Christmas - Related Content

Bambino Bread to Celebrate the Centenary of Greccio

Monday, November 27th 2023 6:00 am

2 C lukewarm milk
2 packages (3 and 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
¼ C sugar
1 beaten egg
¼ C (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 tsp salt
5¾ to 6½ C all-purpose flour or bread flour


1.    In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle yeast over milk and stir to dissolve. Let stand for 5 minutes to develop.
2.    Add in sugar, egg, butter, and salt and mix well. One cup at a time, add 5 cups of flour and beat thoroughly after each addition until flour is incorporated. Add enough of remaining flour to make a soft dough that is slightly sticky.
3.    Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour as necessary to keep dough manageable. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until dough is smooth and satiny.
4.    Lightly oil the surface of the dough and place it back into rinsed bowl and cover with a clean, dry towel. Allow to rise in a warm place free from drafts until doubled, about 60 minutes.
5.    Punch dough down and divide in half. (The recipe makes 2 breads so you can gift one to a neighbor!)
6.    Roll each half of the dough into a rope about 24 inches long, and form the braid as illustrated below.
a)    Form the rope into the shape of a circle with a long 6” - 8" “tail” put under and over the top of the circle toward the right as in Illustration 1.
b)    Take the bottom of your circle,  and turn it toward the left to make what was a circle into the shape of the number “8”.  This is difficult to describe, so look at Illustration 2.  The tail remains at the top right. 
c)    Next, take the end of the long “tail” and move it behind your dough until you can pop the end of the tail through the bottom hole in your “8” shape as in Illustration 3.  This end should form the bambino’s head peeking out from blankets or "swaddling clothes".  


7.    Carefully, place the shaped braided bambino on a lightly greased baking sheet, using one or more large spatulas or a unrimmed cookie sheet.  Cover with a clean, dry towel and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled.  This should close up any gaps in the braid and resemble the finished bambino.
8.    Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes.  Brush with melted butter to make the surface shine.

To simplify the project:
The slow way of making bread dough is part of the fun of this project, but if time is a deal breaker, frozen bread dough can be used to skip the first steps.  Place one frozen loaf in a large sealed zip lock bag or covered dish and thaw in the fridge overnight.  Each loaf makes two “bambinos”.

OR Use an easy Pizza Dough recipe, such as the one that follows, which is enough for 1 "bambino" or 1 large pizza crust. 
Add 1 T yeast to 1 ¼ C of warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.  
Stir in 1 T sugar or honey and 1 T olive oil.
Add 3 C all-purpose flour or bread flour.  
Knead, let rise as in steps 3 – 8 above. 

This Advent and Christmas season is special for Franciscans.  We celebrate that 800 years ago in the Italian village of Greccio, a humble brother named Francesco from nearby Assisi created the first live reenactment of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  I
In a cave in the Umbrian hillside, farmers offered Brother Francis the setting and animals to make simple and loving tribute to the humanity as well as the divinity of the Christ Child.  The creche or manger scene has become a meaningful tradition for Christians all over the world and calls for awe and wonder at the humility of Jesus.
Francis’ simplicity still invites us to embrace the mystery that God became human in a simple and somewhat precarious setting.  Divine love was born on earth as “God in the flesh”.  What could be a more life-changing?

This recipe for Bambino Bread is from Father Dominic Garramone, OSB.   Father Dominic,   the Bread Monk, is a Benedictine priest at Saint Bede Abbey in Peru, Illinois.  He teaches High School drama and his cookbooks, blog, and bread demonstrations are a witness to the Benedictine life of prayer and work.  His latest book is ‘Tis The Season To Be Baking (Reedy Press).

As you may know, FSPA is involved in several events Honoring 800 Years of Tradition.  Click here for more details about: 
Nov. 29 - Dec. 17          The Greccio Experience: A Display of Nativity Scenes from Around the World
Dec. 4 - Dec. 15            Community Mural: A Nativity-Based Paint-by-Number Experience for All
Dec. 4 - Dec. 21            Baby Item Drive: Echoing the Love and Care Shown to the Holy Infant
Dec. 10                        Lighting of Mayo Clinic Health System's CAMS Building
Dec. 10                        Franciscan Night at La Crosse's Rotary Lights Holiday Display

Enjoy an article by Annette Mikat on The 800 Year Legacy of the Creche.

