Friday, August 28, 2015

Beers in Season

Winter Beer Styles (Advent Embertide)
Holiday Ales
Christmas/Winter Beer
Stouts, Porters and other Dark Beers
Barley Wine
Winter Wheats
Smoked Rauchbier
Scotch Ale
Black IPAs
Session IPA
Old Ale/Altbier

Spring Beer Styles (Lenten Embertide)
Irish Ale and Irish Stout
India Pale Ale
Fruit Beer
Wheat Beer, Weizen and Weisse – particularly Hefeweizen
Blonde Ale
Session IPA
Belgian Wit/White Beer

Summer Beer Styles (Whit Embertide)
Bavarian Weizen/Weisse
Cream Ale
Steam Beer – California Common
Kolsch Beer
Summer Ales
Fruit/Wheat Beers
Session IPA
Summer Blondes

Fall Beer Styles (Michaelmas Embertide)
Pumpkin Beer
Pale Ales
Brown Ales
Harvest Ale
Black IPAs
Old Ale/Altbier
Session IPA
Apple ciders (I know, it's not beer)

How to Buy & Store Fresh Fruit

Read a fruit-buying guide here.
Read a fruit & veg storage guide here.
10 Foods You Should Prep and Refrigerate So You Can Eat Healthy All Week

Growing Veggies Indoors & During Winter

Articles instructing how to grow a variety of veggies (such as carrots, radishes, potatoes, beans, and peas) indoors and during the winter:

How do I grow vegetables indoors over winter?
Grow Vegetables Indoors Over Winter
Growing Vegetables Indoors
Fruits & Vegetables That Grow Well Indoors
10 Vegetables & Herbs You Can Eat Once and Regrow Forever

20 Ways to Build a Whole Food Kitchen on a Budget

by Daisy Luther

We all know the reasons that we should switch to whole foods, but with the ever-increasing checkout counter inflation, how can we make it happen? Here are a few realistic tips that do not include relocating to 30 acres of prime springfed organic farmland blocked off on 3 sides by mountain ranges. Realistically, you may not be able to make every one of these things happen, but for each positive change you make, you are taking steps towards better health and you are revolting against the toxic food cartel.

To read more, click HERE.

The Benefits of Beer

Amid warnings that we should avoid soft drinks and fruit juice due to their high sugar content, some experts have suggested we drink only milk or water.

But another, rather unlikely low-sugar beverage is increasingly being hailed for its health benefits: beer.

Research suggests it can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, aid weight loss and even balance hormones – and now it’s attracting more and more health-conscious men and women.

So what are the benefits of beer, and can it really be good for you?

‘If you analyzed beer you would be amazed at how many super-nutrients there are in it,’ says Dr Stephan Domenig, medical director of The Original F.X. Mayr Health Centre in Austria. ‘Beer contains all of the essential – and many of the non-essential – amino acids.’

As well as these protein-building blocks and minerals including phosphorus, iodine, magnesium and potassium, beer is rich in calcium so could benefit your bones. To read more, click HERE.

Non-GMO Searchable Database

The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to preserving and building the non-GMO food supply, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. We believe that everyone deserves an informed choice about whether or not to consume genetically modified organisms.

To search database, click HERE.

Bone-Building Nutrients

From a RetroFitness newsletter they sent me:

It's possible to eat your way to stronger bones. Protect yourself with these bone-building nutrients.

Calcium is one of the most important nutrients with which to bone up. The best choices for calcium include fat-free plain yogurt, fat-free or low-fat milk and cheeses, calcium-fortified tofu, soybeans, white beans, collard greens, kale, broccoli, and almonds.

Vitamin D
Calcium relies on vitamin D to help it travel to the parts of the body that need it. Your body can make vitamin D with the help of sunlight, but in the interest of protecting your skin, you'll want to get most of your vitamin D from food and supplements. The best sources are fatty fish including salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines; milk (fat-free, 1% low-fat), soy milk, yogurt and egg yolks.

Magnesium helps your body neutralize metabolic acids, absorb calcium, and maintain strong bone structure. Get magnesium from pumpkin seeds or quinoa as well as from millet, brown rice, spinach, Swiss chard, artichoke hearts, cashews, tempeh, sweet potatoes, beans, sesame seeds, flaxseed, and wheat germ.

Many fruits and veggies contain significant quantities of potassium and other nutrients that contribute to bone health. Keep your bones strong by eating cantaloupe or apricots in addition to honeydew melon, papaya, bananas, plums, prunes, raisins, avocados, artichokes, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, beans, almonds, and pistachios.

Vitamin C
Eating strawberries, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, guava, pineapple, raspberries, mangoes, lychees, persimmons, bell peppers, hot chili peppers, kohlrabi, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, rutabagas, tomatoes, summer squash, and other fruits and veggies that are rich in vitamin C enables your body to produce collagen, a protein that contributes to bone strength and integrity.

Soy Protein
To give your bone mineral density a protein boost, try incorporating high-quality soy foods like soybeans, tofu, tempeh, soy nuts, soy flour, soy cheese, enriched/fortified soy milk, soy yogurt, and soy crisps into your diet a few times each week.

In addition, one of the best ways to build and maintain healthy bones is through exercise. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate bone formation. Bones put under moderate stress respond by building density. Like muscles, bones should be used regularly or they will deteriorate.

Vegetarian sources of calcium: HERE

Apple Cider Vinegar Detox

If you want to cleanse, lose body fat, boost energy and reverse disease, then adding natural detox drinks to your diet can help you improve your quality of life fast. The ingredients in this beverage work together to balance blood sugar, lower blood pressure and increase metabolism. Dr. Josh Axe recommends consuming this drink 3x daily, 20 minutes before meals for 2 weeks, and then consuming it 1x daily before lunch or breakfast.

Per serving

12-16 ounces of water
2 Tablespoons organic, apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure ground cinnamon
1 dash cayenne pepper
honey, to taste

Add all ingredients to a glass and stir vigorously to blend.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Recipe from From a Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook

1/2 pound of asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 potato, diced (I used red)
1 onion, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 quarts water
1 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the vegetables in salted water until they are tender. Put the soup through a sieve, food mill, or blender (I used a wand blender).

