Santa Lucia Day ~ Celebrating the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13)

The Feast of St. Lucy 

We are praying for all of you as we await the Light of the World.

The feast of St. Lucy or better known in my Italian family as Santa Lucia is the day our family traditionally sets up our outdoor Christmas lights display. It is one of the events we look forward to as we build towards Christmas.

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Growing up in my Italian family this is the day each year we would light our Christmas tree too! We had an artificial tree (real ones were just too pricey for this New York City family, no balsam growing in Brooklyn and Queens). It didn’t matter that it was not real, the minute the lights went on we held our breath in awe and wonder!

In our family we have celebrated the Swedish tradition, (I had a Swedish uncle too) whereby the oldest daughter, in our case it was always our Anne  (pictured above), who woke early to make breakfast treats and hot cocoa. She would don her battery-operated, candle wreath (no real candles for this momma) and served the entire family in bed. The honor has passed down through the years to the next daughter in line, only to fall back to Anne again, now graduated from college!

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Here are some terrific ideas for St. Lucy celebrations with your family!

Firstly, find out together who St. Lucy is and what does she have to do with light. Hint, Lucy means “light.” As she was an early Christian martyr there are several versions of the story. Here’s a spoiler, her eyes have something to do with the story. A miracle ensued and for her martyrdom she now wears a heavenly crown.

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Watch this lovely video explaining the traditions surrounding this feast day and its association with Advent.

St. Lucy Fast Facts and Activities

  • Here is an ENTIRE Pinterest board dedicated to St. Lucia with tons of resources including recipes, and free downloads:

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Catholic Advent homeschool

The book, A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz is my go to source for family traditions.It not only is my best source to live the liturgical year it has recipes that simply do not disappoint! Starting on page 107, there is St. Lucy’s story and a great recipe for St. Lucy’s crown (we have made it many times- yum!). On page 109 you will find the recipe for Swedish St. Lucy ginger snaps (trying it this year) and lest we forget the adults, on page 110 one can find the recipe for Swedish mulled wine.

Don’t have a copy? Not a problem, with this instant download, no shipping….Here is the link: A Continual Feast

A fruitful and blessed Advent to all of you!!
The Ciskanik Family

Why Talk of Such Sadness? The Feast of All Souls

This past year we attended quite a few funerals, more than I can ever remember. I suppose in part it is due to my “getting on in years” as I am now in my late 50’s, in part though, it was because some very dear ones died way too soon.

I am especially missing some very dear soul sisters in Christ who were real heroes with unshakeable courage and a deep love of our Lord. 

But why am I talking of such sadness?

Call me crazy but I think it is not sad talk. As a Catholic I have come to understand suffering and death in its proper perspective.


Remembering that I belong to a very huge family of God comforts, heals and has sanctified my life.  I pray every day for those souls and their families. I ask them to intercede for my family and I have hope that perhaps some day we may all be united in the Beatific Vision.

November is the month dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, where we are asked by Holy Mother Church to remember all those who have died. We are asked to remember those poor souls in prayer in hope that they will rejoice in the glory of God.  We rejoice with the saints who the Church tells us have arrived at His heavenly kingdom and bask in His Glory. In fact the month is ushered in with All Saints Day, which we just celebrated yesterday.


After watching the movie Love is a Choice, the story of St. Gianna Molla, with my family, we were all moved deeply by the testimony of her husband, Pietro, who told the story of their son, only five at the time, who had seen his father crying several days after his wife’s funeral. He asked his father why he was crying.  Pietro told his son that he missed his wife so very much.  His son’s answer to this was simple and beautiful, “But Papa she is in heaven now.”


A beloved pastor of ours had once told us in an All Souls Mass homily, that his mom would call him about this time every year. It was to remind him to add the names of family members who died over the past year onto “the list.”

