Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RIP - William F. Buckley, Jr.

Very, VERY sad news today.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.


Great news, if you know where to look.

One of the tenets by which I live my life is to be faithful to that which produces results, and never be a slave to process. Hold that thought as you read this.

I'll be a pal and reproduce the relevant bit here with my emphasis. (No comments necessary.) After you read them, let's see if you can answer a question at the end of this entry.

Special Report -- Priestly Vocations in America: Recent Trends

A survey of dioceses rich in seminarians and dioceses poor in them.

by Jeff Ziegler December 2007

According to the Vatican's statistical yearbook, there were 63,882 major seminarians worldwide when John Paul II began his pontificate in 1978; by the end of 2005, that number had grown to 114,439—an increase of 79.1 percent. During the same time period, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, the number of American diocesan and religious seminarians in college and theological seminaries decreased from 9,021 to 4,603—a decline of 49.0 percent.

While priestly vocations have collapsed nationwide, several American dioceses have been part of the worldwide surge in the number of seminarians. "Over the past three years," says Father Darrin Connall, rector of Bishop White Seminary at Gonzaga University and director of seminarians for the Diocese of Spokane, "we have increased the number of active priests in our diocese by almost 20 percent. This has permitted the bishop to assign parochial vicars to parishes that haven't had one in several years…We have also been able to free up priests for prison ministry, full-time hospital ministry, and to place a priest in our diocesan high school as a chaplain and teacher—the first time this has happened in decades."


Returning to the list of top 10 dioceses is the South Dakota diocese of Rapid City, which ranked first in the nation in 2003. Bishop Blase Cupich says to CWR, "I think there are three things that have contributed to our success, although I have to admit we would surely like even greater numbers. God's grace: We can never forget that it is the Lord who calls and we have to pray…Strong families: We have the support of parents and we tend to have larger families. [And] all of the priests are involved in recruiting and supporting seminarians. I refer to this as 'enlightened self-interest'—not only from the perspective of knowing that they will have collaborators for the future, but also from the standpoint that seminarians bolster priests' morale today with their vibrancy and enthusiasm."

New additions to the top 10 in 2006 are the Diocese of Peoria, the Archdiocese of Denver, and the Diocese of Lexington ( Kentucky). Father Brian K. Brownsey, Peoria's vocation director, believes "our success is due much to the culture of vocations, which started with my predecessors and which I am trying to spread. Especially in our high schools and Newman centers we work at putting down the lie of 'careerism' and try to instill in our young people the notion that every person has a specific call from God." In addition, "every high school in the diocese is assigned a full-time priest chaplain, and our college Newman centers are staffed by priests as well. The high schools and Newman centers offer regular times of Eucharistic adoration at which students are encouraged to sit and pray before the Blessed Sacrament to come to know and embrace their vocation. Furthermore, one third of our presbyterate has been ordained for 10 years or less. These young priests give powerful witness to that message of the culture of vocations." Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., concurs: his assistant, Sister Trish Clark, says, "The bishop attributes our vocations to the grace of God, a zealous diocese, great priests, eight Catholic Newman centers, priests at all seven of our diocesan Catholic high schools, and prayer."


For his part, Archbishop Chaput traces Denver's success to World Youth Day 1993 and to the vision of his predecessor, Cardinal James Francis Stafford. Moreover, Archbishop Chaput tells CWR, "I think we have a strong presbyterate that attracts good men. I also believe our two seminaries are among the very best in the country, with a great faculty and sound formation team. And I think the people in archdiocesan leadership here are solidly and unapologetically Catholic. Young men who hear God's voice in their lives want to be part of that—especially when they see the zeal, maturity, and enthusiasm of the seminarians who are already studying here. I'm also impressed with the number of people in the archdiocese who are praying for vocations to the diaconate, priesthood and religious life. Many of our parishes have perpetual adoration, which brings special graces to the archdiocese."


Commenting on the Archdiocese of Mobile's success in attracting seminarians, vocation director Father Anthony Valladares says, "This is God's work. He inspires; we receive… [Archbishop Lipscomb] is very accessible to discuss with prospective seminarians a call to the priesthood. This personal touch is vital to the discernment process and continues throughout the formation process." In addition, Father Valledares attributes the archdiocese's success to its campus ministry programs: "All but four of our seminarians," he says, "have had direct contact with campus ministry programs, which have helped them grow in their faith." He adds, "The people in the archdiocese sincerely pray for vocations. It makes a difference."


Father Michael Dolan, who was appointed the Archdiocese of Hartford's new vocation director in August [...] sees grounds for hope in "the John Paul II generation, with their great devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Eucharist."


San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez, who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Denver from 2001 to 2005, says that "after my experience in Denver, I think that the involvement of the bishop makes a difference. I live on the grounds of Assumption Seminary and I celebrate Mass with [the seminarians] at least once a month. I'm as available to them as is possible, together with the formation faculty of the seminary. Of course, I pray for them, and I ask people everywhere in the archdiocese to pray for vocations. Every Sunday at the cathedral after Mass, we sing the Salve Regina, praying for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life…I think that confidence in the formation programs and better information about what's happening in the seminaries makes a big difference. When the seminarians feel that their vocation is respected and supported and the formation and theological program are solid, they are more likely to respond to the call and stay in formation. In turn, they are your best advertisement to other prospective seminarians."


Speaking to CWR on condition of anonymity, the bishop of one of the 20 dioceses whose rankings declined most steeply attributes his diocese's decline to increased vigilance over the doctrinal fidelity and moral suitability of seminarians.


No diocese suffered a steeper plunge in the ratio of Catholics to seminarians between 2003 and 2006 than did the Texas diocese of Lubbock. Four diocesan officials did not respond to invitations to offer comments for the article; two prominent local laity, however, did.


Dr. Kellie Flood-Shaffer, residency program director in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, is associate department chairperson, a board member, and an officer of the Texas Perinatal Association, and a member of the Catholic Medical Association. She says, "Clearly, the sexual abuse of children scandal has caused a drop in vocations, here as elsewhere. But unique to Lubbock, in my opinion, are these things: I do not hear regular encouragement from the pulpit for the faithful to pray for vocations, I am not aware that there is any regular discussion with our young sons and daughters to consider a religious vocation (by either the priests, nuns, or parents in our community), and I have not seen a single novice or seminarian visit any of the parishes to talk to the youth or work in the parish since I moved to Lubbock in 2001…I believe that in order for the Lubbock diocese to increase vocations, the leadership of the diocese must be more vocal and visible to the youth of the diocese. There is only one Catholic school here in Lubbock, which all of my children have attended—but again, they got little to no encouragement to consider religious life."

On the other hand, the dozen dioceses whose rankings rose the most steeply between 2003 and 2006 were Juneau, Shreveport, Madison, Paterson, Pueblo, Saginaw, Memphis, Crookston, Colorado Springs, Covington, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Kansas City-St. Joseph, and Toledo. In several cases, the increase in the number of seminarians coincided with the arrival of a new bishop: Bishop Robert Morlino in Madison, Bishop Arthur Serratelli in Paterson, Bishop Robert Carlson in Saginaw, Bishop Michael Sheridan in Colorado Springs, Bishop Roger Foys in Covington, Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City-St. Joseph, and Bishop Leonard Blair in Toledo.