2. Return the soup to the saucepan, add the half-and-half, butter, salt, and pepper. Stir and bring almost to a boil. Stir again, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Note: For a soup of thicker consistency, substitute 1 cup of white sauce for the cream. Makes 4-6 servings.

Coconut-Lentil Soup

I chickened out with this recipe - instead of using milk and grated coconut, I just used a can of coconut milk. It will provide the taste, but will not have the fiber and texture of the coconut. Maybe one day I will go that far, but as for now I will just make this slightly altered version. I also added some salt - it SERIOUSLY needed some! And now it's very tasty! Next time, I'll buy some organic shredded coconut and try it that way.

"Coconut gives a sweet, interesting flavor and a bisque-like texture to this easy and quick vegan soup." Find the recipe HERE.

New England Clam Chowder

I found this recipe on line and thought it was amazing. It came out better than I expected and it was a recipe of firsts: my first time using pink Himalayan salt, and my first time using cast iron! It came out great!

1/2 pound salt pork or bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used salted pork belly)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup water or clam juice (I used an 8-oz bottle from Bar Harbor)
2.5 lbs live cherrystone or littleneck clams (or 1 lbs chopped canned or frozen - I used canned)
1 quart whole milk
1.5 lbs russet or yukon gold potatoes (I used yukon), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 bay leaves
salt and black pepper
1 cup heavy cream (I used a pint)
oyster crackers

On low heat, combine salt pork and 1/4 cup water in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and pork has begun to brown and crisp in spots, about 8 minutes (I cooked it for a good 20 or 30 minutes - VERY slow on low heat while I worked on getting the rest of the ingredients prepared). Add butter, onion, and celery. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened but not browned (about 4 minutes). Add clam juice or water and stir to combine.

2. If using fresh clams: Add clams and increase heat to high. Cover and cook, opening lid to stir occasionally, until clams begin to open (about 3 minutes). As clams open, remove them with tongs and transfer to a large bowl, keeping as many juices in the pot as possible and keeping the lid shut as much as possible. After 8 minutes, discard any clams that have not yet begun to open. If not using fresh clams, skip ahead to step 3.

3. Add milk, potatoes, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and start to break down, about 15 minutes.

4. If using fresh clams: Meanwhile, remove meat from inside the clams and roughly chop it. Discard empty shells. Transfer chopped clams and as much juice as possible to a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Let clams drain, then transfer chopped clams to a separate bowl. Set both bowls aside. If not using fresh clams, skip ahead to step 5.

5. I used canned clams (because I couldn't find frozen ones) so I poured the fluid from the cans into a bowl and dumped the chopped clams into a second bowl. Once potatoes are tender, pour the entire mixture through the fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the clam juice, rapping the strainer with the back of a knife of a honing steel to get the liquids to pass through. Transfer strained solids into the bowl with the chopped clams. You should end up with a white, semi-broken broth in the bowl underneath and the chopped clams, potatoes, salt pork, and aromatics in the separate bowl.

6. Transfer liquid to a blender and blend on high speed until smooth and emulsified, about 2 minutes. Return liquid and solids back to Dutch oven. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Reheat until simmering. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with oyster crackers.

Acorn Squash Soup

Recipe from The Monastery Garden Cookbook: Farm-Fresh Recipes for the Home Cook

6 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
8 cups water or vegetable or chicken stock (I used water)
3 acorn squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 potato, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg
fresh parsley, chopped, as garnish

1. Pour the olive oil into a good-sized saucepan and sauté the onions over low heat for about three minutes. Turn off the heat, add the water or stock, cover the pan, and let the flavor of the onions permeate the liquid for about 15 minutes.

2. Add the squash, potato, and carrots. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the parsley and seasonings, cover the pot, and allow the soup to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Add more water if necessary.

3. Allow the soup to cool and whirl it in a blender in small batches (I used my wand mixer). Return the pureed soup to a clean pot. Reheat it over low heat, stir well, and serve hot. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Lemon-Chicken Couscous

1.25 cups water
1 Tbsp oil
2 cups broccoli florets
1 package Near East Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil whole-wheat Couscous mix
1.5 cups chopped (or ground), cooked chicken
Juice from one lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp lemon zest

Chop up chicken and cook thoroughly.
In a large skillet, bring the water, oil, broccoli, and the spices from the couscous mix to a boil.
Stir in couscous, chicken, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.
Fluff lightly with a fork.
Serve hot or chill well & serve cold.

Serves 4

Red Beans & Rice Stew

8 medium celery stalks
2 large green bell peppers
2 large onions
6 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning (recipe follows)
2 pounds fully cooked smoked andouille sausage (or kielbasa)
12oz of diced ham
(4) 15 1/2-ounce cans red kidney beans
12 cups chicken broth (6 cans)
2 Turkish bay leaves (I used regular bay leaves)
3 cups cooked white or brown rice (1 cup uncooked = 3 cups cooked)

Heat the vegetable oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add diced ham to the saucepan; cook until the ham is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside (I didn't do that).

Meanwhile, chop the onions, celery, and bell peppers. Add the onion to the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until it is lightly browned. Add the celery and bell peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic into the vegetables in the saucepan; stir in the Creole Seasoning and cook 1 minute longer.

Halve the sausage lengthwise and slice it crosswise into ¼-inch thick pieces; rinse and drain the beans. Add the chicken broth, sausage, beans, ham, and bay leaves to the vegetable mixture and simmer for 15 minutes (let simmer for 45 minutes if you are cooking brown rice). Discard bay leaves and serve.

Creole Seasoning
Yields about 1/2 cup
Combine 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon hot paprika, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, and 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme in a small bowl. Transfer to a tight jar or tin and use as directed in a recipe.