One more fact that impresses me:  Did you know that Bethlehem means “house of bread”?  The Word of God made flesh is born in a manger, a feeding trough, to feed us with his divine presence in the Eucharist, in the Community and in all the poor and lonely of this world. 

Advent light and joy: the vocation that may shine from deep inside you

Thursday, December 15th 2016 3:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Can you feel the energy in the air as we continue our journey of Advent towards the celebration of Christmas? It reminds me of dragging my feet across the carpet and experiencing a small shock of static electricity when I touch another object or person. These little jolts serve as tiny wake up calls to the present—where I am and what I’m doing (which is laughing or shrieking, depending on the intensity of the charge).


The Scripture passages for the Third Sunday of Advent are powerfully charged too. We hear from Isaiah (35:1-6A, 10) encouragement to rejoice all that we have been waiting for because it’s here. Put on your party clothes, play your favorite song and dance out of the pure joy of being alive today! Shake off any remaining fear and let it permeate your soul! Sure, you may get a few curious looks but who knows—maybe a spontaneous, two-minute dance party can reignite delight lost in the piles of paperwork, emails and texts. After all, joy is contagious.

This week, in the words of the Gospel of Matthew (11:2-11), concern is transformed into joy as Jesus sends John the Baptists’ disciples back to him with good news. I imagine them with effervescent excitement, in animated conversation, rushing their way back to tell John. But let’s stop and take a breath for a moment. This stretch along the road of Scripture is a great place in which to pause; to reflect upon and rejoice in affirmation you’ve received for endeavors you’ve poured your life energy into. How did you feel? Did you bubble over with excitement? I did, when I ministered as a pastoral associate. Each week during Advent, we invited parishioners to come through the doors and breathe; to take time to connect with God and set worry, the commercial hustle and bustle, aside. I’ll always cherish the witness to such joy I was so fortunate to experience.

The searing questions we hear on the lips of Jesus are held in tension with this sense of Advent joy. Caught in this whirlwind of emotions from somewhere deep inside there is opportunity for “Ah ha” moments. One can imagine the faces of those gathered around Jesus curling into smiles as they realize the joy of the divine secret revealed, and their own discovery of what this news means for their own lives. The gift and the receiving and the rejoicing already existed before them, just as it is for us over 2,000 years later.

We know that the joy we feel radiating from the illuminated candles of Advent can be found at any moment, all around us. Each ecstatic experience has the power to reignite the hope that lies—sometimes dormant—within us, and encounters of the divine can be conduits of discernment.  Stop and feel the current that powers your heart as you visit congregations and explore possible mission-motivated ministries—the vocation that may shine from deep inside of you.

So this week, as you take in the reflection of the light of Advent, let it illuminate all the joy in your life.

Where is the joy in your heart leading in discernment?

Can you see what triggers that eternal spark?

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22nd 2016 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

The hope and conversion in Christmas

Thursday, December 8th 2016 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

I am a fan of holiday movies. In a span of two hours plots develop with a challenge in the life of the main characters that invites reflection, followed by a new choice. Usually the story has a happy ending but not before they face the reality of the situation before them. It’s the lesson of conversion dressed up in holiday clothing; a Gospel value renewed for the season. 

I also enjoy Advent, the second week of which is now upon us. The dual message of Scripture is hope and conversion—hope, even when we are asked to examine the truth of who we are. In light of this wonderment I’m choosing to make time to continue unpacking the richness of Sunday’s readings—that which invites all of us to be in the present moment, not race ahead to Christmas as the commercial world advises. The messages we receive during Mass should not dissipate with the recessional. Our tradition calls us to allow the verses to stir in our hearts and move us to action throughout the week. 

Isaiah declares the transformation that will unfold with the coming of the Lord: an end to of domination and competition. I recently read an inspiring story about an athlete who competed with integrity; putting the unfortunate fall of a competitor before her own drive to victory. She personifies the time to come right now, today, as she made a choice countercultural in not only the world of sports but also in life.  This one act of kindness shines the light of Advent hope for all the world to see.


The Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12) summons us to take Isaiah’s message a step further. Herald of the Good News, John the Baptist cuts through facades and invites each person to the depth of Christian discipleship; to make way for the Gospel message in our hearts and in the world. The reading sounds harsh when we are also living in moments of happy Christmas anticipation; from driving around to see the lights adorning homes to watching holiday specials on television (I could curl up in front of the TV and watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies 24/7). We long to wrap ourselves in festive yuletide experiences; to leave anything that conjures negative feelings or remembrance of bad choices hidden away on the top shelf. After all, who wants to think about sin while eating cookies and listening to holiday music? It feels like a contradiction. But by listening to the wise advice of John the Baptist, one is reminded that such effort brings deeper reward.