Discussing the various reasons for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph's increased success, Keith Jiron, director of the office of vocations, says that Bishop Finn "at the outset of his episcopacy made vocations a super-priority." Sister Connie Boulch, director of the diocese's office of consecrated life, gives credit to "the bishop's constant preaching on the need for vocations at every event and his upfront, face-to-face challenges to young people concerning priesthood and consecrated life. The bishop has entrusted our diocese and its needs of all kinds, but especially the need for good holy priests, to Mary, the patroness of our diocese. He also keeps in contact with the seminarians, is present to them, and enjoys being with them at prayer and socially. Being strongly up-front about fidelity to Church teachings even when they are not popular has clarified what the Church is and who her priests need to be."

Similarly, Msgr. James Bartylla, vocations director for the Diocese of Madison, describes Bishop Morlino as "an orthodox bishop" who "is particularly adept at fostering and promoting vocations and supporting our seminarians. Our seminarians are thrilled that he will vocally stand up for the natural law and Catholic doctrine, even when it isn't easy."

Msgr. Bartylla calls Eucharistic adoration the "number one reason" for the increase.

Echoing the comments of other bishops and vocation directors, Paterson's Bishop Serratelli tells CWR, "God has been good to us. In the last three years, we have earnestly begged him for an increase of vocations. We instituted a pastoral initiative in all the parishes on all vocations, with a special emphasis on priesthood and the consecrated life…We have encouraged prayer by everyone, especially prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Where Jesus is loved and adored in the Eucharist, vocations follow."

Paterson 's vocations director, Father Tom Fallone, adds: "It seems that a lot of the men entering seminary formation are operating out of a great love of Jesus Christ. And in any vocation, that has to be the main motivation…For a long time it seemed that the idea of priesthood became diluted, amalgamated with other forms of ministry. But in recent times, it seems to be a good thing that guys are being invited to consider the priesthood as a totally unique way of loving God and man: a way in persona ChristiThe numbers of seminarians increase because men will give their lives for an exclamation point but not a question mark."

The question:

"Anything, y'know, peculiar strike you about what the dioceses with the most success have in common?"

(Read the whole thing.)


P.S. Incidentally, Bp. Finn is one of the GREAT Bishops in the USA. If we had a few dozen more like him, half our troubles would evaporate overnight.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stay in school, kids.

Bleak House

Much has been made about the "dark" nature of the films nominated for this year's Oscars. Now, for the record, I don't have a problem with dark films. Several are among my all-time favorites. What I do mind is the relentlessly bleak nature of this year-in-film.

Partly it is a matter of disposition. I'm not a particularly bleak person. I'm not, in contrast to the lovely and gracious Karen, someone who is "recreationally morbid." I may be cynical, and I am obnoxious and (ahem) acerbic. Where some see awful things and they rant, I see awful things and I ridicule. (Less so when I am en blogge, when I can review and polish and excise to assuage the better angels of my nature than in person, when my native worldview bursts forth unfiltered.)

To me, all that bleakness and darkness sort of runs together and bleeds into one brown-purple smudge in my mind's eye.

That's not to say I like Pollyanna or sentimentalism or sanitized "uplifting" or "heartwarming" stuff. I like things that show, yes, some darkness...but leavened with wisdom and goodness. And funny.

It's gotta make with the funny.


Just for Karen

Since I tweaked her a bit regarding the way NASCAR can't cope with rain, I figured I should make it up to her. So, in this election year, I present to you the three remaining candidates:

The Lesser

...and Two Evils.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pray for rain.

220mph in the rain?
Ain't nothing but a thing.

Background song: "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" from Annie Get Your Gun

A Lenten Reflection

BergoglioOne of my fave Cardinals, His Eminence Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, SJ has just issued his Lenten homily online. It seemed to be a good one, and so here it is. (Translation, emphasis and comments mine.)



The Church Yes! He said The Church! This guy gets it! sends us forth, on the way to an encounter with Jesus, the only road that has constancy, the only valid way that takes me to meet my Lord, He who gives sense to life. Starting upon this road today makes us participate in an act, a message and an admonition.

The act: we are all going to receive ashes on our heads to indicate what we are. At the end of [our] years -- some more, some less -- we all finish the same way: by turning into ash. And yet, a voice inside tells each of us: "You were born for other things, not just to turn to ashes." You were born for an encounter, for a fulfillment of the heart that is the encounter with Jesus. And today, upon receiving the ashes that carry this meaning, each of us is should ask [himself]: "What do I seek in life?"

What do I seek? Do I seek an encounter with Jesus that is going fulfill me, that gives me the only happiness that cannot be lost? Or am I goofing around? [Literally, "doing 'the turkey trot'." It's an Argentinism with no direct equivalent...just let it go.] Am I mired in superficiality? "Father, it's that everyone is like that. One cannot go against the [social] current..." It's true, at times the environment takes you down. Not long ago, I read a fable written by a monk. He wrote that some boys were climbing a mountain and they found an eagle egg and they brought it home. When they saw that in their coop there was a turkey incubating her eggs and they put the eagle egg under the turkey with the other eggs. Then, all the eggs hatched. The hatchlings all started equals but as they grew, they began to become different. When they began to have some measure of autonomy the turkeys splashed around the water and eaglet was among them even though he did not know how to play in the water; and each time he saw an eagle fly [overhead], he felt something inside him pulling him skyward but he couldn't go...he was among the turkeys. He was acting like a turkey. Are you? You who has the vocation of an eagle, of an encounter with Jesus...for what do you live? For mundane things? To keep up appearances? We all have been called by God to serve Him via different vocations, let's honor those vocations.

Let's all think about it, because it's a message for all of us. The ash puts this question to us: Do you wish to fly to the message of Jesus, already starting to live in fullness or do you wish to live like a turkey, in superficiality? That is the meaning of this act. Friendship with the world is enmity with God, yes?

Also the Church puts a message before us. St. Paul, in the Second Reading says: "Therefore I entreat you, in name of Christ -- that's nice…he says "please" -- allow yourself to reconcile with God." Each one of us has to encounter the Lord more, [as] we are all sinners. Please, if there is anyone [here] who is not a sinner, raise your hand so we can give you a prize. We are all sinners. All. And we need to reconcile with Jesus that one thing we all know has to be reconciled: an injustice, a hatred, an envy, an aggression, a know it and God knows it. Admit with contrition what you have done wrong and allow God's grace to repair your brokenness. But St. Paul, seemingly on his knees, asks us: "Look, if you're a Christian allow yourself to reconcile with God!" This is a good time to allow yourself to reconcile with God! The time we spend on this road toward encountering Jesus is going to end at Easter when we sing that Alleluia filled with joy. Because there is our triumph. Not on election night.

Allow yourself to reconcile with God. That is the message. The act is in [imposition of] ashes and the message is "let's allow ourselves to reconcile with God".

And the admonition? The admonition is the one Jesus gives us in the Gospel: "Look, don't be a hypocrite, live like you are supposed to." God has placed His commands, not suggestions, and given His Church teaching authority to convey them and we are to try to adhere to them. If you are sinful, the Lord tells us, do what every sinner ought do: break down your [hard] heart and be converted. Pray more, make penance (such as depriving yourself of something you like or something superfluous), help others, give alms, perform acts of charity. His Eminence is exactly right, reminding us that we are our brother's keeper and Christ has enjoined us, as individuals, to look after those less fortunate. Do not live for you, because notice that sin, at the bottom [of it all], is grounded in selfishness. When we live in a situation of sin, we live centered in ourselves. We become the type of man or woman who instead of being called John, Peter, Mary, Antonia is called "me-myself-and-I." That is what the world teaches us, to be "me-myself-and-I." [To those who live] centered in oneself, in selfishness or "for me," Jesus says: "No. Pray. Open your heart to God. Open your heart to your brothers and give alms. You deprive yourself, that you can give alms. Spend your time visiting your sick brother, accompanying someone in solitude who needs it. Do not you live for you."