Cabbage Stew with Lentils & Sausage

2 tablespoons oil
7 ounces dry, brown lentils
1 small onion, chopped (I use the food processor)
Half a small green cabbage, finely shredded or chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 hot turkey sausages, sliced thin
1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (15oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Cook sausages for several minutes on each side. Remove from pan.
Stir in lentils, onion, cabbage, and garlic; cook until tender.
Stir in tomatoes and broth.
Stir in bay leaf, thyme, and cayenne pepper.
Slice sausages thinly (as preferred) and return to soup.
Bring to a boil; cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves about four 2-cup servings.

Chicken Fajita Soup

2 tablespoons oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into pieces or strips
1 (1.27 ounce) packet fajita seasoning
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (I diced it)
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips (I diced it)
1 poblano pepper, cut into thin strips (I used a jalapeño)
1 large onion, cut into thin strips (I always throw it in the food processor)
1 (14.5 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 dash hot sauce (I always use Cholula)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
Place chicken in the hot oil; cook, stirring only occasionally, until brown, about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle fajita seasoning over the chicken and stir well to coat.
Add the red and green bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and onion to the seasoned chicken.
Stir and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, black beans, and chicken broth into the pot with the chicken and vegetables.
Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season the soup with hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste before serving.

Serves about four 1.5 to 2 cups

Pesto Chicken

4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Pesto (from a jar)
2 ounces Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese(1/2 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375°F.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Spread 1/4 cup of the pesto in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
Lay chicken breasts over pesto in an even layer and spread with remaining pesto.
Cover baking dish with foil and bake chicken until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and top with cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted, 5 more minutes.
Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

For simplicity, sometimes I just throw a pound of ground chicken into a pot, cook it until it's nearly ready, salt and pepper it, dump in the pesto, let it simmer for a while, and then divide up into portions, sprinkling some shredded mozzarella on top before eating.

Spaghetti with Ham and Peas

8 ounces whole-wheat or spelt spaghetti
1.5 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 cup of lean ham, diced
3/4 cup of fat-free half and half
1 cup frozen peas
3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, without salt. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, basil, pepper flake. Cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add ham, half-and-half, and pasta water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the flavors blend and sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add peas and a pinch of salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Add pasta, toss to coat, reduce heat to low, and cook 1 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and serve hot with cheese.

Number of Servings: 4

Italian-Style Tofu Bake

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 ounces fresh spinach, thick stems trimmed (5 cups packed or 10 cups loosely packed)
1 (15 ounce) package firm tofu, sliced lengthwise into 8 pieces
1 tablespoon dried basil, divided
4 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), drained and thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*I used sun-dried tomatoes, but not packed in oil (for price and ease of handling).

Heat oven to 400°F.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add spinach, cover, and cook until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Lay tofu slices in a single layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of the basil.

Top tofu slices evenly with spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining basil. Bake until tofu is hot and cheeses are melted and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuna Burgers

One beaten jumbo or extra-large egg
One can drained tuna
1/4 C whole grain bread crumbs (or if phase 1, TVP)
Onion (or onion salt)
Celery (or celery seeds)
Garlic (or garlic powder)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)
black pepper

I used whole grain bread crumbs, celery seeds, garlic powder, onion salt, and no lemon juice. I beat the egg, added the drained tuna and mixed/broke it up with a fork. I then added the bread crumbs and just eyeballed the rest of the ingredients. Mix it up with your fork.

Preheat your oven to 350. Put a little oil in a frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. Form two patties from the mixture and brown both sides in the pan (just a few minutes). When the oven is ready, put patties in oven for 10 minutes (I just cooked them on a piece of foil). With a few minutes left, I put an Arnold Sandwich Thin on the foil to heat up and crisp a little (a toaster would work, too). After about ten minutes, I removed everything and put the one patty in the fridge for a later date. Then I put the other patty on the sandwich thin with a slice of American cheese and chowed down. It wasn't bad!

Mushroom Bisque

1 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 lbs. baby portobello, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt & black pepper
1/4 C cognac
3 C chicken broth
1/2 C heavy cream
Few dashes of hot sauce (I used Original Cholula)
3 slices toasting bread (did not make)
1/4 C fresh parsley or 3 Tbsp chives, chopped (I didn't use either)

Heat oil and butter in large pot.
Add mushrooms and thyme and cook for 6 to 7 minutes.
Add onions, garlic, salt, and pepper - cook for additional 5 minutes.
Add cognac, stir for 1 minute, then add 1/2 C broth & cook for 1 minute.
Transfer mushrooms & broth to blender and puree until smooth.
Return to large pot and add remaining broth & the cream.
Add hot sauce, bring to simmer, & cook for 5 more minutes.
(If using) toast & butter bread, cut into small cubes, add to soup as croutons, and top with chives or parsley.

Serves 4 (1.75 C per)

I used this recipe during phase 1 because the alcohol is supposedly cooked out of the recipe. However, if you wish to be certain that you won't screw up your diet, save it for phase 2 or 3.

Beef & Bean Chili

1 Tbsp oil
1 lb Beef, Ground-lean
2 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
28oz can diced tomatoes
15oz can red kidney beans
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium,-high heat.
Add beef, 1 tsp of chili powder, cumin; saute until browned, about 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to plate (I usually don't do this).
Add onion, garlic, and remaining chili powder to the same saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes with juice and strained beans. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover, add cooked beef, and cook an additional 5 minutes, until liquid thickens slightly.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and serve hot.

Makes 4, 1.5-cup servings.

Vegetarian Chili

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
10 scallions, chopped (1 cup)
2 bell peppers, any color, chopped (2 cups)
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice (1 1/4 cup)
2 (15 oz.) can black soybeans (or black beans) with liquid
2 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
4 Tbsp. Cholula hot sauce (original)
1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat.
Add scallions, bell peppers, and zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
Add beans and their liquid, tomatoes, chile, adobo sauce, and TVP.
Bring to a low boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 30 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle into bowls and serve with reduced-fat cheddar cheese.

Serving size: eight generous 1-cup portions.

Turkey Sausage with Kale and Chickpeas

1 tablespoon Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound Reduced-fat sweet or hot Italian turkey sausages
1 Small onion, diced
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups Lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (1-pound) bunch Kale, stemmed and roughly chopped (6-7 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausages and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally, 6 minutes. Remove from pan and cut each sausage in half on the diagonal.

