Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What to make of Ted Kennedy?

Right up front, I'll get to some disclosures about the late Sen. Kennedy.

1) I never met him.
2) On the basis of ideology, I really, really disagreed with him on pretty much everything.
3) He seems to have been a man with a lot of demons. (I'm guessing being Joe Kennedy Sr.'s son couldn't have such a treat.)
4) The panegyrics to him drive me up the wall, far more than he did in life.
5) I prayed for his soul.

I'm one of those people who believed that, in spite of his aggressive and unrelenting support of abortion rights during his career, the fact he seems to have made a Sacramental Confession at his deathbed would allow for a Catholic funeral for him. I would like to believe he repented of his support for abortion and same sex unions and embryonic stem-cell research, etc.

But... somebody somewhere should have made sure his funeral Mass was not the crypto-partisan debacle it turned into.

At some point -- I'm thinking the homily -- it might have been time to highlight the fact his support of these cast a serious pall on his legacy.

I'll set aside other strictly ideological issues (not that adherents of appeasement and redistribution a specific approach to "peace and justice" are doing same) and for the purposes of discussion grant that Sen. Kennedy was, in fact doing what he thought was best to help the downtrodden and so forth.

That still doesn't address a lot of other areas where Sen. Kennedy might have acted out of sync with Catholic teaching. The HuffPo (emphases mine):
"Obama praised Ted for modeling how to struggle intensely against your opponents, but never stooping to demonize or denounce them. Be loud. Be Raucous. Be militant. But be civil."
How that squares with:
"Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is — and is often the only — protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy."
It's one thing for a faithful Catholic to agree with much of what Sen. Kennedy stood for, but quite another to gloss over or minimize his flaws and the consequences of those flaws.

It's supremely ironic that it was Barack Obama who reminded everyone that Ted Kennedy's soul needs prayer*. Because it does, regardless of the paeans and homages.

AMDG,

-J.

* As does mine, maybe even more than his.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Backhanded compliments are still compliments.

Here is a fun little something I ran across as I tried to get a better handle on the whole "LCWR visitation thing."

To my mind, the answer to the question as to "Why is the Vatican investigating women religious in the USA?" can be best expressed thus: "Because there is no certainty they are espousing unwavering fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church." Throwing around ostensibly pithy phrases such as "creative fidelity" ain't helping, people. (You married folks, try and tell your spouse that you're living a life of creative fidelity to them and then let me know how it went after the paramedics leave.)

Anyway.

Where was I? Ah...yes. Rummaging.

It was in the process of this rummagingness that I ran across some interesting comments by Sr. Laurie Brink, who delivered the keynote address at the 2007 LCWR assembly. Sister was assessing the options available to communities, and she summarized them as follows:
1. Death with Dignity and Grace
2. Acquiescence to Others’ Expectations
3. Sojourning in a New Land not yet Known
4. Reconciliation for the Sake of the Mission
I'll leave to your imagination (or reading, should you feel diligent) what 1, 3 and 4 mean. I want to address Sister's rather, um, opinionatedly titled Option #2.

Here's Sister (starting on pg. 13 of the text of her remarks), with my emphases and comments:
Not every congregation is giving up the ghost sort to speak. Some have attended to their reality and are making choices that a generation ago would have been anathema to their members. These groups are recognizing the changing atmosphere in the institutional Church, the reneging on the promises of Vatican II what those promises might be or, more importantly where they are to be found, and the seemingly conservative because they couldn't possibly be actually conservative young adults interested in pursing a life of holiness through the profession of the evangelical counsels. They are taking seriously Pope John Paul II’s call to pursue holiness first above all else and the problem with that is...what, exactly?. They are putting on the habit, or continuing to wear the habit with zest. They are renewing pious practices such as adoration (!) and the Rosary (!!). They are returning to the classroom.

Some would critique that they are the nostalgic portrait of a time now passed. But they are flourishing...and why?. Young adults are finding in these communities a living image of their romantic view it couldn't possibly be something deeper, right? of Religious Life. They are entering. And they are staying.
It would not be charitable to characterize Sister's comments. But, I think it's fair to highlight these comments note -- begrudgingly and with some editorializing, it seems -- the blossoming of vocations in the more, er, traditional communities.

