Christ in the House of Mary and Martha

A favorite gospel passage 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.”

Martha 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):


This painting 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.

“Huzzah!” for Homebrewing Catholic Deacons!

…I am a deacon in the Diocese of _____. I have recently found your blog and thoroughly enjoy it. I truly appreciate your zeal for the Catholic faith and your blog comments and topics. I also like beer….

My son and I would like to try our hand at making beer but we are intimidated by the process. I can drink it without fear or trepidation yet the thought of making beer is daunting.

I would appreciate your insight on how to proceed in becoming a home brewer.

Your brother in Christ,

Dear Deacon:

It’s great to hear from you and know that you like the blog! You and your son should not feel daunted at all by the prospect of starting out in homebrewing. If you are capable of being ordained in the Holy Catholic Church, you are more than capable of making a drinkable 5 gallon batch of beer.

Part of the fun of the hobby is that there are “levels” of complexity. It’s possible to start out and make very good (i.e., better than a lot of bottled) beer as a beginner, without a huge investment. The one chief rule is to keep everything as clean and sanitary as possible, ESPECIALLY after “the boil”; once you’ve boiled the liquid that later becomes beer, the thing most likely to ruin it or make it taste yucky are bacterias that don’t belong. Keep all of your equipment clean, and use a sanitizer like Star-San or OneStep.

A lot of people get into home brewing by getting one of those “Mr. Beer” kits. That’s how I started; my wife bought me one as a gift. But after the very first batch I realized that it was already holding me back (and, I suspect, you’d realize the same thing). Skip.

My suggestion is that you check out (if you were on the west coast I would recommend because you’d save a couple days on shipping time; I’ve dealt with both companies, they are legit). Also, there’s nothing wrong with locating the nearest friendly homebrew shop in your area, if that’s convenient for you. Most will carry the rough equivalent of the items shown below. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • x7610-essential-brewing-starter-kit-1000.jpg.pagespeed.ic.SqkY4d-9PUThe “Essential Brewing Starter Kit” which delivers exactly what it says: the essentials. You get fermentation vessels for both primary and secondary fermentation, brushes for cleaning, an auto-siphon for racking your beer, a bottle-capper and caps, a good cleaner, and some other stuff. $89. They have other, more expanded kits, also. But I wouldn’t buy anything that’s intended for making less than a 5-gallon batch of beer.
  • A 5-gallon (minimum) Brewing Kettle. Here is an example of a stainless steel one for $39. You can also pick up an aluminum one from any local restaurant supply store. 450x450ximage_1879.jpg.pagespeed.ic.OiXFtj5unVAluminum is fine, as long as you boil a pot of water in it first before brewing your first batch of beer. It also doesn’t hurt to get a 6 or 7 gallon kettle to make a 5-gallon batch of beer (in fact, it’s preferable).
  • A “beginner” extract recipe kit. There are three primary ways homebrewers make beer: extract, “partial mash” or “all grain”. Extract is the easiest and quickest, and despite that (avoid a kit that includes canned extract; you’re safe with any kit from Northern Brewer or MoreBeer) makes very good beer. Pick one that sounds good to you. Note that the cheaper the kit, the more “simple” or “easy” it is likely to be, since the price difference usually corresponds to more ingredients. And when it comes to beer, there’s nothing wrong with simple. xkama_citra_session_ipa_beer_kit_1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Bzizm1rV3eYou will receive detailed instructions with the recipe kit, which will deliver you a successful result if you follow them.
  • A note of explanation: Partial mash is a combination of mostly extract with some added “specialty grains” that you steep in a “grain bag” like a giant teabag. “All grain” is when you use only grain to make the beer; you either get the grain crushed from the retailer or you crush it yourself, and then you “mash” it with water at the correct temperature, and use the runnings from the mash to make your beer. The most popular recipe kits are available in either extract, partial mash, and all grain. All grain kits tend to be a few dollars less, because there is added cost involved in producing malt extracts. But there are additional steps and equipment involved when you brew an “all grain” beer, so it takes a while to realize any savings. All grain is generally thought to be capable of producing the best beer, and most closely resembles the way that craft brewers make beer. After a few batches or extract, followed by a few batches of partial mash, you’ll be ready to leap into all grain.
  • A few notes on YEAST: yeast is one of the *the* most important ingredients, and both Northern Brewer and MoreBeer make it easy by presenting you with a couple of options for each kit they offer. A lot of people love to experiment with the wide array of liquid yeasts, offered by either Wyeast or White Labs. They are good, but especially when you are just starting out and having an on-line order shipped to you, a kit that contains liquid yeast has the added concern of possible spoilage. You will not go wrong making an American Ale, Pale Ale, IPA, Brown Ale, Stout or Porter, and using a dry yeast like “US-05” by Safale. And you’ll save a few dollars versus the liquid yeast too.
  • Get busy collecting at least 55 12-ounce beer bottles. You will need them when it is time to bottle your first batch of homebrew, four to eight weeks after brew day. Of course, you can also buy empty bottles, but what’s the fun in that? Instead, get to work! A good trick for removing old labels is to soak the empties in a water solution with a couple tablespoons of ammonia. After 12 hours, the labels should slight right off.

