Eros Grossly Misunderstood

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.51.35 PMIn perusing Facebook, today I noticed a discussion concerning “The Erotic Powers of the Holy Spiritby Elizabeth Duffy at Patheos Catholic.

Everyone thinks they already understand the quest for transcendence, including sexual transcendence. While contraceptives may well impede it, transcendence shouldn’t be a primary aim in itself, and certainly not a point for evangelizing.

What we Catholics preach with our vans filled with kids is that more than even transcendent sex, the family is the center of the Catholic universe, and Mom and Dad don’t presume to say anything other than “Yes” when God sees fit to expand the universe. It may be potentially exciting, in some weird, crazy “I-love-our-family-and-I-love-you-and-I-would-welcome-another-you-and-me-to-this-world!”-way, but that is merely a by-product of the meaning behind it.

According to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Deus caritas est, the word eros appears only twice in the Old Testament, and not at all in the New Testament, for the writers of which there is a “…tendency to avoid the word eros,” which “clearly” points to “something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love…” Through the Enlightenment this led to the charge that Christianity had “…poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice.”

Benedict states that “purification and growth in maturity” do not “reject” or “poison” eros, but rather “heal it and restore its true grandeur.” He states that this is first due to the fact that “Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved.”

The Christian faith “…has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to new nobility. True, eros tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.”

To the extent that Benedict indicates that eros and agape (“ascending love and descending love”) “…can never be completely separated,” he states that the more the two, “…in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized.” To become, as the Lord tells us, “a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38)… one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).”

Likewise, any comparisons of “Communion with the Holy Spirit” as sexual in nature, and the “meditative art” of the “feminine climax” as “acted upon externally… by the Holy Spirit” do not properly reflect the “ascent, renunciation, purification and healing” that is described by Pope Benedict with regard to our understanding of eros.

Here we find an attempt to divinize sexual pleasure, and — more troubling still — to impute such notions upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, along with the suggestion that the Holy Spirit employed upon her “erotic powers… to inseminate and co-create“. Unfortunately, Ms. Duffy does not stop there, and invokes her own marital relationship, penetrated with what one friend termed “weird, new age sex magic concepts.”

At his General Audience of November 14, 1979, Pope St. John Paul II, as part of his series of audiences commonly known as the “Theology of the Body”, stated that the “meaning of man’s original unity, through masculinity and femininity, is expressed as an overcoming of the frontier of solitude.” Man’s solitude, JPII teaches us, is also presented as “the discovery of an adequate relationship ‘to’ the person, and therefore as an opening and expectation of a ‘communion of persons.'”

JPII suggests that if we wish to draw from the concept of “‘image of God’, we can then deduce that man became the ‘image and likeness’ of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning… Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion.”

Thus, JPII states that the “original meaning of unity” will “possess” an “…ethical dimension, as is confirmed by Christ’s answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19… [and] a sacramental dimension, a strictly theological one, as is proved by St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians… And this is so because that unity which is realized through the body indicates, right from the beginning, not only the ‘body,’ but also the ‘incarnate’ communion of persons.

Through the sacrament of marriage God lends further order to the natural appetites of men, and delivers grace to truly live out the vocation. Marital ceptive sex is pleasurable and possesses a spiritual quality. However, the “feel-good” of sex (for humans, beyond pure biological function and encompassimg emotional and spiritual elements) does not merit the suggestion that husbands “must be Christ in the flesh” for their wives when it comes to the “spiritual drama in the marriage bed.”

I’m not looking for that sort of mystical union, but thanks anyway.

 

 

A Report for Pilgrims to Rome for the Jubilee “Year of Mercy”

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This week I returned home from my annual spiritual retreat and pilgrimage. My itinerary included visiting Istanbul, Assisi and Rome. This post reports some considerations for pilgrims to Rome during this Extraordinary Jubilee for the “Year of Mercy”. By following the suggestions outlined here, you will be better able to plan and anticipate your journey, and draw the most you can from it.

1. Anticipate Lines and Crowds, especially “On-Season”

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Line for entry at St. Peter’s

I have never visited Rome in the summer, because everyone says that it’s unbearably hot, so hot that the Romans escape the city — especially in August — and there are vast crowds of tourists and pilgrims for every attraction. If you can possibly manage it, I would suggest making a pilgrimage in the early spring or late autumn to avoid the most extreme heat and crowds. And, I can attest that right now is a wonderful time to visit, if you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures and even fewer people everywhere.

Historically, Jubilee years equal greater than average numbers of people descending upon the city. Shopkeepers, restaurants and hotels anticipate additional revenue from a Jubilee. Some early reports are indicating that the numbers of pilgrims at the start of the Jubilee are falling short of original expectations, and there are a couple of potential reasons for this. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t expect a visit to Rome this year to be “normal”.

