All the kids like me who believed…

…that one day we’d see an actual real lightsaber, this is an epic moment. Next, transporters!


Children don’t Belong in a Cry Room and Neither do You

The question of whether loud or unruly children should attend Mass with their parents has been extensively debated. Everyone has an opinion. As a father of four children (who endeavors to attend mass with my kids on Sundays, and also as regular daily communicants), I have my opinion, too. But my opinion is not the point; rather, this article examines whether cry rooms or nursery care are part of Tradition, and applies the significance of the objective facts to answer the question that children belong at Mass.

There is no precedent for the “cry room” or nursery care in the Catholic Church. You can go to the ancient churches of Rome, the Holy Land, or anywhere else the Church began to flourish after the Edict of Milan, and you will not find a cry room anywhere.

You can visit catacombs and graveyards and other clandestine places where early Christians gathered before Constantine’s conversion, and you will not hear tales of the nursery care offered during Mass. You can, however, imagine the particular danger of a crying baby in that situation!

You will not read accounts of such things contained in the writings of Origen or St. Justin Martyr. There is nothing in Canon Law or the Catechism on the use of nurseries or crying rooms. Yet, in the Acts of the Apostles, you can read about Cornelius and his whole household (arguably consisting of at least one or two children) who were baptized at the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10). Before baptizing, Peter didn’t say, “You grownups can stay, but the children have to go outside.”

From the earliest times in the life of the Church, children — the love due them from their parents, their right to receive education and formation in the faith — were important priorities that commanded protection and support from the structures of the Church. James Hitchcock, historian and author of History of the Catholic Church, writes about marriage in the very early Church: “Marriage was also honored in the high value the Church placed on children, against a pagan society in which unwanted babies were put out to die of exposure. The begetting of children was always considered the principal purpose of Christian marriage, so that abortion and contraception were condemned from the earliest times.” (p. 29)

We also cannot ignore Our Lord’s own words: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them.” (Mark 10:14).

The contrast is clear: pagan societies were free to remove children from public life when doing so was convenient or expedient, but the Church commanded an entirely different, and counter-cultural approach to the raising and care of children. Children, babies, and young families have been elemental to the survival and growth of Christianity throughout the ages. The cry room or nursery has no historical connection to the Christian life; it is the product of the technological age and protestantism.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The catechesis of children, young people, and adults aims at teaching them to meditate on The Word of God in personal prayer, practicing it in liturgical prayer, and internalizing it at all times in order to bear fruit in a new life. Catechesis is also a time for the discernment and education of popular piety. The memorization of basic prayers offers an essential support to the life of prayer, but it is important to help learners savor their meaning.” (CCC 2688). In other words, “practicing” in “liturgical prayer” requires attendance at liturgy! My three-year-old can recite the Our Father, not because I taught it to him, but because he’s heard it recited over and over, both during Mass and at home in family prayer.

Also, “In a very special way, parents share in the office of sanctifying ‘by leading a conjugal life in the Christian spirit and by seeing to the Christian education of their children.’ (CCC 902, CIC, can. 835 s 4). We educate our children by modeling the practice of Christian worship. Children can benefit from witnessing the devotion of their parents, family, and siblings in the context of liturgical celebration.

This is not to say that parents do not have a duty to expect good behavior from their children, according to what is reasonable for their age, while they attend liturgical celebrations of the Church. Bringing children to mass carries an obligation to avoid deliberately distracting others, and parents should always try to discern when it is more appropriate to move a child who is causing a disruption.

As a side note, my personal experience is that the only way children learn how to behave at Mass is by going to Mass, over and over again. We take them out when they misbehave, but the goal is to remain in the pew with them.

Children belong at Mass. Period. Efforts to remove children for “special liturgies,” “CCD”, “religious ed”, “nursery care” — or whatever else — is not in keeping with the traditions of the Church or its precepts. Loud children and their parents (whose sin is that they have dutifully brought their kids to Mass) should not be relegated to segregated, soundproofed rooms for the convenience and comfort of people who complain about the noise or distraction at the expense of the good of the whole community.

The good of the whole community requires that the Church remain an extension of the family. Mass is the Sunday Dinner for the Family Church. We cannot expect children and their parents or caregivers to become mere spectators, watchers, of the Sacred Liturgy, rather than full participants, because doing so is a terrible kind of dis-invitation, a violation well beyond that of the “kid’s table” for holiday meals.

Children have always been, and should always be present at liturgical celebrations. Their presence, especially in overwhelming numbers, is a sign of the great blessings showered by God upon His people. The most joy-filled, spiritually enriching celebrations of the Eucharist that you can find often involve the prominent presence and participation of young people and children. It does not matter if you attend the Mass in the Novus Ordo or the Extraordinary Form, when young people are present, Jesus is happy, because the growth and life of the Church is something that ensures a healthy, dynamic and living faith for future generations.

When our Holy Father told our young people at World Youth Day to go make some noise, he did not also say, “but only in the cry room.”

Children belong at mass, and so do you!

[NOTE: We are in the final days of voting for Beer Camp, please vote for me.]

