Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! People are generally trying to be more attentive to others. There’s an aura that warms their hearts. The joy of Christmas awakens consciousness to give of oneself.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it beautifully in a 2005 homily: “Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not expensive presents that demand time and money. We can transmit this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, with some small help, with forgiveness. Let us seek in particular to communicate the deepest joy, that of knowing God in Christ. Let us pray that this presence of God’s liberating joy will shine out in our lives.”
My ancestors in Italy embodied this through the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, keeping in mind what this custom signifies.
Tradition holds that it represents the seven sacraments. Leave it to the Italians to teach the Faith with food! Nourishing our souls with the sacraments allows others to recognize the joy of Christmas within us, just as when the disciples recognized the resurrected Christ in the breaking of the Bread at the supper at Emmaus.
The urgency for Christmas should be to keep the joy of Christ’s coming alive all year. It can be done if we accompany those little acts of charity with a deeper, committed prayer life. A well-nurtured personal prayer life keeps charity growing within us, radiating as an external joy of Christ that others can absorb from us. During the Christmas season we tend to pay more attention to prayer and the sacraments. But once we get back to our regular routine, for some that extra prayer effort gets diminished or forgotten. This challenge can be overcome if one understands that: Non potest quis id quod non habet [one cannot give what one does not have]. Simply put: if one does not have Christ’s joy within, he cannot extend it!
In availing ourselves of the sacraments this season, especially the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and keeping a simple prayer life like reading the Bible, or reciting the rosary, we will keep the joy of Christ alive in us all year. Without any great effort, we can bring the joy of Christ to others. His joy will radiate through all our good deeds and actions. Buon Natale!
Ragu d’Astice (Lobster Ragu) • serves 4
4 – 8oz. lobster tails*
1 lb. fusilli pasta cooked al dente
1 25 oz. jar Cucina Antica Garlic Marinara Cooking Sauce or sauce of your choice
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup white onion, finely minced
1⁄2 cup white wine
2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 pinches hot red pepper flakes Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare lobster tails: crack tail and loosen meat from shell without detaching from tail.
In a 10-12” deep sauté pan, combine extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, and onions. Sauté on medium heat until garlic is light golden and onions translucent.
Add lobster meat and tails, white wine, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to pan. Sauté for 2 minutes.
Add cooking sauce to pan. Simmer low 3 minutes until tails turn red, meat turns white.
Cover; cook with lid askew for 3 minutes on low until meat is cooked through (make sure to not overcook lobster).
Cook the pasta al dente, drain it, and add in 1 cup of lobster ragu from saute pan to prevent pasta from sticking. Stir to mix well.
Plate pasta, top with lobster ragu, and garnish with chopped parsley.
*Optional: remove lobster shell before serving or leave to add to presentation. For a true Feast of the Seven Fishes, substitute any or all of the following: mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, scallops, lobster, king crab.
CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient at Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.