Add onion and garlic to the same saucepan and cook over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Add kale, cover, and cook until wilted and softened, about 8 minutes.

Add sausages and cook, covered, until no longer pink in the center, about 8 minutes. Add chickpeas and continue cooking, covered, until heated through, 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot, spooning any remaining cooking liquid on top.

Mexican Chicken Soup

1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
5 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch strips (or ground chicken)*
2 cups mild refrigerated fresh salsa
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeno; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cumin; cook 30 seconds more.

Add broth, increase heat to high, and bring to a rapid simmer. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Stir in salsa, bring back to simmer, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings (2 1/4 cups each)

*If you prefer shrimp, just add 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp when you add the salsa and simmer for 1 minute.

Coconut Chicken

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, boneless and skinless cut into pieces (or ground chicken)
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 lbs. (roughly) frozen cauliflower florets
1 (13 1/2 ounce) can light coconut milk (regular coconut milk tastes better, but light is better for you)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

I slice the chicken into small pieces first.
Salt and pepper the chicken.
Lightly brown the chicken for 5 minutes over medium-high heat with the oil & then set aside on a plate (I never set it aside).
Reduce the heat to medium-low.
Add onion, garlic, curry powder, and the ginger.
Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the cauliflower, coconut milk and broth.
Cover and simmer about 5 minutes until the vegetables are crisp-tender.
Add the chicken back (if removed) and cook until sauce is thickened and reduced. I usually wind up cooking it for a good 10 or 15 minutes more to ensure the chicken is cooked thoroughly, the flavors blended, and the sauce reduced slightly.

Deviled Eggs

6 hard cooked eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (yellow)
1 teaspoon vinegar

Hard boil eggs.
Halve hard-cooked eggs lengthwise and remove yolks.
Place yolks in a bowl; mash with a fork.
Add mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegar to yolks; mix well. If desired, season with salt and pepper.
Stuff egg white halves with yolk mixture.
If desired, garnish each egg with a dash paprika.

Creamy Summer Squash Soup

2 Tbsp butter
4 leeks, sliced
2 cups sliced yellow summer squash
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk or light cream
salt and pepper

Melt butter in saucepan.
Add leeks and saute, about five minutes.
Add squash and saute, about five minutes.
Stir in 1 cup of broth.
Transfer to blender – blend until smooth.
Return to pan.
Add remaining 3 cups of broth.
Add milk (or cream), salt, and pepper.
Cook for additional five to ten minutes.

It was a welcome change to use butter instead of oil. To stay within the limits of South Beach, you'll probably want to use Smart Balance Lite or I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter Lite. When I made this recipe, I used light cream - the SB diet books would probably encourage you to use 1/2 & 1/2, though.

The recipe was a cinch to make and it smelled really good. The only problem I have with this recipe is that it does something I can't stand - it measures my vegetables in cups. That is a very subjective measurement; I can fit one squash, half a squash, or three squashes to a cup depending on how large or small I chop. So I like recipes that tell me "half a large onion" or "three yellow squash". It's just easier to make it how it's written and then I can play around later. So in this recipe, I used one medium-large and one small squash, which would have given me probably about three or four cups worth.

Mom's Stuffed Peppers

3 large peppers (typically green, but can be any color)
1 cup rice
2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
29 oz. can Tuttorossa tomato sauce
At least 1, 15-oz. can of Contadina puree
1 lbs. spaghetti
1 clove garlic, minced
salt, black pepper, onion salt

Cut tops off pepper. Using spoon, clean out seeds and ridges.
Boil peppers for 5-10 minutes until softens.
Take out of water and cool on plate.
Bowl rice. When done, put in bowl with raw turkey meat.
To meat & rice, add garlic, salt, pepper, onion salt to taste.
Mix thoroughly.
Fill peppers with meat.
With remaining meat, make meatballs.
Place everything in large foil pan or glass casserole dish.
Pour in sauce and puree.
Cook @ 350 degrees for 1 to 1.5 hours.
Boil spaghetti; drain.
Serve meatballs and sauce over spaghetti.

Mom's Banana Bread

This is not a South Beach recipe, but I suppose it could be converted into a phase 3 recipe by changing the flour and sugar; I have never tried such a recipe, though.

1/2 cup margarine (or butter)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 overripe bananas
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix all ingredients - add bananas last.
Baked in a greased loaf pan at 325 degrees for 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Mom's Baked Beans

I've made a phase 2/3 South Beach version of this recipe using pinto beans and Splenda brown sugar, but nothing beats Mom's original recipe (which is below):

4 slices bacon (optional)
2 Tbsp bacon drippings
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 lbs. Campbell's Pork & Beans
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp prepared mustard (usually Gulden's Spicy Brown)

(if using bacon) Cook bacon until crisp; drain & crumble.
Cook onion in bacon drippings until tender.
Add all ingredients into an uncovered casserole dish and mix well.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1.5 to 1.75 hours.

*Mom used to never cook the onion or use bacon (only bacon drippings). She would throw all the ingredients together in the casserole, leaving the chopped onion raw. It still came out awesome.

Mom's Chicken Divan

This is an awesome recipe my Mom makes for me. It is filling and tastes great - and is certainly not a diet recipe, although you could always try to make it one by using brown rice or whole wheat noodles and whole wheat bread crumbs.

4 boneless chicken breast fillets (or ground chicken breast)
2, 10-oz. pkgs frozen broccoli
Pre-cook chicken & broccoli; when done, place broccoli in a baking pan first and then chicken

Mix together:
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
1/2 tsp. curry powder (optional)
1/2 soup can of water

Pour mixture on top of chicken and broccoli.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Serve over egg noodles or rice.

My mom never uses the lemon juice or the curry powder and her recipe tastes fantastic!

Beef and Barley Soup

Good for Phases 2 & 3 for South Beach.