2. Be Prepared for Security Checks at All Four Major Papal Basilicas

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Military guard at St. Paul Outside the Walls

On my trip, I visited all four major papal basilicas (St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Maria Maggiore, and St. Paul Outside the Walls), and I witnessed the security measures undertaken to keep tourists and pilgrims safe. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you know that Islamic terrorists have explicitly referred to Rome multiple times as a potential target for attack.

As a result, the first thing you will see when you visit these sites is a military presence, complete with Humvee-style vehicles parked nearby, soldiers armed with assault rifles (and a significant number of police also), cordons around each basilica complex, single points of entry and exit for tourists and pilgrims, and metal detectors and x-ray machines.

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Security check at Santa Maria Maggiore

It’s a shame that in order to visit a house of peace and prayer you will be reminded of the threat of terrorist violence, but this is the new reality in which we presently live. The purpose of the security measures is to protect the individuals who visit and the sacred places themselves, and so we can accept the minor inconvenience and anxiety without letting it ruin the purpose of the visit.

At a minimum, you should expect to add at least 15-20 minutes (and during busier periods you would probably want to at least double this amount of time) to pass security. It goes without saying that if you visit without bags or backpacks you will save yourself some hassle, but you will still have to empty your pockets and wait your turn to pass through at least one metal detector, and possibly a secondary security screening.

3. The Holy Doors and Gaining a Plenary Indulgence

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Holy Door at Santa Maria Maggiore

Once you’ve passed security at the four major papal basilicas, you will want to enter the basilica by way of the “Porta Santa” or “Holy Door” that is normally kept sealed but opened specifically for the Jubilee. In his “bull of indiction” (Misericordiae Vultus) for this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis indicates his desire for the faithful that “…pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.”

The Church offers the opportunity to gain one plenary indulgence (i.e., remission of all temporal punishments due to sin) per day for pilgrims who meet certain conditions: (1) the pilgrim must be in a state of grace at the time of the “indulgenced work”, (2) the pilgrim should have a detachment from all sin, including venial sin,

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Brick from the 2000 Jubilee removed from the Holy Door at St. John Lateran

(3) the pilgrim should sacramentally confess their sins, not necessarily on the same day as the pilgrimage, but within about ten days before or after, (4) the pilgrim should receive Communion, preferably by attending Holy Mass, for each indulgence, and (5) the pilgrim should pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

 

4. Going to Confession

Compared to prior visits to Rome, when it was never terribly difficult to go to confession, the presence of priests in confessionals all over the Eternal City (and especially at the four major papal basilicas) appears to have increased for the Year of Mercy. In other words, the Church is “putting her money where her mouth is” by making priests even more available for sacramental confession — in a variety of languages, including English — so that a pilgrim has every opportunity to fulfill all the requirements for obtaining an indulgence and receiving God’s mercy.

5. Take Note of the Signs and Banners for the Year of Mercy

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Banner and Tent for Pilgrims outside Castel Sant’Angelo

Throughout Rome at various places, there are signs and banners announcing the Year of Mercy and directing pilgrims to sites of interest. The logo for the Year of Mercy is, ahem, a little strange, but it is distinctive and these signs will help orient you to where you want to go.

 

6. Special Considerations for Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica

Holy doors have been opened throughout the world in every diocese, but the pilgrimage undertaken by millions of faithful Catholics in a Jubilee year is to St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. In terms of Rome’s observance of this Year of Mercy, St. Peter’s is the focal point, and thus, there are some additional things to know before you visit this chief among pilgrimage destinations.

First, the largest crowd that you will find anywhere in Rome will most likely be at St. Peter’s. Long before this Year of Mercy, St. Peter’s was one of the few places in Rome where everyone was required to pass through security and have their bags x-rayed (clerics, nuns and religious in habits included). Since the most recent terrorist threats and attacks, the Vatican’s security routine has expanded and intensified. Expect that no matter when you visit St. Peter’s, you will wait in a long line to get inside, and if you leave the secured area for any reason, you will do it all again before getting back inside.

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A cross is given to each group to be carried on the walk to St. Peter’s Basilica

Second, if you wish to attend a liturgy presided by the Holy Father, you will need a ticket, which can be obtained by writing to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household. Follow the link for a calendar of the Pope’s events for the upcoming months, and note that the only electronic means of writing for tickets is to send your request by fax at the number indicated. Normally (unless you write well in advance or make special arrangements) tickets will be held for you at a ticket office near Paul VI Audience Hall. Do not forget that you will be instructed to pick up your tickets the day before the event, and, you will need to go through security to get them. In other words, budget additional time for this. To date, there is no e-mail address or on-line form that I know about for requesting tickets directly (however, you can request them on-line through the Pontifical North American College in Rome, but you will need to go there to get them).

 

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Holy Door, St. Peter’s

Third, if you wish to pass through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s, you should register as a pilgrim at the Vatican’s official website for the Year of Mercy. You can register as a group or as an individual. Shortly before your scheduled visit, you will receive an e-mail containing a document that you will need to print and bring with you. A volunteer will scan a bar code printed on the document to check you in as a pilgrim. As a registered pilgrim, you will be directed to first visit Castel Sant’Angelo to check in. From there, you or your group will walk down the Via della Conciliazione (which has been closed to traffic) to Piazza San Pietro. From there, you will go through security before passing through the Holy Door.