What strikes me as illuminating are the reasons Sister gives for the current flourishing of these communities.

Just a thought.

AMDG,

-J.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beef. I like beef.

In previous discussions elsewhere with the lovely and gracious Karen, the subject of steak came up.

Which prompted me to dig up and complete this post that had been moldering away in a near-forgotten sector. (What the coarse and vulgar population might rudely term my "draft pile." But they'd be wrong.)

Anyway.

Last Christmas I received a sampler pack of seasonings from Williams-Sonoma. Smallish tins of +/- 1 oz. each. Mexican this, Seattle that, etc. Anyway. They had a steak seasoning which I rather enjoyed. But, while one is trudging through The Great Recession, buying the large tin at $10 (!) for a mere 4 oz.* (!!) is not going to happen.

So.

I set about deconstructing it and, frankly, improving it. If you ever pick up these sorts of seasonings you will notice three things at the head of the ingredients list (in the USA, ingredients have to be listed in order, starting with the most abundant one) sugar, salt, and paprika. Sure, they may give them ultra-posh adjectives such as "Herne Bay sea salt" or "Peruvian sun dried paprika" but you must realize these things are cheap filler. Also there were some variants of ingredients which I thought (correctly, as my lab research shows) could be substituted or upgraded.

Thus, I gathered Joey (Davy is more of the quality control tester) and we assembled in the kitchen, gathering our spice jars and an old coffee mill we comandeered AGES ago for the purpose of spice grinding. You will NOT believe how helpful Joey was. He has an eerily accurate palate.

But I digress.

Here is my version. It is, on purpose, NOT identical to the original, because as noted above, I believed I should change some of the things I didn't like "while I was at it." I'll note those as I go.

(This is all by volume, use teaspoons, cups, or whatever.)

3 parts granulated garlic (Usually I'd go for fresh garlic, but in these applications, it'd fall off and/or scorch. So I got a good brand of granulated. The original rub had granulated roast garlic, but I found it got bitter over the chargrill's high/dry heat so I switched...oh, make sure you use the granulated and not the powdered stuff, which often has bizarro ingredients!)

1 part EACH black peppercorns and red pepper flakes (in the original, I couldn't detect much heat from the chile seeds/ribs...but I tend to like a bit of heat, so I used flakes instead of a seeded dry chile...although next time I might experiment with a varietal such as cascabel)

2 parts each coriander seed, dill seed, yellow -- I s'pose you could try brown -- mustard seed.

Put all in a spice mill and whiz 3-4 pulses...you want a pretty good crack, but not a homogeneous powder. I like mine a TINY bit finer than spice rubs straight out of the tin...in my opinion you get better adhesion that way.

Oh, and note the lack of salt. I like salting the meat first, letting the juices flow back and forth in an osmosis ballet and then adding the spices.

What I did is get a big ol' segment of cow (pretty cheap per pound at the warehouse-type places) and then slice myself. But before doing that, I let it wet-age. If you get the beef -- do not try this with pork, AMHIK -- you can age it in the original cry-o-vac if it has not lost its seal. I've let mine go 16 weeks and the results are spectacular. The taste isn't as minerally/gamy as with dry-aged beef, but it is equally tender.

Now.

What you do with your steak is salt it first as it comes up to room temperature. You will see some "perspiration" on the surface and then you sprinkle your spice rub. Then go light your charcoal fire. (Or wait 30 minutes if your BBQ grill is a gas model.) For max foodieness, I used real hardwood charcoal, but you use whatever. I also use one of those "chimney starters" so that I don't need to worry about (yuck) lighter fluid. When the coals glow, you dump 'em into the BBQ grill.

You drop the charcoal WAY to one side of the vessel. Pile it as far and high on ONE side as possible. This is key.

When the "coal side" is intolerably hot, you put your steaks on the grate. You could, if you are insufferable like I am, give them that quarter-turn for fancy-pants grill marks. The idea is to sear the outside, HARD. You want as much stuff caramelizing there as possible. This is also key. Do not peek, do not flip, etc. Let it go there. 1 minute per inch of thickness per side. So, a 2" thick steak would go 2 minutes per side. Then you slide them to the part of the grill where the coals are NOT. You want the steak to cook to your desired doneness as slowly as possible. The slower you go, the more time certain tenderizing enzymes have to do their voodoo. This is key.