This Advent season the invitation is clear—amidst the work we must also make way for hope in our hearts. Discernment is full of hope: hope of what God is calling you to; hope of what the church will receive in the gift of your life offered to others; hope of a new day when all will reach out to those in need. Each time you take time to examine who you are, what your motives are, you become a stronger herald of the Gospel no matter where discernment leads. John’s message of conversion is present in the experience. 

What will you do this week to take the messages of Isaiah and John the Baptist to heart in your discernment?  

What is your greatest hope—as gift to both yourself and to the world—for the outcome of your discernment?



Christmas Chip Cookies

Monday, December 19th 2022 6:00 am

Christmas Chip Cookies

1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar
1 C butter (2 sticks)
1 C vegetable oil
1 C flaked coconut
1 C regular oatmeal
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla 
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 pkg (12 oz) mixture of caramel and chocolate chips or 3/4 C each
3 1/4 C all purpose flour
1 C Rice Krispies


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and drop by spoonful onto a cookie sheet.
  2. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.

This chocolate chip cookie recipe was passed on by Bonnie Sacis to Sister Antona Schedlo. “The cookies just melt in your mouth”, says Sister Antona! Sounds like a sweet treat recipe for any time of year.

If you would like to be notified when we share new recipes, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post. Remember, we're always looking for new recipes, so keep sending them to!

Food and Memories

Monday, November 28th 2022 6:00 am

Food and Memories

I hope you had a memorable Thanksgiving and that you can savor all the moments of Advent and Christmastime. I want to share what The Seasoned Franciscan’s focus will be for the upcoming weeks with a story.

One year, I joined my quilting friends at a craft camp: like a hunting camp for crafters! I’m not a quilter, but I did bring a wooden box of my Mom’s recipe cards and newspaper clippings faded and shaggy. I was determined to organize and enjoy them. And it was an adventure! Besides sorting them into categories (there were 45 cake recipes!), smells and stories brought me back to her table and kitchen. I laughed and cried and peppered by friends with her presence throughout the weekend.

Have you ever looked through family recipes? What memories did you discover in this cake or that bread or in a special Christmas cookie? Food is a meaningful part of our lives, in particular during the holidays.

During December and possibly into 2023, The Seasoned Franciscan invites you to: send in a favorite Christmas cookie or other celebration recipe. We encourage you to share a story of the memories the recipe evokes. Send it to or bring it to the SRC reception desk.

Let’s explore how food brings us together. How favorite dishes help create community, make memories and carry the stories and values of people in a unique way. We saw this in recipes from the heritage of American Indian people. How do food and memories create a connection in your heritage?

Also, on November 28th at 7 pm, PBS will air a special called “Food and Memories” by Jerry Apps and his daughter Susan Apps-Bodilly. Check your local listings for the station if you get PBS Wisconsin OR go to and watch live on your computer.

Jerry is an author, storyteller and historian who has other specials on farm life and more. In this special, the Apps trace the food memories of their family that might spur a memory in you. Whether we grew up in town, in the city or in farm country, we can all relate to his memories around the table. Jerry says: “Food is so much more important than merely nutrition, so much more than something to eat.” Food can connect us to a much bigger story.

Learn more about food and culture:

Unless we descend from Native Americans, we all come from immigrants, right? We can look back at how food expresses our origins. To learn more about immigrant food cultures other than white European, check out another favorite PBS series called No Passport Required.

In this series, Chef Marcus Samuelson goes to major US cities to explore how immigrant populations keep culture and values alive through food. An Ethiopian adopted by a Swedish family, Chef Marcus has a unique sensitivity to how food expresses identity. He visits Philadelphia’s Italian American sub-culture through delis, food “clubs” and restaurants. In Houston, he explores Nigerian and West African food traditions. He does all of this with great questions, respect and a sense of fun.

Here are some of his travels for surprising cultures and food traditions. Go with him to Boston for Portuguese, Brazilian and Cape Verdean food, Las Vegas for Chinese, Chicago for Mexican, LA for Armenian, Seattle for Filipino, New Orleans for Vietnamese, Detroit for Middle Eastern, Queens, NYC for Indo-Guyanese, Miami for Haitian, and Washington, DC for his own Ethiopian foods. Marcus shows us the connections between food, culture and identity in an educational and fun adventure: no passport required.