 

Please note that if you do not register as a pilgrim, you may not be permitted to pass through the Holy Door. On the day of my visit, tourists were (as typical) being admitted to the basilica, and it was possible to go through the Holy Door even if you did not begin at Castel Sant’Angelo as a registered pilgrim. However, the reports that I have read indicate that if there are sufficient crowds, only those who have registered will be permitted. Failing to register could mean intense disappointment.

7. Visit the Year of Mercy Pilgrim Information Center for your “Official Certificate”

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Pilgrim Information Center, Via della Conciliazione, 7

After completing your pilgrimage, you can proceed to the “Pilgrim Information Center” established at Via della Conciliazione, 7 (group leaders can also visit here ahead of time for pilgrimage materials) to receive a certificate printed with your name attesting when you made your pilgrimage to Rome. This is provided for free to anyone who has registered, and makes a nice personalized souvenir.

 

Conclusion

If you have never visited Rome before, a pilgrimage during a Jubilee is a special opportunity to seek graces. The Church’s Treasury of Mercy is flung open — not unlike the Holy Doors themselves — pouring out abundant riches upon the faithful.

Gaudete Means Rejoice!

FullSizeRender 4As the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday seems a turning of the corner within the liturgical season. We begin to “Rejoice!” as we approach the Nativity of our Lord.

As a family, we marked the occasion by putting up our Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree will remain festooned only with lights until the 22nd or 23rd when we’ll decorate it with all the ornaments and everything else.

I decorated a little, but most of what I did on Sunday concerned another highly important thing, beer! I managed to brew a big batch (almost 25 gallons) of Religious Liberty back in October. It was ready to keg.IMG_0579

I decided, for fun, and since I’m somewhat lacking in variety this year (it’s been far too busy!) to mix up the dry-hopping.

Religious Liberty is normally all Cascades in the boil, and then also dry-hopped with Cascades. The result is a very “citrusy” pale ale, specifically orange flavors.

I decided to dry-hop two of the five kegs the regular way, but then also make a “Christmas Liberty” version, still dry-hopping with Cascades but also adding an equivalent amount of Simcoes, which are known for having a “piney” or “resinous” aroma.

Finally, since only four kegs fit in my kegerator at once, I decided to “cask” the last keg (which for me, means letting it sit at cellar temperature for 2-3 months to allow it to carbonate naturally).

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I bless and approve Star Trek V a thousand times more than this…..

….effort to destroy a most beloved American cultural treasure. Star Trek with Gene Roddenberry at the helm was perennially hilarious, campy and fun, but it was also intellectual and philosophical. It cannot be completely forgiven that Star Trek was always highly decadent, but without it and the cultural media cravings of the 1960s and 1980s, Star Trek arguably never would have come to exist in the first place.

The best parts of Trek were never the expensive “space battle” scenes with all the special effects. (* see below). No, the best parts were human. Kirk’s brilliant acumen for survival. Spock’s fountain of wisdom. McCoy’s wit as salve on dramatic moments. And their relationship with each other.

None of that survives here. It’s all just contextual for explaining what character performs what action. The actors themselves could be CGI, because they’re mere additional cast members on the roster of virtual superheroes. A franchise such as Star Trek cannot be treated purely as a vehicle for brand expansion and revenue. The result is a rendering of farcical nonsense.

* That’s Star Wars. I like Star Wars too, and it has its place. Specifically, forever at #2, directly beneath Star Trek (pre J.J. Abrams et al.).

Something “Different” for this Year’s Thanksgiving Turkey

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After 16 years of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house, I’ve learned a few things about Roasting the Bird.

In prior years, long ago, my sister raised turkeys and I had a hand in the slaughtering for the holiday dinner. Then, in the earliest years of hosting at our house (or apartment), we traveled out to the Heartland on a pilgrimage to buy a fresh, free-range, organic, and exceedingly expensive turkey. Then we got tired of the drive but continued to buy fresh free-range from the grocer.

About 10 years ago I started to brine the Thanksgiving turkey, which I am convinced is the single most important element for roasting a bird that is flavorful and moist. If you haven’t tried brining your turkey — regardless of whether you intend to deep-fry, roast, or crock pot the thing (blech) — you’re doing it wrong. Heed the Quartermaster’s instructions for brining your bird and be amazed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.31.50 PMThe beauty of brining is that it elevates a cheap frozen turkey, so much that spending more money on fresh almost seems a waste. Not only will the meat be flavorful throughout, it will be much more forgiving in roasting, so that dry turkey is still theoretically possible, but practically difficult to achieve.