Adventures in Pork: Time to Hang


Prosciutto at the end of the salt curing process

After over two weeks in a salt cure for the prosciutto, and ten days of cure for the pancetta and guinciale, it’s time to hang!

The prosciutto must have the cure removed so that it can be covered in a protective layer of lard, pepper and cheesecloth, which will prevent air from penetrating into the ham and causing it to rot.

First, the excess salt is removed from the hams and they are rinsed in cool water, patted with paper towels to dry. Second, the hams are coated in lard, approximately 500g (~1 pound), paying special attention to cover areas on the ham with exposed meat (these hams have one entire side with a nice layer of fat; I used less lard on the areas already covered with fat). Next, cracked black peppercorns are used to coat the entire larded surface.

Hams rinsed and dried, before receiving lard et al.

Hams rinsed and dried, before receiving lard et al.

Since we’re wrapping the hams in four layers of cheesecloth, I had to think of the strategy for doing this with a ham coated in a pound of lard (i.e., to make as little mess as possible). So I coated one entire side of each ham with the lard and black peppercorns, and then I prepared the cheesecloth so that I could place it over the ham, and flipped the ham over (cheesecloth now on the bottom of the ham) to proceed with coating the remaining surfaces on the ham in lard and cracked pepper. I figured using this procedure would permit me to easily complete the process of wrapping the hams in cheesecloth without having to deal with getting cheesecloth set for wrapping on an entirely lard-coated ham. I would recommend that you strategize your method for doing this, because the hams are large and lard is messy (and we want these hams to be really nice, which means not allowing the smooth, even coat of lard and pepper to get screwed up during wrapping).

Once you’ve completely coated the ham in lard and peppercorns, it’s time to finish wrapping with the cheesecloth. Four layers is optimal, and you want the cheesecloth to be stretched slightly over the ham to make a nice, tight, wrapping. I think that a consistent thickness of the cheesecloth will help the ham age evenly, so look how you’re wrapping the cloth over the ham, to avoid bunching with too many layers in some areas, and an inadequate amount in others.

Hams with lard applied to one side, peppercorns (top)

Hams with lard applied to one side, peppercorns (top)

Once the ham has fully matured (4 months to up to a year), the cheesecloth, lard and pepper will form a rind that is either scraped or cut off before the ham is sliced and enjoyed. I understand that more than a flavoring, the pepper has the dual effect of also repelling insects.

Finally, once the hams are completely wrapped, they need to be tied with butcher’s twine. For some reason, I enjoy tying meat products to be dried. It takes me a while to do each one, but it makes me feel like what we’re doing is real charcuterie. However, my tying is not very fancy or pretty. I just want to create a stable netting to keep the cheesecloth rind in place and an even distribution of weight for hanging. Butcher’s twine is strong, but for such a heavy item, I suggest doubling the twine across the hams for reliable strength. I made two vertical lines of twine, intersected with three horizontal lines, and a nice strong sturdy loop tied at the top for hanging.

Prosciutto completely wrapped in cheesecloth, before tying

Prosciutto completely wrapped in cheesecloth, before tying

Once the hams were finished, I moved to the pancetta. Pancetta can be dried flat; you can wrap it in cheesecloth if you do it this way. Or, you can roll it into the traditional shape. I made one mistake here. I failed to rinse the sides before rolling and tying. Potentially, this may increase the saltiness of the pancetta, because some of the cure was left on the meat. However, I did carefully remove all of the excess cure liquid with paper towels, taking care to get the meat completely dry before rolling and tying. I think that the excess saltiness will be marginal (in light of the fact that the cure salts, seasons and preserves the whole piece through and through, and what’s left on the surface is a very small amount after completely drying and blotting with paper towels). I pray it will be okay, because I don’t want to re-tie these.

I cut six 18″ pieces of twine, which I laid out in parallel on my board, approximately 1.5″ apart. I laid one long vertical piece of twine over the six parallel lines, and then make a single tie of each line on the long piece, taking care to keep the distance of each parallel line equal. Then I rolled the pancetta tightly (observe the grains of the side to get the correct orientation; you will want your pancetta slices “against the grain”), trying to prevent any pockets of air within the roll. I placed the roll on my board with the string, brought the long end of string over the roll (parallel with the roll), and joined each horizontal piece of twine, trying to tie as tightly as possible. Finally, I tied the long end together, creating a loop at the top for hanging. I repeated the same basic process for the guinciale; this time I’m going to dry both pieces tied together.

Finally, I removed the entire contents of my “Curebrewzer”, a temperature controlled tall freezer, that was holding half a keg of St. Arnold of Soisson and about ten pounds of different hop varieties. The hops have been granted asylum in my primary beer fridge (although tightly packed). I still have to figure out what to do with the beer. I set the temperature up to 55F, and placed the tied meat to hang.

Tied prosciuttos (right) and pancettas (left), before hanging to dry

Tied prosciuttos (right) and pancettas (left), before hanging to dry

In the next 24 hours, I’ll be monitoring the temperature and humidity of the Curebrewzer to reach my target of 55-60F, and 60% humidity. Initially, the meat will lose moisture, which will increase the moisture, or humidity, of the air inside the box. You can counteract this with some crystalized cat litter placed in a pan in the bottom of the box. I noticed that this morning, the temperature was close to correct already, but the humidity was around 80%, and the paper towels in my plastic drip trays had already collected some moisture. So I placed a scoop of the kitty litter in one of the trays, and will keep checking (and adding or removing crystals) until we reach a good equilibrium.