Today we start on this road with an act, a message and an admonition. The ash is the act; allow yourself to reconcile with God is the message and the admonition is more prayer and more penance. More service to others. Let us open our heart to the service of others.

I ask the Virgin to accompany all of us down this road; this road of reconciliation with Jesus and of encounter with Jesus, which is the most marvelous thing that can happen in our lives. When we encounter the Lord, our heart is broadened, is made greater, it becomes more generous and is capable of giving to the others instead of harvesting for itself.

May the Virgin help us to understand selfishness does lead anywhere. That vanity and keeping up appearances do not get us anywhere and only leads to ashes. And, if service to others makes us great -- as does adoration of God !!!-- this clears our path for that encounter with Jesus, a thing I ask for you and for me as we begin Lent.

May be it thus.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

There will be blood.

One of the cool things about the Internet is that you sometimes get to reconnect with pals from long-ago.

A friend from my undergraduate days found my stellar wine columns (by that I mean the columns I wrote on wine, not that I have some sort of of vinuous architectural features) and got in touch. Said ol' pal o' mine is now the Editor-in-Chief for a midsize automotive magazine.

Anyway, there was a classic car show happening down here and he asked me, Paid Writer that I am, to cover it for him. Seeing as how this show promised to be pretty posh stuff, I said sure. Tonight was the first event: "The hangar party."

With my journalistic skills -- envy me, what's left of The New York Tass Times! -- I was able to piece together that many people who were attending this show would be arriving via private jet and, at the private airport where these private jets would land, there would be a "Hey! Welcome!" shindig to show appreciation for affluent folks.

So, I went off to shower. Seeing as how there was a strong chance this would be a very upmarket sort of thing, I decided to shave. This'd be above and beyond any morning shavery. Now, being the hurried sort, I decided to shave in the shower, forsaking my usual cutthroat razor regimen. Foolishly, I decided to use one of those Gillette Mach Pi razors*.

I shaved quickly and emerged. I toweled my frame dry only to notice no small amount of vivid red upon the cotton loops of my fave towel draped in a manly way around my waist. I looked in the mirror and, to my chagrin, it looked as if I were clad in a bright scarlet toga.
I had nicked a particularly juicy capillary and it was bleeding quite freely with NO stanching it. It was bizarre to behold: the "wound" was maybe 1mm long. After two towels, some bathroom tissue applied to my neck (home of the nick in question) with manly pressure, I was able to swab it with some coagulant/liquid bandage thing.

The irony is that in all my years shaving with a straight razor or similarly antiquated gear, I have never so much as gotten razor burn, let alone losing a half-pint of my blood.


P.S. The car thing tonight proved to be more bling-bling than sophisticatedly posh. Most of the women there looked like Adult Film Stars who had just recently retired because they'd gotten a better offer from men with artificial hair and 3ct. diamond earrings. Lots of silicone implants, facial "work" and 6"(15cm) heels. And more Lamborghinis than at the VH1 Hip-hop Awards.

* Yes, there is coarse language at this link. You've been warned.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"So that we all know where we stand..."

Following is my translation of the address given by B16 at the Audience with the GC35 Jesuits. I am not a professional (or even a serious amateur) translator, just a Society of Jesus-lovin' fool with an Italian (okay, Sicilian) grandmother. If you think I have made a mistake in here somewhere, let me know. It's a bit rough, because Italian (moreso than Spanish or Latin) really doesn't lend itself a coherent literal translation; there'll be a lot of [brackets] and "dynamic equivalence" going on. You've been warned.

My emphases and comments.



P.S. InsightScoop has a thought-provoking entry on this, as does CWN.
P.P.S. This is bilocatin' over at SWC



At morning's end, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience the participants in General Congregation 35 of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and gave the speech that follows:


Dear Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus,

I am happy to be gathered [with you] today while the labors which you are undertaking enter into their conclusive phase. I thank the new Superior General, Father Adolfo Nicolás, who is to be the interpreter of your feelings and of your desire to address all the attentions the Church places in you, as I spoke in the message directed to Rev. Father Kolvenbach and -– through him -– to all of the Congregation at the beginning of your efforts. Once again, I thank Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach for the precious service of his governance to your Order for almost a quarter of a century. I salute also the members of the new General Council and the Assistants who will help the Superior General in the very delicate !! task of guiding your Society in its religious and apostolic aspects.

Your Congregation takes place during a period of great social, economical and political changes; of emphatically ethical, cultural and environmental problems, of conflicts of every sort; but also during a period of more intense communications between peoples, of new possibilities of knowledge and dialogue, of deep aspiration to peace. These go to the core of the Catholic Church and its capacity to announce to our contemporaries the Word of hope and of salvation. I myself wish, so deeply, the whole Society of Jesus would live -- thanks to the results of your Congregation -- with renewed vigor and fervor the mission for which the Spirit [has] inspired the Church and which, for more than four centuries [has blessed the Society] with extraordinary apostolic fruitfulness. I want today to encourage you and your brothers to continue on the road of this mission, in full faithfulness to your original charism, in the ecclesial and social contexts that have come to characterize the beginning of this millennium. As my Predecessors told you many times, the Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to look upon you with trust, in particular to reach those physical and spiritual places where others have not arrived or have difficulty in arriving. i.e. "Only Jesuits can do what the Jesuits do" The words of Paul VI are to remain engraved in your hearts: "Wherever in the Church you have been, either in the most difficult fields and in their vanguard, or at the crossroads of ideologies in the social trenches, or at the forefront [literally "at the confrontation"] between the burning needs of man and the perpetual message of the Gospel, there have been Jesuits." (3 December 1974, to General Congregation 32) This was a bit rough to translate...

Like the Formula of your Institute says, the Society of Jesus first of all is founded "for the defense and the propagation of the faith." Let us be mindful of exactly who has the authority to define what that faith is In a time in which new geographic horizons opened themselves, the first companions of Ignatius made themselves available to the Pope himself because "he sent them wherever he judged it to be for greater glory of God and help of the souls" Interesting set of priorities, yes? (Autobiography, n. 85). Thus you were sent off to announce the Lord to peoples and cultures that did not know Him yet. There is one such traveler with a courage and a zeal that remain an example and inspiration to this day: the name of St. Francis Xavier is the most famous of all, but how many other would [have done the same] if [they] could do it! Today there are people who do not know the Lord, or who do not know Him well, who do not know to recognize Him as the Savior; these [people] are greatly distant, not from the geographic point of view but, rather, from the cultural one. That is, engagement with the culture is supposed to produce a change in the culture. It is not the seas or large distances that are the obstacles challenging those who proclaim the Gospel, much more [of an obstacle is] the boundary of continuing in an erroneous or superficial view of God and of man Was that was a little bonus for Fr. Sobrino?, which interposes itself between human faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science, faith and striving for justice.

