Hot Cross Buns…One a Penny…Two a Penny

Hot Cross Buns

I just finished mixing up my dough.  In the almost six years that I’ve been here at St. Anne’s, it’s become tradition that I make hot cross buns to serve for our residents’ snack on Holy Thursday afternoon.  Actually, they have traditionally been a food for Lent and Good Friday especially.  However, serving a special homemade treat seems more appropriate, to us here, for Holy Thursday rather than during the solemn fasting of Good Friday.  Also, Holy Thursday is the day we gratefully remember the first Eucharist, when Christ gave the “Bread from Heaven” for the first time.  To me, it seems fitting that residents enjoy these little breads on that day.

This time of the liturgical year is busy and a bit stressful since I serve as sacristan here, but I still like to take the time to make Hot Cross Buns.  It’s a kind of neat way of keeping our Catholic cultural traditions alive.  I must confess, I’ve usually cheated in the past, using frozen sweet bread dough, but this year I’m doing them from scratch!  I blame it, in part, on last month’s pretzel-making.  I have a few yeast packets left over that I might as well use up. My other reason for not “cheating” this year is the hope that the raisins will stay in place better if I can knead them right in as I mix the dough.  In the past, I’ve had some of them pop out and there would be raisins left on the pans. 🙂

I’d like to share some history about Hot Cross Buns which I found some years back.  I regret that I no longer have the source(s) to document.  

Hot cross buns have quite a history, within Christianity and even mixed with pagan traditions (Incan, Egyptians, Saxons and possibly even Roman roots).  As with many things, the church adopted Hot Cross Buns during their early missionary efforts to pagan cultures. They re-interpreted the “cross” of icing which adorns the bun to signify the cross of Jesus.” The practice of eating special small cakes at the time of the Spring festival seems to date back at least to the ancient Greeks.”

One source noted the Christian roots in the 1100s when a monk placed the sign of the cross on buns to honor Good Friday, known at that time as the “Day of the Cross.”  Another source dates this event to the 1300s.  “Hot cross buns” became popular in England and Ireland, and later in the United States.

These buns have an interesting connection with the persecution of Catholics in 16th century England.  When Catholicism was banned, people could be tried for “Popery” because they marked the cross on their Good Friday buns.  They came up with an excuse for continuing the practice, saying that it was necessary so for the buns to properly rise.

One thing connected with this history which I found especially interesting follows: It was a universal custom (and still is in Catholic countries) to mark a new loaf of bread with the sign of the cross before cutting it, in order to bless it and thank God for it.  What a neat custom!


Weaving Memories & Prayers: Palm braiding traditions

We are most grateful to our Sr. Jean Louise for
her beautiful reflections shared below.


On Saturday morning before Holy Week, while waiting for penitents to come for confession, the pastor of Little Flower Parish in Rugby, Fr. Tom Graner, can be seen reaching into a long plastic bag to get another palm to braid.  He is making roses, pinecones and several other designs to decorate the altars and to give to the homebound and elderly whose fingers aren’t so nimble any longer. Fr. Tom told me he learned this from his late father; it is one of the connections he has with his father and his faith.  Their tradition included gathering up the old palms from last year, burning them in an old Crisco can, and spreading the ashes on the garden, which Dad would then proceed to turn over by forkfuls in preparation for planting.

One of the beautiful traditions of our Church is that of braiding the blessed palms after Mass on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the day we commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Jesus had just raised his friend, Lazarus, from the dead; the people wanted to see Lazarus.  The next day they heard Jesus was coming into the city for the Passover so they met him. Jesus mounted the colt which the disciples had found for him, and rode into the city amid cheers of “Hosanna, Hosanna to the Son of David.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Gospel of John 12:12-16).  These blessed palms, which the faithful wave during the reading of the first Gospel at Palm Sunday Mass, are then taken home and placed in each room where they are cherished as sacramentals, which the  Catechism of the Catholic Church states (No. 1667) whereby ‘‘various occasions in life are rendered holy.”  Some people like to leave the palm branches long, to place behind the crucifixes in their home.  Other families braid them, even during the homily at Mass!  In our family, Mother always started the braid for each of us nine kids in the car on the drive home from Mass.  By the time the twelve miles were traversed, the palms were all braided and each child had a ‘pine cone’ for one of the rooms of our home.