2 Tbsp. oil
2 - 4 lbs. lean ground beef (depends how "meaty" you want it)
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 (15 oz.) cans of chickpeas
2 cups of barley
8 tsp. oregano
10 to 12 (15 oz.) cans of low sodium beef broth (depends how "brothy" you want it)
2 small cans (8 oz.) of green beans
2 small cans (8 oz.) of lima beans
2 (15 oz.) cans of peas & carrots
4 bay leaves

Heat oil in pan. Brown meat.
Stir in onion & garlic. Cook until tender.
Stir in oregano, broth, and bay leaves.
Cover soup and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for one hour.
Add veggies (with liquid from cans) & barley.
Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to medium heat & cook for 30 minutes.

Makes roughly 22, 2-cup servings.

Quebecois Pea Soup

Although technically not a South Beach recipe, this can be used on Phases 2 and 3.

1 lbs. dry yellow split peas
8 cups water
1/2 lbs. salt pork
1 package of diced ham
1 large onion
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, grated
1/4 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. savory
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Wash & sort peas. Soak in cold water overnight.
Drain peas - place in large pot.
Add all ingredients.
Bring soup to a boil - reduce heat and simmer about two hours.
Remove salt pork.
Discard bay leaf.

This soup ROCKS - especially the next day!

Serves about 5 or 6 2-cup portions (depends on total amount of water and ingredients).

Cocoa Ricotta Snack

Good for all three phases of South Beach.

1/2 C part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 package sugar substitute

Mix everything together and serve chilled.

Serves 1.

Nutrition (per serving):
261 calories
15g protein
17g carbohydrates
14g fat
9g saturated fat
166mg sodium
42mg cholesterol
0g fiber

Homemade Hummus

Good for all three phases of South Beach.

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 C tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 C chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp oil
2 tsp groung cumin
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
chopped parsley (optional)

Drain the chickpeas, reserving 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the liquid.
Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, onion, garlic, oil, cumin, pepper, and salt in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, adding the chickpea liquid if needed to thin the puree.
Refrigerate for 3 - 4 hours before serving to blend the flavors. Garnish with parsley, if using.

Serves 5.

Nutrition info (per serving):
251 calories
8g protein
23g carbohydrates
16g fat
2g saturated fat
447mg sodium
0mg cholesterol
5g fiber

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trying Something

I'm trying to conform my life to a way of living that will foster holiness, as well as allow me to break free from this cycle of sleep, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat that I've been living the past four or five years. I'm trying to watch my weight, although failing a bit at it, and need to work harder - to trust God more that he can free me from this slavery. However, I am not satisfied where I am spiritually today - it's like I've regressed. So, I choose to pray a bit more, to explore the mystery of the liturgy more, and to seek the guidance and prayers of the Virgin Mary and saints in this journey.

Adoration: I've tried to go to Eucharistic Adoration daily, spending a holy hour with the Lord, but that's a bit overwhelming (although it was very nice and very rewarding). I don't want to abandon it completely, so I thought I'd adore the Lord one day a week regularly (but not limited to once a week; I can go as the desire arises). I've always thought it was filling to go to Adoration on Thursdays, keeping with the ancient Church's tradition of seeing Sundays as "Little Easters", Wednesdays as "Little Spy Wednesdays", and Fridays as "Little Good Fridays". I just think Thursdays can be seen as "Little Holy Thursdays", and so I think often of our Lord's question, "So, could you not watch with me one hour?" I want to, I really do. So, I'll try to keep the habit of Adoration every Thursday whenever possible.

Daily Mass: I still want to go to daily Mass. There are several options that work within my schedule: 6:30am, 12:15pm, or 7pm. I went to daily Mass for about a week, committed mortal sin, and then said, "Why bother?" and got out of the habit. I need to stop dispairing in those situations and keep going to Mass - it's important.

Daily Scripture reading: Catholics have a horrible (and sometimes true) reputation for being ignorant of Scripture; and, as St. Jerome wrote in the 300s, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." I fear that I have let my love and knowledge of Scripture start to wane over the years; when I was in my late teens and early 20s, often "un-churched", I was still reading the Bible almost daily, even if it was just a chapter. I need to get back to that. Father Larry Richards has said often in his books and on the radio, "No Bible, no breakfast; no Bible, no bed." In other words, reading the Scriptures should be the first and last things we do every single day. So, that's what I'm doing now, starting today. My next subject will touch on daily prayers, so I'll explain things more there, but what I'll mention here is that at least temporarily I have switched from praying the Book of Divine Worship (using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer) and instead pray (or at least attempt to pray) the 1962 Roman Breviary. In doing so, I've lost a lot of the wonderful Scripture readings that I had daily thanks to the Book of Divine Worship; so, I've decided that I will continue to print out the Scripture readings for the day according to the table in the Book of Divine Worship and then I can read those passages in the morning and evening so that I can continue enjoying the Scriptures and follow Father Richards' adage of "No Bible, no breakfast; no Bible, no bed."

Daily prayers: As I mentioned above, I made the recent decision to switch from the Book of Divine Worship of the Anglican Ordinariate to the 1962 Breviary, which is commonly used today by fans and supporters of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Now, I've made a lot of criticisms of "traddies" on this blog and elsewhere and those criticisms remain because their scandals remain; however, one cannot ignore the depth, beauty, and richness of the Roman rite prior to the liturgical reforms. Again, I've voiced myself as a big supporter of the reformation of the liturgy - however, I have also opined that I share Benedict XVI's view that the liturgy still has not been reformed according to the guidance of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Although a lot of progress has been made in the terms of authors providing the faithful with booklets and collections which allow us to meditate deeper on the Readings at Mass, there are still countless gems that were provided prior to the reform - gems which allow us to read and meditate on the writings of great saints and popes reaching back to the Fathers of the Church. Coupled with my attempts to meditate on the writings of the Desert Fathers and other Apostolic Fathers, this is a path that I think will allow me to grow in deeper appreciation for the liturgy and the Breviary. So, in order to fully enjoy the writings I've recently bought, I switched to the 1962 Breviary, of which these writings are based. I believe that when the Book of Divine Worship has been fully updated, removing all the Reformation-era issues, then perhaps I'll go back to praying that, for I loved it so much (and, honestly, still think it's better than the Breviary or the LOTH); but the BDW feels incomplete as it is now. So, in summary, I am trying to pray the Breviary (at least morning, evening, and compline).