If you would like to be notified when we share new recipes, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post. Remember, we're always looking for new recipes, so keep sending them to!

Discernment and Advent: is your heart ready for the celebration?

Thursday, December 20th 2018 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration


"... a visual sign of what was to come."



Image courtesy of Daisies & Pie

When I was young child, we began the month of December at school by making green and red construction paper chains — learning how to mark time link-by-link until Christmas. We arrived at the classroom each morning ready to tear away another slip of red or green and inch closer to the big day. I imagine the ritual, a visual sign of what was to come, curtailed our continual Christmas count-down questions for the teacher. It was a reminder — a connection of our fervent dreams to the special time to come. Looking back at the experience I realize it also helped us learn how to wait for something together, as a group. Without fancy theological concepts in our seven-year-old brains, we became a community of believers. 

Now, in our fourth week of Advent, the readings serve as a link in salvation history. The Old Testament prophet Micah is the wise teacher reminding the faithful of a time to come. They too struggled with how long the wait would be. But hope withstands like a long, invisible chain, linking the moments until the celebration can begin.

In the Gospel, we skip ahead in time to beyond the angel’s visit to Mary and her “yes” to becoming the mother of Jesus. She wastes not a moment; runs straight out the door, bursting with excitement to share the joyful news with her cousin Elizabeth. And in nine short months, Mary beholds the face of God in the birth of Jesus. 

Each Advent, over 2,000 years after Jesus‘ birth, we recall this story and challenge ourselves to make room for Jesus in our hearts. Time is of the essence as this year the day of is just a mere 24 hours after the fourth Sunday of Advent. The moment is now upon us. Is your heart ready for the celebration you have been anticipating?

For additional pondering this week ...

How will the celebration of the birth of Jesus change your life, not just a month in your calendar of events?

How does Mary’s example of moving on God’s invitation without hesitation inspire you to take the next step in your own vocational call?

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link,, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series!

Joy in the waiting

Sunday, December 15th 2019 9:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


What experiences in your life inspire trust and new discernment steps?


Image courtesy

Joy is contagious. Ask a child you know, “How do you feel with Christmas just two weeks away?” Their eyes light up; they dance in place as joy beyond words escapes their little body, their whole being. It’s a jubilance that many of us share on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice! The rose-colored candle on the Advent wreath casts a warm reassuring glow as there is joy in the waiting.

And it’s a joy that can also fill discernment of religious life.

The prophet Isaiah exuberantly expresses the providence of God in our first reading. With lavish care, God shows his great love with not just one small example but with expansive artistry that transforms the parched, scorched, barren spaces in our lives to be places of great beauty.  

Pondering the magnificence of this image, I can’t help but recall the photos of the super bloom that happened in California this past March. The images of the flowers I saw online were captivating, the colors amazing. They gave me a sense of hope amid continual snow showers still occurring in Wisconsin at the time; thoughts of spring sure to come encouraged me every time I had to pick up my shovel. Signs of hope in the midst of trial aid the cultivation of resilience and patience.

James, in the second reading, reminds us that waiting produces maturity and bounty. Patience also generates endurance. While we desire the days leading to celebration to pass quickly, time moves at the pace of its own wisdom. In discernment, you may be waiting in joyful anticipation for a sign revealing to you where you see yourself living fully into the person God calls you to be, to the congregation in which you can best fulfill your gifts. Visiting and praying and pondering are actions, investments, essential for finding your future happiness. 

As we turn our attention to the Gospel, to John the Baptist, all of these gifts  — joy, patience and endurance  —  come to fruition. He has been faithful to his prophetic mission and the world rewarded him with imprisonment. He dared to speak the truth to power. You may ask, where is joy in prison? John did not lose all hope: he took action by sending his disciples to learn more about Jesus.

Can you imagine the joy his disciples carried as they rushed back to share the good news of the growing belief in Jesus with the man who inspired their own choices to follow Jesus? The joy of good news is contagious.

Perhaps when you share the good news of your discernment, others may also be inspired to consider religious life.

Advent in action: 

What are the joys you celebrate in your discernment on this Gaudete Sunday?

What experiences in your life, those that deepen joy and your relationship with God, inspire trust and new steps in discernment?

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link,, and join the conversation.

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