All of my ancestors are Polish to the best of my knowledge, and one of my grandparents was born in Poland. So my family is solidly Polish-American. One of our Polish traditions is the blessing of the Easter foods basket on Holy Saturday. I don’t remember the blessing of the baskets from when I was a really young child in Detroit, but my mom probably did it, or my grandma did. She belonged to one of the lovely churches of Poletown, St. Hyacinth.
We moved away from the city long ago to a small town. It was a predominately German town. At some point in our living here, one of the priests began to offer the Blessing of the Baskets, and we have been blessed to have that blessing ever since.
Each year we put basically the same types of foods in our baskets. We walked with them to the church and sat at the center aisle, setting our basket on the floor. We enjoyed all of the Easter flowers being set up on the altar for the Vigil Mass and watched to see how many people would participate in the blessing this year, and checked out their baskets. Each year the number of baskets would be different. Father would come out at the designated time with the Holy Water and we would pull back the basket covering and open the foods. The church smelled lovely with all of the sausages opened up! The blessings completed, and maybe a small food offering would be given to Father. We cover everything back up, head home and kept the blessed foods separated in the refrigerator for the morning meal. Then on Easter morning after Mass, we would sit down to a largely cold breakfast of our blessed foods. It’s a lovely tradition.
The foods we typically include are ham, eggs, bread, sausage, butter, candies, sometimes horseradish, and pierogis. It’s our tradition.
It wasn’t until this year that I learned that “our” tradition is very close to “the” tradition. Go figure!
A fellow parishioner gave me a copy of Swieconka – Blessing of the Baskets published in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Bulletin in Lapeer, Michigan in 2014:
Swieconka (sh-vee-en-soon-kah) is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions. Baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Easter evergreen. Poles take special pride in preparing a decorative and tasteful basket with crisp linens, occasionally embroidered for the occasion, and just enough boxwood and ribbon woven through the handle. Observing the beautiful foods and creations of other parishioners is one of the special joys of the event.
Basket Contents and Symbolism:
Maslo/Butter: This dairy product is often shaped into a lamb (Baranek Wielkanocny), reminding us of the goodness of Christ that we should have toward all things.
Chleb/Easter Bread: A round rye loaf topped with a cross, symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Chrzan/Horseradish: Symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds, but sweetened with some sugar because of the Resurrection. (May be white or pink [w/ grated red beets].)
Jajka/Eggs and Pisanki: Indicate new life and Christ’s Resurrection from the Tomb.
Kielbasa/Sausage: A spicy sausage of pork products, indicative of God’s favor and generosity.
Szynka/Ham: Symbolic of great joy and abundance. (In addition to the large ham cooked for the Easter Meal, often a special small ham, called the Szynka Wielkanocny is purchased specially for the Swieconka basket.)
Slonina/Smoke Bacon: A symbol of the over abundance of God’s mercy and generosity.
Ser/Cheese: Shaped into a ball, it is the symbol of the moderation Christians should have.
Holy Water: Holy water is used to bless the home, animals, fields and used in religious rituals throughout the year.
A colorful ribbon and sometimes sprigs of greenery are attached.
The linen cover is drawn over the top and is ready for the trek to the blessing.
Whether or not you can claim some Polish blood in your veins, this is a lovely Easter tradition. I hope you consider creating your own basket and get it blessed. Many Easter blessings to you!
In the course of my own wellness journey, both personally and as a health coach, I have seen many references to certain holistic health methods as being New Age and therefore Catholics should stay away from them. I was shocked to see that modalities such as chiropractic and nutritional therapies are being labeled as New Age. Why would anyone call these methods New Age?
So, I searched the Vatican website and I found a document called Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the “New Age” by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. This is an extensive document, about 60 pages, on all things New Age. It begins with the sentence, “The study is a provisional report.” This report is not dogmatic in any way, yet certain circles have dogmatically used section 2.2.3. Health: Golden Living, to steer all Catholics away from any wellness modality that the New Age Movement has claimed as its own!
This section of the report acknowledges that “formal (allopathic) medicine today tends to limit itself to curing particular, isolated ailments, and fails to look at the broader picture of a person’s health: this has given rise to a fair amount of understandable dissatisfaction.” It goes on to say that the claims of the New Age Movement imply that if we treat our bodies properly we will never die. I don’t have a direct reference for that yet, but I did find the reference for the subsequent paragraph that labels all of the New Age holistic health approaches.
The report says: “There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric, others connected with the psychological theories developed in Esalen during the years 1960-1970. Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of “bodywork” (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualisation, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colours, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programmes and self-help groups.(25) The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy.”