Moreover, with brining you can entirely forgo the whole basting ridiculosity, which I’m convinced does nothing more than slow down even cooking and reduce efficiency with all the periodic opening of the oven and removing of the turkey. And you can forget about roasting bags (a mistake), covered roasting pans (no), or starting with the breast down and flipping mid-way through cooking (LOL).

This year, I’m intrigued by something new, which I intend to try: in place of butter or oil rubbed onto the skin of the bird, I’m trying it with….. mayonnaise.

On the one hand, mayonnaise for cooking seems slightly gross. Any time I’ve gotten a mouthful of hot mayonnaise I’ve been pretty disgusted. But it does have an interesting viscous texture and composition that leads me to believe it would cling to the bird longer during cooking rather than melting in the heat and running off quickly like butter, thereby retaining juiciness in the meat and crisping the skin nicely. So, we’ll try it, and I’ll report back.

Happy Thanksgiving!

G.K. Chesterton on the “Myth of the Mayflower”

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From “The ‘Myth’ of the Mayflower”, Fancies Versus Fads (1923):

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.32.57 PMhe “Mayflower” is a myth. It is an intensely interesting example of a real modern myth. I do not mean of course that the “Mayflower” never sailed, any more than I admit that King Arthur never lived or that Roland never died. I do not mean that the incident had no historic interest, or that the men who figured in it had no heroic qualities; any more than I deny that Charlemagne was a great man because the legend says he was two hundred years old; any more than I deny that the resistance of Roman Britain to the heathen invasion was valiant and valuable, because the legend says that Arthur at Mount Badon killed nine hundred men with his own hand. I mean that there exists in millions of modern minds a traditional image or vision called the “Mayflower,” which has far less relation to the real facts than Charlemagne’s two hundred years or Arthur’s nine hundred corpses. Multitudes of people in England and America, as intelligent and sympathetic as the young lady in Mr. Wells’s novel, think of the “Mayflower” as an origin, or archetype, like the Ark or at least the Argo. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that they think the “Mayflower” discovered America. They do really talk as if the “Mayflower” populated America. Above all, they talk as if the establishment of New England had been the first and formative example of the expansion of England. They believe that English expansion was a Puritan experiment; and that an expansion of Puritan ideas was also the expansion of what have been claimed as English ideas, especially ideas of liberty. The Puritans of New England were champions of religious freedom, seeking to found a newer and freer state beyond the sea, and thus becoming the origin and model of modern democracy. All this betrays a lack of exactitude. It is certainly nearer to exact truth to say that Merlin built the castle at Camelot by magic, or that Roland broke the mountains in pieces with his unbroken sword.

For at least the old fables are faults on the right side. They are symbols of the truth and not of the opposite of the truth. They described Roland as brandishing his unbroken sword against the Moslems, but not in favour of the Moslems. And the New England Puritans would have regarded the establishment of real religious liberty exactly as Roland would have regarded the establishment of the religion of Mahound. The fables described Merlin as building a palace for a king and not a public hall for the London School of Economics. And it would be quite as sensible to read the Fabian politics of Mr. Sidney Webb into the local kingships of the Dark Ages, as to read anything remotely resembling modern liberality into the most savage of all the savage theological frenzies of the seventeenth century. Thus the “Mayflower” is not merely a fable, but is much more false than fables generally are. The revolt of the Puritans against the Stuarts was really a revolt _against_ religious toleration. I do not say the Puritans were never persecuted by their opponents; but I do say, to their great honour and glory, that the Puritans never descended to the hypocrisy of pretending for a moment that they did not mean to persecute their opponents. And in the main their quarrel with the Stuarts was that the Stuarts would not persecute those opponents enough. Not only was it then the Catholics who were proposing toleration, but it was they who had already actually established toleration in the State of Maryland, before the Puritans began to establish the most intolerant sort of intolerance in the State of New England. And if the fable is fabulous touching the emancipation of religion, it is yet more fabulous touching the expansion of empire. That had been started long before either New England or Maryland, by Raleigh who started it in Virginia. Virginia is still perhaps the most English of the states, certainly more English than New England. And it was also the most typical and important of the states, almost up to Lee’s last battle in the Wilderness. But I have only taken the “Mayflower” as an example of the general truth; and in a way the truth has its consoling side. Modern men are not allowed to have any history; but at least nothing can prevent men from having legends.

We have thus before us, in a very true and typical modern picture, the two essential parts of modern culture. It consists first of false history and second of fancy history. What the American tourist believed about Plymouth Rock was untrue; what she believed about Stonehenge was only unfounded. The popular story of Primitive Man cannot be proved. The popular story of Puritanism can be disproved. I can fully sympathize with Mr. Wells and his heroine in feeling the imaginative stimulus of mysteries like Stonehenge; but the imagination springs from the mystery; that is, the imagination springs from the ignorance. It is the very greatness of Stonehenge that there is very little of it left. It is its chief feature to be featureless. We are very naturally and rightly moved to mystical emotions about signals from so far away along the path of the past; but part of the poetry lies in our inability really to read the signals. And this is what gives an interest, and even an irony, to the comparison half consciously invoked by the American lady herself when she asked “What’s Notre Dame to this?” And the answer that should be given to her is: “Notre Dame, compared to this, is _true._ It is history. It is humanity. It is what has really happened, what we know has really happened, what we know is really happening still. It is the central fact of your own civilization. And it is the thing that has really been kept from you.”