I asked several people of the parish where I serve, St. Theresa the Little Flower of Rugby, about their palm braiding experiences.  One middle-aged woman told me “I struggle every year.  I want to braid them, but have trouble getting them started.”  Another younger, 30-something woman told me, “I love to do it, but I have to relearn again every year!”

One young grade-school boy made them to order for people, creating crosses, roses, and other delicate Christian symbols.  Now married, and the father of two children, I presume he is passing on the tradition to another generation of Catholics.  When I lived at the provincial house in Hankinson word got around that I liked to braid palms; one year I had more than 30 ‘orders’ to complete, for various German-born Sisters who were in charge of house-keeping in the convent and guest rooms.  In their native parishes of southern Bavaria, they used pussy willow branches on Palm Sunday morn to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, so our tradition of palm braiding was not natural for them!

I discovered the palms can even be soaked in cold water in the bathtub overnight if one can’t get them all braided on Palm Sunday afternoon!

Various resources are available for learning to braid palms. There must be tutorials on YouTube!!  Have a blessed Holy Week and a glorious Easter!

Sister M. Jean Louise, OSF

Inspiring Words of Pope Francis

Pope Francis Consecrated Life

Pope Francis recently spoke some beautiful, inspiring words, in his Meeting with the Clergy, Men and Women Religious and Permanent Deacons gathered in the Cathedral in Naples. Although no English translation had been posted, I could get the gist of it through an automated online translator. I’d like to share some of what I found most touching:
“You spoke of the lack of vocations, but testimony is one of the things that attracts vocations. “I want to be like that priest, I want to be like a nun:” The testimony of life. A comfortable life, a social life doesn’t help us.
Fraternity is not easy in the convent…The devil tempts us always with jealousy, envy, dislikes, likes, so many things that do not help us to make a real brotherhood and so we give a testimony of division between us.” The pope went on to speak against gossip in community.
Reading these remarks reminded me of a threefold check system I once heard to use in deciding whether or not to say something: “Is it true? Is it nice? Is it necessary?” You should be able to answer in the affirmative to at least two of these questions, or else you should leave the thing unsaid.
The pope also spoke of the necessity of joy and of its role in drawing others to Christ and to the Gospel.
“The joy of my life is full, the joy of having chosen well, the joy that I see every day that the Lord is faithful to me. When I’m not faithful to the Lord, I access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” Pope Francis also stressed the importance of adoration and worship, not just always asking for things.
He further remarked that “the Church is not an NGO, but it is the bride of Christ, which has the greatest treasure: Jesus. And her mission, her reason to exist is this: to evangelize, that is to bring Jesus. Worship, love for the Church and being missionary are simultaneously important, the Pope shared.
He also said that “You should always find time to stay in front of the Tabernacle, stand there in silence, [to see] Jesus’ gaze, which renews and revives us. And if your stand before Jesus troubles us a little, it is a good sign…” We want to be open “channels” through which flows the love and grace of God, not putting ourselves in the middle, only to become the “screens” that do not facilitate the encounter with the Lord…Your daily gratitude to God finds expression in the desire to attract hearts to Him, and to accompany them on the journey.”

And this is supposed to be Spring?

snow outside cconvent

This morning, snow flakes were falling, covering the ground…and this is supposed to be the first day of Spring??!!  I remember, as a kid, hearing that you’re supposed to actually be able to balance an egg on end on this day, the spring equinox.

Today, we begin the Spring season and are over half way through the liturgical season of Lent.  Did you know that the word “Lent” can be translated as spring?  It is said to come from the old English term for “the lengthening of days,” a.k.a. Spring.

