In 2013, I became a Catholic, and ever since then, I’ve been learning as much as I can about what that means in faith, prayer, and culture. It seems like it was only shortly after converting that Saint Joan of arc became known and special to me, and I picked up all that I could in reading material about her. She’s such a different Saint. I love that she has no “mold” that she fits in and I’ve been very inspired by her courage to be able to be myself and to not force myself into a mold. Better people than me have described her life, mission, and faith, and so I’ll leave that to the pros, but I’d love to share with you our experience celebrating the “feast” part of her feast day.
First off, a little explanation about why and how our family chooses to celebrate the Liturgical Year.
Why we celebrate: In the Catholic Church, there are six seasons which make up the “Liturgical Year.” Those seasons are Advent, Christmas, Lent, the Sacred Paschal Triduum, Easter, and Ordinary Time. But the Liturgical Year is not just made up of seasons, it’s also made up of feasts! Those feasts are meant to celebrate and honor the lives of the Saints. For instance, my husband loves the feast day of the Conversion of Saint Paul as he is his confirmation Saint. Daniel and I have chosen to celebrate the Saints that are important to us in our lives and of whom we feel a special connection with as we walk through our day to day. We celebrate so that we remember their road to Sainthood and we pray for their help on our own road. We celebrate as a sign of their holiness and the holiness that God calls us toward. It’s a reminder that we were made in His image and we are meant for more than what this world offers.
How we celebrate: Our celebrations generally include one meal (usually dinner, but we have done breakfast before) eaten together that in some way, reminds us of the Saint or symbolizes something about them or their life (finding out about their patronages really helps too!). We’ve taken advice from the Stewart’s and their wonderful book of Feasts in that they suggest using the Saint’s region to come up with a themed meal. This usually means adding Italian wine for an Italian Saint, cooking something common in the area that the saint grew up or died in, and learning as much about the Saint as possible while coming up with your celebration. We also usually pray the Saint’s litany and sometimes a Novena to the Saint which ends on the feast day. Lastly, in our home, we typically sit around the table while we eat talking about the Saint and telling each other things we didn’t know but recently discovered (as we are both converts and are still learning every day).
How We Feast for Saint Joan of Arc’s Day
Last year, I made French Onion soup for Saint Joan’s feast day. I love soup. I could eat soup every day! But Daniel, sadly, doesn’t usually like to eat soup for a whole meal. He always prefers something heartier and knowing that, I set out to find a french themed meal that would meet those requirements. After all, it’s a celebration! Enter, sandwiches with plenty of meat and cheese to make a man happy.
Who knows about the Monte Cristo sandwich? The Monte Cristo isn’t “exactly” french. But it came from the French! It’s an offspring of the Croque-Monsieur sandwich that is most definitely french in origin. The Monte Cristo is a variation of the sandwich and was apparently titled “french sandwich” in a lot of early 1900’s American cookbooks. Maybe I would have wanted something authentically french at some point, but now, I am happy to be serving a reminder of this patron Saint of France on a dinner plate, and if it generates conversation about its origins, I think it’s doing its job.
On May 31st, a day after Saint Joan’s feast day (which is May 30th because that was the day she was burned at the stake), Daniel lovingly began preparation for our feast day since I’m quite pregnant and slightly out of commission in the kitchen. We had to celebrate a day late since Eliot was determined to cause anxiety on Saturday and I was in bed the entire day.
While I would have preferred to celebrate on the actual day, I was just happy to remember and honor this Saint (much like how some birthday parties aren’t on their birth days). I was in charge of pulling up the prayer while listening to the sizzling sounds of fried sandwich creation and “Man, I love Catholicism” exclamations from my dearest. I also prepared the preserves (ahem, I scooped some raspberry preserves from the jar into a microwavable bowl and heated it slightly…) and it wasn’t long before our feast was ready with minimal work!
As a side note, Daniel has only just begun “Captaining” in the kitchen, meaning he doesn’t usually feel comfortable cooking alone. So if he felt comfortable with this (it’s man food, I think that’s why) and was successful following the recipe, anyone can do it! He used this recipe for the batter and we just bought whatever meat, cheese, and bread we liked. That happened to be:
honey smoked ham
some kind of sweeter turkey
classic swiss cheese
medium cheddar cheese
And of course we sprinkled powdered sugar on the things and dipped them in store brand Raspberry preserves. Healthy, right?
After they were served up, we gathered for the litany and prayed together, and then chowed down our delicious meal! We discussed that next year, we’d love to celebrate with others in our home and thought it would be fun to serve the soup as a sort of appetizer and the sandwiches as the main dish + dessert. And obviously this year, I had to skip the wine part, but next year, I’d love to have a french wine to serve as well! Not to mention that I would really love to incorporate reading a children’s book about Saint Joan to Eliot and maybe having a fun themed activity to make the day special for him too.
Saint Joan, pray for us!