Also, I try my best to daily pray the Angelus, the rosary, and the Divine Mercy chaplet, as well as praying my heartfelt prayers throughout the day. But I don't obsess over this - I want it to be heartfelt and not robotic, so if I forget all the other prayers except for my personal prayers, I am at peace with that.

Reading: I often lament that I have no time for reading, but that's basically because I won't turn off the television. I have a daily book that I try to leaf through (a different one for each day), along with reading the saint of the day from Dom Prosper Gueranger's collection. I also, from time to time, get the inspiration to pick up whatever book might be lying around and leaf through that for a couple of pages. Basically, I try to read a little bit each day.

Spending time with God in nature: I highly believe in getting closer to the Creator through his creation. I long for opportunities to open myself to his presence through the chirping birds, the curious squirrels, the kiss of the wind, and the twinkle of the stars. I hope to spend at least 15 minutes a day in the sun, even if it's just sitting on the porch; although I do hope that on nice days I can go for a relaxing stroll in the park or around the block. Whenever doing so, I hope to either begin or end my time in nature with the praying of the Benedicite, omnia opera Domini canticle:

O ALL ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: * praise him, and magnify him for ever. O ye Angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: * praise him, and magnify him for ever. Etc etc etc...

Feasting & Fasting: I won't write much about this now, since I am still struggling with weight and motivation. I'm learning more about myself and my addiction, which is a plus; it helps to know what's going on. I do hope to work my way up to emulating the Rule of St. Benedict, which (among other things) allows for fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays of the year. A little more on this below...

A Plan of Life: I feel as though I'm being led to two destinations along the same path. While I have been learning more about the Benedictines and their Rule, I also learned about a group of hermits in my home state. I read their "plan of life" and loved it. It seemed to speak to me, confirming what I have been feeling for a few years now - this longing for silence, contemplation, prayer, peace, solitude. I don't think I'm called to the hermetical life, but I enjoy many of its hallmarks. The hermits, however, do not have a secular order for laypeople - but the Benedictines do. So, I've contacted the Monks of Norcia to request permission to become on Oblate with them; however, since I can't really travel to Italy every month for formation and spending time at the monastery, I will enjoy the hospitality of the hermitage to go on monthly, weekend-long retreats (as well as a yearly one for a week or so). Time at the hermitage will be spent meditating on Scripture, being alone with God in prayer in the peace of nature, and enjoying time with the Lord through the praying of the LOTH and the Mass. Meanwhile, in my everyday life I will be formed by what I learn at the hermitage, as well as the qualities devised by the Rule of St. Benedict. I don't see this as a conflict; the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, for instance, will give a weekend retreat on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola at a Benedictine monastery! So you have three different spiritualities working together to help form the laity. Thank God for so many gifts in his Church!

One of the things I love about these Benedictines is that they follow the Rule to a 'T', so they even follow St. Benedict's rules on fasting; although not a requirement for Oblates, I hope that the Lord will eventually lead me to deepening my connection with the monastery by helping me to feast and fast as they do, pommeling my body and subduing it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Cor 9:27). But it's more than just "feasting and fasting". It's another way of connecting deeper with the mystery of Creation. Benedictines are close to nature - a series of cookbooks I bought from a Benedictine has the recipes arranged by the season. These particular monks follow the 1962 calendar, which still has ember days and rogation days (like the Ordinariate does), which again puts you in touch with the seasons of the year and God's bounty. I think of my love for farms, the changing of the seasons, the "seasonal" decorations, flowers, and crops showing up - even the seasonal beers that show up and I feel so connected to God and so disconnected to this artificial, sterile, ugliness we call "modern life".

This is all for now. Who knows what the future might look like? I might abandon all of this or none of this. Right now I'm alone, I'm struggling, and I'm searching for more. These things I'm filling my day with are attempts at finding my strength in God instead of food and sin. Not by my works do I hope to be saved, but through the grace of God, his sweet embrace protecting me as I reach out to him. I'm sure I left stuff off of this list, like wanting to spend more time with family and friends and wanting to take more vacations and long weekends, but that's for another day. And any descriptions on my eating will be fielded on my diet blog instead of this one.

My goal is to eventually disappear from these blogs. These blogs are so that I can keep a record of what I've been thinking, while also offering to others insights, motivation, or thoughts to ponder. But I eventually want to be little, like St. Therese, and to just have my thoughts, prayers, and actions known by God instead being announced on a blog. Pray for me, please.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Assumption of Mary - A Papal Invention?

" the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith."

--Venerable Pope Pius XII
Munificentissimus Deus, 44-45

And so, by dogmatically declaring the Assumption of Mary as an article of faith, for many non-Catholics, they mistakenly see this as a fairly new teaching, one that was apparently *invented* by the Pope in 1950. For instance, one Anglo-Catholic parish in Newark, NJ disagrees on the Assumption of Mary (among other things) and calls the Pope's dogmatic declaration "blatant Roman sectarianism". However, like many things that we've discussed on this blog, often times people will reject a teaching of the Church, not so much because they don't believe it, but because of who is defining it. As often is the case, Rome is usually "Johnny Come Lately" when it comes to certain feasts on the liturgical calendar. To counteract the absurd and bigoted charge that the Assumption (and Lent, and Easter, and Christmas, et al) are "Romanish" inventions, I often turn to our brothers and sisters in the East in order to show that there is nothing new or "papist" about what Catholics believe - it is merely, as Pope Pius XII said, "divinely revealed".

It won't make much sense to explore the history of this feast if we don't first understand why we should care. Most non-Catholics and non-Orthodox ask, "Why should we care? Why make such a big deal about Mary?" I'll let Martin Luther, Protestant father, answer that: "[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ...She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures" (Sermon, Christmas, 1531). For many Christians, we believe the time-honored truth that without Mary's "yes" to the Archangel Gabriel, the Lord would never have been incarnated; her "yes" set us free. The Body and Blood that was shed on the cross, that we feast on at Holy Communion, was taken from his earthly Mother, Mary. Jesus is fully human and fully divine - where did that humanity come from? His mother, Mary.

