By Mother Martha

During the past five years, among its numerous titles, all available from its website, The Sophia Institute Press has published three cookbooks, The Vatican Cookbook (2016, $34.95), Cooking with the Saints (April 2019, $34.95), and The Vatican Christmas Cookbook (September, 2020, $34.95). Mother Martha has reviewed all three in “Food For Thought” (August/September 2018), (September/October 2021) and (December 2000). The recipes in the Vatican cookbooks are by retired Swiss Guard David Geisser.

On January 25, Sophia Institute Press released a fourth cookbook entitled The Lenten Cookbook (224 pages, $29.95). Like the three Vatican books, the 75 new international recipes in this fourth book are photographed by Roy Matter, a frequent collaborator behind the lens for Geisser.

For those who haven’t seen my earlier articles, Geisser, born and raised in the Wetzikon District of Zurich, was already an accomplished young chef and published author when he enlisted in the Pontifical Swiss Guards in 2013.

As the The Lenten Cookbook’s author’s blurb recounts, “today David is one of the leading chefs in Switzerland, author or coauthor of seven cookbooks in German, host of his own TV show, and the founder and leader of David Geisser Cooking Studio. David and his wife, Selina, reside in Zurich.” On his personal website, Geisser says: “Passion is the Leitmotiv that guides my work. Be it passion for all things culinary or a passion for people — I believe that putting your lifeblood into what you do is the key to success.”

The Lenten Cookbook is much more than a cookbook,” Sarah Lemieux, the Press’s Associate Director of Publicity, e-mailed last Fall. “It’s the first-ever guidebook for mealtimes during Lent and features essays by the acclaimed Biblical scholar, public speaker, and teacher Scott Hahn, who’s publishing his first collaboration with the Institute.”

A Presbyterian who converted to Catholicism at Easter in 1986, as his author’s blurb recounts, “Dr. Hahn’s talks have been effective in helping thousands of Protestants like himself once, and many non-practicing Catholics, to (re)embrace the Catholic faith. His numerous best selling books include The Lamb’s Supper, Reasons to Believe, Rome Sweet Home (coauthored with his wife Kimberley, it describes the process of their conversions), The Creed, Evangelizing Catholics, and Angels and Saints.

Since 1990, Hahn holds the Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, Chair of Biblical Theology and New Evangelization at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. In 2014, Francis Cardinal George appointed him to the newly-established McEssy Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Biblical Theology at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. Of his five sons, Joseph and Jeremiah are seminarians.

Hahn’s Lenten Cookbook essays (“The Joy of Fasting: An Introduction” which includes fasting’s history even before Christianity), “Fasting in Modern Practice,” “Lent,” and “Fasting Through the Year”) reflect on the history of fasting and fasting’s integral role in the reader’s spiritual growth. “Hahn guides you,” continued Lemieux, “on how to practice a holy Lent that will enable you to return your focus to Christ, and to carry the unique and extraordinary joys of Lent forward into the rest of the year. You’ll also learn of forgotten Catholic traditions and timeless customs, such as St. Martin’s Lent, Ember Days, and Rogation Days, and how you can apply these time-honored periods of grace to your spiritual life today.”

In case you’ve forgotten, “St. Martin’s Lent” or “Christmas Fast,” as St. Francis of Assisi called it, lasts from St. Martin’s Feast Day (November 12) until Christmas Day.

Traditionally “Ember Days” comprise Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following St. Lucy’s Day (December 13), the first Sunday in Lent, Pentecost, and Holy Cross Day (September 14). “Rogation Days” are festival days devoted to special prayers for crops on April 25 and the three days before Ascension.

Hahn’s essays are followed by a page about the strictest Lenten diet, “The Black Fast,” which allows only one meal a day (without meat, eggs, butter, cheese, milk or wine after sunset and during Holy Week only of bread, salt, herbs and water), “The Traditional Fasting Substitution List” and an “Index of Recipes for Traditional Fasting.”

Then come Geisser’s recipes divided into Breakfast, Soup, Salads, Collations or Small Meals, and Main Dishes which include pasta, fish, vegetables, several quiches, and vegetable and seafood curries, ending with breads and hot cross buns.

Much earlier, in 2001, the Institute published Maria Augusta Von Trapp’s (of The Sound of Music family) Around the Year, a charming volume in which she describes the yearround Christian traditions she loved. It’s available with Cooking with the Saints for $54.99 or by itself for $29.95.

Some traditional dishes described by retired Swiss Guard David Geisser in the Lenten Cookbook, published by the Sophia Institute Press

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