Notre Dame is not a myth. Notre Dame is not a theory. Its interest does not spring from ignorance but from knowledge; from a culture complicated with a hundred controversies and revolutions. It is not featureless, but carved into an incredible forest and labyrinth of fascinating features, any one of which we could talk about for days. It is not great because there is little of it, but great because there is a great deal of it. It is true that though there is a great deal of it, Puritans may not be allowed to see a great deal in it; whether they were those brought over in the “Mayflower” or only those brought up on the “Mayflower.” But that is not the fault of Notre Dame; but of the extraordinary evasion by which such people can dodge to right or left of it, taking refuge in things more recent or things more remote. Notre Dame, on its merely human side, is mediaeval civilization, and therefore not a fable or a guess but a great solid determining part of modern civilization. It is the whole modern debate about guilds; for such cathedrals were built by the guilds. It is the whole modern question of religion and irreligion; for we know what religion it stands for, while we really have not a notion what religion Stonehenge stands for. A Druid temple is a ruin, and a Puritan ship by this time may well be called a wreck. But a church is a challenge; and that is why it is not answered.

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As Promised: Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Recipe

0BB15850-064A-43CB-8758-D22E9AFAC1D9Chicago is a beautiful town. I’m proud to have lived there for 10 years, attended law school there, and started my career. There are a million things that make Chicago great, and for many, a pilgrimage would not be complete without a visit to one of the culinary temples known for the style of pizza that put Chicago on the map: deep dish.

Leave it to the “Windy City” — with its own apocryphal fables about goats, and Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, and the haunted tavern once owned by Capone — to let the origins of Chicago deep dish bake in its own mythology.

Following World War II, American soldiers returning from Europe brought home a taste for a few of the delicacies they tried on the Continent, not the least of which was nearly ubiquitous in Italy: pizza. In Chicago, being the city with “big shoulders” meant that pizza could be more than just a “snack”, but rather something enjoyed as a meal, with a knife and fork, and thus DEEP.

IMG_0153I trust my own opinion, and so I’ll share with you the hierarchy of “top” Chicago deep dish establishments. My ranking system accounts not just for the quality of the pizza itself, but also includes merit for location, atmosphere and history:

  1. Pizzeria “Uno” and “Due” (the Uno chain isn’t bad either, for a chain, but don’t stand up to the original locations);
  2. Lou Malnati’s (multiple locations throughout Chicagoland; famous for their “butter crust”);
  3. Gino’s East (this was the first deep dish I ever tried, at the original dive which has since closed and relocated. They too now have multiple locations).

Each of these could be considered “schools” of Chicago deep dish, with their own variations on the style. But despite differences, they each in their own way typify what makes deep dish “good”: a thick substantial crust that is crispy on the edges, and yet flaky and slightly chewy inside; a tremendous amount of melted mozzarella cheese; a wide array of toppings, added in considerable volume; crushed tomatoes — no marinara sauce — on top of the pie.

IMG_0147Of course, there are other good places throughout the city. However, one place that a lot of tourists fall into — due to its having multiple locations in touristy places — is Giordano’s, which I do not recommend for anything other than an example of Chicago deep dish gone wrong.

There is one other disclaimer that I must make: I do not like pizza. While I respect it as a culinary art form with many unique variations, it simply is not one of my favorite foods in the way that it is for so many people. So, when I am called to eat pizza, I try to hunt for the very best pizza available, so that I might actually enjoy it.

For the recipe found below, I relied upon a number of different sources, including:

  • This recipe, which is purportedly furnished by Lou Malnati’s, and which irritated me so much that I was tempted to reduce Malnati’s ranking in my hierarchy. Working with this recipe made me feel like the time on Everybody Loves Raymond when Marie gave Debra one of her recipes, except she omitted oregano and replaced it with tarragon. The pie didn’t turn out, it seemed to omit steps and ingredients that I would have expected to have been included, and delivered the sort of product that might just lead one to conclude they should never try making deep dish again, and leave it to the “professionals”.
  • The recipe found here, especially in terms of the thoughtfulness with the technique. Much more workable than the Malnati’s recipe, I didn’t find it as authentic. I disliked the inclusion of sliced, cooked sausage, the short rise from too much yeast, and overuse of oil.