Please, write us back with a report on your success, and fire away with any other questions. And may God bless you and your important ministry in the Church!

Dear Chicago, I have Mastered your Pizza

It took me three attempts, but since the Quartermaster does not like pizza very much, when he declares a pizza good and worthy of eating, he really, truly means it. Behold, the “Chicago Deep Dish Pizza”:


I wish I had taken a picture of a slice, so you could see the stratified layers of crusty, crunchy exterior, flaky and chewy inner crust, a thick blanket of mozzarella, and then all the topping goodness on top. True Chicago deep dish is always upside down (cheese first, tomatoes on top). A recipe is forthcoming.

And Now (due to “Synod Fatigue”) Something Completely Different

To quote C-3PO, “I can’t bear to watch.” So, instead, a roundup of fun “technology” links:

  • According to this article from Reuters, Apple has argued to a New York federal court in a written brief that it is “impossible” to unlock iPhones without a user’s passcode, due to improvements to encryption for iOS version 8 and later.
  • The new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens”, continues to trend, with the release of the latest theatrical trailer during halftime on last night’s “Monday Night Football” program (and millions of geeks are forced to watch football on TV). Of course, you could just wait a couple more minutes and see it nearly anywhere on-line. Hopefully geeks were smart enough to realize that.
  • Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 4.29.54 PMWe won’t know until we are much nearer to December 18 whether the latest Star Wars movie incarnation is any good or not, but one thing we can agree upon is that Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm has raised merchandising to completely new and stratospheric levels. You want Christmas gift ideas for the Quartermaster and his family of wookies? Look no further than this, or this, or:
  • Speaking of the Power of the Force (of advertising), (this is truly one of the slickest ad pieces EVURRRR), along with the movie media blitz, a new Star Wars Battlefront game drops on November 17 for Xbox One, PS4, or PC.
  • Shifting franchises slightly, astronomers theorize that they may have discovered a real life example of a Dyson Sphere (no, not one of those vacuum thingies).

Astronomer 1: That star (billions of light years away)….. Has a strange flashing thing going on….. 
Astronomer 2: Magnify.
Astronomer 1: Inconclusive. 

Astronomer 2: I bet it’s a Dyson sphere, just like in Episode 130 of ST:TNG!
Astronomer 1: I’ll notify the press!

Give another “Huzzah” for Hirsute!

14580824410_3d53705259_oIn the order of creation, there are so many magnificent things from God, like: a mountain vista, teeming with wildlife, an ocean breeze that refreshes the senses, the vast starry blanket of galactic sky, and (perhaps marginally lower in order of magnitude, but pretty neato nonetheless) BEARDS, which (according to science) keep you healthy and handsome.

