Jan 052012

January 5 is the twelfth day of Christmas

Feast of Saint John Neumann

Born in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic), John Neumann came to the United States to participate in the missions. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1836, was accepted into the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer — commonly known as the Redemptorists — and was consecrated as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania March 1852.He worked in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, and of course Pennsylvania. He knew the value education and wanted to ensure the poor in particular has access to good education. He organized the first diocesan-run Catholic school system in America because of discrimination against Catholic immigrants. In addition to being the founder of the American Catholic education system, he publicly fought “The Know Nothings”, an anti-Catholic political party, who were setting fire to convents and schools.He died from a stroke January 5, 1860 at the age of 48.

He was beatified by Pope Paul VI on October 13, 1963. He was the second to the last saint canonized by Pope Paul VI in June, 1977. So far, he is the only male American saint.

40 Hours

To strengthen the American Catholics who were being persecuted, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, in April 1853 Saint John Neumann introduced the ancient practice of 40 Hours Devotion to America. This is a time where an holy place is designated and the Blessed Sacrament is adored over 40 continuous hours.

As we start the new year, could you make it a goal to spend 1 of your 168 hours each week before the Blessed Sacrament.


VánočkaIn honor of Saint John, here is the recipe he may have eaten: Czech Christmas Bread, which they call Vanocka.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours


  • 1 cup scalded milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar (or less, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 large room-temperature eggs, beaten
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup golden or dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup chopped citron (substitute with a little less lemon zest or other citrus candied fruit)


  • 1 large room-temperature egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons blanched sliced almonds
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)


  1. Add butter, sugar and salt to scalded milk.
  2. Stir to combine and let cool to lukewarm.
  3. Place yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer
  4. With the paddle attachment, stir until dissolved.
  5. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 2 eggs and combine.
  6. Add 3 cups flour and beat with the paddle until smooth.
  7. Add the raisins, almonds, citron, and remaining flour and mix, 3 to 5 minutes until smooth. Dough will be sticky.
  8. Place dough in greased bowl.
  9. Turn over and cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 1 hour.
  10. Punch down dough and turn out onto lightly floured board.
  11. Divide dough into 3 large pieces and 5 smaller ones.
  12. Roll each piece into a rope, about 14 inches long.
  13. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, braid the 3 larger pieces loosely and pinch ends together.
  14. Braid 3 of the smaller rolls, pinch ends together, and place on top of large braid.
  15. Twist the last 2 rolls together and place on top of second braid, tucking ends under large braid.
  16. Cover with a cloth or greased plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warm place.
  17. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  18. Brush vanocka with 1 beaten egg and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons almonds.
  19. Bake 15 minutes
  20. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake 30-45 minutes or until instant-read temperature registers 190 degrees.
  21. Let cool completely before slicing.
  22. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before cutting, if desired.

Twelfth Night

Today is the end of Christmastide and is Epiphany Eve. Tonight is for Twelfth Night celebration. The final frenzy of feasting, drinking and often-raucous merrymaking before returning to the daily grind of survival for the rest of the winter.Shakespeare’s wrote Twelfth Night to be performed tonight in 1602. Twelfth Night cake or Kings’ cake is a beatifically decorated cake in which a carved or cast metal version of the Baby Jesus was placed. Sometimes a paper, coin, or bean was used. The party guests were advised to chew their pieces carefully because the person who found the object became the royalty of Twelfth Night.The traditional drink of tonight’s party is Wassail. The name comes from the old English term “Waes hael” which means be well. It is ale-based with spices and honey. Rather than saying “Cheers”, we wish “Wassail” at a toast.

George Washington Partied Here

George and Martha WashingtonIn George Washington’s papers, he only mentions attending church service on Christmas Day. He often spent the rest of day working on the year-end business matters of his plantation.

For Twelfth Night though, he and Martha often entertained groups of relatives and friends throughout that day. Part of the reason for the large parties was to celebrate their anniversary. They were married  in Williamsburg, Virginia on Twelfth Night in 1759.

To give you an idea of how big a party the Washingtons threw, among Martha papers is her recipe for a Twelfth Night cake that included 40 eggs, four pounds of sugar, and five pounds of dried fruits.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Today’s gifts are Twelve Drummers Drumming representing the twelve articles of the Apostle’s Creed.

  1. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth
  2. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord
  3. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary
  4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried
  5. He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead
  6. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty
  7. From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead
  8. I believe in the Holy Spirit
  9. The holy catholic Church; the Communion of Saints
  10. The forgiveness of sins
  11. The resurrection of the body
  12. And life everlasting

Today’s Readings

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop (Lectionary: 208)

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” ~ Saint Jerome