Catholic Activity: Apostle Cookies
Here's a wonderful idea for the feast of Apostles, or a religion lesson teaching the apostles. Make cookies honoring an individual apostles or all at one time.
Any good gingerbread cookie dough will do, and any good gingerbread-boy cookie cutter will make a gingerbread Apostle (or you may cut them freehand with a knife). The twist is in the decoration. We decorated each one with his own symbols, tied a ribbon through a hole pierced (before baking) in the top of each cookie, served them on a tray, covered, with only the ribbons showing; you got your dessert by choosing a ribbon, finding the cookie, and identifying it. This is an excellent way to learn all the Apostles.
The frosting is a confectioner's sugar recipe tinted with vegetable colors. The symbols may be made with stiff frosting squirted through a squeegee, if you have one, or may be cut from foil, paper, or made of any materials that suggest themselves. Here are suggestions for cookie decorating.
St. Peter (June 29). Red frosting because he was a martyr. Symbols: two keys, a cock crowing, an upside-down cross, a fish, a sword. The keys remind us that Jesus gave him the Keys of the Kingdom; the cock recalls his denial of Our Lord; the cross tells that he is supposed to have been martyred head down; the fish — he was a fisher of men; the sword tells of his temper on the night he cut off Malchus' ear. Our Peter cut a silver-foil fish for this cookie and stuck it in the frosting. You could do the keys and sword of foil also, with the cross of melted chocolate. The cock can be drawn or cut from a picture, cut out and stuck on. St. Peter is the patron of locksmiths and cobblers.
St. Andrew (November 30). He is next because he is Peter's brother. Red frosting for martyrdom. Symbols: a fish hook, fisherman's net, two fishes, a cross saltire (X) because he is supposed to have died on such a cross, preaching joyously till death came. This shows the inspired origin of X marks the spot. When we put X's on exam papers, licenses, ballots, we might remember St. Andrew and ask him to help us choose well. The fishing symbols recall that he was, like his brother, a fisher of men as well as of fishes. He is said to have evangelized Scotland, and so is a patron of the Scots, as well as of fishermen and fish dealers; he is invoked by woman who wish to become mothers.
St. James the Great (July 25). He is called great because he was the tall James. He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of St. John the Evangelist. Our Lord called these two the Sons of Thunder: partly, we are told, for their vehement defense of Christ and His teaching, and partly because they wanted Him to burn up the Samaritans inside their houses with fire from Heaven, like the three little pigs, because they wouldn't welcome them into their village. Our Lord rebuked them for it. He said that He came to give life, not destroy it — which teaches a good lesson in resisting the temptation to "get even." This was certainly the opposite of the meekness He said would "inherit the earth." This James was the first Apostle to die for Christ, beheaded in Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa. His symbols — the pilgrim's cloak, staff, hat, purse, and scallop shell (always the symbol of pilgrims) — signify that he went on long missionary journeys. A tiny shell stuck to the frosting on this cookie was the clue we used.
St. John the Evangelist (December 27). He is the brother to the tall James, and is best known as the "disciple Jesus loved." It was Salome, the mother of these two, who asked Our Lord for the best seats in Heaven for them. He was the only Apostle who lived to a very old age and died a natural death; so the frosting on his cookie is white. His symbols are awfully complicated for cookies: a cauldron with an eagle rising (escape from boiling oil); a chalice with serpent emerging (escape from poisoned wine); an eagle, symbol of the fearless evangelist. We made up one, to tell how he loved Our Lord: a heart.
St. Philip (formerly May 11, now May 3). He was one of the first to follow Our Lord and was present at the miracle of the loaves and fishes. At the Last Supper he asked Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father." And Jesus' answer is one we should remember when people question the Divinity of Christ: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). His symbols are a basket and loaves; a cross, a spear, stones to describe his martyrdom. We put a snip of bread on his cookie.
St. Bartholomew (August 24). The mystery man. His name, Bar-Tolmai indicates that he is the son of Tolmai. He is an old friend of St. Philip and is often mentioned with him. It is supposed that he is the Nathaniel to whom Philip made his announcement under the fig tree. Nathaniel was skeptical that this Man was really the Messias, and Our Lord commended his skepticism because Israel was often thick with self-appointed messiases. "Behold a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile," said Our Lord, as Nathaniel came toward Him down the road. Then to Nathaniel: "Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee!" Then didn't Nathaniel believe! He lost his heart that moment. "Rabbi thou art the Son of God! Thou art King of Israel!" St. Bartholomew's symbols are about as grisly as you'll find: flaying knives, a cross, an axe, and such, because his was a wild and bloody death; and then there is our pet symbol for him — a branch of the fig tree. Make this with melted chocolate and green candy leaves from the cake-decorating department in the dime store.