So the Church has urgent need of persons of solid and deep faith, of serious culture and of genuine human and social sensibility, of religious and priests who dedicate their life to be on this boundary witnessing and to helping to understand that in you inhabits a deep harmony of faith and reason, between Gospel spirit, thirst for justice and labor for peace. Only this way will it be possible to make known the one true Lord to so many for whom today He remains hidden or unrecognizable. To this the Society of Jesus ought dedicate itself preferentially. Which is to say "bring Christ -- sacramentally -- to those who do not know Him or know Him fully." Faithful to its best tradition, it is to continue forming with great care its members in [both] knowledge and in virtue, without [stooping] to content itself with mediocrity, because the task of confrontation and conversation within the very diverse social and cultural contexts and [given] the different outlook of the world today is most difficult and laborious. And this search for quality and human solidity, [both] spiritual and cultural, should also characterize all the complex formative activity and education of the Jesuits, towards all manner of persons wherever you find them.

In its history, the Society of Jesus has lived extraordinary experiences of proclamation and encounters between the Gospel and the cultures of the world –- all one has to do is think of Matteo Ricci in China, of Roberto De Nobili in India, or the "Reductions" of Latin America. You are rightly proud of this. Today I feel the duty of exhorting you to place yourselves again on the path of your predecessors with as much courage and intelligence, Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like "get back on track?" but also with as much profound motivation of faith and passion for serving the Lord and His Church. Nevertheless, while you seek to recognize signs of God's presence and work in every place in the world, even outside the confines of the visible Church, while you strive to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or have difficulty accepting its positions and messages, you must at the same time loyally accept the fundamental duty of the Church to adhere totally to the Word of God, and of the charge of the Magisterium to preserve the truth and the unity of Catholic doctrine completely. This is as clear as can be: in all you do, you are to remain 100% on "doctrinal diversity" need apply. This is valid not only for the personal efforts of the individual Jesuit: since he works as a member [literally "a limb"] of an apostolic body, you also have to be mindful [literally "be attentive to"] your works and institutions preserve always [that] clear and explicit identity, because the goal of your apostolic activity is not to remains ambiguous or dark, and because many other people share your ideals and wish to unite themselves to you effectively and enthusiastically, collaborating with your efforts to be of service to God and man. Pay attention to what you do and say, because others are also paying attention to you...and we don't want people wandering off in the wrong direction.

As you well know from having completed many times, under the guidance of St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises, the meditation "of the two flags," our world is a battlefield [Literally "a theater of combat"] between good and evil, and you have been [witnesses to] the work of potent negative forces, which have caused dramatic situations of the spiritual and material servility in our contemporaries against which you have, time and again, declared to want to fight, striving in service to the faith and the promotion of justice. Such forces demonstrate themselves today in many ways, but are particularly evident through cultural tendencies that often come to dominate, like subjectivism, relativism, hedonism, and the practice of materialism. For this reason I have asked your renewed efforts to promote and to defend Catholic doctrine "those neuralgic points of doctrine under heavy attack today from secular culture," some of which I gave as examples in my Letter. The issues of the salvation of all of the men in Christ, of sexual morality, of marriage and of the family, today are continually debated and put in doubt, are deepened and clarified in understanding within the context of contemporary reality, but only by preserving the harmony with the Magisterium which avoids provoking confusion and disconcerting the People of God. Let me repeat: What the Magisterium says, goes. Always.

I know and I understand well this is an especially sensitive and troubling point for you and for many of your brethren, above all for those involved in theological research, in interfaith dialogue and in dialogue with contemporary culture. For this very reason I have invited you previously and invite you again today to reflect how to recover [literally, "find again"] the fullest sense of your characteristic "fourth vow" of obedience to the Successor of Peter, which does not consist solely of a readiness to to be sent off on mission to distant lands, So let's not hear any more about how the 4th Vow is only that mission thing but also -– in the most genuine Ignatian spirit of the "think [literally "feel" or "sense"] with the Church and in the Church" – "to love and to serve" the Vicar of Christ on Earth with that "effective and affective" [literally, "real and affectionate"] devotion which ought make of you of his precious and irreplaceable collaborators in his service for the universal Church. Nobody can hold a candle to you guys when you proceed according to the desires of Christ's earthly representative.

At the same time I encourage you to continue and to renew your mission among the poor and with the poor. They are not lacking, unfortunately, for new causes of poverty and of marginalization in a world marked with serious economic and environmental imbalances, of processes of globalization guided more from egotism this is often mistranslated as "individualism" which ain't the same thing than from solidarity, of devastating and absurd armed conflicts. As I reminded the Latin American Bishops gathered at the Sanctuary of Aparecida, "the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in that God, for us, made Himself poor, to enrich us with His poverty (II Cor 8:9)". Therefore, it is natural for those who really want to be companions of Jesus, to really share that love for the poor. For them, this option for the poor is not ideological so enough about those ideas, m'kay?, but is born of the Gospel. Innumerable and dramatic are the situations of injustice and poverty in the world today, and if it is necessary to strive to understand and to fight its structural causes, it is also necessary to fight, in the heart of the man, the deep roots of evil, the sin that separates it from God, there are no sinful structures without sinful people to create, run and staff them without forgetting to meet the more urgent needs in the spirit of Christ's charity. Recalling and developing from one of the last of the farsighted intuitions of Father Arrupe, your Company continues to pledge itself in a praiseworthy manner in the service of the refugee, who often are the poorest among the poor and who need not only material help, but also [help] in that most deep spiritual, human and psychological venue that is proper to your service. The preferential option for the poor means the purpose of meeting their material needs is so that you may meet their greater, i.e., spiritual needs

I invite you to pay specific attention to the preservation of the ministry of the Spiritual Exercises which, from your beginnings, has been characteristic of your Society. The Exercises are the source of your spirituality and the mother of your Constitutions, but are also a gift the Spirit of the Lord has given to the whole Church: it is up to you to continue to use this precious and effective tool for the spiritual growth of souls, for their initiation to prayer, for meditation in this secularized world where God belongs. In the past week I also made progress in the Spiritual Exercises, along with one of my closest collaborators of the Roman Curia, under the guidance of your outstanding brother, Card. Albert Vanhoye. In times like these, in which [we see] confusion and multiplicity of messages, the speed of change and circumstances makes it especially difficult for our contemporaries to put order in their own lives and [makes it difficult] to answer decisively and with delight the call the Lord makes to everyone, [in times like these] the Spiritual Exercises represent a path and a particularly beautiful method of knowing His will and putting it into practice. So, while you may tweak around the margins, the Spiritual Exercises are, and are to remain, a pathway to Christ. Only. This ain't yoga, people.

In this spirit of obedience to the will of God, to Jesus Christ, which also becomes humble obedience to the Church, In case anyone showed up late: you cannot be obedient to Christ without being obedient to His Church. This is being repeated for a reason. There may be a quiz later. I invite to continue to completion the labors of your Congregation, and I join you in the prayer taught by St. Ignatius at the conclusion of the Exercises -– a prayer that always seems to me too great, to the point that I almost do not dare to say it and which, nonetheless we ought always repeat. "Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me. I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more." (EX 234).

Lenten Friday cookalong, part 3

[This had been stuck in my draft pile--waiting for pictures, I guess--but here it is.]

I realize a lot of people have given up chocolate for Lent and, sometimes something happens calling for a celebratory dessert. Fear not, the answer is Flan. Now, not everyone may have an idea of what the deal is with flan. The French tried (and failed) to appropriate it and rename it "creme renversee" or "creme caramel" but Flan it is.

