A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Australian Catholic Families Facebook Community

Have you visited our Australian Catholic Families Facebook page? It was set up as a link to this blog. But the page doesn't just contain blog post notifications. We regularly post other information, photos and links that might interest families, such as...

Links to Catholic books and freebies
Links for craft, Advent and Christmas activities
Links for the Year of Faith
Information about events that are coming up
Beautiful and inspiring photos
Links to interesting articles on other blogs
Links for recipes

There is also an opportunity to comment and share your own information.

So please follow the link, have a look around, 'like' our page and get involved. Lots of people have been 'talking' and  it would be lovely to see our online community grow even bigger. 

Looking forward to seeing you on our page!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Speculatius for the Feast of St Nicholas

Written by Sue Elvis

It’s not too late to bake up a batch of Speculatius to celebrate the Feast Day of St Nicholas...

1 cup butter
1 cup lard
½ tsp nutmeg
4 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
2 cups brown sugar
4 ½ cups sifted flour
½ cup sour cream
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup chopped nuts

  • Cream the butter, lard and sugar together.
  • Add sour cream alternately with sifted dry ingredients
  • Stir in the nuts
  • Knead the dough into rolls
  • Wrap the rolls in plastic wrap, chill in fridge for a few hours or overnight
  • Roll the dough thinly and cut into shapes
  • Bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes
  • Serve with warm mulled wine or just a plain glass of red!

We've made a huge batch of Speculatius. We'll enjoy some tomorrow on the Feast of St Nicholas. We'll freeze the rest and eat them at Christmas.

These biscuits are guaranteed to be very delicious.

PS To be totally accurate, my daughters did the baking. I just wrote the post!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How the Grinch stole Christmas.

File:Grinch poster.jpg

Most of us know the famous Dr Seuss story where the Grinch is able to infiltrate Whoville and steal "Christmas" from right under the little Who's noses.

If you are a Christian in these modern and secular times this may be an all too familiar feeling - that Christmas is being stolen from under us and transformed into something that could be called worship, but certainly not that of Christ Our Saviour!

It is the worship of gifts, money, decorations, food and festivities and all under the popular term of "happy holidays" - a very non Christ like term.

So what can we do? How can we keep Christ in Christ-mas?

Of course it starts with our spiritual lives and our personal worship of Jesus. He must be born in the stable of our heart.  If we have this part right then we are on the right track as we will be a beacon for others as the light of Christ shines forth from us. But there are practical things we can do too.

Do not adopt any of the popular secular terms associated with Christmas. "Happy holidays" does not represent Christ in any way.

Do not buy anti-Christmas propaganda! This means only sending holy and appropriate Christmas cards, even to non believing friends (this has the added bonus of a holy image being displayed in a non- Christian home, even if it's only for a short time).

Ask your post office specifically for religious Christmas stamps. If we don't create the demand they will not supply them.

If you are celebrating Christmas with some non Christians do not adopt their accepted methods of celebrating. Keep your interior recollection and keep the day holy! Set a positive example.

Make Christ centered family traditions. Mass, advent wreaths, special prayers are just a few holy devotions. One of our traditions is to set an extra place at our Christmas dining table for The Unseen Guest.

It is an absurd thing to throw a great big party on someone's birthday, sate ourselves and make merry, all the while ignoring He whose birthday it is, especially when it is the birthday of the King of the universe!

Merry Christmas and abundant blessings to you all!

You can read more about me and my family here.
This post was co-authored by my husband Patrick.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Empty Shoes

Do your children put out their shoes on St Nicholas' Eve? Do they hope to wake up and find St Nicholas has visited in the night and left them a treat?

Written by Sue Elvis, on the Feast of St Nicholas, 2010

Last night, St Nicholas forgot to come. Sophie couldn’t believe it. Her face fell as she peered into her shoes…nothing. They were as empty as they’d been the previous evening. There was nothing in any of the shoes, from the giant black boots at the head of the line to the small buckle-ups at the end.

‘You’re up much too earlier,” I said hastily. “Back to bed. St Nicholas probably hasn’t got here yet.” The girls dived back under their blankets.