St. Thomas (formerly December 21, now July 3). The twin, best remembered because he doubted Our Lord's resurrection. When Our Lord finally came and showed Thomas, He made reference to us: "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed." St. Thomas was allegedly a missionary to India, where he preached and built a church with his own hands; hence he is one of the patrons of builders and has carpenter's tools among his symbols. He was stoned but did not quite die; so he was shot down with arrows next (according to tradition); then, still alive, he was run through with a spear by a pagan priest. None of these symbols suited us; so we made up another: five red cinnamon candies to remind us of the Blessed Wounds he was told to inspect. Remember to make the intention to gain the indulgence for the Souls in Purgatory when you say his prayer at the Elevation of the Mass: "My Lord and my God!" He is also the patron of masons.
St. Matthew (September 21). He was the publican, the tax collector, and since so few of these were honest, they were despised by all (there is nothing new under the sun). Our Lord was going along His way after curing a paralytic when He saw Matthew sitting in the countinghouse at his table. "Follow Me," was all He said, and up jumped Matthew without even saying good-bye or giving two weeks' notice. That is how we are supposed to obey Him — right away. He is supposed to have been martyred in Ethiopia on a T-shaped cross (called a Tau cross), with his head chopped off with a battle-axe. There's a better symbol than that to help children learn about him: a bright new penny. Whoever draws this cookie gets to keep the penny.
St. James the Less (formerly May 11, now May 3). This is the short James, sometimes called St. James the Small. It is said he spent so much time on his knees that the skin became as tough as a camel's. His mother was a close relative to Our Lady, which would probably make Our Lady Aunt Mary to this James (only, since they were Jewish, she would be Aunt Miriam). He said in his Epistle that though our tongues are small, they are mighty, and capable of great evil. "How small the flame, yet how mighty the forest fire it kindles." He was about ninety-five when they threw him off the temple parapet, probably A.D. 62, in Jerusalem where he was Bishop. But he was a tough old saint and didn't die then; so they stoned him, then finished him off with a blow from a weaver's bat. One of his symbols is a windmill, but we could never decide why. Perhaps because they pushed him off into mid-air; or could it have something to do with what he said about tongues and talking? An easier symbol is three stones which we could find in the driveway or fish bowl or Mother's bowl of narcissus. Wash them well and stick to red frosting, and warn all present that they must be removed before biting. No broken front teeth at this feast, if you please.
St. Jude (October 28). Called Thaddeus, the "saint of the impossible." He was brother to James the Less; so he is also a cousin to Jesus. He asked Our Lord at the Last Supper to tell them why He revealed Himself to only these few and not the whole world. Jesus seemed not to hear, but said: "If a man has love for Me, he will be true to My word, and then he will win My Father's love and We will both come to him, and make our continual abode with him." It hardly seems an answer at first glance. He speaks of the indwelling of Himself and His Father in our souls. But if you read it again: "If a man has love for Me. . . ." Only a few — compared to the many who had seen Him day after day — loved Him. He said at other times that men have eyes to see, and do not see. It really was an answer. St. Jude is almost always in the company of St. Simon, and together with him is said to have been sent to preach Christ in Persia, where they both were martyred. The nicest of his symbols is a boat with a crossed mast. We cut a tiny boat of colored paper and stuck it on his cookie.
St. Simon (October 28). He is called the Zealot for his great zeal and, some say, because he may have been a member of a sect called the Zealots. This is debated He is supposed to have been martyred by idolatrous priests who either crucified him or sawed him in two, like Isaias. Among his symbols we find a ship with a fish; so we put the same kind of little boat on his cookie as we put on St. Jude's, and added a silver-foil fish because he was a fisher of men. He is the patron of curriers and pit sawyers (men who saw wood over a pit — one standing above wood, one below).
St. Matthias (formerly February 24 now May 14). His symbols refer to his martyrdom: a number of dreadful things like a sword, a scimitar, stones, a spear. Best of all, we thought, was to choose a broomstraw for him. After all, he had been chosen by lot. We washed one well and stuck it to him so that we'd never forget how they voted him in. He is the patron of carpenters, tailors, and repentant drunkards and is invoked against smallpox.
Activity Source: Year and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956