You see he keeps a list of everyone (and I mean everyone) in his family who has ever died since he was born! He keeps this list as a reminder to pray for them and remember them. This practice is much like our ancestors practice of lighting  blessed candles on the Feast of All Souls, one for each family member who died that year.   

The candles and Father’s “list” are visible signs that there is hope, peace, an eternal reward and that we are called to remember and pray.


Several years ago, at the Mass for All Souls, Larry and I were asked to each hold a small wooden cross with the name of a parishioner who had died that year. They asked us because no family member was present at that Mass to remember them. As we carried each cross to the altar, taking our our turns as each name was called, we were most grateful and honored by this small gesture of remembrance. 

It really hit home that Larry and I are members of a much bigger family than those who reside in our own home. We are members of the family of God. We belong to Christ Jesus, who laid down his innocent life so that we can have the hope in an eternity with God.

That’s really something to rejoice in.

A blessed All Souls’s Day….there is family waiting for your prayers!

“If we knew what may be obtained from God by the intercession of the Poor Souls, they would not be so much abandoned. Let us pray a great deal for them; they will pray for us.” –St. John Vianney

Praying for Departed Souls and Gaining Indulgences: Here’s how

Do you have a cemetery attached to your local parish or one close by?

Did you know you can gain indulgences during the first days of November?

Here’s how…pass it on…

Indulgenced Acts for the Poor Souls:
A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain aCemeteries-IMG_1975-620 plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.

A plenary indulgence, again applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

A partial indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed.

Here is Mozart’s beautiful version:

This is especially beautiful to play during this month of All Souls…and to recite the following prayer with our families at family rosary time or at grace each day this month.

In Latin: Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis), Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis). Requiescat (-ant) in pace Amen.

In English: Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Here is the prayer added to the “Prayer before Meals”

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, Which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. 

You just might find this lovely addition to your family prayer life will be a blessing all year long….it is a constant reminder of our own goal…to get to heaven…to see God face to face…we cannot forget these poor souls who need our prayers…and once they get to heaven, they will undoubtedly remember us!

(source material:CatholicCulture.org)

St. Andrew Christmas Novena Holy Card

St. Andrew Christmas Novena Holy Card

We’d like to offer you this St. Andrew Christmas Novena holy card, at no charge, as a token of our appreciation for you to help get ready for our Lord’s birth as we enter the season of St. Andrew novenaAdvent! This two-sided holy card features classical artwork on the front side and the Christmas Anticipation Prayer on the reverse.  Just save,  print and pray!

… And have a blessed Advent this year!

Christmas Anticipation Prayer, also known as the St. Andrew Christmas prayer starts November 30, the feast of St. Andrew and continues through Christmas Eve, December 24th!

This meditative prayer is traditionally said 15 times each day to help us reflect on the TRUE meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ!

 Click on the picture….to get your free download!


Cor Unum! One Heart & The Sacred Heart

The von Trapp family, of the Sound of Music fame, called their home in Vermont “Cor Unum” – Latin for: One Heart. They dedicated it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in so doing, called their family to be of one heart for our Lord.

image from: www.stowetoday.com
image from: www.stowetoday.com

Theirs was a touching and beautiful gesture that we repeated when we purchased our building to run our family business Emmanuel Books in 2001.  We dedicated the building and had it blessed on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and even made a heart shaped cake to celebrate.
We continue to consecrate our works to the Sacred Heart.  It is with much gratitude and love that we offer to you our latest in the “Reclaim the Saints” series for Living the Liturgical Year, Sacred Heart of Jesus! In it you will make your very own Sacred Heart Shrines, Holy Cards, a 10-page Prayer book, learn the history of this devotion and so much more!
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Join us for the month of June and the devotion to the Sacred Heart!