Quartermaster “Chicago-Style Plus”
Sausage and Mushroom Deep Dish Pizza

Yields: one 14″ deep dish pizza (8 servings)

Ingredients – for the Dough

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/3 cup polenta, or corn meal
2 tsp. salt
1/2 package dry Fleishman’s yeast
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. melted butter
1 1/4 cup luke warm water

Ingredients – Toppings

IMG_01381 lb. mild Italian sausage (pref. uncased, a chub is easiest)
2 lb. low moisture Mozzarella, sliced to 1/8″ (not grated)
8 oz. sliced button or crimini mushrooms, sautéed (if you don’t first sauté them, they will release excess moisture as they bake)
4 oz. grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
1 28-oz. can crushed “San Marzano” style tomatoes (partially drained of at least half of the excess liquid in the can), to which you add:

  • IMG_0140dry herbs, such as basil or “Italian seasoning”, to taste
  • additional seasonings, including granulated onion and garlic, red pepper flake, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar (or less), as needed
  • 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Preparation – Dough

  1. IMG_0137Sprinkle the yeast over the water and allow it to “bloom” while preparing the dry ingredients.
  2. Place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and run for a few seconds with the dough hook in a stand mixer.
  3. Add the oil, butter, and water with yeast.
  4. Mix on low-medium with the dough hook until the dough is no longer shaggy, and takes the shape of a ball, about 5 minutes.
  5. Lightly coat the dough ball with olive oil, and allow the dough to rest, covered with plastic wrap in the mixing bowl, for approximately 3 to 4 hours, or until the dough has more than doubled in size.

A Note Regarding Pizza Pans

Prevailing wisdom is that a “shiny” pan will not produce good pizza. Having not known this at first, and having tried to make pizza using a “shiny” pan, I’d agree. Get a good, anodized, non-stick pizza pan, such as this one. Or, season your own. But don’t expect that the cheap metal ones will work from the start.

Can we talk Sausage?

Italian sausage is perhaps the most prevalent of toppings in deep dish, after cheese. The most traditional recipes deal with sausage in a peculiar way relative to other types of pizza: raw.

That’s right, traditional deep dish with sausage is crust, cheese, and then a layer of raw sausage covering the entire pie, then any other toppings, and finally the tomatoes. The sausage is supposed to fully cook while the pizza bakes.

It’s delicious that way, and since it’s a complete layer rather than little balls or hunks of sausage, the pizza definitely seems more substantial and hearty. Very Chicago.

But the one thing that does not occur when you make your pizza this way, since the sausage is under the other toppings and tomatoes, is any browning of the meat. And browning is flavor too.

The question of where and how to cook sausage in deep dish is deeply divided. And, since I like the under layer and crumbled cooked sausage that browns on top, my sausage deep dish has the special distinction of appealing to both Cubs and White Sox fans. That’s right, for this pie, it’s sausage two ways.

Divide the sausage in half, crumble and cook on the stove (but do not brown) 8 ounces, and reserve.

Par-baking the Crust

This is not a vital step, and I also understand that it is not especially traditional, but having tried it both ways, I prefer par-baking. If you omit this step, I’d recommend adding at least 5-10 minutes to the total bake time, maybe even 15 minutes depending on toppings (see discussion of sausage below).

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Place 3 tbsp. olive oil in the pan, and move around so that it evenly coats the entire bottom and sides.
  3. IMG_0142 2Turn out the dough into the oiled pan, and begin evenly spreading it with your fingers into a large disk, but not trying to reach the sides of the pan.
  4. Allow the dough to rest, covered, for 10-15 minutes. During this time, the dough will “relax”, and puff up just a bit.
  5. After the dough rests, it will be easier to bring it up to the edges of the pan, and press up the sides. Go ahead and form the crust all the way up to the top edges of the pan.
  6. Allow the crust to proof in the pan for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.

Assembling the Pie for Baking

  1. IMG_0145Arrange the sliced mozzarella in a concentric pattern (or whatever) atop the crust. Do not skimp on the cheese. Do not skimp on the cheese. Do not skimp on the cheese. Whatever you do, use plenty of cheese.
  2. Take the 8 ounces of raw Italian sausage, and press out little disks between your thumb and forefinger, and arrange over the cheese in a complete and uniform layer.
  3. Arrange the 8 ounces of sautéed mushrooms (discard any excess liquid first) over the sausage layer.
  4. IMG_0149Evenly place the seasoned tomatoes and remaining liquid. Be judicious about how much tomatoes you use, especially the liquid part. If you don’t use the entire can, that’s okay.
  5. Take the cooked crumbled sausage and arrange over the tomatoes in an even layer.
  6. Finally, top with the grated Pecorino or Parmesan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Finally

Your pizza is done, it should have pulled away from the edges a little bit. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool down slightly, maybe 5 minutes or so. Then, turn out the pizza onto a cutting board. If you leave it in the pan to cool, the crust will get soggy. This step should be fairly easy if you used a non-stick pan and the correct amount of oil, but be careful. Slice, serve, and enjoy.

IMG_0152

Variations

Plain cheese is always a winner. I’d shorten the baking time by 5-10 minutes if omitting the sausage which has to cook. There’s no heresy at all in using the following toppings for deep dish: pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, olives.