The second quote came almost directly from New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought by Wouter J. Hanegraaff. Sadly, the coverage of New Age health methods in this book and in the Vatican report is a very small portion of each publication. I have to do further research on the sources in Hanegraaff’s book, and there are many.
Back to the listing of “New Age” approaches for promoting holistic health. I cannot comment on every approach; some are truly New Age. But many of them ARE NOT New Age. Sure, the New Age Movement has been in development since the Renaissance, and some of these approaches have come into existence since then, but timing does not equal association. Other approaches have existed as long as mankind. St. Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in the twelfth century, wrote a book on “various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, [and] metals” and many other natural substances. She was just named a Doctor of the Church a few years ago. A Catholic Saint is a New Age healer? I don’t think so. Rather, the New Age has adopted the writings of St. Hildegard, and we, the faithful of Holy Mother Church need to reclaim them.
Chiropractic and nutritional therapies are not New Age either, just more modalities claimed by the movement. Do you brush your teeth? That is as New Age as chiropractic. If you eat you need to brush your teeth. If you fall down or twist your back you need a chiropractic adjustment. Nutritional therapies: sure the New Age claims it, but that the writers of the Vatican report left it in their list of health methods to avoid really boggles my mind! Yes, people have had nutritional deficiencies and corresponding illnesses since the beginning of time, but we have them even more so now because the devil is part owner of the modern food industry. Yes, the devil. We have been brain washed to think that taste is the sole health factor in the food we eat. But most of the food we eat today is processed into empty calories, if it even has calories.
There is so much more to say on this topic, but I will end this post with this: Yes, there are New Age health therapies, and we need to be aware them. Not all of the practices and approaches listed above are New Age, BUT, we do need to be aware of the people offering health services, ANY health services, be they alternative or traditional health services. Your MD could be a New Age practitioner. You can either watch for clues in the suggestions they make for your care or you can interview your doctors and other health care providers and find out what belief systems they subscribe to. New Age is not limited to the approach, it also involves the personal beliefs of the people caring for you.
We have been wonderfully made by our God. Our bodies can heal themselves if they are treated properly. St. Augustine said: “Treat the body as if you are going to live forever, and treat the soul as if you are going to die tomorrow.”
Why is it awesome and fantastic that saints such as St. Francis de Sales (The Catholic Controversy: A Defense of the Faith) were able to evangelization and convert the Calvinists of Geneva in the 1500’s, but today we think that evangelization is the job of the Holy Spirit?
Why do some Catholics think that the Church needs to be “purified” of the lukewarm or cafeteria Catholics because their complaints are muddying our holy water?
Why are so many people afraid of the word “evangelization”?
How can we evangelize if we won’t talk about our relationship with Jesus? Maybe we don’t have a relationship with Jesus to talk about? What is a relationship with Jesus?
Is Jesus a real part of our life, and not just a name we use when exasperated?
How do we develop a relationship with Jesus? How do we develop a relationship with anyone? Isn’t communication a key component? How do we communicate with Jesus? How do we communicate with anyone?
What is the best way to communicate? Wouldn’t that be sharing stories from the heart? Sure not everybody can share their deepest thoughts with everyone, but if we think them then Jesus knows about them. Why don’t we take our thoughts a step further and share them with Christ?!
Did you ever receive a miracle, a saving grace, an ah-ha moment? Wouldn’t you consider those a gift from God? God communicates back to us in little miracles. He communicates to us via our conversations with others; via spiritual reading. Don’t those miracles give us a heavenly high?! Don’t you just want to share them with everyone? THAT is evangelizing!
Sharing Jesus. Yes, we have Catholic doctrine and sacraments and THE MASS! But we also have our little moments with Jesus. Share them! Bring others to Christ, today!
What is Evangelization, Really?
Many of us evangelize without even being aware of it, and at the same time we are put off by the word itself and stay away from anything that says “evangelization”. So what is it really? Saint Peter tells us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16). The key point here is being able to give a reason for our hope; THAT is evangelization! Some of us are good at expressing this hope and others need to learn how. While evangelization can mean speaking to strangers on street corners about Jesus, that is NOT the main goal of the New Evangelization that the popes have been promoting for several decades. Rather its purpose is to get us comfortable just talking about Jesus Christ, even at the dinner table. Many of us have lived a “private” Catholic life. We pray, but we don’t talk about religion or Jesus. Why is that? It’s like keeping your family private and never talking about them.
So it is time to become comfortable with the word evangelization. And it’s time to talk to each other about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, just like He is one of the family. He is the hope and joy that is within us, we should be bursting at the seams wanting to talk about our relationship with Him! We especially need to be able to share our love for Jesus in these troubled times. Many a person is struggling with one thing or another, and we need to give them a reason to hope!