The Orthodox Churches don't call it the Assumption (where Mary's body and soul were assumed into heaven by Jesus Christ); instead, they call it the dormition of the Theotokos (God-bearer). Dormition, or "falling asleep in the Lord" is the way the Eastern Christians refer to a person dying. So, the feast commemorates the day that Mary died. The Coptic (Egyptian) tradition follows:

As she [Mary] was always praying in the holy sepulcher, the Holy Spirit informed her that she was about to depart from this temporal world. When the time of her departure arrived, the virgins of the Mount of Olives came to her, with the apostles, who were still alive, and they surrounded her bed. The Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is the glory, with a host of thousands and thousands of angels came to her and comforted her and told her about the eternal joy that was prepared for her, and she rejoiced. The apostles and the virgins asked her to bless them. She stretched her hand and blessed them all, and she gave up her pure spirit in the hand of her Son and God, and He took her spirit to the heavenly mansions. The apostles prepared the body in a fitting manner and carried it to Gethsemane. Some of the Jews blocked their way to prevent them from burying the body. One of the Jews seized the coffin with his hands, which were separated instantly from his body and they remained attached to the coffin. He regretted his evil deed and wept bitterly. Through the supplications of the saintly apostles, his hands were reattached to his body, and he believed in the Lord Christ. When they placed the body in the tomb, the Lord hid it from them. Saint Thomas the Apostle was not present at the time of Saint Mary’s departure. He wanted to go to Jerusalem and a cloud carried him there. On his way, he saw the pure body of Saint Mary carried by the angels and ascended to heaven with it. One of the angels told him, “Make haste and kiss the pure body of Saint Mary,” and he did. When Saint Thomas arrived where the disciples were, they told him about Saint Mary’s departure and he said to them, “You know how I conducted myself at the resurrection of the Lord Christ, and I will not believe unless I see her body.” They went with him to the tomb, and uncovered the place of the body but they did not find it, and everyone was perplexed and surprised. Saint Thomas told them how he saw the holy body and the angels that were ascending with it. They heard the Holy Spirit saying to them, “The Lord did not will to leave her body on earth.” The Lord had promised his pure apostles to let them see her in the flesh once again. They were waiting for this promise to be fulfilled, until the 16th day of the month of Misra, when the promise was fulfilled and they saw her. The years of her life on earth were 60 years.

In a Church, Catholic or Orthodox, where relics of saints are prized - even fought over - there are no first class relics of Mary (that is, there are no fragments of bone) in any church anywhere in the world. Had she really not been assumed into heaven (or, as fundamentalists like to say, had she not been raptured), surely her relics would be a prized possession of Rome, Constantinople, or Moscow.

Like with the feasts of the Incarnation and Christmas, various dates where in use for this feast throughout the East until the year AD 588, when the Byzantine Emperor Maurice asked that the Feast of the Dormition be put on August 15 in the liturgical calendar throughout the Byzantine Empire. It wasn't until nearly the 700s when Rome first started to celebrate this feast; and, once Pope Sergius I approved of this feast, it spread throughout the West. The Gregorian Sacramentary was given to Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor (died AD 814), in the 790s so that the Roman Rite could be celebrated throughout his empire; within it is the passage on the Assumption: Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself.

In both east and west, fasting in preparation for this feast began on August 1, with a slight reprieve on the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6. As I've said before, if you want to see some tough fasting, look at the Eastern Christians. It is the current observance in the Orthodox churches to fast from all meat, dairy, oil, or wine during the fast (except that on the Transfiguration they are allowed some fish and they can have oil and wine on weekends). Currently, the Catholic Church does not fast prior to the Assumption, although prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, there was still a fast on the vigil (the 'eve') of the Feast of the Assumption.

For most non-Catholics and non-Orthodox, all of this is moot because it's not in Scripture - if it's not in Scripture, according to them, then it is probably not true. However, in the Apostolic tradition, Catholics and Orthodox see Sacred Tradition as part of the divine deposit of faith that God has revealed to his Church. In the East, the sources of *proof* they use for this feast are the writings of Saints Dionysius the Areopagite (baptized by St. Paul, died AD 96), John the Damascene (died AD 749) and Andrew of Crete (died AD 726).

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America do a good job explaining why we should celebrate this holy feast day - because Mary's story is our story. "This great Feast of the Church...celebrates a fundamental teaching of our faith — the Resurrection of the body. In the case of the Theotokos, this has been accomplished by the divine will of God. Thus, this Feast is a feast of hope, hope in Resurrection and life eternal. Like those who gathered around the body of the Virgin Mary, we gather around our departed loved ones and commend their souls into the hands of Christ. As we remember those who have reposed in the faith before us and have passed on into the communion of the Saints, we prepare ourselves to one day be received into the new life of the age to come. We also affirm through this Feast as we journey toward our heavenly abode that the Mother of God intercedes for us. Through Christ she has become the mother of all of the children of God, embracing us with divine love."

As Martin Luther declared, "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven."

Let's continue to look into the East's theology regarding the Assumption/dormition and why it should mean something to all Christians. I have stolen this generous tract from the website of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese:

The...Dormition of the Theotokos [is] an eschatological event that confirms the destruction of hades and the defeat of death. The Dormition of the Theotokos confirms the reality of the transformation of death from a fearful enemy into a joyous passage to eternal life. The eschatological nature of the feast of the Dormition is evident, not only in the hymnography of the feast, but also in the mysterious gathering of the apostles, who gathered to witness how Christ, himself, comes to escort His mother to the kingdom. They are mysteriously gathered to witness, again, to the truthfulness of resurrection of Christ and his victory over death.

The liturgical text of the Feast of the Dormition depicts the feast as a Paschal event. The hymns of the feast assert that the Virgin Mary experienced her own personal Pascha by passing through death and rising to eternal life. Being alive in heaven, as a queen and mother of Christ, we, now, can ask her intercessions to help us transform our own forthcoming death into a Paschal victory over death. In the ecclesiastical tradition, the feast of Dormition of the Theotokos is called the "Summer Pascha." This name is derived from the fact that the Theotokos experienced her own Pascha; "Passover" from this life into life eternal.

