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Catholic Activity: Nameday Ideas for Bishop Saints


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Prayers, decorations, dessert ideas for saints that are bishops and/or confessors. Includes ideas for St. Martin of Tours, November 11.


"Behold, a great priest who in his days pleased God and was found just; and in time of wrath he was made a reconciliation. There was none found the like to him who kept the law of the Most High. Therefore by an oath the Lord made him increase among his people."

Parents whose children are named for confessor-bishops will want to take out their Bibles for a reading from the Book of Ecclesiasticus 44:16-27 and 45:3-20, which begins with the above lines, in order to have the children understand and love their patrons. The symbols for bishops are the mitre, scepter, lamb, and crown.

Nameday prayers for a confessor-bishop:

Father: The Lord established a covenant of peace with him.

All: And made him a prince that the dignity of the priesthood should be his forever.

Father: Let us pray. O almighty God, grant that our solemn celebration of the feast of Your confessor-bishop N.... may increase our devotion and bring us closer to our salvation. Through Christ, our Lord.

All: Amen. Christ conquers, Christ reigns!

Although any purchased or homemade cake decorated with the bishop's name and a tiny mitre can be used on the feast of a bishop-saint, the traditional cake is Bischofsbrot or "Bishop's Bread" (see recipe).

An easy symbol to design for a patron who was a bishop is a mitre, the tall headdress with the top cleft crosswise, resembling a pointed arch. Attached to the back and falling over the shoulders are two flaps or fanons, which are said to symbolize the New and Old Testaments. The mitre, a sign of episcopal authority, can be used on a shield for a child's home shrine.

Being a prince of the Church, a bishop rates a crown cake or a lamb cake. A gold mitre or crown may be used upon the cake; or you may simply put the lamb from your Nativity set atop a store cake. A frozen dessert in a crown-shaped mold is also appropriate. Famous "Bishop Wine" (see recipe) is a good nameday drink.

Numberless confessors were bishops. With each one we will list his special emblem which can be used in your decorations for his feast. First there is St. Francis de Sales, whose symbol is a flaming heart; St. Dunstan, primate of Canterbury, a harp; St. Eligius (Eloi), patron of metal workers, a horseshoe or a miniature church in gold St. Hugh of Lincoln, a notable defender of the Jews, a swan, St. Benno of Meissen, whose canonization annoyed Martin Luther, a fish with a key; St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, a stag or fire; St. Amator of Auxerre, a hatchet; St. Aubert, two loaves of bread, St. Anatole, a book, because he was a celebrated mathematician.

St. Martin of Tours, a highly venerated saint, is represented by a horse or a goose; St. Wilfrid, a successful missionary, by a fish or a ship; St. Remy, who baptized King Clovis at Rheims, by a dove or birds; St. Nicholas of Myra, popular saint of the East and West, by a ship, three gold balls on a book, or coins.

Over the years we have assembled a collection of different molds: a rooster for St. Peter; a shell for St. James; a lamb for Sts. Agnes, John and Patrick; a crown for Sts. Helen, Edward, Elizabeth and Richard; a fleur-de-lis for Sts. Louis, Genevieve, and Joan of Arc; a horse for Sts. Martin and Aidan; and a fish for the Apostles. Into these we pour gelatin and whipped egg white or whipped cream desserts which unmold beautifully onto ice-cold platters, garnished at serving time with whipped cream, shaved chocolate, chocolate bits, nuts, or maraschino cherries. Cake-Mate, a gel that writes like a pencil, is handy for writing names on desserts.

Symbolic molds can be purchased at local houseware stores. Auctions are good places to find molds for little money; so are second-hand stores, restaurant supply houses, and grandmother's attic.

In time we acquired a taste for mousse dessert, a mixture of sweetened whipped cream and other ingredients, frozen without stirring. Then we added a bombe dessert made in a mold with a tight lid for iced desserts containing two or three flavors of ice, ice cream, mousse, or pudding. If you are interested in frozen desserts, don't let the lack of a mold stop you. A coffee can or any tin receptacle that will close tightly can be used. Or you can freeze the bombe recipe in two refrigerator trays, being careful to moisten the outside bottom of the trays before putting them into the refrigerator.

Some other ideas for decorations: Decorating paper napkins with crayoned symbols; gummed seals on place-cards (3x5 file cards), such as a goose for Martinmas, St. Martin's day; a horse for Irene; a rooster for Guy or Peter; Nail polish or acrylic paint to outline the symbols on paper plates. These exercises are not without their pedagogical value. For example, in drawing a crosier for a bishop they learn that the straight staff denotes righteous rule; his mitre designates his authority.

Activity Source: My Nameday — Come for Dessert by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1962