Easter lesson for kids at 375º

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Michelle DiFranco is a designer and the busy mom of three children. 

My daughter once asked me, “Mom, what is the best thing that’s ever happened to you?” I immediately answered with what most parents would say, “Well, of course, the day you were born!”

I often ponder that miraculous event that took place in my life. Of all the events of my life, the birth of my children remains the most powerful and beautiful in my memory. But of course, as Christians, we know even something as miraculous as childbirth actually pales in comparison to the single most important event in human history, something that has happened to all of us and the most important truth and proof of our Christianity — Christ’s resurrection. It is that which has given us “a new birth into a living hope.” (1 Pt 1:3)

But, of course, at her young age, I could have never expected my daughter to grasp the significance of Christ’s resurrection, right? Surely a reference to her own birth is a safer and more understandable response. I’m certain it makes more sense to wait for her to be a bit older before I bore her sincere question with some heavy response about human salvation.

Or does it?

It should never be too early to make the reality of our Christian inheritance known to children. I know that we are better able to grasp theology as our minds develop into adulthood, but children are smarter than we think. With the right tools and delivery, we can start them toward a better understanding of the most important, and beautiful, part of our life — our relationship with God.

One such way is to bake “resurrection rolls.” I wish I would’ve known about these when my daughter was much younger. These little gems are not only a great way to teach younger kids about the resurrection but also a quick and delicious sweet roll to make for any Easter gathering. How delicious? Well they aren’t going to be “the best thing that ever happened to you,” but they will rank highly on your list of Easter treats — and they certainly reference well the best thing that ever did happen to all of us!

These little gems are not only a great way to teach younger kids about the Resurrection, they are a quick and delicious sweet roll to make for any Easter gathering.

Resurrection rolls  

While baking, read Luke 23:50-56, 24:1-12 

  • 1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated crescent rolls 
  • Package of large marshmallows 
  • ¼ cup butter, melted  
  • ¼ cup sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 

SYMBOLISM  

Marshmallow – Body of Jesus  

Butter – Oils used in burial  

Sugar and cinnamon – Spices used in burial  

Dough triangle – Cloth used to wrap Jesus  

Baked roll with empty center – Empty tomb  

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or parchment paper. You may also use a cupcake tin. Separate dough into eight triangles and set aside. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.  

Dip each marshmallow into bowl of melted butter and roll in cinnamon-sugar. Place on each dough triangle. Pinch dough around marshmallow, sealing all edges. Make sure to seal well to prevent marshmallow from leaking.  

Brush tops of dough balls with remaining butter and dip in cinnamon-sugar. Place roll with the sugar side up on baking sheet (or in muffin pan).  

Bake for 13-15 minutes. The marshmallow melts into the dough, and the result is the appearance of an empty tomb upon breaking one in half. Best when served warm. 

COMING UP: A man for strengthening others

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When the choirs of angels led Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, into the Father’s House on September 3, I hope the seraphic choirmaster chose music appropriate to the occasion.  Had I been asked, I would have suggested the Latin antiphon Ecce sacerdos magnus as arranged by Anton Bruckner. The all-stops-pulled moments in Bruckner’s composition, deploying organ, brass, and full choir, would have been a perfect match for Paul Mankowski’s rock-solid Catholic faith, his heroic ministry, and his robust literary and oratorical style; the a capella sections, softly sung, mirror the gentleness with which he healed souls. Above all, I would have suggested Bruckner’s motet because Father Mankowski truly was what the antiphon celebrates: “a great priest who in his days pleased  God.”

We were friends for some 30 years and I can say without reservation that I have never met anyone like Paul Mankowski. He was off-the-charts brilliant, an extraordinary linguist and scholar; but he wore his learning lightly and was a tremendous wit. He rarely expressed doubts about anything; but he displayed a great sensitivity to the doubts and confusions of those who had the humility to confess that they were at sea. He could be as fierce as Jeremiah in denouncing injustice and dishonesty; but the compassion he displayed to spiritually wounded fellow-priests and laity, who sought healing through the work of grace at his hands, was just as notable a feature of his personality.

His curriculum vitae was singular. The son of working-class parents, he put himself through the University of Chicago working summers in a steel mill. He did advanced degrees at Oxford and Harvard, becoming the sparring partner of a future Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, at the former, and delving deeply into the mysteries of Semitic philology – unfathomable, to most of his friends – at the latter. He taught at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and was pastor of an English-speaking parish in Amman, Jordan. Wherever he was, he lived like a true ascetic; he was also the best company imaginable at a meal or a party.

He was a writer of genius, although his published bibliography is considerably slimmer than it might have been, thanks to the years when he was silenced or censored by his religious superiors. A good example of his ability to combine keen insight and droll humor is his 1992 dissection of the goings-on at the annual convention of the American Academy of Religion (available here). More recently, Father Mankowski drew on his extensive experience as a confessor and spiritual director to pen, with his superiors’ permission, a respectful but sharp critique of his fellow Jesuit James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge (available here). In the decades between those two pieces, and when permitted to do so, he published essays and reviews on a wide range of topics, including literature, politics, Church affairs, biblical translations and the priesthood, while sharing his private musings with friends in a seemingly endless series of pungent parodies, revised song lyrics, and imagined news stories.

Years ago, his friend Father Richard John Neuhaus dubbed Father Mankowski one of the “Papal Bulls:” Jesuits of a certain generation notable for their intellectually sophisticated and unwavering Catholic orthodoxy, which often got them into hot water of various temperatures (including boiling) with their Ignatian brothers and superiors. Paul Mankowski was no bull, papal or otherwise, in a china shop, though. He relished debate and was courteous in it; what he found off-putting was the unwillingness of Catholic progressives to fight their corner with a frank delineation of their position. This struck him as a form of hypocrisy. And while Father Mankowski, the good shepherd, often brought strays back to the Lord’s flock, he was unsparingly candid about what he perceived as intellectual dishonesty, or what he recently deplored as “ignoble timidity” in facing clerical corruption. Paul Mankowski was not a man of the subjunctive, and he paid the price for it.

He is beyond all that now, and I like to imagine St. Ignatius of Loyola welcoming him to the Father’s House with a hearty “Well done, my son.” In this valley of tears, freshly moistened by those who mourn his untimely death at age 66, Father Paul V. Mankowski, SJ, will be remembered by those of us who loved him as a man and a priest who, remaining faithful to his Jesuit and sacerdotal vocations, became a tower of strength for others. This was a man of God. This was a man, whose courageous manliness reflected his godliness.