It's basically a baked custard, firmer than a creme brulee (lacking the latter's caramel exoskeleton, it'd have to be) and with a less eggy/more milky flavor profile.

This was originally a Spanish dessert, but as it spread throughout the Empire, local variations evolved. I know Mexico has its variation, as does Argentina and they are all as similar as first cousins. The version from Cuber relies on "convenience products" borne of a then-close association with the USA and the necessities of a tropical climate where dairy and eggs spoiled quickly (that's why you'll never see a recipe that has an imbalance of yolks and white...too much waste). For example, in Spain, they'd never use anything other than fresh whole milk, etc.

I'll post mo' pictures, but here's the dead-easy recipe.

Flan (in the style of Cuber)

¼ c. sugar
1 can of condensed milk (lowfat or fat free is fine)
1¼ c. of milk (anything that is NOT SKIM milk will also work: whole milk, evaporated milk in any -- even fat free! -- variation, lowfat...just not fresh skim milk)
4 large eggs (or 2 eggs and 3 whites)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Take a soufflé dish, scatter the sugar evenly over the bottom and place in the oven at 325F (___C) until the sugar has caramelized to the color of pale honey, toss in the freezer to set caramel. If your dish isn't tempered to handle the temperature shock -- or if you don't want to discover it isn't the hard way -- you may use a saucepan to melt/caramelize the sugar and then pour the caramel in the dish, rolling it around to coat the bottom evenly. Set aside.

Empty the condensed milk into a mixing bowl, scraping the inside as clean as possible. Add the milk to the empty can, to rinse off what you can, and then add to the bowl. Add your eggs, and mix not incorporate air into this. Stir in vanilla.

Pour custard mix into soufflé dish. Place dish in a roasting pan and fill with water. Turn oven to 300F and bake for about 60-70 minutes, until the center is wobbly. Remove and refrigerate until chilled (figure 3 hours). Run a damp boning knife along the edge and invert to unmold.

Using evaporated milk over fresh will give a bit more depth of flavor, fresh milk will make it taste lighter. Same applies to the ratio of yolks to whites. Using extra whites will make the flan firmer, but less eggy. I like using skim evaporated milk and whole eggs. You do whatever. You may also make this in individual ramekins which makes for a more posh presentation, but is a greater PITA in unmolding. Oh, and baking time drops to +/- 45-50 minutes.

The most important thing in making flan is keeping an eye on the time/heat in baking. You can tell you did it right if there are no bubbles or "eyes" in the body of the custard. If you get these, the texture will suffer some (its mouthfeel will be a touch gritty; the more bubbles, the grittier) but it will taste fine. Just adjust the time/temperature accordingly. When in doubt, it's better to bake these sorts of things low and slow.

This ain't a race, people.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

From the "Full Disclosure" Dept.

Let me say this and get it out of the way (on the off chance you haven't been able to piece it together from the fine and large print). In terms of politics I am a conservative. A "movement*" conservative.

Furthermore, I have always been one.

I volunteered to work my first political campaign in 1976, in Reagan's first fight for the GOP nomination; when he narrowly lost, I supported (and volunteered for) Gerald Ford. I did the same in 1980 and again in 1988. I didn't in 1992 because I felt very much let down, not by the principles I held/hold dear, but by the party that claimed to uphold them, and did so with too-irritating variability. 1996 was a more tired rerun of that, and 2000 was an upbeat rerun of that.

There was a moment in the mid-1980s when I flirted with Libertarianism, but I gave that up when I realized most of the people with whom I interacted in that party were interested only in legalizing the purchase of drugs but no taxes thereupon.

Of course, I can see my way clear to compromises. Sometimes. It is acceptable to compromise in matters of distance (I want a 20% increase in the funding of widgets and settle for 11%) but I set my jaw firmly against compromises in terms of direction (new gummint bureaucracies for new gummint entitlements).

I believe in free markets for a people endowed with free will, and I believe in behaving according to Adam Smith's dictum of "enlightened self-interest." I am a Constitutional literalist, I believe the public education system suffers from delusions of adequacy, I believe that nobody -- including the unborn -- ought be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. I believe in the Laffer Curve and in the impoverishing effects of confiscatory tax policies. I believe a democratic republic cannot long survive with its constituent population adrift from the Judeo-Christian values that inform same.

I believe that a nation has the right to determine who is to cross its borders and has teh obligation to secure those borders. I also believe such a nation also ought deal firmly, but compassionately, with those who break those laws. I believe in individuals, not groupings, and individualism not egotism. I believe sometimes the only way to a lasting peace is through victory. I believe sacrifice is to be honored and hard work rewarded and loyalty exalted. I believe hope comes from a free people, tempered by faith, honoring their gifts from God in harmony with their neighbor. I believe in being environmentally prudent, not slavish earth-worshipers.

I don't believe George H.W. Bush is a conservative, nor George W., nor John McCain, though I have voted/will vote for all of them. I don't believe in climate change (in either direction), I don't believe anyone's race or ethnicity has any bearing on anything, I don't believe the gummint ever improves anything except by leaving it alone.

I believe the legitimate functions of gummint are appallingly few. I believe that helping the less fortunate is an individual moral obligation, not something to be fobbed off on bureaucrats flush with monies extracted from individuals via the police power of the state. I believe in the right to defend yourself and your family by whatever practical means. I believe that granting "marriage" to any combination of people that's not one man and one woman is like giving a dog license to a cat, a turtle or a parakeet. I believe the only way to eradicate poverty and bring about social justice is with economic liberty.

All my life I have held these views. I have argued with ostensibly brilliant people who held views opposite these and have yet to be swayed...or convinced of their brilliance.

I believe there is a difference between working with your political opponents and caving to them, and that neither is a substitute for convincing people that one's ideas are right.

There, now we're clear.


* What everyone else calls a "hardcore" conservative.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Because I care and want to help.

As you have read throughout this blog and others of a similar cut to their jib, there have been some times where, lamentably, Jesuit universities and colleges have decided to fund* and produce such fare as the Vagina Monologues or host such profane and mysogynist recording stars which promote generally dysfunctional and specifically anti-Catholic values as Ludacris.

There are some people who have greeted these news, especially in the case of the all-pervasive -- no, really, you can't get away from them -- Vagina Monologues, with no small measure of dismay. Indeed, we are confident to say those who have greeted these news with dismay have afforded the presidents of these Jesuit universities and colleges great opportunities to offer up the pain of a headache for the release of souls in Purgatory. To say nothing of adding to the coffers of pharmaceutical companies which manufacture analgesics which, by now, must be achoke with cash.

However, it strikes me that in continually making decisions which upset a great many of their donor base (parents and alumni, say) they are making things difficult for themselves. Each fresh announcement (the Transgender Blasphemy Parade, the Gangsta Rap Divine Office, the Dissident Plaster Casters Symposium, the Serial Rapist Papier Mache Figurine Exhibition** or whatever) brings a fresh wave of derision, in turn bringing a fresh wave of headache for the administration.

So, being the Jesuit-educated MBA-type I am, I put my considerable gifts for strategic thinking to work. Why not, thought I, consolidate all of these controversies? This means only one volley of complaints is to be fielded and explained with only one uncomfortably pained rhetorical jeteé and voilá!, the antagonists are but a spent force.

