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Merida Altar

"amy welborn"

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As a new year begins, many look for a devotional to jumpstart daily prayer.  As Catholics, our starting point is the prayer of the Church – the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass.

Universalis.com is the best source for both, and of course Magnificat is a wonderful adaptation  of the Church’s prayer, solid, rich and beautiful. 

But if you want something informal to add to the mix for 2014 consider The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days.  It’s a 365-day devotional, tied to the liturgical year as closely as possible for a volume that’s not produced anew every year.

You can check it out here! 

"amy welborn"

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— 1 —

The most surprising cooking success of the week was the arancine.  I had never even made risotto before, but this turned our spectacularly and wasn’t even hard.

(No photos because honestly, I didn’t have time to take pictures of my food. Did you?)

The risotto takes time, yes (about 25 minutes of constant stirring/adding stock/stirring) but as I said, wasn’t a huge technical challenge.  I cooked the risotto on Tuesday, formed the arancini balls on Wednesday morning, refrigerated them, then fried them up right before dinner.  (Filled with a little bit of red sauce, some pancetta and relatively fresh mozzarella.)  They were just about perfect.

Arancine is just about my favorite thing to eat in Italy, and it may or may not be a good thing that I learned how to make them.

— 2 —

The drunken pork loin turned out well, too.  The recipe isn’t online, but it’s Marcella Hazan’s. 

— 3 —

I also made Michael Chiarello’s Caponata.  I had made it before, but this time the amount of vegetables seemed quite out of whack with the amount of sauce.  I observed this before I cooked the vegetables, so ended up putting only half of them in the pot, and it seemed just right.  Maybe I had a bigger eggplant?  Don’t know.

— 4 —

No, I’m not Italian, but it’s my favorite cuisine, so if you came to my house for Christmas, you were stuck with it.

— 5 —

Dessert?  Crostata with homemade ice cream.

— 6 —

Christmas Mass?  Christmas Eve at 10 PM at Casa Maria.  My adult son who lives in Atlanta discovered the hard way that his assumption that, “Huh…a 4pm Christmas Eve Mass? Who’s going to go to that?” was dead wrong as he wandered around the campus of the Cathedral looking for one of the three Masses going on that wasn’t standing room fifteen minutes before it started.  We didn’t have that problem, even in the sisters’ small chapel. It was full, but not packed.  Bishop Foley celebrated, the music was the usual simple, gorgeous reverence, and I didn’t have to stay up until 2 am.  

— 7 —

Looking for a daily devotional for 2014?  Try this!

"amy welborn"

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Thanks to Ann Engelhart, I have this wonderful tutorial for you!  It’s suitable for families and classes of all kinds.

"Make Alessandro's Bambinelli from Bambinelli Sunday"

Please Note: These instructions were designed for a group of children to make Bambinellis in a school, Religious ed program or parish activity, where time is limited. The figures are painted while the clay is still soft. In an ideal world, it is best to let the clay dry for a day before painting.  Have fun and don’t worry about making “perfect” Bambinelli’s. They will all be beautiful!

Ann Kissane Engelhart



  • White Air-dry clay (Crayola makes a good one).
  • 2 in. gauze roll
  • 2 oz. bottles of Acrylic paint in assorted flesh tone colors: I used Americanain Flesh tone, Sable Brown and Light Cinnamon. (make sure that you shake them well before using).
  • Black, dark brown and red acrylic paint for features. Optional.
  • Excelsior (wood wool used in packaging) or Spanish Moss. (Both are available in art/craft stores)
  • Gold glitter pipe cleaners
  • Powder blush
  • Small paint brushes
  • Q tips
  • Small round tooth picks and larger 3 inch picks (available at art/craft stores).
  • Tacky glue or Glue Dots
  • Small paper plates and plastic sandwich bags for transportation. Optional

"Bambinelli Sunday Supplies"



1   Roll a ball of clay in hands with the diameter slightly larger than a quarter.

2.  Roll ball into a 2 in. cylinder.

3.  Use large pick or popsicle stick to cut it in half lengthwise. Cut one of those pieces in half, leaving 3 pieces of clay.

4.  Roll large piece into 1 ½ in. cylinder, one small piece into a ball for the head, and the remaining piece into a long, thin, 3 inch cylinder for the arms.

