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Cathedral cookies for Christmas

windows of peace

Michelle Sessions DiFranco | Photography by Phillip Shippert

I’ll never forget that first day of being away from home when I went to college. I remember fighting back tears when my folks drove off after a day of helping me move into my campus apartment. I tried to shake it off and get excited about the semesters that were ahead at the fine-arts school I had worked so hard to get into, but my heart sank even more when I caught a glimpse of the Detroit ‘neighborhood’ surrounding the campus. I cringed at all the vacant homes with broken windows and trash littering the yards. My parents weren’t even gone five minutes, and I was already homesick.
In the coming days, I started to acclimate to my new surroundings. I met a few classmates and found contentment with class projects and decorating my studio apartment. But what truly brought me a pure and complete sense of peace was something far beyond the distractions of interior decorating, homework and socializing. It was the peace I felt when I went to Mass just a few blocks from campus. There, in the darkest corridors of the inner city, stood a very large, old cathedral that wasn’t in the best shape on the outside. But inside, people who knew, believed and prayed the same parts of the Mass exactly as I knew them surrounded me. And I was listening to the same Gospel and receiving the same Eucharist as my family back home. I truly felt in communion with them.
I once heard the Catholic apologist Pat Madrid say that the way people see the church can be likened to the stained glass windows that adorn the church buildings. From the outside, they appear dark, mysterious and non-vibrant. But inside the church, the windows glow, illuminating everything and depicting messages of hope, love and ‘ for me ‘ peace. On that day, I was so glad to be inside that church. My homesickness was gone.
Do you know of someone who is away at college or even serving our country overseas? Give her a message of hope, love and peace, and something to remind her of home. Send her a dozen or more of these cathedral window cookies. While they are perfect for Christmas, they are also a great reminder that wherever you are in the world, you will always feel at home in the Catholic Church.

Cathedral Window Cookies

      1 cup sugar
      1/4 cup shortening
      1/2 cup softened butter
      1 teaspoon vanilla
      2 eggs
      2 ‘ cups flour, sifted
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 teaspoon baking powder
      1 package of hard candy, finely crushed.
      Church cookie cutter (can be purchased online)


      Cream the sugar, shortening, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl for one minute. Gradually stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerate dough for an hour.
      Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil or parchment and set aside. Roll dough to 1/8’ (thinner than a typical recipe) on a lightly floured and cool surface. Working quickly, so dough doesn’t reach room temperature, cut out as many cookies as possible. With cookie shapes still in position, cut out small circles or rectangles for the ‘stained glass’ in the center of each cookie. Carefully place cookies on aluminum foil-covered (or parchment) cookie sheet. Fill the small circles and/or rectangles with crushed candy until it touches the edges.
      Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until edges of cookies are slightly brown and candy is melted. If candy has not spread within the cutout design, immediately spread with a metal knife or spatula. Cool completely on cookie sheet and gently remove with a spatula.

More Ideas:
Design your own church or cathedral! Easy instructions for making your own cookie cutters can be found online. Using a search engine, type in ‘making your own cookie cutters.’
Make them in just minutes using store-bought sugar cookie dough (don’t forget to roll out dough to 1/8’’).

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