As we await the renewal of the land with disappearing snow, green grass, and budding trees, we hope also for the renewal of our hearts as we prepare to commemorate our Lord’s passion and ultimately His resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit.  Did you know, that through our Lenten time of penance, we unite ourselves “each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert (ccc 540)?

So, how do we cooperate in the renewal of our hearts?  The Catechism mentions “spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works)” as fitting practices for this time.  Lent is a time of penance, of conversion (1438).  St. Francis encourages us to this conversion throughout the year.  Our Rule exhorts us: “Let them deny themselves (cf. Mt. 16: 24) as each has promised the Lord.”  As Franciscan Religious, we are actually “called to make greater efforts in [our] observance of the precepts and counsels of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Ch. !)

I teasingly asked a visitor today: “Did you order this snow?”  He answered that we really do need the moisture.  His positive, grateful response resonates with the words of a familiar song for the beginning of Lent, “Ashes:”
Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain;
Though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we’ll use for growing…

Sharing a story…Sr. Genevieve

Sr. Genevieve is a retired teacher (having worked 65 years in education) who now lives at our provincial house in Hankinson, ND.  When my parents were there last weekend, my mom took the opportunity to visit with her and hear her story so we could share it with you. 

Sr Genevieve

Sr. Genevieve had three sisters and a brother (one sister was a twin).  They were raised on a farm near Kent, Minnesota.

As a child, she loved to read books about saints, especially children saints, and wanted to be like them.  Her mother provided the books for her children.  However, their mom was sick a lot and needed help at home.  She would pray the rosary every night with the children; she always prayed her children would know their vocation and follow it.  Early on, even in grade school, Sr. Genevieve had a premonition of being a sister.

After 8th grade, Sr. Genevieve took a year off from school, helping her mother who needed assistance at home.  She believed she would be a sister but didn’t know where to go.  They only had money for either her or her twin to go on to school.  Her twin was always the leader and Sr. Genevieve followed in her footsteps.  It seemed logical to her that she should go on because her twin sister was better at cooking, sewing, etc than she.

Their older sister (our Sr. Mary James) had joined the convent, and when Sr. Genevieve went to visit, she had a tour.  In what is now the switchboard office, it came to her that this was where she was to stay; she knew she would become a sister here – at St. Francis Convent in Hankinson.  So Sr. Genevieve began her freshman year at the school there.

This was a very hard time for her because she got so homesick.  At that time, they weren’t able to go home nearly as often as now.  Sr. Genevieve was quiet and shy and the other sisters mostly spoke German, which she didn’t understand.  During this difficult time, she grew close to the Lord.  Later, because of World War II, the sisters were not allowed to speak German and it became easier for her.  Her parents could visit, once in a while, but they would bring their own food as it was scarce at the convent.

She finished high school and became a teacher.  Her greatest challenge was teaching high school math.  She took a few classes at the college during two summers – they were taught special classes to teach, cramming 3-4 years into a short time.

In her religious life, what she most enjoyed was the prayer life, retreats, workshops, and teaching vacation Bible school (preparing the children for first confession and Eucharist – they were so sweet and innocent.)

Thank you, Sr. Genevieve, for your Fiat, your “yes!”


Interview by Kathy Neumann

What do you say…How’s your Lent going?

After I asked this question Friday (having reached the halfway mark), I got some differing responses.  However, most people didn’t say they were doing wonderfully.  I guess we all need to echo the tax collector’s prayer in Saturday’s gospel:  “…be merciful to me, a sinner.”


Although our Franciscan Rule exhorts us: “Let them deny themselves as each has promised the Lord,” I’ve found that saying “no” to myself, and not inventing creative excuses can really be a challenge. So, what are some effective ways to fight temptation to give into our desires? A few things come to mind:

  • First, pray: calling on the Holy Name of Jesus or making the Sign of the Cross is a great idea when facing temptation.  We need to pray and trust in God’s help, rather than in ourselves.
  • Also, “avoid the near occasion of sin” – Put the cookie jar or the candy dish away – don’t have it easily accessible.
  • Make a resolution, maybe just for a short time (for this morning) – Dear Jesus, for love of you, I’m not going to eat any chocolate bars this morning. Please help me to follow through.” Isn’t it easier to stick to a concrete resolution than just a vague thought of “I probably shouldn’t do that.”