Finally, take them off and cover LOOSELY with foil, let them rest 10-15 or so, so the juices -- which are trying to exit as a result of the heat, much like water exits a boiling pot -- have time to calm down and go back into the steak where they should be.

There.

-J.

* That's 110gm for the metric kids.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

'cause Karen asked, and she's the boss of me

Instructions: Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

---------

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen- x (Meh.)
2 The Lord of the Rings- x
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte- x (Meh.)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling- x
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee- x (Required reading. Hated it.)
6 The Bible-x
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte-
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell- x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman- (What are you people, mental?)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens- x (Overrated Expectations)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott- x (Didn't hate it, but seriously disliked it.)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy- (Hated the film.)
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller-x (Meh.)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare- (It's the COMPLETE part that wrecks it for me)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier- (The movie was pretty good.)
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien-
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk-
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger- x (Required reading. Meh.)
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger-
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot-
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell- (I don't have fallopian tubes)
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald- x (Not awful)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens-
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy-
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams- X (VERY highly encouraged!)
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky-
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck- x (HATED it.)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll- X (VERRRRRRY highly encouraged.)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame-x (my fave bedtime story stuff w. my boys)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy-
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens- x (Required reading. Hated it.)
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis-x
34 Emma - Jane Austen-x (Meh.)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis- x
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini-
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres-
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden-
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne-x
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell- x
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown- (The great Stephen Fry, himself no fan of Christianity, called this book "loose stool water...arse gravy of the worst sort.")
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez- x (In Spanish. Meh.)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving -
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins-
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery-
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy-
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood-
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding- x (Required reading. Hated it.)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan- Didn't he play Obi Wan Kenobi?
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel-
52 Dune - Frank Herbert-
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons- (Movie was good, though.)
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen- x (Required reading. Meh.)
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth-
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon-
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens- x (Meh.)
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley- x (Required reading. Meh.)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon-
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez-
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck- x (Required reading. Hated it.)
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov- (Required reading. Hated it.)
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold- x (Was suggested by friends. Hated it with a passion.)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas- x (Great boyhood stuff.)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac- x (Required reading. Hated it.)
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy- (Not obscure enough)
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding-
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie-
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville- x (Required reading. Hated it.)
71 Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens- x (Required reading. Okay.)
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker- x (Meh.)
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett-
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson-
75 Ulysses - James Joyce- x (Required reading. REALLLY hated it.)
76 The Inferno – Dante -x (Meh. But I liked the Gustav Dore' illustrations.)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome-
78 Germinal - Emile Zola-
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray-
80 Possession - AS Byatt-
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens- x (Not too bad.)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell- (No, not the comedian from Peep Show or Mitchell & Webb)
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker-
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro-
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert-
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry-
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White- x (Meh.)
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven- Mitch Albom-
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- x (VERY highly encouraged.)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton-
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad- x (Required reading. Hated it.)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery- (Who knew that Exupery was a saint?)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks-
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams-
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole- x (The most overrated book. Ever.)
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute-
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas- x (More great boyhood stuff.)
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare- x (Even sat through Branagh's 87 hour film version.)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- x (I like Roald Dahl.)
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo-x (Required reading. Hated it.)

total= 43, I think. Pretty good for a Finance major, but let the record show most of those I was compelled to read. Most of those, of course, I hated.

BOOKS I HAVE READ THAT SHOULD BE ON THE LIST: Any list that includes To Kill A Mockingboid and Gone With The Wind but no P.G. Wodehouse (and no Mark Twain and no W.S. Gilbert and no John Welter) can only have been compiled by a lady. I am mindful of Wm. F. Buckley's comment when asked to contribute to an article on the "100 Greatest Books" to which he replied: "P.G. Wodehouse wrote 92 books, so the question really is 'What are those other 8 books?'"

Night of the Avenging Blowfish - John Welter
Leave it to Psmith - P.G. Wodehouse
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain
Westward, HA! - S.J. Perelman
The Code of the Woosters - P.G. Wodehouse
The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe
Don Quijote - Miguel de Cervantes (What's with the "X"?)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain

So there.