Rustle! Rustle! Rustle! Rustle!

Some time later: “Is it time to get up yet?...Wow! Look! Two sorts of chocolate coins!”

We never intended the children to believe that St Nicholas really fills children’s shoes with gold coins. It all started off as a bit of fun. I thought we were all aware that it was a pretence. But somewhere along the way, the younger girls grew up thinking the chocolate coins were actually delivered by the patron saint of children. I suspect their older brothers are to blame. They couldn’t resist bringing a bit of magic into their sisters’ lives.

We all want to create a bit of magic for others. When I was growing up, my mother provided many magical moments for me and my sisters. She was good at playing the Santa game. She could always come up with answers to such tricky questions as, “Why is Santa wearing glasses? He could see perfectly well when he was in that other shop.”

A few weeks before Christmas, my mother would take us to the department store in the city to visit Santa. We’d whiz up to the top floor in a special rocket elevator complete with flashing lights and buttons of all descriptions. “Next stop Santa’s grotto!” announced the pilot. The doors slid open and with eyes wide, we emerged into a wondrous, snowy land. Pixies and elves were waiting to greet us. Where was Santa? He couldn’t be seen. He was deep inside his fairy tale grotto. My sisters and I joined the queue of other excited children. Soon we on our way down a sparkling, twinkling, magical tunnel that led to Santa’s enormous chair. Finally it was our turn to climb up onto Santa’s huge lap. We told the very plump old man what we wanted for Christmas. He told us to make sure we were good girls before giving us each a little gift. Of course, we were all very determined to be as good as possible, at least until Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve my mother would help us pour a glass of milk for Santa. We’d add a plate of biscuits in case he felt hungry. And a bunch of carrots for the reindeer. We put everything on a tray where Santa would be sure to see it. Then it was off to bed early because everyone knows Santa doesn’t come until all the children are asleep. How difficult it was to settle down! But finally our eyes would close and we’d be dreaming of pillow cases bulging with presents. One year I woke in the middle of the night and I was certain I saw Santa’s black boots disappearing through the doorway. At the end of my bed was a huge stack of gifts.

Yes, I have some very magical memories of Christmas because of the efforts of my mother and father.

When Andy and I had our own family we wanted to provide an exciting and magical Christmas for our children too. We started off trying to celebrate in the same way I’d known as a child. But, unlike my mother, I wasn’t very good at pretending games. I felt sure I’d forget something and then my children would be so disappointed. I didn’t want them to become disillusioned when they realised everything was not really true. I wondered if we could have an exciting and magical Christmas without keeping up the myth of Santa.

When our first children were very young, I became a Catholic. A whole new world opened up for me. I discovered something far better than the magic of Santa. It is the miracle of Jesus. The thought of God, the Creator of the World becoming a little baby and being born on Christmas Day is just beyond comprehension. The myth of Santa just pales into insignificance. We didn’t need to pretend to believe in a myth. We could believe in the Truth.

So we swapped all the Santa traditions for the traditions of Advent and I hope our children will treasure their Christmas memories just as much as I treasure mine.

I think that Santa can have a place in a Catholic celebration of Christmas. We all know the myth has its roots in a real saint. And there are so many aspects of a Santa Christmas that find an echo in the Catholic celebration: the anticipation, the waiting, the hope, the gifts, the love, the charity, the excitement, the work and sacrifice involved…If I’d had my mother’s skills at pretending…

But I can’t even remember to fill a few shoes with chocolate coins on St Nicholas’ Eve. What if I forget to do this task before I go to bed tonight? What will I say if, once again, my girls discover empty shoes on St Nicholas’ Day? Well, I could come clean and confess my forgetfulness and admit I don’t make a very good saint. How will my girls cope? Will they feel as empty as their shoes when they discover they believed in a myth? Of course not. They have something much better to believe in: the Truth. And that is all they need to have a truly magical Christmas.

In case you're wondering, Saint Nicholas did a fine job that year. Our children were delighted to see their shoes overflowing with chocolate. Well done, St Nicholas!

I blog at Sue Elvis Writes. Please feel welcome to visit and share more of my stories.