Do you have trouble expressing the hope that is within you? Do you want to learn how to express it better? We have the perfect opportunity for you! The Blue Water Vicariate Evangelization Committee is hosting a Basic Evangelization Workshop presented by St. Paul Street Evangelization. Yes, I know. It says “street evangelization.” Sure, there may be a bit of that talk, but there will be people there who might be interested in that level of evangelization. The basis of basic evangelization is being able to express your hope in Christ to others in ordinary, everyday situations. You don’t need a special college degree, you don’t need to be an extrovert, you just need to love Jesus. Please join us! Friday, Oct. 9 (7pm-10pm) and Saturday, Oct. 10 (9am-3pm). Refreshments and a lunch on Saturday will be provided, all for FREE! The workshop will be at St. Mary’s in Port Huron, 1505 Ballantine West. For complete details and/or to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/basic-evangelization-workshop-presented-by-spse-bwvec-tickets-18477848743
The BWVEC is also hosting a Healing Service, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, at St. Stephen’s in Port Huron (325 32nd St.). Confession is at 6:15pm, Holy Mass at 7pm, Anointing of the Sick will be during Mass. Following Mass there will be prayer teams available to pray for you and there will be Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Registration is not necessary.
In reading the Te Deum, I got to the lines:
When you became man to set us free you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Jesus came to us through the Virgin, He opened her womb to give us the gift of salvation, by dying on the Cross and opening the gates of heaven.
Is there a theological parallel in these two openings? Can somebody point me to it? Thanks!
I mentioned this book idea several years ago. It’s always been on my mind, I just haven’t been very proactive with it…. Then the Holy Spirit sent me a little message to get cracking on it, and so it’s rolling. Here I’d like to present the opening chapter; the focus of the book. I’m not sure when it will be completed, but it is my primary focus these days. Comments are welcome! (Disclaimer – This article isn’t medical advice, nor a substitute for consulting with your medical practitioner.)
Do you reflect and ponder on your intended actions or do you just jump in head first? Does it depend on the action? There is a lot to think about and do to become healthy. It is a lifetime activity! It’s a mindset. It’s a way of life. And as with all activities, we need to build up to them. We can’t start at the end and we definitely can’t do all of the steps at once, that is a recipe for disaster.
We’ve all tried various diets and programs to get healthy and lose weight, but most of the time we end up going back to our old ways and our efforts were for naught. What we really need is to discover a new way of living. But I’m comfortable right now you might say. Are you really? We need to shake things up. We are a work in progress. Jesus came into the world not to affirm what the people of that day were doing, but rather, to go against the status quo. We, too, must go against the status quo, in our diet and lifestyle, in our mindset, in our spiritual journey. We need to break our complacent attitude! We don’t want to be stagnant like scummy pond water! We need to refresh ourselves; body, mind and soul!
We train and take classes for our job. We do maintenance on our cars and houses. We practice our tennis serve or golf swing. We spend time building relationships with the people around us. But how much time do we really spend nurturing our body, mind, and soul? The unit, our wholeness, our completeness. Like I always tell my dad, who’s on dialysis, he’s more than a kidney. We are much more than just our parts, and we are more than just physical parts.
We are physical and spiritual beings. We are in the world but not of the world. We are rational beings, unlike our animal brothers and sisters who live by instinct. We have to be reasonable in our decisions and actions and not just go with the flow, otherwise we might just get washed away. Our mind, body and soul are usually treated as separate entities. We feed our bodies and exercise. We study and work to use our minds. And we go to church on Sunday to nourish our soul. But really they are all interconnected.
If you’re stressed at work or home, you might be drawn to overeating to help deal with your problems. If you eat too much junk food, it can aggravate your mental state and make you hyper or lethargic. If you get too sick it can make you disinterested in attending church or praying. If you dabble in the occult it can drag your whole person down such that you wonder what’s wrong with you. We’re a tightly coupled being. We need to be totally holistic in our care of self. And since our potential or actual health problems can get so wound up in layers of twisted illnesses it is best to start out at the beginning and take baby steps to a new way of living. Yes, it just might be time to reinvent the wheel. The old wheel is broken. The treads are bare, the lug nuts are stripped or lost, and the car needs a front end alignment. We really want to have a smooth ride, but the old wheels keep jerking us around.
We aren’t cars though. We can’t just get a new set of tires and a front end alignment and be back in business. We need to start slow, take those baby steps. Take preliminary actions and reflect on what we are doing and what we should be doing and consider why we do what we do and why we might not want to change our ways. Our ways are set by our belief systems. Yes, religious beliefs, but also beliefs about what we think sickness and health is, beliefs about the integratedness of all of our life’s activities, beliefs about our interactions with others, and on and on. Our beliefs drive our choices and actions. What is it that we are doing and do we like it? If we don’t like it, then something has to change. And you can change it!