Beauty surrounds the Feast of the Annunciation

Paolo_de_Matteis_-_The_AnnunciationThe Feast of the Annunciation is a beloved feast day for it is the day we rejoice in Mary’s YES!  It only stands to reason that we and the Church rejoice as it is the day that the “Word was made Flesh!”  There was a very dear priest in our diocese, one of those rare individuals who inspired countless people with his unwavering trust in Divine Providence…even in the most difficult and trying situations he reminded us to trust. He loved the Blessed Mother and like her was transformed by his YES to a life in service to God and in turn transformed all of us!  Everyone prayed that he would live to celebrate his 100th birthday, but he actually died just a few short hours of the day. However, nine months earlier he would cheerfully and enthusiastically remind all of us that indeed he was already 100 years old since he counted his age from the time of his conception in his mother’s womb. What a testimony to all of us as to the sanctity of life in the womb, the unborn! Today is no ordinary day but a great day to pause from our day to day routines and take time to celebrate this momentous event in all our lives!

“In families with young children, this feast would be a good time to begin teaching youngsters important lessons about the inestimable value God places on human life. 

Mary with baby JesusFirst, that He loved us so much that He chose to become one of us — to take on our humanity so completely that he “became flesh”, as utterly weak and dependent as any human infant is.   Second, God became “like us in all things except sin” at the moment of His conception in Mary’s womb, not at some later time.  The Feast of the Annunciation is a celebration of the actual Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Children may, quite naturally, think that the birth of Jesus is the time when Our Savior first ‘became Man,’ especially since Christmas has become the Christian holiday in our culture.  We understand best what we can see, what is visible.  The invisible, the hidden is, no less real for our lack of seeing it.  (We think of the baby in its mother’s womb, known and felt, though unseen, only to her.)

Even very young children can know the truth about the growth of a baby inside its mother’s body, especially If the mother of the family (or an aunt, perhaps) happens to be pregnant on the holiday.  The exactly nine months’ wait from March 25th to December 25th for the Baby to be born would be interesting to most children.  (God made no special rules for His own bodily development!) What better way than reading the first chapter of Luke to gently begin teaching children about the beginning of each new human life?

Children should be told how important it is to every person that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1), and parents can find this feast a valuable teaching moment. 

teaching-youth-religious-values.jpg.crop_displayThe Catechism of the Catholic Church on Article 3 of the Creed, “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary” (#436-511), should be read by parents.  This will not only give adults a timely review of Catholic doctrine, but it can be a great help to us in transmitting important truths of the faith to our children.  The summary at the end can help formulate points we want to emphasize. Excerpts from the Catechism  could be read aloud to older children.” (http://www.ewtn.com/library/FAMILY/MARCH25.TXT)

In hope of inspiring you to pause from your regular curriculum may I suggest the following:

You can begin with the prayers associated with Mary and her Fiat, the Angelus, the Magnificat  and an Annunciation prayer too! (http://www.marypages.com/Annunciation.htm).  Over the centuries these same prayers inspired lovely Classical  pieces of music.  As I started to research them, I had no idea of the veritable wealth of music giving Glory to unborn Christ Child. Do plan on spending your quiet time today listening to this beautiful music and hear the joy!

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_Song_of_the_Angels_(1881)_edit

The Magnificat, Canticle of Mary, Song of Mary, Latin Hymn, Daughters of Mary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9QtEb8XNr4

Bach – Magnificat in D major, BWV 243 : Harnoncourthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oL_qsKPeik

Antonio Vivaldi – Magnificat in G Minor RV  610:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDQREd7Ahys

MOZART Vesperae de Dominica, KV 321 – [6] Magnificat KOOPMAN:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuOT1LMFIQA

Franz Schubert – Magnificat in C major, D486:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itQNbtXXhzE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can also see that this momentous event also inspired much artwork. Three years ago Larry and I found a gorgeous rendition of the Annunciation by the artist Jan Van Eyck on our 25th Wedding Anniversary, or should I say it found us, as a reminder of our YES to each other and to God. It is currently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, a trip we will have to make soon to see the original! Today you can explore the work here where you can take a closer look and explore its symbolism: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46.html?opensection=overview

