Still Celebrating!

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It might seem like the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving, just after the turkey carcass gets dumped into the garbage can. And it ends on Christmas day with the tossing of the tree to the curb. But, hey, Catholics, it ain’t over till it’s over. So keep those decorations up and make more treats, because we keep on celebrating for a wee bit longer.

There is a bit of disagreement as to when the Christmas season actually ends:

The Solemnity of the Epiphany, January 8th.

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Lord, every nation on earth will adore you. ~Psalm 72

The Baptism of the Lord, January 9th.

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And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” ~Matt 3:17

The older tradition extends Christmas to the celebration of Candlemas, or the Presentation of the Lord, which is February 2nd.

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Painting from the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD)

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” ~Luke 2:34-35

 

So we can end up with 40 days of celebration!

In the spirit of Christmas, here are some of our family traditions and experiences this year. My theme: it’s the thought that counts.

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We begin Advent with our beat up old Advent wreath and homemade crib. To prepare for Jesus’ coming, we try to remember to say extra prayers and do little acts of kindness. Whenever we do, we put a construction paper straw in the crib to make a softer welcome for baby Jesus. Last year, we kept forgetting and had to try to crank out the prayers and kindness in the last few days.

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We used to wait before putting up our Christmas tree but the boys wanted it up ASAP, so it went up on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, some of the lights stopped working. See the top section of the tree? But it’s like that every year. They go out after we’ve gotten the entire tree decorated so that there’s nothing we can do about it.

Last year we packed the tree with almost every ornament we own, including all the sweet ones the boys made as toddlers and little children. But this year my 13-year-old insisted we limit it to red, gold, and white. So I’m guessing he thought it was a bit tacky last year.

This is our simpler tree. It includes the homemade candy canes, the Christmas disco ball, the ornament I won from Carolyn Astfalk’s Ornamental Graces book release party, and our newest addition–the Christmas rooster!

We also set up our Nativity set, minus baby Jesus who doesn’t get to join in the fun until Christmas day. So all the people and animals are all staring at the same spot, waiting for the arrival! This year, two new animals joined in: a Minecraft pig and cow. They were the right size so they gained admittance. And then there’s St. Patrick who doesn’t really belong there, but oh well. We ran out of places to put non-Christmas things. In his defense, he is wearing green and he has some nice quotes about Jesus.

 “Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me,   Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” ~St. Patrick

I fell behind on cookie baking and didn’t get done until the day before Christmas Eve. But we have some traditional favorites that my mom, my sister, and I used to bake: Magic Cookie Bars, Lemon-Cherry cookies (yes, you see stems. I was in a hurry and one jar of maraschino cherries had stems),  Molasses Raisin Nut cookies, cut-out cookies, and modified Russian Tea Cakes. All of the recipes are modified based on which nuts are affordable and what ingredients I have or forgot to get. And we made the Lemon-Cherry gluten-free this year.

A special thank you to Carolyn Astfalk who routinely posts delicious recipes on her blog. She gave me the recipe for the cutout cookies and said it was from her mom’s 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook. Here’s the recipe:

Butter Cookie Cutouts

Cream together 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar. Add 1 unbeaten egg, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat well. Gradually blend in 2-2/3 cup sifted flour. Chill dough. Roll out on floured surface to 1/8″ thickness. Cut with floured cutters. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Cool slightly before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

We made icing from powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. They are delicious!

As the rest of the Christmas season unfolds, we will continue to celebrate at home, at church, and with family and friends. We’ll play Christmas songs and eat more cookies, careful to avoid the stems. We’ll leave our tree up–bad lights and all–until the ornaments get dusty. We’ll add more creatures to the Nativity scene, squeezing them in between the regular and the Minecraft animals and the misplaced saints. And we’ll try to join in all the feast days in these 40 days and understand a little bit more the significance of each one to a Christian today.

  • December 26th – Feast Day of St. Stephen, the first martyr
  • December 27th – Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist
  • December 28th – Feast Day of Holy Innocents, martyrs, the infants slain by King Herod (Matt. 2:16-18)
  • December 29th – Feast Day of St. Thomas Becket, martyr
  • December 30th – Feast Day of the Holy Family
  • January 1st – Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

and the rest which you can find here.

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I feel bad for leaving our dog out of this post. Rudy was so happy opening his present and ripping up all the wrapping paper this year. Here’s Rudy:

All images are mine or public domain.

A Rare Breed: Catholic Science Fiction

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Science fiction takes the imagination where no man has gone before. Whether in the form of classic movies like Star Wars and Star Trek or books by Isaac Asimov and George Orwell, fans are led to consider the possibilities and the ramifications of developments and choices.

In a way, Catholic fiction does the same thing! Catholic fiction explores the supernatural and eternal, along with the physical and temporal. It delves into the spiritual ramifications of choices in this world and the next, shedding light on things the eye cannot see, ear cannot hear, and mind has not fully comprehended.

That’s what makes Catholic science fiction so appealing! I’m happy to tell you about Karina Fabian’s new space thriller, DISCOVERY.

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Blurb:  Sisters Ann, Tommie and Rita are part of a classified mission to explore an alien ship that has crash landed on an asteroid three billion miles from earth. Humanity’s first contact with beings from beyond the solar system is bound to unlock the mystery of life in the universe, but the crew have their own secrets; hidden fears, desires, horrible sins – and a mission to kill. Researchers discover something unique about the third arm of the ship: something wonderful, terrifying and…holy. This discovery challenges Rita and Ann to confront their own pasts in order to secure the safety of the mission and the very souls of the crew.

I read and totally enjoyed this book, so here’s my review:

Discovery by Karina Fabian is a well-crafted science fiction about a group of researchers and scientists on a mission to learn more about a recently-discovered, crashed alien spaceship. This story has amazing depth, using facets of science and technology to illuminate spiritual realities and inner challenges of the human soul. The characters sucked me into the story from the beginning. And there are many characters, but they are all well-developed with driving goals, strong personalities, and realistic strengths, weaknesses and struggles. Sister Ann quickly became my favorite. This rescue sister has visions and sees apparitions of saints and Biblical figures. She also speaks in riddles that make you think. The other characters either love or hate her, though most of the time no one understands her.

I found reading this story a rewarding experience. It satisfied my need for good science fiction, with imaginative concepts that seemed based on scientific theories. The character development and relationships also satisfied, especially concerning Sister Rita and James. I found myself so emotionally invested and so moved that, at one point, tears came to my eyes. But the element I loved most about this story is this: Sisters in space! How fun! God is everywhere, so why not? And to quote the book, “His mercy extends beyond time, space, or life.” I thoroughly enjoyed Discovery and can’t wait to read more science fiction by Karina Fabian.

Want to learn more?

Info Link: http://karinafabian.com/Discovery

Book available on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Discovery-Karina-Fabian-ebook/dp/B01LJX7INS

Find Karina at:

Website: http://fabianspace.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karina.fabian

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/KarinaFabian

Google +:  https://plus.google.com/103660024891826015212

Image & Likeness Anthology

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I have two short stories in this anthology. They were a joy to research and write. If you’d like to know more about my short stories and my thoughts on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, please check out my contributor interview and my discussion questions & answers.
Anthology Description:
If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply? Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more. By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure. Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons. With a Foreword by international Theology of the Body voice Damon Owens, Image and Likeness puts life and breath into St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in ways that readers won’t soon forget.
Warning: this anthology contains mature themes, content and language.
Image & Likeness is available in Kindle and Paperback.