Thank God the Pope isn’t supposed to be Infallible when he Appoints Bishops

Francis Cardinal George, pray for us.

It appears, according to this, that the Archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, adheres to the notion of “primacy of conscience” with respect to communion for the divorced and remarried, and, for those individuals engaged in a same-sex relationships.

He says, “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.”

It is a grave injustice for Archbishop Cupich to disregard the fact that for a conscience to be “inviolable”, it must also be well-formed. Without this essential element, which he as a pastor owes a duty to support with clear teaching and example, the moral conscience “…present at the heart of the person,” which enjoins the person “at the appropriate moment to do good and avoid evil,” ceases to be what it is entirely. (CCC 1777).

“Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis)”. (CCC 1780). Where this perception is woefully lacking, conscience is (at best) gravely impaired.

Conscience includes the application of principles of morality “…in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods.” (Ibid.). Where one’s (mis)application leads one to directly violate a Commandment, one can objectively conclude that conscience is (at best) gravely impaired.

Where one’s “conscience” fails to lead one to proper “…judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed, the truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason,” there is no way to practically recognize the prudence of the individual in question on a particular issue (which is defined as choosing in conformity with this judgment). (Ibid.).

In other words, there is no way to recognize that the “conscience is inviolable” without first recognizing that the Commandments of God are inviolable, and thus, the conscience is inviolable only insofar as it remains within the individual “as the witness to the universal truth of the good.” (CCC 1781).

The person who knowingly violates his conscience by doing evil is arguably on safer ground than the person who refuses to recognize the objective evil of a particular act, because “…the verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God.” (CCC 1781).

God does not force us to repent. In that sense, a “conscience” is inviolable. But without a conscience that properly “attests to the fault committed”, forgiveness is never sought, and thus, the soul remains in peril.

Let’s pray for the Archbishop’s conversion of heart on this issue. The Year of Mercy begins soon.

Pope Benedict is at the Synod on the Family

[NOTE: For the first time on Quartermaster of the Barque, I fired the censor and used the same profane word three times. Anyone who might be scandalized should go away.]

It is wearying that so much attention is paid — even in a circle so apparently festooned with the best kind of people as we churchblogging Catholics — to individuals who seem to delight in raising the anxiety level and drama of the Business.

Pope Francis, we are told, is presiding over pure chaos. Schism anon, because he intends to permit divorce. divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. Same-sex marriages, or at least blessings of civil ceremonies, or tacit approval of some unacceptable sort for same-sex relationships will be another fruit of the Synod. All the while, there will be a bunch of sloppy cloppy platitudinal relatios that either are meaningless in terms of content or loaded with ambiguity.

I call bullshit. And here’s why.

His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (ya know, the guy with all the memes currently trending on Facebook with the “clear teachings” on the family) is present at the Synod, at least figuratively.

A pope can’t be blamed for dying. Every pope has died. Every pope will die, until the end of time. But Pope Benedict didn’t die and, (Deo gratias) hasn’t died. No, he chose to renounce the chair.

And let’s not indulge any of those utterly absurd claims that he was somehow coerced to do it. Double triple quadruple infinity bullshit. Benedict told us that he was not coerced. Are you calling God’s Rottweiler, the one and only der panzerkardinal, a LIAR??? You’re actually going to accuse Joseph Ratzinger of committing a potentially supreme violation of conscience?

No? Good. So let’s roll that steaming nugget away, OKAY?

We know that Benedict prayed and received assurance that a decision to abdicate would not harm the Church, but perhaps even strengthen it. It would be utter bullshit to argue that His Holiness did otherwise, or that he neglected his sacred obligations, or intended to cause evil or harm.

Pope Francis, however enigmatic, has given no cause to be branded a heretic or enemy of the Church. And moreover, by all appearances the other bishop in white is serene. This moment in the Church is secondary to his will. He acted. From that we should all draw immense comfort. He continues to shepherd us, pray for us, and walk with God.