Lastly, we should pause and think of why the Church in the East and West hold Mary with such honor; it is because God holds her with such honor. As the Byzantine liturgy says, "God, the King of the universe, has granted you favors that surpass nature. As he kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus he has kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb." And the 9th Reading of the Matutinum Hour of the Breviary celebrates, "O blessed day which raised up and so highly exalted this most humble handmaiden of the Lord that she might become the most glorious Queen of Heaven and the mistress of the world." Blessed John Henry Newman, while still an Anglican, wrote: "There was a wonder in heaven; a throne was seen, far above all created powers, mediatorial, intercessory; a title archetypical; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the Eternal Throne; robes as pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all...The vision is found in the Apocalypse (Rev 11:19-12:5), a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."

Therefore, seeing as how East and West have declared the Assumption/Dormition to be true for centuries, Venerable Pius XII felt it time to proclaim that which the Christian West was considering optional, or (at worst) fabricated, that of our Blessed Mother's place in the Lord's work:

Since the universal Church, within which dwells the Spirit of Truth who infallibly directs it toward an ever more perfect knowledge of the revealed truths, has expressed its own belief many times over the course of the centuries, and since the bishops of the entire world are almost unanimously petitioning that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven should be defined as a dogma of divine and Catholic faith--this truth which is based on the Sacred Writings, which is thoroughly rooted in the minds of the faithful, which has been approved in ecclesiastical worship from the most remote times, which is completely in harmony with the other revealed truths, and which has been expounded and explained magnificently in the work, the science, and the wisdom of the theologians - we believe that the moment appointed in the plan of divine providence for the solemn proclamation of this outstanding privilege of the Virgin Mary has already arrived.

None of this is because the Virgin has this power and prestige; it is because the Lord is great enough to grant it to her. As she says in her Magnificat, "He has looked with favor on his lowly servant." Mary completely and freely abandons herself to God's will; "I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Christ will often tell a suffering person, "Your faith has saved you;" Elizabeth, marvelling at Mary's great faith, says, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." In having great faith in the Lord, Mary exclaims His Goodness, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.”

And all generations have called her blessed - the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The Theotokos, our Mother. And her Assumption is proof that Jesus will raise the dead and those worthy enough to enter heaven will be there with him - and his Mother - for all eternity, body and soul. But it starts first with the New Adam and the New Eve.

Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified (Ps 131:8).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Making Some Changes

I want to improve my life spiritually and physically. I've read so much lately on how God wants us to take care of ourselves and not abuse our bodies, these temples of the Holy Spirit; therefore, I desperately want to lose the weight and keep it off, as well as develop a closer relationship with the Lord.

I love the Ordinariate, but perhaps this isn't the best time for me to be an active participant in it, since I've only gone to two or three Ordinariate Masses in three years; I mainly attend the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. And, due to the mindless variety of innovations found in the OF, I am VERY much thinking about traveling the 40 minutes to a parish that offers the 1962 Books exclusively. I don't prefer to do that, but it's my only option of not being tortured by the liturgy.

Whenever I attend the OF when I visit my parents, it is an occasion of great joy and love. The liturgy is offered with such reverence, respect, and devotion and I ask for God's blessings on that faith-filled, welcoming, charitable, and active community! I truly wish I lived close to that parish, for I'd be 'at home'. But for reasons too lengthy to go into at this time, I'm fairly convinced that I'm going to start attending the EF on Sundays whenever I am not traveling or visiting my parents. I've also chosen to attempt to pray the Daily Office according to the 62 Books. While I'll be following that Form's liturgical calendar, it is not as a rejection of the updated calendar (I pray for a reconciliation of the two, even if it means just gaining permission from Ecclesia Dei to offer "modern day" saints on Feria days). I will still enjoy reading about the Saint of the Day and praying the Collects for the daily saints, as is my daily custom; it's just that now I need to make sure I check to see the Collect for the EF, as well. Perhaps, so as not to forget my participation in the Ordinariate, I should pray the Collect for the Week from the Book of Divine Worship, as well; perhaps before bed. I'll play it all by ear.

In the past, I was choosing the EF as a rejection of the OF - thanks to being in the Ordinariate and knowing people in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and The Way, I can respect that the Holy Spirit is calling people to communion, but not all in the same way. I still believe my home is in the Ordinariate, but being over an hour away from the parish, I am unable to attend as often as I hoped.

Following the 1962 Books, if I am correct, I believe we are asked to live it out according to the norms at the time, which means always having meatless Fridays, fasting the 40 days of Lent, fasting on the vigils of certain Solemnities, Holy days aren't moved and must be celebrated on the day of (or the vigil, if available), fasting on the Ember and Rogation days, etc. I will give it a try - perhaps this is actually what I have been craving; a more fruitful way of participating in the life of the Church.

As for my weekday calendar, this is what I am attempting to do as of today:

5am - Rise, etc.
6:30am - Mass (OF)
7am - Work
11am - Go to gym
12:30pm - Back from gym
4:30pm - Leave work
5pm - Adoration
6:30pm - Home (Tues, OA @ 7pm)

Scattered throughout this schedule, I shall find opportunities to pray:
The Angelus, Daily Office, Daily Consecration (MI), Bethlehem Prayer
Divine Mercy chaplet, Holy Rosary

As for the weekend, that's all up in the air because I don't have the structure of a work day to work around - it is indeed possible to get to the gym in the morning, then Mass, and then Adoration all before 10am! So, I'll have to see how it goes - let's see if I can get through ONE day of this, let alone seven!

The idea is to not overload myself - if things get "too busy" or too formulaic, I will back off of some stuff. At a minimum, I want to go to daily Mass and daily Adoration; everything else is cake. This is all because I long for the Lord and cannot make any changes to my lifestyle without him. I am powerless and turn over my life to him that he may remove from me the defects that prevent me from losing weight and from following him faithfully.