Bloody clever, thought I. And so, to aid our friends who afford college students such options, I suggest:


AMDG, of course.


* Nobody is griping about studying them or reading them or acting them out within the context of a classroom discussion. We're talking about subsidizing their production and promoting same.

** Relax, I made those up.

Lenten Friday cookalong, part 2

Monkfish Tail with Spinach and Mussel Curry

1 large monkfish tail (+/- 1lb.) cut into 2 fillets (you can use Maine or Florida lobster if you feel flush, or even Extra Large shrimp/prawns such as U-10s or 11-15s, duly peeled and all that...whatever is freshest within your budget will be fine)
1/2 lb. mussels, cleaned and beards removed (this is optional)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
5oz dry white wine (NOT cooking wine, I like Sauvignon Blanc)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 small leek, ditto
1 rib celery, ditto
1 tsp Madras curry powder (I mix half hot and half regular)
1 fat pinch saffron threads
8 tsp regular curry powder and salt (about 50-50)
1/2 lb baby spinach (take out any overly tough stems...oh, and this will cook down to nothing)
5oz coconut milk or heavy cream (but try to avoid the ultra-pasteurized stuff if you can)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped roughly
Peanut oil

Get your fishmonger to (or you can do it yourself if you feel daring) peel the membrane from the fish, otherwise it WILL get all gnarled during cooking. Cut each one in half. Heat a biggish saucepan over medium-high until hot, throw in your mussels with one of the sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf and the wine. Yes, it will hiss and sizzle and steam. Deal with it. Cover the pan immediately, give it a manly shake and cook for approximately 30 seconds JUST until all the mussels pop open.

Strain the mussels (you want to make sure you aren't leaving any grit) and reserve the juices. When they are no longer screaming hot, shuck the mussels; set aside. In a skillet over medium low heat, put in a dribble of peanut oil and when it starts to shimmer add your spices ( the 1 tsp of Madras curry powder, the saffron and remaining thyme) and stir for 20 seconds or so to "develop" their flavor. Add the vegetables and sauté (you don't want any caramelization) until soft. Add the strained mussel juice and reduce. If you skipped the mussel part, use any seafood stock you might have or 50-50 clam juice and water.

Season the monkfish with the curry salt. This is to dry out and firm up the monkfish. Wait for it to sweat (you'll end up with +/- 1 tbsp. of moisture) and then pat (do NOT rub off the seasoning!) the fillets dry. Put a skillet over medium-hot and sautee the fish in peanut oil until just golden brown on each side. Gently wilt the spinach leaves in a warm pan with dribble of peanut oil figuring 1-2 minutes. (You can also zap it in the microwave. All you want is a wilting.)

Add the coconut milk (Lite is OK) or cream to vegetables and bring it up to just a boil, then turn off. Add mussels (if you're using them). At the last nanosecond, add the cilantro (you can use less if you don't like it) and divide into warmed, shallow serving bowls (or deep plates).

Plop a bed of spinach on top of the mussel/vegetable curry, slice the fish fillets about 1" thick and arrange on top.

The only fussy bit, really, is the addition of the mussels and this can be easily left out. But I like it. The mussels can be made well ahead, and so can the curry bit, which also doubles or triples easily for other purposes. You can also JUST make the mussel curry, or JUST make the monkfish...each is delicious on its own; or if you are feeling posh, you can break this up into two separate courses.

You're welcome.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bubbly and Sparkly and St. Valentine-like

Just in time for St. Valentine's Day, the good folk at have posted my review of assorted Champagnes (and derivatives).

Go ovah theah and click thereon. (The more clickage, the more excellent wines I get for free to review.)


-The Management

That's ST. Valentine to you

Most people inflicted with my society have had to endure my rant on the fact the "St." part was dropped from St. Valentine's Day. Ironically, the only time you hear the "St." bit is when someone is talking about the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

So, because I'm all about the edifying, here is the scoop on St. Valentine:

Valentine was a priest in Terni, and he was installed as a bishop in Rome. By training he was a physician. Sometimes he is found in the various books and texts as St. Valentine of Terni and other times as St. Valentine of Rome. (Sometimes people get confused with St. Valentinian of Africa, but he was a different martyr.)

One day he was tending his garden when a centurion named Sabino and a Christian woman named Serapia approached him--he had a general reputation of being kind, and wise and all that--because they were in love but:
a) Christianity was being persecuted and
b) Li'l Miss Christian wouldn't consent to marriage unless Sabino converted, dangerous as that was, especially given his rank and position in the army.

He made them a present of a bouquet of roses (or maybe one rose, accounts differ) which would remain in bloom until one or the other had changed his (or her) mind.

It was Sabino who relented and having converted, Valentine married them in secret. The marriage turned out so so happy that many other similar couples followed their example, to such a point that the Church was induced to dedicate one day of the year to a general benediction of the state of matrimony. But Emperor Claudius and his gang weren't so keen on their centurions, legionnaires, soldiers and senators, etc. going off and marrying Christians and converting. After all, the Emperor (starting with Aurelius, I think) had ordered Christians were to be persecuted and fed to the lions and all that and this stuff, frankly, made them look bad. They found out who was responsible and, catching him in the act of performing a wedding, seized him. They probably beat him up along the process, what with Romans being Romans.

Anyway, the next day he was dragged before the prefect and thrown in the dungeon. While he was there he cured the dungeonkeeper's (a guy named Asterius) daughter Julia of blindness. The entire family converted and he secretly baptized them. When the prefect, Placidus Furius (ni-i-i-i-ice, huh?) heard of this miracle and the subsequent conversion of one of the more prominent families in Roman dungeonkeeping circles, he was livid. He sent orders that Valentine was to be beaten with staves in public and then beheaded.

On 14 February, 273 A.D., he was beaten for the prescribed 3 hours and then beheaded in Rome. The morning of the execution, he is said to have sent the dungeonkeeper's family a farewell message signed, "From your Valentine." His body was thrown outside the city walls and buried in the catacombs along the Flaminian Way; his relics were later transferred to the Church of Saint Praxedes, although some relics are found in Ireland, Scotland and Malta, to name a few spots.
In 1644 he was proclaimed Patron Saint of Terni (in Umbria, Italy) and also patron saint of those in love. The Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni was built in 1605 on the ruins of Roman temples, and contains works of art of some interest, particularly in the crypt.

He is the patron of stuff you'd expect, such as affianced couples, betrothed couples, engaged couples, happy marriages, love and lovers; as well my favorite, listed withouth the slightest shred of irony: greeting card manufacturers.

However he is also the patron of travelers, young people and for reasons which have yet to be adequately explored, bee keepers. ("I love you, Honey?") His intercession is invoked against fainting, epilepsy, and the plague. (All of which are element which will be vaguely familiar to happily married couples.)

And now you know.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Helping you clearly understand the blatantly obvious

The lovely and gracious Karen has noted with some alarm the joyful noise made unto a pro-abortion candidate for President (who has been a U.S. Senator for exactly three years and a month) by some assorted Jesuits and/or affiliates, without much in the way of an explanation regarding where the Senator stands well afield of Catholic teaching. A few examples of this can be found here and here and, most recently, here. I must confess my concern that we'll see more such highlights as time wears on. We can only hope that correction from above will ensue.

