“An Apple a Day…”


New England may be most known for maple syrup, but apples thrive here and are available in abundant varieties in baskets shown above. Because many varieties of apples are not ideal for either transport or storage, we can sample older kinds not commercially viable. We can try different kinds and decide what kind of apple we prefer.

Yesterday I bought a couple of a variety new to me called Smitten. After getting home, I saw it had a sticker Smitten.com on it, so I knew something was up. This was clearly not an old variety. I cut it up and ate it deciding I liked it crisp texture but that it was too sweet for me. I then went to Smitten.com and discovered it was a new variety, developed in New Zealand and now being grown in the United States. It is very popular, apparently, along with the Honey Crisp. Both are too sweet for me: I prefer the sharp tang of older varieties. But many Americans have a craving for sweet and apparently apples are being developed to satisfy the desire.

Until recently fresh apples were really only tasty in the fall. But apple tree are prolific bearers and my forebears were faced with what to do with the bounty. So we made apple cider, hard cider, apple cider vinegar, apple butter, apple pie, and applesauce. The peels were used to make the pectin that thickens jelly. Studying the early 1800’s ledger of a store I found that one of my ancestors traded apples for goods. Unfortunately, he traded for rum. Apparently hard cider wasn’t enough!

Of course I spent the afternoon making an apple pie. Simple recipe really: 2 and 1/2 pounds of apples(I mixed three varieties), 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, a little cinnamon, a dash of lemon juice and two teaspoons of cornstarch. Pie crust for top and bottom. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees then 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Enjoy!


“Veneration of a Saint”


My church is staffed with Franciscan Friars, men who have dedicated their lives to living as priests or brothers in a religious order. As such, they bring a particular veneration of St. Francis to our parish. Despite some misconceptions, Catholics don’t worship saints. We venerate–honor–them and try to take what inspiration we might from contemplating their lives and service to others.

Our calendar is full this week with events around St. Francis. Tonight we observe his Transitus–passing from this world into the next. St. Francis was not afraid of dying, but called it Sister Death, an integral part of life. We will have a quiet service to honor that way of facing death with joy and hope not despair.

Tomorrow is his feast day and Mass will highlight his life in the homily. Clearly a feast day is more light than an observance of his death, and I look forward to celebrating Mass with others in my parish.

Saturday we are invited to bring our animals to the church courtyard for a blessing. St. Francis is particularly remembered for his love of all animals. My grandchildren look forward to dressing up their little rescue dogs and taking them to be blessed. Last year there were no cats, only dogs. In the past there have been birds, pigs and a ferret. We will see who shows up Saturday morning. For those who prefer the toy kind of animal, the priests bless all stuffed animals that come to Mass on the weekends, recognizing what comfort they are to children(and some adults, too.)

The weekend is finished with a flourish as we have an outdoor party to celebrate 60 years of an Italian parish joining with an Irish one. One parishioner owns a fire truck converted into a pizza oven and will supply endless slices of various pizzas. There will be dessert tables full of items baked by many of us. My grandson associates church with dessert. Not a bad connection I think. For me both provide me deep satisfaction!


“Help Along the Way”


I spent part of this morning meeting with my spiritual director. I have been meeting with the same wonderful Sister of Notre Dame du Namur for the past 12 years, an hour every month or so. The title of director is very misleading, since there is no directing involved. Instead we chat about what has been going on in my life in all of its aspects. Occasionally she or I will identify a specific moment when God seemed most present. But there is no pressure to be “spiritual,” because all of my life matters both to me and to her.

Spiritual direction has found its way into Protestant circles in recent years, but it has been a Catholic tradition for centuries. It is a recognition, I think, that we all need to have a chance to consciously reflect on our lives with a caring person. Not therapy in the mental health sense, spiritual direction is more the opportunity to have a companion along the way.

I am extremely grateful to Sister Virginia, who just turned 80. May she continue to walk with me as long as we each are able.

“Searching the Stacks”


When I was in school, many of the books I needed were in the stacks of the library and had to be retrieved by a page. This person took the slip of paper with the needed title and disappeared for a time until reappearing with the requested volume. Depending on where the book was housed, this could take from 5 to 30 minutes, and it wasn’t possible to predict the wait.

I find that my fact retrieval system lately seems to be operating in the same way. If I need information that I frequently use, it usually is immediately available to me. However, if I haven’t needed to know something for a long time, my retrieval is delayed. I imagine a little page running around my brain, going into the back recesses trying to find where something is stored. I can imagine it going,”When did she learn this and where did she stash the answer?”

Take state capitals, for instance. I learned all the capitals of the then 48 states of the U.S. when I was 10 years old. I had never been to a majority of the cities, so the capital was the only name I knew. Then I didn’t need the information for 60 years. No random person stopped me on the street to inquire about the capital of Iowa. But since my grandson is studying state capitals, he asked me the capital of North Dakota. No matter how long and hard the page searched the back nooks of my mind, he couldn’t find the answer.

Apparently, at some point, just as the library eventually discards books no one asks for any more, my brain functions to clear out space. Unfortunately there is no handy reference to let me know that no matter how hard I look, I won’t find the answer. Google to the rescue. Bismarck, not Fargo, is the capital of North Dakota. I knew that. (Once!)