A Catholic Primer on Jubilees for the Upcoming Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has announced an “extraordinary” Jubilee which begins on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and which will be more commonly known as the “Year of Mercy”. During this special year, the Church will open its treasury to dispense Mercy, in the form of special devotions, pilgrimages, the opening of “holy doors”, and indulgences intended to bring us all closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, what exactly is a “Jubilee” and what are its origins?

I. The Church’s practice of celebrating the Jubilee is inherited from the Ancient Hebrews

Announcement of the Jubilee at the Temple in Jerusalem (note the horns used)

Announcement of the Jubilee at the Temple in Jerusalem (note the horns used)

The Third Commandment of God is to remember the Sabbath Day (i.e., the seventh day of the week) and keep it holy. The Hebrews followed a seven-day week according to the account in Genesis, in which God rested on the seventh day of creation.

Springing from the practice of observing the Sabbath — seventh — day of the week, there were also “Sabbath Years” in Jewish custom, which took place every seventh year, when the fields were left fallow, and allowed to rest for the entire year.

Interior Panel of the First Century "Arch of Titus" in the Roman Forum (Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Dnalor 01). This panel depicts the spoils taken by the Romans following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, including the massive gold candelabra and the horns used to announce jubilees.

Interior Panel of the First Century “Arch of Titus” in the Roman Forum (Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Dnalor 01). This panel depicts the spoils taken by the Romans following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, including the massive gold candelabra and the horns used to announce jubilees.

Building upon that, according to Leviticus, the year that followed every seventh of Sabbath Years (i.e., the 50th year, after 7 times 7 years [49 years]) was the Jubilee Year. The etymology of Jubilee, of Hebrew origin, is “the year of the blowing of the ram’s horn”, announced to the people by the blowing of a ram’s horn from the Temple. In Ezekiel, the Jubilee is called the “Year of Release”, and it provided three main enactments for the people of God:

  • rest of the soil;
  • reversion of landed property to its original owner, who had been driven by poverty to sell it; and,
  • and the freeing of Israelites who had become slaves of their brethren.
Reproduction of a Seventeenth Century drawing of the Arch of Titus, showing the crossed horns in detail

Reproduction of a Seventeenth Century drawing of the Arch of Titus, showing the crossed horns in detail

Thus for the Israelites, to some extent commerce and temporal matters were also tied to the jubilee, because the amount of time to a “Year of Release” was the extent of what a new owner of land could expect when he purchased from the man with an ancient familial claim. Likewise, the slave who sold himself would be freed at the next jubilee.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The aim of the jubilee, therefore, is to preserve unimpaired the essential character of the theocracy, to the end that there be no poor among the people of God (Deut. xv, 4). Hence God, who redeemed Israel from the bondage of Egypt to be his peculiar people, and allotted to them the promised land, will not suffer any one to usurp his title as Lord over those whom he owns as his own. It is the idea of grace for all the suffering children of man, bringing freedom to the captive and rest to the weary as well as to the earth, which made the year of jubilee the symbol of the Messianic year of grace (Isaiah 61:2), when all the conflicts in the universe shall be restored to their original harmony, and when not only we, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, but the whole creation, which groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, shall be restored into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (comp. Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:21; Romans 8:18-23; Hebrews 4:9).

II. The First Christian Jubilee Most Likely Occurred in 1300

In A.D. 1300, Pope Boniface VIII declared a Jubilee Year, and it is commonly thought that it was a response to the pilgrims to Rome who came seeking great indulgences. Boniface published the Bull “Antiquorum fida relatio“, in which he declared “great remissions and indulgences for sins” obtained “by visiting the city of Rome and the venerable basilica of the Prince of the Apostles”. Boniface declared in the Bull “not only full and copious, but the most full, pardon of all their sins”, to those fulfilling certain conditions: true penitence and confession of sins, and visits to the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome.

III. There are “Ordinary” and “Extraordinary” Jubilee Years

In discussing the last “ordinary” Jubilee of A.D. 2000, the Vatican website has a document found here, which notes that a Jubilee is “ordinary” if it falls after a set period of years, and “extraordinary” when it is proclaimed from some outstanding event. The upcoming Year of Mercy would be considered an extraordinary jubilee.

Pope Pius IX oversaw several jubilees, including the 300th anniversary of the Council of Trent, the 1800th anniversary of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Holy Year of A.D. 1875.

Pope Pius IX oversaw several jubilees, including the 300th anniversary of the Council of Trent, the 1800th anniversary of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Holy Year of A.D. 1875.

Including A.D. 2000, there have been 26 “ordinary” Jubilees since the first in A.D. 1300.

“The custom of calling ‘extraordinary’ Jubilees began in the 16th century and they can vary in length from a few days to a year.” In the last (20th) century, there were two extraordinary jubilees:

  • A.D. 1933, proclaimed by Pope Pius XI to mark the 1900th anniversary of Redemption;
  • A.D. 1983, proclaimed by Pope St. John Paul II to mark the 1950th anniversary of Redemption.

