Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mother Church!

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations.   – Jeremiah 1:5


Those who know me know that I really love celebrating life and birthdays.  I am thankful for the time to reminisce on the joys as well as the sorrows of the year gone by, as well as wait in joyful anticipation of the wonders that lie ahead.  This year, however, is the first year I have found myself contemplative and feeling the same enthusiasm with the birthday of the Church, at Pentecost. 

For about six months now I have been officially helping Fr. Mike Harrington and Fr. Ed Riley with the Holy Family gatherings they have been hosting, by planning and running the children’s program with the help of fellow Cooperators.  The goal of these nights has been to gather families and discuss the Scripture readings from the following Sunday liturgy.  My role in running the children’s program is to help bring the children into Scripture as well, through crafts and hands-on activities.  I really enjoy it, because even though I am not a deep theologian by any means, I can help children understand God’s Word more fully and in doing so, I find myself being drawn deeper into the beauty that is God and his love for us, for me.

One time we made candles together to understand that Jesus is our light and the darkness will not overcome it (See Jn. 1:5). Another time we planted seeds to symbolize faith: There really is a “flower” inside of them even though we can’t see it, just as Thomas questioned the Resurrection when he was not able to see Jesus. (See Jn. 20:24-29. We just passed his feast day, July 3.)

But to be honest, when it came to Pentecost, I was at a loss.  I googled, checked Pinterest, called friends for suggestions, attempted to do one activity I found online with the after-school program kids I worked with, but it failed…. It just wasn’t happening.  I read and reread the Gospel for that session but NOTHING. I was even tempted to tell Fr, Mike that I wasn’t feeling well, which wasn’t a lie. But I didn’t want to quit either.

How could I explain the Holy Spirit’s role in a way that was understandable to first-graders?

The day before our scheduled meeting, I still doubted I would come up with anything.  I once again took some time to read and reread the Scriptures and I was struck by the thought that these men were hiding and probably feeling a little like failures, as I was at that moment, until the Holy Spirit came and set their hearts on fire.  I starting thinking about their lives, their talents, the way God had called them from so many different places and how he didn’t leave them alone in their ministry. Neither would he leave me.  Then I thought, hey, maybe I should ask him to help. After all, Pentecost is one of his big moments. 

So, driving in my car, on the way to visit a friend I prayed, “Holy Spirit, you know far greater than I ever could what project I can do in my meager attempt to explain your awesomeness to those kids. Please help me!”  Suddenly I had the inspiration to have a birthday celebration for the Church. We could make cupcakes!  Well, my attempts to be healthier these days changed cupcakes with frosting and candy into Greek yogurt strawberry banana muffins with cream cheese frosting—mostly cream cheese. 

I began to think about the baking process and how it relates to Scripture: how the heat from the oven transforms the batter into something greater, a lot like the way the fire of the Holy Spirit changed those men in hiding into great evangelizers.  The image came to me how we are like the batter, with all of our talents and gifts from God, like the individual ingredients God has put into our mix. Some people are content to remain batter or enjoy their talents on the own, but in the end it can lead to Salmonella poisoning of the soul.  Instead, when we invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts, his fire is like the oven which can raise our talents to new heights, even beyond our expectations and make them into something that is enjoyed by many. 

The pieces fell together; the lesson was planned and came together quite beautifully.  I was very impressed how during our discussion the kids recalled the previous lesson about Thomas—how the Apostles were scared and hiding.  The muffins were also a big hit with the kids, and I think that the more we talked, the more deeply we were immersed into that first Pentecost. We understood better how the Holy Spirit wants to work with and through us.  On a personal level, I am still in awe and completely thankful for how much God has transformed my own life and I am very eagerly anticipating the great things he has in store for me. 

Thank you God for loving us so much.  Thank you for our Mother Church and having the gift of your Spirit within us, breathing life and helping us to grow into the beautiful fulfillment of your dreams for us.  Thank you for loving us, and for giving us the awesome gift of being able to love you back.  To you be all glory, honor and praise. Amen.

By the way, if you wanted to make your own “Holy Spirit Birthday Muffins,” follow the recipe below. If you slice fresh strawberries vertically and stand them up inverted on top of your frosted muffin, they look like tongues of fire.

Holy Spirit Birthday Muffins (Strawberry Greek Yogurt Banana Bread)
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes Servings: 1
A moist, light and fluffy strawberry banana bread with Greek yogurt.
Ingredients
·     1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
·     1 teaspoon baking powder
·     1/2 teaspoon baking soda
·     1/2 teaspoon salt
·     1/2 cup brown sugar
·     3 large over-ripe bananas (mashed)
·     2 eggs
·     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·     1/2 cup Greek yogurt
·     1 cup strawberries, sliced
Directions
1.       Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
2.      Mix brown sugar, bananas, eggs, vanilla extract, yogurt, and strawberries in another large bowl.
3.      Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
4.      Pour the mixture into a greased 9x5-inch loaf pan.

5.       Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven until golden brown and a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. (For muffins spoon batter into greased or paper lined muffin pan about 2/3 full and bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean; makes 18 muffins.)
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      Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator for almost a year. Originally from New Bedford, MA, she served at a mission in Kentucky for 14 months before settling in Waltham, MA. In addition to being a foster parent, she has been working with children in various ways for the past 20 years and is currently a nanny for several families. She serves as a Eucharistic minister in her home parish of St. Mary’s in Waltham.



1 comment:

Maryann Toth said...

Great article, Christine! With my 4 grandchildren 6 years and younger, you have given me some good teaching ideas. Thank you! Thank you also for the recipe. Will definitely try it.