One final point that comes to mind from Friday’s liturgy: Love is worth more than any sacrifice. I don’t want to get caught up in exterior penances and forget to be charitable toward my neighbor.  So, maybe I haven’t done the bast so far this Lent. I pray I may be more faithful in the weeks to come.  Let’s pray for each other!

“Prayer, penance and the example of their own life”

Sister praying

Last weekend, I posted a poll, asking “In their work of building up the Body of Christ, religious do this first by what? Most respondents got the answer right, choosing “Prayer, penance and the example of their own life.” Only one person thought that another reason was primary (education of children). My question in this poll drew from the Second Vatican Council’s decree, Christus Dominus, which states:

  • “All Religious have the duty, each according to his proper vocation, of cooperating zealously and diligently in building up and increasing the whole Mystical Body of Christ and for the good of the particular churches. It is their first duty to foster these objectives by prayer, works of penance and the example of their own life…”

Our society is big into “producing.” People’s worth, unfortunately is measured by what the “produce” and how “successful” they are. All of us are subject to the trap of this mind frame. However, religious life, like other human life, cannot be reduced to “what we do.” Relationships are primary: first, our relationship with God, and relationships with others.

The third chapter of our congregation’s constitutions explains well the role of prayer in our religious life: “[I]individual private prayer…strengthens our loving friendship with Christ, helps us to achieve unity, and strengthens us in fulfilling our responsibility toward the Church and the world…Our prayer should help us to remain united with Him in all that we do.” Communal prayer is also important, as our Constitutions state, “Our communal prayer is the center and the source of strength for our communities.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Sisters continue involvment in pro-life efforts

Our Sisters have a history of dedication to the pro-life movement, fostering respect for the sanctity of all human life.  In Hankinson, our Sisters are again engaged in efforts to help the fight against abortion, holding the third annual Hankinson-Lidgerwood Right to Life “Spaghetti Splurge” in their Providence Auditorium.  This event will be held Sunday from 10:30 to 1 and proceeds will benefit local pro-life efforts.


A wonderful spiritual reading pick: St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s “The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ”

St. Alphonsus Liguori

As Dillingen Franciscans, “we derive inspiration and enrichment for our religious life from spiritual reading; therefore we devote at least two hours a week to such reading. (Constitutions 3.11) This reading doesn’t always have to be something new, either; we may re-read the same book multiple times during our lifetime. I have done this with St. Alphonsus’ classic, “The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ,” though not necessarily in its entirety. We have a copy in the St. Anne’s chapel and I am using it again this Lent.  It was written in 1761, but offers meditations on Christ’s passion which are excellent for use even today.

St. Alphonsus’ beautiful, impelling, work draws from the words of scripture and of saints before him.  Below I will quote but one touching passage shared by this Neapolitan saint.

“…He chose to die, not only for all men, but for [me] in particular: He loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.    Yes, he has loved me…and for my sake he gave himself up to die. And thus ought every one of us to say…that God has loved every individual man with the same love with which he has loved the world…So that each one of us is under a great obligation to Jesus Christ for having suffered for every one, as if he had suffered for him alone….O Lord! I thank Thee, and I love Thee, and I hope to thank Thee for it, and to love Thee forever in that blessed country.”

Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe

I’ve had a few people wanting the recipe for the pretzels so I thought I’d post it here:
They are best fresh.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 and 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet active instant yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
4 cups flour
coarse sea salt for sprinkling


Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Mix all ingredients except coarse salt.  Knead dough well.  Let rest and raise for ½ hour.  Make long ropes and shape like pretzels.
Preheat oven to 375.  Boil for 30 seconds or more in a bath of baking soda and water(about ½ c. soda to 8 c. water).  Sprinkle with coarse salt.  Bake on cookie sheets at 375 for 25 min. or until nicely golden. ​  You can serve them warm, and even add cinnamon and sugar.