5.  Attach head to large cylinder. Pinch clay in the back to make sure that it is secure.

6.  Place the head and body on top of the center of the arms making sure that the arms are slightly below the neck area.

7.  Bring arms to the front and pose them so that they resemble a sleeping baby. Slightly pinch or bend the ends to create hands. Allow the children to experiment with different poses. You can even make your Bambinelli sucking his thumb! It is best to keep the arms close to the body so that they attach to the main portion of clay in order to make the figure more secure and to prevent breakage when the clay dries.

"Bambinelli Sunday"

8.  Use a small toothpick to make features such as fingers, eyes and mouth. Instruct the children to place the eyes halfway down the face for proper proportion. It is best to make small horizontal lines to suggest a sleeping baby, rather than deep, round eyes. Mistakes can be gently smoothed out (with the help of an adult) if the children want to change their first attempts at making a face.

For a simple Bambinelli for young children, continue here:

9.  Cut a piece of 2 in. wide gauze to about 4-5 inches. Fold lengthwise. Place the gauze around the waist and wrap around the body tucking in loose pieces. If the gauze doesn’t stay secure, use a tacky glue or Glue Dots to keep it in place. Fold the bottom under and secure in place.

10.   Invite the child to choose a hue of flesh colored paint. Holding the body on the gauze portion, paint the exposed clay.

"Bambinelli Sunday"

11.   Allow the paint to dry (you can use a hair dryer on a light setting if you are pressed for time). (You might use this time to practice painting eyes; see below).

12.    Using a Q-tip, rub powder blush onto the baby’s cheeks.

13.    It is not necessary to paint the other features, however, if the child is capable, they can use very fine brushes to paint the eyes with dark brown paint. Let the child practice first on scrap paper; draw several circles the size of the head in pencil and encourage them to practice painting the eyes. Remember that the eyes are halfway between the top of the head and the chin. Don’t demand perfection!

14.   To paint the hair use a soft medium sized brush or Q-tip using very little paint to create a dry-brush effect. Lightest skin tones can use the darker tones for the hair, while darkest skin tones can use the dark brown that was used for the eyes. Older children can mix their own color using a combination of hues.

15. Take a small handful of excelsior or Spanish moss to create a nest-like bed for the baby. Make a depression in the center to accommodate the body. Place the Bambinelli inside.

16.   To make halos (which are optional) wrap a pipe cleaner around the round handle of a wooden spoon or dowel. Remove coiled pipe cleaer and cut pieces to create a circle. Insert the loose ends into the nest above the head. Adjust the size for your Bambinelli. You may want to provide a plastic sandwich bag and small paper plate for children to safely transport them home.

17.   The Bambinelli’s will harden in one or 2 days, but they will remain fragile, so they should be handled with care.  For greater protection, they can be removed from the crèche and lightly sprayed with a clear varnish (only if acrylic paints were used).

Remember to bring the Bambinelli to Mass on Sunday for a blessing!

 To make Alessandro’s Bambinelli, follow the diagram and continue after Step 9. (For older or more experienced children)

10.  Give the child a dime sized ball of clay. Make legs by rolling it into a cylinder of about 8 inches, and slightly thicker than the arms.

19.  Gently fold it in half and attach it to the bottom of the body. Create feet by bending the ends. Use a tooth pick to create toes. Slightly bend the knees. Experiment with different poses.

20.   Paint the body and allow it to dry.

21.  Wrap a piece of folded gauze around the waist and gently tuck between the legs. Glue in place.

22. Paint features as above and continue to follow instructions for the simple Bambinelli.

"Bambinelli Sunday"


Come back later this afternoon for information on our giveaway! We will be giving away a copy of Bambinelli Sunday signed by both of us, as well as a print of one of Ann’s paintings.

Buy Bambinelli Sunday  on Amazon.

Buy Bambinelli Sunday at the Catholic Company

Buy Bambinelli Sunday at Barnes and Noble

See previous posts on Bambinelli Sunday, including video links. 


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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on today’s saint, Therese of Lisieux.  From the General Audience of 4/6/11:

"therese of lisieux"

Dear friends, we too, with St Thérèse of the Child Jesus must be able to repeat to the Lord every day that we want to live of love for him and for others, to learn at the school of the saints to love authentically and totally. Thérèse is one of the “little” ones of the Gospel who let themselves be led by God to the depths of his Mystery. A guide for all, especially those who, in the People of God, carry out their ministry as theologians. With humility and charity, faith and hope, Thérèse continually entered the heart of Sacred Scripture which contains the Mystery of Christ. And this interpretation of the Bible, nourished by the science of love, is not in opposition to academic knowledge. Thescience of the saints, in fact, of which she herself speaks on the last page of her The Story of a Soul, is the loftiest science.