Before you get into the reflections and actions that follow, take a moment and document where you are at today. Get a journal or a notebook and just start writing. What is it about your life that attracted you to this book in the first place? What are you hoping to learn? Then write about everything else in your life right now. Your aches and pains, your hopes and joys, your concerns, your body appearance: thin and trim or fat and puffy. Do you have puffy eyes or blotchy skin, do your nails have ridges, is your skin dry and itchy, do you have flutterings or allergies. What foods do you usually eat, how much water do you drink? What about your attitude? Write about your anxieties, sadness, worries, accomplishments. How much do you laugh? How do you relate to your family and friends, your coworkers, strangers in the grocery store? What irritates you, what gives you joy, who do you admire, what do you want to change? What’s on your mind lately? What is your religious practice, do you attend church, pray privately, volunteer? What are your perceptions of food and life choices and how have they changed over time. This is a snap shot of you today, before you embark on this journey to wellness. Keep this journal handy. You’re going to regularly update it as you progress through your journey. Keep track of the reflections and actions that you try. How long did you do them, how are they working for you, how do you like them, are they growing on you? Will you have slip-ups? Probably. That’s okay. We’re human. We were all born with original sin. We fall. Getting back up is the key. We need to look for help. Don’t try to do it all alone.
Next, as you work your way through this book, don’t make it a marathon. And don’t discard it because one reflection or action just doesn’t sit right with you. You may not be ready for it, or it just might not be for you. Some things may need to ferment in your subconscious for a while, come back to them when you are ready. If something is “duh!”, then skip over it. Take your time. Know that we are all unique individuals. If you and a friend do this book together, know that at the get-go you will each gravitate to different things and make different progress. That’s okay! The world is a very diverse place for the diversity of its inhabitants. That’s why there are so many different diet options, so many different house styles, so many different spiritualities in the Church. Our bodies respond differently to the same things, our experiences make us cope with life differently. You need to find what’s right for you, and you can’t know what’s right for you unless you try different things. Yes, everybody needs to eat more vegetables, so get that one out of your head! Work through this book with a friend if you want to, but do not compare your progress to theirs. Your person will react in a different way and order than theirs. Be at peace with your progress.
Reflect and act at a steady pace. If you need to back track that’s fine too. This whole exercise is about reinventing yourself as you journey to wellness. Again, it’s not just physical wellness, but a holistic wellness, all of you: body, mind and soul. You may say I only need to lose weight. Okay. But you’ll be surprised as you move along and realize that being overweight goes deeper than the roll on your belly. Similar, but different, I remember the first time I went to see a chiropractor. My research told me that my diagnosed atrial fibrillation could be maintained/corrected by spinal adjustments instead of high blood pressure pills, which I didn’t want to take. I discovered that my whole spine was out of whack. I was under the false impression that I had good posture, when in fact I was downright crooked. Overtime I felt myself getting taller as the compressions were relaxed and the tilts were straightened! Compressions in all aspects of our life happen slowly over time and they become our “normal”. We need to discover our true normal.
And remember the journey part. This isn’t a marathon in more ways than one. It’s not about who gets there first, or even the finish line, it’s about the journey and staying on the narrow path. If our wellness journey ends, either we give up and fall back to illness or we die.
This journey won’t be easy. It may be unpleasant at times. But when you get that first, wow, this is how I should feel moment, it makes it all worthwhile! When you see that you can get rid of your puffy eyelids without surgery, there is great joy. Typically we just eat what’s in front of us because that is what we’re used to, all the while we’re miserable, either consciously or subconsciously. We don’t want to be miserable anymore! Are we striving for perfection? Of course! Will we get to perfection? Probably not. But whatever we do achieve is much better than where we were at. Does all this cautionary text make you want to say why bother? I’m sorry if it does. It’s not meant to. I just don’t want you do think there are all these promises attached to the reflections and actions of the book. They require effort and persistence on your part.
They also require patience. So many diets and plans offer quick weight loss or quick this or that. Quick weight loss is quickly refound. Let us progress through these steps slowly. One a day may sound reasonable, but two or three per week is better. You have to get used to the idea and the living with it. Too much at once and you’ll just throw in the towel. Give yourself time. Personally, I read about this stuff for years, my brain became immersed in it. I convinced myself that it would be good for me, and then I tried this and that. It was still difficult staying on the wagon, but I was convinced that I needed to get back on. Try a few steps per week, okay?
All we need is time, patience, persistence, an open mind, and a willingness to change. You have all that, right?! So. Are you ready?! It’ll all be worth it! Come on!!