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December 8

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Patron Saint of the United States
Brazil, Korea, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay

The Story of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the 11th century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the 18th century it became a feast of the universal Church. It is now recognized as a solemnity.

In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.

Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They pointed out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset.





Songs of the season:

The First Noel

Mary Did You Know



The Ladybug Legend!


Legends vary about how the Ladybug came to be named, but the most common (and enduring) is this:   In Europe, during the Middle Ages, swarms of insects were destroying the crops.  The farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help.  Soon thereafter the Ladybugs came, devouring the plant-destroying pests and saving the crops!  The farmers called these beautiful insects "The Beetles of Our Lady", and - over time - they eventually became popularly known as "Lady Beetles or Ladybugs".  The red wings were said to represent the Virgin's cloak and the black spots were symbolic of both her joys and her sorrows.



Moravian Christmas Cake (Cookies)

  • 3/4 cup butter and lard or shortening, mixed

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1 pint black molasses

  • 7 1/2 cups sifted flour

  • 4 Tbsp. ground cloves

  • 4 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

  • 4 Tbsp. ground ginger

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1 Tbsp. soda

  • 1/4 cup boiling water


  1. Cream butter and lard with sugar.

  2. Add molasses. Sift flour with spices and salt.

  3. Add soda to boiling water.

  4. Add flour mixture and soda water to creamed mixture. 

  5. Work well with the hands. 

  6. Cover and store in a cold place overnight, preferably longer.

  7. Roll to infinite thinness on board. 

  8. Bake on greased cookie sheets in moderate oven, 375 degrees, for a very few minutes or just until they begin to brown.

Note: This recipe calls for a hefty quantity of ingredients and produce batches and batches of cookies. If you’re considering whipping up a batch yourself, consider reducing the recipe by half.

Picadillo Empanadas of the Immaculate Conception


For the dough:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 8 oz, about 185 g cream cheese or fresh nata, at room temperature

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds

For the picadillo (makes about 4 cups):

  • 3 tbsp olive oil

  • 1/4 cup white onion, chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

  • 1 lb pork shoulder or butt, or combination of pork, beef and veal, ground

  • 3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt

  • 1 lb ripe tomatoes, pureed, or about 2 cups tomato puree

  • 2 cups chicken broth or water

  • Pinch of cumin

  • Pinch of ground cloves

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 1/4 cup Manzilla olives, chopped


To make the dough:
  • Beat the cream cheese with the butter in a mixer at medium speed, until it is creamy. Gently add the flour and salt and continue mixing for a minute more. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate from 15 minutes up to 24 hours.

  • After refrigerating, sprinkle flour over the countertop and roll out half the dough until its about 1/4 inch thick. For medium sized empanadas, cut out rounds of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Continue until all of the dough is used.

  • Grease a baking sheet with butter. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  • Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the picadillo filling into the center of each round. Brush the edges of the round with the beaten egg. Fold a side of the circle over the filling across the other side. Press with your fingers as you close. Without breaking the dough, press with a fork over the edges to seal and make a design.

  • Place the empanadas on the baking sheet. When you fill the baking sheet, lightly brush their tops with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

  • Bake the empanadas anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops have a golden tan and dough is cooked through. Serve hot.

To make the picadillo:
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a couple of minutes, until it becomes translucent and soft. Incorporate chopped garlic and saute for about a minute until it becomes fragrant. Incorporate the meat and the salt and let it cook for about 8 minutes, until cooked and lightly browned.

  • Pour in tomato puree and let it season, stirring often, for 5 to 6 minutes, until it has deepened its color, thickened in consistency and lost the raw flavor. Pour in the chicken broth or water, cumin, cloves and cinnamon. Stir well and let it cook 15 minutes more.

  • Add the raisins, almond and olives, mix well and taste for seasoning. Cook for 5 more minutes. If needed, add more salt. The filling should be nice and moist.

  • Just remember, once it cools, it will dry a little more as it will absorb the juices. Turn off the heat. You can make the filling up to two days ahead of time, let it cool, cover and refrigerate.

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