The last day of April was first celebrated as a druidic feast of some importance in honor of spring's return, and bonfires were lighted to frighten away the spirits of darkness which might prevent the arrival of the joyous goddess of the springtide. For Christians it became the feast of Saint Walburga, the daughter of a Saxon king of the eighth century, who went to Germany at the call of her uncle, Saint Boniface, to aid in the work of evangelizing the Germanic tribes and remained to found and rule monasteries and convents. The Abbess of Heidenheim was given great veneration in the Low Countries and Germany during her lifetime and was honored after her death for her learning and the many miracles she wrought. But the observance of her feast, or rather its eve, Walpurgisnacht, came to be held with many of the pagan tradition’s peculiar to the day, so that it grew to resemble the celebration of Halloween. At its best, it is the night when protection is invoked against murrains of fields and crops and the spirits of evil; at its worst, it is a night when witches ride and dark deeds are done.
The original pagan feast, celebrated as the Eve of Beltane in the British Isles, was accompanied by lighting of new fires and feasting on certain foods retained by later customs in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. We are told that Beltane Cakes, large and scalloped, were set against hot stones to bake while a caudle (custard) was eaten, and beer and whiskey consumed. Many customs were connected with these cakes, among them that the person drawing a piece blackened by the fire became the "carline" who must be sacrificed to the fire. Later in Wales when cakes were cooked on ordinary stoves, light and dark oatmeal cakes were made, and the one who drew the dark cake was required to jump three times through the flames of the lighted bonfire.
We have been unable to trace any authentic recipes for Beltane Cakes, and everyone knows how to make a custard or caudle. However, on this eve one might well anticipate the day to come by brewing the first Maibowle.
Activity Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951
AMONG those who make profession of piety, but few know Jesus Christ and the treasures of His mercy; for this cause they give themselves up imperfectly to His love. Nothing can be more pleasing to the loving heart of Jesus than the childlike and unlimited confidence which we testify towards Him. It is related in the life of St. Gertrude that one day, as she reflected on the extraordinary graces which she had received, she asked herself how the revelations with which she had been favored could be made known to mankind with the greatest profit to their souls. Our Lord vouchsafed her this reply: It would be good for men to know, and never to forget, that I, their God and Saviour, am always present in their behalf before My heavenly Father. This should never be forgotten, that when through human frailty their hearts incline to sin I offer for them my merciful heart; and when they offend God by their works I present to Him My pierced hands and feet in order to appease the anger of divine justice. Our Lord Jesus Christ, says the great Apostle, is the mediator between God and man. He is now ascended into heaven in order to aid our prayers by His powerful mediation. Fail not, says the devout Blosius, to offer your good works and pious exercises to the most sweet heart of Jesus, in order that He may purify and perfect them; for His heart, so full of tenderness, takes delight in so divine a work. He is always ready to perfect in you whatever He sees imperfect or defective. Confidence is a key to the heart of Jesus. What may we not obtain from our fellow-creatures by the confidence we place in them? How much more, then, will it not obtain from God? How marvellous will be its effects if united with an absolute dependence on Him!:
Thus, when animated by faith, Peter walked on the waters as on dry land; but from the moment that fear entered his mind the waters lost their sustaining power, and his compassionate Master, extending His hand, said to him, “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” On another occasion also the tempest threatened to ingulf the apostles; but Jesus said to them, having commanded the winds and the sea: Where is your faith? why are you fearful? have you, then, no faith? In order to inspire us with a more lively confidence Our Lord Jesus Christ vouchsafed Himself to teach us the prayer which we address to God; so that our heavenly Father, touched by the words of His own Son, might refuse us nothing which we ask in His name; for this He would have us call Him by the sweet name of Father. But as this is not enough, in order to dispel all our diffidence, He carries His condescension even so far as to promise by a solemn oath to be always ready to listen to us. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever ye shall ask I will do. Timid souls, He would say, I swear to you by Myself, Who am the Way and the eternal Truth; by Myself, Who hate falsehood, and Who will punish perjury with eternal damnation; by Myself, Who can no more lie or deceive than I can cease to be that which I am, I swear promises, to you that I will grant what you ask of Me. These are Thy O my God, says St. Augustine; and who can fear being deceived when he relies on the promises made by uncreated Truth? When an upright man pledges you his word, you would believe that you erred if you showed after this any doubt or fear but if we receive the testimony of man, says St. John, the testimony of God, is it not greater? Our divine Saviour holds Himself so honored by this confidence that in a thousand passages in the Gospel He attributes more to the miraculous efficacy of prayer than to His own mercy. Not saying to those who have recourse to Him, it is My goodness and My power; but, It is thy faith, thy confidence, which has saved thee. Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed to St. Gertrude that he who prayed to Him with confidence was sure to obtain his request that He could not do otherwise than listen to his prayers. Whatever may be the grace you request, says Our Lord, be sure of obtaining it, and it will be granted you. This it is which St. John Climachus expresses in a like manner when he says, every prayer offered up with confidence exercises over the heart of God a kind of violence, but a violence which is sweet and pleasing to Him. St. Bernard compares the divine mercy to an abundant spring, and our confidence to the vessel which we make use of in order to draw these saving waters. The larger the vessel the greater the abundance of the grace we shall bring away. Moreover, this is conformable to the prayer of the psalmist, who sues for mercy in proportion to His confidence: Let Thy mercy be upon us, O Lord, according to the hopes we have placed in Thee. God has declared that He will protect and save all those who put their trust in Him. Let them be glad, then, exclaims David; let all those rejoice who hope in Thee, O my God; for they shall be happy for all eternity, and Thou wilt never cease to dwell in them. He elsewhere says, He who places his trust in the Lord shall dwell under the protection of the God of heaven. Yes, Lord, says St. Bernard, it is hope alone which opens to us the treasure of Thy mercies. The efficacy of prayer, says St. Thomas, is drawn from faith which be lieves in the promises of God, and confidence in the holy promises which He has made to us. We see, in short, in the sacred writings that the Son of God seems to take the faith of those who address themselves to Him as the rule for the help and the graces which He grants them, not only doing what they wish, but in the manner in which they ask it. Grace is attached to confidence; it is a kind of axiom that he who puts his trust in God shall never be confounded. And the wise man defies a contrary example to be cited amongst all the nations of the world. Our souls should be filled with consolations, says St. Ambrose, when we remember that the graces which God grants us are always more abundant than those which we ask; also, that the fulfilment of His promises always exceeds our hopes, as says Ecclesiastes. Let us have, then, a firm confidence, as St. Paul recommends us, since the Lord has promised to protect whosoever hopes in Him; and when obstacles present themselves which seem very difficult to overcome let us say with the Apostle, I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me. Who, indeed, was ever lost after having placed his trust in God? But we need not always seek a sensible confidence it will suffice if we earnestly desire it, for true confidence is an utter dependence on God, because He is good, and wishes to help us; because He is powerful, and able to help us; because He is faithful and has promised to help us.
Example. The venerable Mary of the Incarnation relates that it was revealed to her on a certain occasion that the Eternal Father was insensible to her prayer. She sought to know the cause, and an interior voice said to her: Petition Me through the heart of My Son, through which I will hear thee. Address yourselves to the heart of Jesus, the ocean of love and mercy, and He will obtain for you, pious soul, and also for all poor sinners, the most signal graces. Some time before her death St. Mechtilde earnestly asked of Our Lord an important grace in behalf of a person who had asked her to pray for her. Seized with fear at the sight of the terrible judgments with which the justice of God would visit this soul, she was weeping bitterly, when Our Lord addressed to her these consoling words, My daughter, teach the person for whom you pray that she must seek all she desires through My heart. There is no heart so hard as not to be softened by the heart of Jesus, nor any soul so disfigured by the leprosy of sin that His love cannot purify, console, and heal.