“All the saints have understood and in a special way perhaps those who fill the universe with the radiance of the evangelical doctrine. Was it not from prayer that St Paul, St Augustine, St John of the Cross, St Thomas Aquinas, Francis, Dominic, and so many other friends of God drew thatwonderful science which has enthralled the loftiest minds?” (cf. Ms C 36r). Inseparable from the Gospel, for Thérèse the Eucharist was the sacrament of Divine Love that stoops to the extreme to raise us to him. In her last Letter, on an image that represents Jesus the Child in the consecrated Host, the Saint wrote these simple words: “I cannot fear a God who made himself so small for me! […] I love him! In fact, he is nothing but Love and Mercy!” (LT 266).

In the Gospel Thérèse discovered above all the Mercy of Jesus, to the point that she said: “To me, He has given his Infinite Mercy, and it is in this ineffable mirror that I contemplate his other divine attributes. Therein all appear to me radiant with Love. His Justice, even more perhaps than the rest, seems to me to be clothed with Love” (Ms A, 84r).

In these words she expresses herself in the last lines of The Story of a Soul: “I have only to open the Holy Gospels and at once I breathe the perfume of Jesus’ life, and then I know which way to run; and it is not to the first place, but to the last, that I hasten…. I feel that even had I on my conscience every crime one could commit… my heart broken with sorrow, I would throw myself into the arms of my Saviour Jesus, because I know that he loves the Prodigal Son” who returns to him. (Ms C, 36v-37r).

“Trust and Love” are therefore the final point of the account of her life, two words, like beacons, that illumined the whole of her journey to holiness, to be able to guide others on the same “little way of trust and love”, of spiritual childhood (cf. Ms C, 2v-3r; LT 226).

Trust, like that of the child who abandons himself in God’s hands, inseparable from the strong, radical commitment of true love, which is the total gift of self for ever, as the Saint says, contemplating Mary: “Loving is giving all, and giving oneself” (Why I love thee, Mary, P 54/22). Thus Thérèse points out to us all that Christian life consists in living to the full the grace of Baptism in the total gift of self to the Love of the Father, in order to live like Christ, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, his same love for all the others.

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She was, after the Blessed Virgin herself, the most widely-venerated saint of the Medieval period, and today is her feast day.

As Pope St. Gregory the Great said of her (as is quoted in the Office of Readings today)

 We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
  At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.
  Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
  Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher,because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.
I wrote a book about St. Mary Magdalene, rather horribly titled De-Coding Mary Magdalene (an allusion to the "Amy Welborn"previous DVC-related book…I argued against it, but…lost)…but I did enjoy researching and writing the book – the history of MM’s cultus is quite revealing about both Western and Eastern Christianity.

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I’m pleased to let you know about the Catholicism Pilgrimage Journal  - written to help teens and young adults connect more deeply with the content of Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.


It evolved last year as Fr. Stephen Grunow and I brainstormed on ways to integrate the program more deeply into various aspects of parish life.  You can find more details about the program here.

Here’s an interview I did with Word on Fire.

Today (5/7), I’ll be on Sheila Liaugminas’ radio show, talking about the Pilgrimage Journal and other projects.

(In other work with WOF, I wrote a study guide for Fr. Barron’s excellent series on Conversion - think about it for next Lent!)


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Mother’s Day?

It’s coming…perhaps you’d like to share one of my books with your mom or grandmother as a gift?

It’s the Catholic Woman’s Book of Days, published by Loyola Press – a 365-day devotional.



Also, with confirmations and graduations coming up, you might take a look at Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life and the Prove It series.  Or even The Words We Pray. 

(I am not currently selling any of these myself, but you can get them online or from a local Catholic bookseller.  The few titles I do have on hand for sale are here.)

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From the program for his son’s First Holy Communion.   Very grateful to those who thought of doing this and hope it serves as a help and a nudge to all who happened across it today. Sacrifice. 

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Bambinelli Sunday:  A Christmas Blessing

Very pleased with this.  I’ll have more about it when it’s released in August, but until then…

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