Given the fact that both of the preceding extraordinary jubilees are tied to Redemption, it could be anticipated that the next extraordinary jubilee after this upcoming one might occur on A.D. 2033, for the 2000th anniversary.

IV. Jubilee Years are Characterized by Opening the Holy Doors

Each of the four major papal basilicas in Rome (St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Maria Maggiore) have a “holy door” that is sealed shut from the inside and only opened for jubilee years.

Opening the Holy Door

Opening the Holy Door

When Pope Boniface IX declared a extraordinary jubilee, he unsealed the Holy Door at St. John Lateran on Christmas Eve A.D. 1390. At that time, St. Peter’s Basilica was still the “old” basilica originally built by Emperor Constantine, and not the current one which was completed in A.D. 1626, and which features for its Holy Door the northernmost entrance to the basilica.

Since then, each jubilee has been characterized by the opening of the holy doors, a practice which has been modified in modern times so that each diocese’s cathedral may designate a “holy door” (as well as at other suitable pilgrimage sites within the diocese)  to be symbolically and ceremonially opened at the start of the jubilee year. This expansion of opening “holy doors” all over the world provides to pilgrims who cannot travel all the way to Rome the opportunity to take part more fully in the jubilee, and obtain the indulgences promised to them.

V. Conclusion

Since the original intent of jubilees for the ancient Hebrews involved making impossible “absolute poverty” by restoring individuals to their ancestral lands and doing away with slavery, it was a special time when the riches of mercy were poured out for the good of God’s people.

While it has less to do with the temporal concerns of those first jubilees, the upcoming “Year of Mercy” is nevertheless very much about doing away with spiritual poverty and slavery to sin, by restoring us to the full and rich life in Christ that is promised to us in Baptism. As the saying goes, “To Fast when the Church Feasts, is to Fast alone”, so we would do well to join in this important celebration however we are able.

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References:

  1. Catholic Encyclopedia (maintained at NewAdvent.org), “Year of Jubilee (Hebrew)”, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08534a.htm.
  2. Catholic Encyclopedia (maintained at NewAdvent.org), “Holy Year of Jubilee”, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08531c.htm.
  3. Vatican Website, Documents on the A.D. 2000 Jubilee, http://www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/docs/documents/ju_documents_17-feb-1997_history_en.html.
  4. Wikipedia, “Holy door”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_door.

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha

One of my favorite gospel passages concerns Jesus and the hospitality of Martha and Mary, which follows the parable of the Good Samaritan, in the tenth chapter of Luke:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

I must confess that I find myself a kindred spirit of Martha. She hopes to show Our Lord a fitting welcome, to extend the hospitality of her household and to take care that it not be seen as lacking.

But she also misses the “better part”, i.e., the opportunity that is present in the moment, to draw near to the Word. She is distracted, and has allowed her desire to be hospitable to prevent her from receiving anything that the Lord’s imminence offers us.

Consider the following painting, “Christ in the House of Mary and Martha” by Vincenzo Campi (late 16th Century):

Vincenzo_Campi_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Mary_and_Martha_-_WGA03831

love this painting, because it uses a glorious bounty — the type of hospitality Martha wishes to show Jesus — as an illustration of how much better is Mary’s chosen part.

It is admirable — and a most sympathetic depiction of Martha — that Campi does not trivialize Martha’s efforts (did you ever see Babette’s Feast (one of Pope Francis’ favorite films?). She isn’t being overly scrupulous about bustling around over a little bread and meat; rather, she is trying to serve Our Lord in a fitting way, in the way that a King should be attended.

We see every possible lovely thing for a feast in vast array — fresh fish (Martha holds a thick, marbled, pink salmon steak in her right hand), a beautiful ham, breads, crustaceans and seafood, poultry and fowl newly slaughtered and ready for dressing, carrots and cabbages and tomatoes and citrus and artichokes!

In other words, when Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better part, we are given a visual cue to enlighten us. Yes, better, even than all of this. Better than the most resplendent of king’s feasts. “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27).

The Devil is Real

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 2.39.08 PMAnd Satan laughs at the idea that we have gotten so foolish as to think that we can turn demonic activity into a spectacle for entertainment. Souls are endangered by such folly.

Demons do not heed the commands of any person, no matter how “spiritual” or “in touch” the person believes himself or herself to be.

A demon might, for its own purposes, pretend to be subject to human control. It might, for its own purposes, pretend to respond to one of an individual’s commands. It might, for a time and for its own purposes, even allow the appearance that it has been exorcised.

Psychics, ghost hunters, clairvoyants, mediums, Protestant ministers and schismatic heretics are not capable of exorcising demons. One who believes otherwise is tragically deceived.

Jesus exorcised demons. He gave authority to bind and loose to the Apostles, viz. the bishops of the Catholic Church. Only His authority — His name — His command — can cause a demon to depart.

Finally, since we’re on the subject, if you ever wondered about some of the themes in Blatty’s The Exorcist, take a look at this, and heed the warning regarding who is the demon’s target.