And that is not the only image of the Annunciation, visit these sites to gaze at all the beauty. The following sites have a multitude of beautiful Classical artwork to share with your family:

http://www.abcgallery.com/L/leonardo/leonardo36.html (Leonardo Da Vinci The Annunciation.  Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

http://www.abcgallery.com/B/botticelli/botticelli34.html (Sandro Boticelli Cestello Annunciation Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

http://www.abcgallery.com/virgin.html#Annunciation (many other masterpieces)

For your younger set I found several coloring pages that you can print whereby they grant copyright permission  to print and use any original material or ideas for individual or classroom use.

Crayones de cera

Coloring pages:

This site has about 10 different images to choose from different sources: http://printablecolouringpages.co.uk/?s=the+annunciation

This one comes to us compliments from the parish church in Front Royal Virginia St. John the Baptist Catholic Church where we just went last weekend! http://www.sjtb.org/images/Annunciation.pdf

Here is a simple outline coloring page for the littlest ones:http://www.sermons4kids.com/mary_angel_colorpg.htm

For a bit of fun here are pictures that the kids can color on-line, changing the colors and printing off the version they like best! : http://www.supercoloring.com/pages/annunciation

http://www.thecolor.com/Coloring/simone-martini-the-annunciation.aspx

Be certain to end the day with a delicious meal or special dessert.  My favorite cookbook, A Continual Feast has a Swedish Waffles recipe where the author explains that in Europe beginning around the twelfth century waffles were generally eaten on feast days and most certainly on the Feast of the Annunciation. You can use your own special recipe or this one:

Swedish Waffles (A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz)

swedish waffles

1 3/4 cups heavy cream, well-chilled
1 1/3 cups flour
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water
3 tablespoons melted sweet butter

Whip the cream until stiff.  Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the water to make a smooth batter. Fold the whipped cream into the batter. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat the waffle iron. (If it is well seasoned, it will not need to be greased.) Fill the grid surface about two-thirds full of batter. Bake until golden brown.

Place on a rack to keep crisp while you make the rest of the waffles.

Yield: about 8 waffles

Emmanuel Books Holy Week & Easter Activity Kit

As the local stores fill up with Easter Bunnies and jelly beans, now is the perfect time to restore the sacredness of Holy Week and Easter.  We have researched and designed this easy to use and beautiful curriculum that will become a family favorite each year!

This kit contains faith-filled  hands-on projects that make a lasting impact on the true meaning of Holy Week and Easter. Your family will lean about:

  • Holy Week Kit email 3Resurrection Eggs, (to learn the Passion though the Resurrection Bible story),
  • A Jonah project (make Jonah, the whale and his ship and have the children decorate them and move the figures through Holy Week),
  • A sticker sheet with faithful, Catholic symbolism that truly represent the Holy Season of Easter
  • Instructions and template to make a Family Pascal Candle
  • Beautiful Easter Holy Cards to share with family and friends and practice handwriting skills
  • Notebooking pages with beautiful reverent holy images
  • Mini books of the colors of Easter and mini books for the flowers, fruit and trees associated with Easter along with pictures and descriptions of each
  • Several options for making a variety of Easter cards (4 unique designs with text and blank versions too!)

The Feast Days of Advent

In Advent, the season of preparation, it is not a coincidence that the Church gives us  some very special feast days …..beginning with our family favorite, the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30th…. we stand in thanksgiving for his “Yes” to follow Christ, to be a first disciple and bring in other disciples such as his own brother Peter… our very first Pope (we have our own Andrew & Peter, too!).
St Andrew Novena Holy cardTo help you prepare we have a a FREE download for your family of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena Holy Card!

On December 6th, next to arrive is the feast for the patron saint of children, St. Nicholas, the real “Santa Claus”… each year we layout all nine pairs of shoes by the fireplace. We  wake in the morning to treats and always chocolate coins in our shoes… and somehow miraculously, just for the children, it always seems to snow, even just a little bit here in the Mid-Atlantic .