Placed to hang in the "Curebrewzer"

Placed to hang in the “Curebrewzer”

Over time, as the meat dries, the humidity may drop, so that you might even need to add a small dish of saltwater to keep the humidity up to 60%. Either too much (encouraging growth of harmful bacteria) or too little (drying the edges of the meat, creating a seal which prevents proper drying of the entire item) humidity can ruin all of your efforts.

Finally, in the next day or so, I’m going to buy a small fan to place in the rack above the hanging meat to create a little ventilation. I’ve noticed that some people even add a little duct to their cure box to exchange air with the outside. I’m hoping I can get the conditions I’m looking for without cutting my Curebrewzer, but we’ll see.

[NOTE: Voting for Beer Camp is nearly over, please vote for me!]

More on the Northern California Secession

15 percent larger than the economy of New Mexico is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve said here before, I’m for secession from the State of California. According to this article, a second county voted to secede. Only 10 counties to goal. And I like the proposed name. What will the 2-digit state abbreviation be? JF? Neat-O!

More Proof the Pro-Abortion Lobby is Wrong (Evil) and Just Plain Stupid


NARAL’s “Thank You” Card to Pope Francis, posted on its Facebook Page

Nothing says “We’re morons” like failing to read anything but made up headlines. Epic fail in the due diligence department.

Taking them seriously for a moment (I know, it’s difficult), I wonder why the people at NARAL would send our Holy Father a “thank you” card. Perhaps it’s for this:

Each one of us is called to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, be it in developing countries, be it in well-off societies. Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to being aborted, has the face of the Lord, who before being born, and then when he was just born, experienced the rejection of the world. And every elderly person, even if he/she is sick or at the end of his/her days, bears in him/herself the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded! – Pope Francis, 20/09/2013 Address to the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and Catholic gynecologists

Back from the Wilderness

This weekend, we took the family to a spot we’ve been visiting for nearly 25 years. We originally planned to camp (never done it any other way), and had the reservations set up since back in the spring, but 4 out of 6 of us came down with pretty serious colds last week. The idea of packing up (and then setting up) for a two-night camping trip just seemed a little too… daunting. So, we stayed at a lodge, which compared to camping was like the Ritz-Carlton. We had a great time.




40 Days for Life…

Begins September 25. You can visit the 40 Days Website for information on events, opportunities for peaceful, prayerful, non-confrontational vigils outside abortion centers in your area, and other things you can do to support the unborn. Hint: anyone can become involved just by praying for an end to abortion. 

More About that Pope Francis Interview: He didn’t say Anything New

I have thought of two specific themes of which I have already spoken and which I would now like to examine further.

Let us return, therefore, to the subject of “God”. The words of St Ignatius spring to mind: “The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power (Epistula ad Romanos 3, 3). We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.

– Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Switzerland, 9 Nov 2006

His Holiness knows he has the attention of the MSM. Read the interview. He is aware of the things being discussed about him. He knows how the media will spin this. What happens when all that spin and hype touting (finally!) a progressive, people’s pontiff backfires? What happens when that smiling, affable, humble “no” — to contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, women’s ordination — voices once more the unchanging nature of Truth? It should be another sound bite moment.

[Note: The truth is relative at Beer Camp. Vote for Uncle Quartermaster.]

Hop Harvest Confessions

20130920-001212.jpgThus far my crop is this one cone, and maybe half a dozen more. I might have increased my yield if I’d troubled myself to learn something about growing hops. This was my first year, and I just plunked the Cascade (fn. 1) rhizomes into my planters (fn. 2).

By the time my three-year-old realizes there’s something on this thing that he can pick, I’ll be lucky to have a single cone to ceremonially throw into the “estate-hopped” Franciscan Ale (fn. 3).


footnote 1. Well, I bought rhizomes for several different hop varieties. I killed the others either with too much or too little water. Or sun. Or some other vital hop-growing component. I actually bought more rhizomes from the same source to replace the ones I killed. Which also died.

footnote 2. Let me tell you all about how my hops are fertilized with composted spent grain and hops. I’m all green but for my thumbs. That’s untrue. I’m not green at all. I just dumped the spent grain and hops in a hole behind the brewhouse because it seemed like the right thing to do. And because it was closer than the garbage toter. And then when I ran out of serviceable potting soil or potting soil equivalent it seemed it’d be easier to use semi-decomposing brew dross than to dig up some more dirt (or, go up to the hardware store and spend a couple bucks for some more potting soil). So I yielded.

footnote 3. It may have 0.00001% “estate-grown hops” but I’ll shamelessly promote it as the Best Thing Ever. I’ll claim you can really “taste the terroir” which, in this case, would be partially rotted spent grain from the hole behind my brewhouse.

[NOTE: Speaking of great ideas, vote for me for Beer Camp!]