfortunately we were unable to attend her first because of a raging flu bug that hit both our families at once.)

Elizabeth, who is MUCH better at staying in touch with photos and letters and little tokens of remembrance than ever I was, nearly made me choke on my Diet Coke with the last picture she sent of her kids.

Emily is officially a young woman. Wow. Seems like just yesterday I was changing her diaper and begging her mother to let me take Em for a walk around the apartment complex so she could get a couple hours of rest. Now . . . wow. I’m a little afraid to blink, in case she makes me a great-godmother while my eyes are closed!

The thing about this “blessed communion” is that it goes on under our noses when we are least aware of it. Both the glory and the struggle. All under the mighty eye of God, who gives us just what we need when we need it — as any good Father does.  (My husband was reminded of this just today when Sarah insisted on bringing a box of Timbits into class with her, and resisted his offer to let him carry it in for her. Long story short, he was picking Timbits off the floor and kicking himself for not trusting his first impulse and taking the donuts away from our excited daughter.)

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine. And that’s what I’m most looking forward to this weekend: a glimpse of the glory, when my goddaughter gets her first real taste of Jesus. I tell my kids that we’re never closer to God than at that moment when we receive Him in the Eucharist — that if they listen very closely, they can hear the angels singing.

Of course, they’re all geeked about the party and the presents, and truth be told it can be tempting to let the hoopla detract from the main event. Until we remember that, on this day of all days, our children are getting to experience for the very first time, a foretaste of the heavenly Wedding Feast to come.

Better than bakery cake, any day of the week.

Lord Jesus, You are the Bread of Life, the Wine of Gladness,
You are the Joy that never ends.
Give us an unforgettable taste of You to sustain us
As we feebly struggle across the long days ahead,
Until we taste at last that heavenly Bread,
Consumed with the Fire of Everlasting Love,
And that Blessed Communion that will never end.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!