Happy Passover to our Jewish friends & family! Today we celebrated this Good Friday with our Little Flowers Girls Club. Our virtue of the month is Wisdom, and our saint is St. Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism. What better way to get to know her (and how she felt led into the Catholic faith) than to take a look at the types of foods her family would have had on their seder plate when they celebrated the Passover?
First we had a quick refresher of what Passover means and why our big brothers & sisters in the faith celebrate it. We also reviewed that this was the meal Jesus shared with His disciples when He gave us the Eucharist. As I explained each symbolic food to the girls, I asked them to “find” how that same symbol shows up in our faith life as Catholics.
- First we made the (hypoallergenic) charoset out of chopped apples, cinnamon, grape juice, and honey. This reminds us of how the Israelites had to mix things together to make the mortar they were enslaved to produce. As Christians, we remember that we are slaves to sin until we are born in Christ.
- Next we talked about the maror (our romaine lettuce was wilting, so we dipped into our Easter horseradish early) and how it reminds us that the Israelites’ slavery was bitter and took up all of their senses—they could “taste” nothing but the bitterness.
- Karpas: Some of the girls picked fresh parsley from our deck pots, and another mixed Kosher salt into a mug of water. Then we talked about how the parsley is green, the color of life, but the Israelites were sad about being slaves. That’s why the karpas (green vegetable) is dipped into the salt water. We missed the parallel with our baptism, but that’s probably because I didn’t think of it until now. Next year I’ll remember. Maybe.
- Our zeroah was a beet. I explained how usually it’s a piece of roasted meat on the bone to remind us of how the Israelites sacrificed a lamb for the Passover. The lamb’s blood would sluice down into a fountain of water at the base of the temple, and the blood and water would just pour out the side of the temple during all the Passover sacrifices. I asked the girls if they could think of anything in our faith as Catholics where water came pouring out the side of anything, and one guess correctly: Jesus on the cross, when His side was pierced. So what does that make Jesus? The new temple! They got it. I was so proud.
We also talked about how Jewish vegetarians use beets because of how their red juices remind us of the blood of sacrifice, and how we picked a beet over meat because as Catholics we do not shed animal blood on Lenten Fridays, in honor of the original Good Friday.
- The roasted egg, or beytzah was given a visual aid boost by my middle child, who picked it up while it was still warm and promptly dropped it. Among other things, the beytzah is a reminder that the temple was destroyed, and just like an egg can’t be put back together, neither can that temple. However, Jesus is the new temple and the new sacrifice, and He rose again and can’t be destroyed!
- Last came the matzoh, the unleavened bread that is eaten as a reminder of the speed with which the Israelites had to escape Egypyt. I showed the girls how three matzoh are placed together, and one of the girls immediately referenced the Trinity. Then I told them how the middle matzoh is broken in half—they immediately identified it with Jesus—and one piece is hidden, to be found at the end of the meal.
When all that was said, they each took helpings of the foods and sat down with cups of grape juice, and we talked about how wine plays a part in both the seder and our Mass. Then we talked about the ten plagues, each one taking away from the happiness of any innocent Egyptians who were hurt by them due to their pharaoh’s stubbornness. Then with our fingers we put ten drops of wine with our fingers for each of the plagues. Midway through, we had to make another batch of charoset. I’m a little weirded out that they also ate all the parsley. When it was time to find the afikoman, the hidden half of matzoh, I reflected on how these were little girls looking for missing bread, and how Mary Magdalen was a woman looking for her missing teacher in the garden that first Easter Sunday. I wonder if she needed as many hints to find Him as our club needed to find our afikoman–the mom who hid it was good is all I can say!
There was so much more that could have been said, because it’s such a rich experience. I’ve been blessed to have attended two seders in my life: one as a child and one as an adult. Each time I look at the seder, I learn something new about my Catholic faith. Jesus came not to abolish other religions but to fulfill them. Think of that next time you hear someone complain about how Catholics “hijacked” another faith’s celebration.
Okay, now for “Sensational Stuffed Shells”
The “sensational” part is not self-congratulatory. It’s a reference to the reality that some kids have different sensory needs, and we can either write them off as “picky” or try to find foods that meet those needs. My kids have hyposensitivity, so they prefer strong flavors. This recipe was written to fit that bill.
½ lb of jumbo pasta shells, cooked
24 oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 pint ricotta cheese
2 c mozzarella cheese, divided
2 eggs, beaten
1 T garlic powder (feel free to reduce this and all seasonings to your liking)
2 t each of dried parsley, thyme, oregano, basil
½ t salt
generous pinch of black pepper
Let shells cool enough to handle. Pour half of sauce into the crock of your slow cooker. Combine ricotta, 1 c mozzarella, eggs, and seasonings and spoon into cooled shells. Place shells seam side up into sauce. Pour remaining sauce over all and cook on low 4 hours. About ten minutes before serving, sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top.
No spiritual significance to this meal. After planning for our seder foods, I was all significanced out.