We bake a lovely cake for the Blessed Mother’s feast of her Immaculate Conception on December 8th. When the kids were little we made our own play to celebrate both the feast of Juan Diego on the 9th ….and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the unborn, on the 12th. We pray for her intercession and protection for the most vulnerable in our world… (Our girls sleep with their Lady of Guadalupe dolls). Quickly arrives the 13th, the feast of St. Lucy….my Swedish uncle always had us remember this day and now our oldest Anne is carrying on the tradition and waking us with cocoa and muffins….we also put up our Christmas lights outside the house on this day as my family did every year on the Festa of Santa Lucia, when I was little…

The next week brings St. John of the Cross on the 14th …that great Carmelite reformer…on the 21st is the feast of yet another disciple…St. Thomas… heralding us unto the birth of Our Lord on the 25th, Christmas day. Yes, it is no coincidence that God has placed these saintly celebrations to help us prepare each day towards Christmas….enjoy your family traditions…add new ones this year and most importantly pray together, adore together and thank the prince of Peace…our Lord Jesus Christ, Emmanuel!

Transformed by “The Hidden Power of Kindness”

Have courage and be kindLast Mother’s Day I received a lovely necklace from my children that had a hand stamped medal with the inscription “have courage and be kind,” the words and theme from the recent Cinderella movie.  The kids know how much kindness means in this world and in our families.  They know how I hold it to be preeminent in all their words and actions. Long ago I was introduced to the prolific writer, Fr. Lawrence Lovask. The same priest who wrote the dear little children’s booklets, St. Joseph Picture Books, that we all know and love, wrote with clarity and a mind to the practical for adults too!

kindness-1Transform yourself — and the world — through kindness! Kindness counts. If you have trouble acting with the consistent kindness our Lord expects, your relationships with God and those you love may be suffering. Probably you just can’t find the time — and can’t ever seem to develop the patience — that you need in order to be consistently kind amid the irritations that afflict you daily. That’s why this book is such a godsend. You’ll learn how to be kinder, even in difficult circumstances.

kindness-boys-on-path

There’s nothing complicated or magical about learning to be kinder; it just takes greater attention to the things that you do and how you do them. The Hidden Power of Kindness shows you how to become more aware of even your most offhand daily actions. You’ll find simple, step-by-step, and spiritually crucial directions for how to overcome the habitual unkindness that creeps — undetected — into the behavior of even the most careful souls. You will grow towards holiness with these beautiful and practical step-by-step instructions for overcoming all forms of unkindness and meanness.

You’ll learn:

Four ways you can become more considerate . . . immediately!

Sympathy: why it’s your spiritual responsibility to show it to others — and five ways you can start doing so.

Three things to do — and three things you must not do — in order to grow kinder quickly.

Four surprising reasons why it’s spiritually dangerous to criticize others.

Three sure-fire remedies to eliminate sinful anger from your life.

Seven ways you can turn to your own spiritual benefit the wrongs that others do to you.

Six ways you can find and root out the hidden envy that may be choking your spirit right now.

And much more to help you grow kinder — and holier!

Also includes a 67-question self-examination you can use to monitor your progress in growing kinder and holier! (.epub, 256 pages, high school+)


“This work cannot fail to influence for the good all who are indirectly or directly touched by it.” – Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln “This wonderful book increases our insights into the wonders of the message that speaks so powerfully to us: ‘Love is patient, love is kind . . .’ ” – Sr. Mary Rose McGeady, Covenant House

Speaks passionately about the nature of true kindness.” – Publishers Weekly

Fr. Lovasik’s book on kindness clearly shows that kindness is love put into practice, and traces how kindness must begin in our thoughts, be communicated in our words, and reach its fullest expression in our daily actions. This book is made to order for anyone seriously wanting to respond to the present movement of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth for Christ!” – Rev. Andrew Apostoli