It bears noting that Sen. Obama, y'know, doesn't exactly call attention to his (abysmal and untenable and indefensible and, truth be told, intellectually vacant) views, positions and voting record and those in his thrall make no effort to discern same. Quite the opposite, he "says nothing better than anyone." Alas, I'm not sure the information would matter to his claque if they had it, although in all charity -- sadly, NOT my default personality trait -- I must afford them some hope as re. being open to reason.

Thinking back of my halcyon Wilderness Years, I remembered a song that, frankly, encapsulates the I-don't-know-how-to-quit-you sentiment that has threatened me with acute glycemic shock and nausea of late.

You're welcome,


P.S. The lyrics are so dead-on that it's eerie.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Oh, that Good Friday prayer.

Over at the America Magazine blog, Fr. James Martin SJ posted a bit on the Holy Father amending of the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Most of those who leapt into the combox decried the decision. I take issue with their conclusions and in doing so I must, alas, disagree with my pal Steve Bogner.

I am puzzled by the dismay on several fronts. One guy said this was a throwback to pre-Vatican II (ahem) "Dark Ages" language. He is precisely wrong. When you change the language to something new-for-2008 it cannot, by definition, be pre-Vatican II. You can say the new Mustang has retro overtones, but you can't say it's a 1965 model.

However, if we as Catholics believe in the salvific and redemptive power of Christ and in His Church (and at last count, we did) and if we believe the Catholic Church alone posesses the fullness of truth (and at last count, we did) and if take very seriously the command to evangelize everyone* why wouldn't we pray that others come to that same belief? How does it show disrespect to pray that God illuminates hearts in the direction of His Church? After all we are not praying for God to smite anyone, nor are we calling fire down on those who believe differently. This is not a recognition or validation of anti-Semitism or Jewish inferiority.

Where this gets many people uncomfortable is that we're saying something akin to "Other religions aren't quite as good." And, um, yeah...we kind of are. Rather, we're praying that. But in this day and age, politesse trumps revelation. It strikes many people as disrespectful to say that one religion -- especially a religion the adherents of which have been persecuted for centuries -- does not contain the fullness of Truth.

The 1970/Novus Ordo prayer was not used, as some have suggested, I surmise for two simple reasons:
1- To demonstrate the 1962 Missal is a living and organic thing (important, because I believe the Holy Father wants the Extraordinary form to be used), and
2- To underscore the differences between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form.

Is the prayer in the Extraordinary Form more pointed (or more precise, depending on your stance)? Yes, it is. But it also serves to underscore the belief it is valid and legitimate for Catholics to desire Jews (and Protestants, and Muslims, and...) to see the light of Christ and His Church. Which is what we're praying.

After all, in a weak-tea sort of way the 1970 prayer asks exactly the same thing. It's not a prayer for God to make nice to one group or another. The revised prayer is NOT "Please God, help the Elbonians, who are such an awful and miserable bunch." Why this has been the (emphatically)subjective interpretation thereof, I'm at a loss.

In sum, it would be a massive disservice to leave anyone out in our prayerful desire that all people -- and Scripture** very specifically says for us to give primacy to the Jews -- come to Christ and His Church. As a Catholic, you simply cannot love humanity unless you prayerfully desire all people to come to know Christ sacramentally.

Not really sure why this is so complicated.


P.S. Over at First Things, they have an EXCELLENT entry on the contrast between the main denominations of Judaism today, and it impacts on how we perceive this issue.

* Mt. 28:19 Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Mk. 16:15 And He said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Lk. 24:47 And that penance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

** Incidentally, the prayer has been revised to omit language used by St. Paul his own self in Romans 11:25-26, so if you really want to get all bent out of shape, take it up with Scripture and/or St. Paul and/or the Holy Spirit who inspired same.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lenten Friday cookalong.

OK. This is a great (and fast) recipe from one of my favorite chefs, Gordon Ramsay. This guy is a brilliant chef, albeit (not in THIS video) something of a profanity expert as well.

Linguine with Crab & Chile

Serves 4

100ml olive oil
1 medium-hot red chile [that looks like a longhorn chile], deseeded and finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
3 pared strips of lemon zest, finely chopped
450g [+/- 1lb.] FRESH linguine (use half as much if all you vae is dried)
2 tbsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
225g [+/- 1/2 lb.] white crab meat
2 tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

Method: How to make crab pasta with chile
1. Put the olive oil, chile, garlic and lemon zest into a small pan and put over a gentle heat until it begins to sizzle. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil. Add the linguine and cook for until al dente. [Fresh pasta cooks a LOT faster] Drain well and set aside.

3. Tip the chile and lemon mixture into the pan the pasta was in, then add the lemon juice and season. Heat until sizzling, then add the linguine and crab meat to the pan and toss gently over a medium heat to warm the crab through.

Add the parsley, season, and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

There ya go!


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Juxtaposition without any need for comment.

From the letter of the Holy Father to then Fr. Gen. Kolvenbach, SJ dated Jan. 18, 2008:
...the General Congregation [should] reaffirm, in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.

From an NCR article (by John Allen) and interview, dated Feb. 1, 2008 with Fr. David Smolira, SJ former Provincial of the Province of Great Britain:
Pressed as to whether the Jesuits see accepting official church teaching on the specific points mentioned in the pope’s letter as a matter of obedience, Smolira said, “I’m not sure it’s a matter of obedience, and I’m not sure that’s the best way of couching the issue.”



Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday: I live to benefit humanity.

Riffing off some pretty (albeit not-in-the-usual-way) brilliant stuff from Ryan Duns, SJ I have decided to, in order to better serve my fellow man, post fish & seafood recipes for Lent. Starting with today, Ash Wednesday.

I don't really swing in this direction on this here blog, but I am a serious, hardcore foodie. Tell me of a fishmonger who gets in shipments of live shrimp and I'll wake up at crazy o'clock to go and get my fair share.

At our annual Thanksgiving meal (at our parish we have a Thanksgiving food fest, delivering food for the poor/elderly/etc.) I must have been the only guy wondering about how to get the skin to maximum crispness (air-dry for 24 hours in the fridge, add a bit of baking soda to the herb rub) or pondering the correct ratio of thyme : sage : marjoram (3:2:1).

That's just the way I am wired. Sue me.

Now, I've been in an Italian-seaside-resort frame of mind recently. Partly because that's just the way it is, and partly because visiting one such resort is a likely option for this summer.


One of the nice things about living on the very Fringe O' Paradise is that seafood doesn't have to be flown in. Throw in the combination of having enough of an Asian population that positively fetishizes fresh seafood and you got something. Among my twelvety frillion errands one day I had decided to include stopping by the Japanese seafood place. (It was my last stop.)

As usual they had a tank full of live shrimp and I managed to get a pound of shrimp which they happily peeled...and with the shells and heads reserved. I had decided to make Sopa de Tomates y Gambas.

It's pretty easy stuff.

Shrimp & Tomato Soup

+/- 3 Tbsp. EVOO
4 cloves of garlic,
sliced translucently thin (you want as much surface area as possible, feel free to add 1-2 more)
1 small yellow onion, diced small but not freakishly so 1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 pinch fennel seeds, roughly cracked
8-10 basil leaves, cut in shreds as fine as your patience will permit
1 lb. diced tomatoes, peeled and seeded (not everyone can get ripe tomatoes in February, so use one 14 oz. can if you must, but under these circumstances I prefer the aseptic package brand, Pomi)
24 oz. seafood stock (I made this with the shrimp shells, but you can go 50-50 water and clam juice)
24 medium shrimp (41-50/lb. is ideal, but the 31-40/lb. size will also work)
Salt to taste

Swirl the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. The nanosecond it shimmers, add the red pepper and fennel seeds -- you won't believe how much the latter will perfume the final dish -- and when that goes fragrant, add the garlic. Wait about half a minute and add the onion; this will "cushion" the garlic and help prevent its burning. When the onion is translucent, add the tomatoes and basil and stir, cooking until the redness of the tomato mutes to a brick-red...figure 5 minutes. Add the seafood stock and bring to a simmer. Add any accumulated juices (esp. if you used frozen) from the shellfish. Return to a simmer. Add the scallops. After 5 minutes, add the shrimp and turn off the heat; cover stockpot. 5 minutes later, the shrimp should be JUST pink. Check and correct seasoning.

Serve. I like mine garnished with roast red peppers and garlic in EVOO, but you do whatev.

PS You WILL need good bread to soak up the liquid. Either that or a straw.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

It's funny 'cause it's true.

Warning: There is a TINY bit of coarse language.

This hilarious clip explains, pretty clearly, how Christ feels about the unborn.

"How are you NOT getting this?"


Monday, February 04, 2008

In a related story...


Every Saturday, at our parish, we offer confirmandi the opportunity to earn Service Hours* by participating in a clean-up. They sweep and pick up, replace candles...that sort of stuff. Among the tasks with which they are charged is to go through the missal holders and clean out the gum wrappers, old crayons, leftover wedding invitations, etc.

I sent most of the kids to do the main floor, but I sent a couple up to the balcony. About 10 minutes later one of them comes back, eyes bulging: "Mr. G.! Mr. G.! Mr. G.! Look! Look! Look! I found this." He handed me the Eucharist, in the form of a consecrated host, snapped roughly in half and looking a bit worse for wear. "Mr. G., we have to burn this, right?"

"Uh, no. Gimme." and I consumed, dirt an all. I then went into a riff on what the Eucharist really is. Our Lord, Jesus Christ truly and really present, Body and Blood and Soul and Divinity. There is nothing as important -- ever -- than how we treat Christ when he is physically present in our midst. Yes, other things are also important. I'm thinking of all those we-see-the-face-of-Christ moments with those who need our help; but NOTHING is as important as how we treat the Blessed Sacrament. Nothing. Period. End of story, don't even think to argue.

Whenever someone starts up with "But, but, but...what about ______?" I remind them of this snippet from Scripture (Mt. 26:7-13):
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he reclined at table. But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, "To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." When Jesus heard this, He said unto them, "Why trouble ye the woman? She hath wrought a good work upon Me. For ye have the poor always with you; but Me, ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial. Verily I say unto ye: Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

How DID this consecrated host come to reside in a missal holder on the 2nd floor of a church? By a coarsening of sense of reverence due it. This is in great part due to the taking Communion in the hand. (I'll take it in the hand when I can also partake of the Blood of Christ in the hand.) But don't take my world for it.



* They need to perform 45 hours of community service in order to be eligible for Confirmation.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Fr. Z. nails it. Again.

Over at his most excellent blog, Fr. Z., in making a comment on the "fair-minded nearly ubiquitous former Rome correspondent for the ultra-lefty [ain't that the truth] NCR" John Allen's weekly blurb, clearly identifies a potent motivation for the general movements fostered by the Holy Father.

Here is the bit where Father does what the Romans used to refer to as rem acu tetigisti*:
If Catholics do not recover and strengthen a clear Catholic identity, one that is coherent in teaching and practice and in continuity with our past, then we cannot make the contribution the Lord commands her to give to the world. In the ever secularizing, relativizing world, solid clear Catholics are being marginalized, while the squishy amorphous sort are being allowed to stick around as tokens in public discourse. We need renewal of our identity so that we can understand well who we are and live our lives in keeping with that identity (this is the ad intra dimension). Only in this way can we have something vital and effective to contribute to the world at large (this is the ad extra dimension).

To paraphrase this in more common parlance: "How can you be true to yourself if you don't know who you are?"

Go read the rest here.



* Literally, "you have touched upon the matter with a needle" or what we'd call "you hit the nail on the head."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

We are winning! Part whatever.



Friday, February 01, 2008

From Plato's "Republic" to "Plato's Retreat."

Our old pals at William & Mary are at it again.

President Gene Nichol has given the greenlight to the decidedly redlight "Sex Workers Art Show." Again. Last year, Nichol said he felt great pain but was bound (now, now, no snide remarks from the Peanut Gallery) by the First Amendment, which clearly stipulates that feminine looking persons (charity compels me to assume this was a woman) dressed as women religious performing what otherwise would be a particularly unimpressive sword-swallowing routine upon what seems to be prosthetis be allowed and subsidized.

To the accompaniment of Schubert's Ave Maria.

Now, for some reason, this is considered by Today's Bright Young Things to be art. I'm sure in the salons of the Uppah West Side, the Castro district or points similar, or in discussions among expatriates therefrom, we might often hear things such as "Ah, but did you see Candi's performance as Sr. Fellatrix in '06? Sublime, I tell you. Her choice of the 'Ave Maria' from the Fantasia soundtrack is inspired. Sure, Traci and "Jiggles" tried, but they simply didn't have the consummate skill to do justice to this piece. Nobody could ever replicate the nuance and humanity of her performance. Well, not without $50 and a nearby motel, at any rate."

The curious thinking of the "useful idiots" in the student population is that such a show brings awareness to the sex industry. Why an industry that survives and thrives on the strength of people looking at it nonstop needs to have attention drawn to it has yet to be adequately addressed. I would have thought this is no different than saying that what Oprah Winfrey needs is someone willing to give her some start-up funding.

Anyway, in what is rapidly becoming Nichol's annual painful bondage (ladies and gentlemen, please) to the First Amendment (at least as defined by his fellow travelers) he has reluctantly and amid great discomfort given his assent again. While not actually explaining why it would censorship to say "Feel free to do this, just do so elsewhere" (such as, say, ecdysiast venues) or why it violates the First Amendment to say "We're not paying for this" he did offer up that bound-and-pain thing as a palliative. He also asserts this show is "offensive" and reminds us that on this issue, he is deeply pained, and yet bound. He didn't actually add that he "has been a bad boy, a very naughty boy...and naighty boys deserve discipline, oh yes...strict displine."

It seems to my -- utterly provincial, sure -- mind rather incomprehensible that such an infamous location as Times Square & 42nd Street seem to have a more stringent definition of obscenity than the College of William & Mary, 2nd oldest in the USA. Or that art is something that resembles what Saddam Hussein's connoisseur sons held in great (and frequent) regard. Or resembles that for which you can be billed discreetly to your mobile phone statement.

Naturally, something borne of such a paucity of thought cannot end there without ever more impressively ridiculous devolutions. It turns out that at this "No Censorship Here!" zone cameras will not be allowed. Stop and let the matter sink in for a moment. The argument goes this is for the protection of the Sex Workers (the sex amateurs be hanged) and....possibly for the protection of the DVD and new media income streams, copyrights and all ancillary intellectual property and merchanising rights. The good news, then, is that W&M does not host such events because of any moral torpor, it does so because it simply hasn't the sense God gave a Buick.

Perhaps if this were real art and a valuable legacy of W&M's past it could be gathering much dust under plexiglass in a corner. Like certain other items equally offensive to Gene Nichol.