Should Children be in Church or in Cry Rooms?

Jesus Blessing the Children

Then there were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray.  And the disciples rebuked them.  But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.  And when he had imposed hands upon them, he departed from thence.

— Matthew 19:13-15

As a father with a newborn, I have become more acutely aware of the presence of “cry rooms” at parishes, and the preferences some priests and members of the community have that children be placed in cry rooms during normal gooing and gaaing.  The use of cry rooms should be sparing, at most, and should never inhibit the ability of children to be in the presence of our Lord.  It should not be understood from this post that there are not legitimate times and reasons to remove children temporarily from Church, but rather that encouraging parents to use a cry room to stifle normal gooing and gaaing is contrary to the practice of most parishes across a vast majority of the Church’s history.

Cry rooms came into  mainstream existence after the Second Vatican Council.  The idea behind their creation is that more difficult or distracting children may be easily removed and calmed while still within the line of sight of Mass.  In this manner, such children and their parents can still view, or participate in, the Mass without distracting other parishoners or without feeling conscious about distracting fellow parishoners.

There are two essential problems with cry rooms.

First, cry rooms perpetuate the fallacy that the Mass is a performance to be observed.  The implicit assumption of those who advocate for the use of the cry room is that distracting children can detract from the ability of other parishoners to observe the Mass and prevent the same from experiencing Christ on a personal level — the idea being that the spiritual gain one receives through Mass attendance is connected to the ability of one to observe the events that occur.

It is easy to see how this line of reasoning is mistaken.  The man who attends Mass blind, deaf, and dumb receives no less spiritual benefit from the exercise in virtue than the fully able man.  Likewise, the parishoner who sits close to a distracting child, and who therefore is less able to hear the homily or Eucharistic prayer, receives no less spiritual benefit from the Mass than a family sitting in the front row. Furthermore, even if one’s ability to “feel” close to Christ is inhibited by a crying baby, the proper reception of the Sacraments and the desire to fulfill the four cardinal objectives of the prayer — adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and asking for what we need — far outstrip any diminishment in the “personal experience.”

Additionally, the desire to control the laity during the Mass is a distinctly modern trend.  Those in medieval times had significantly more children than current Catholic families, and certainly no cry rooms.  I rather suspect that the medieval Mass was a rather raucous place — children crying, no ushers directing people when and where to receive our Lord, and extremely limited ability to understand the priest’s mediation on behalf of the community.  When compared to the modern day, where Church has a tendency to become a low-end Sunday talk show, complete with a quiet set, fancy choir, and cued audience applause, I far prefer the former.

Second, cry rooms perpetuate the fallacy that the Mass is an exclusively individual, rather than communal event.  As a communal event, children are equally justified in partaking of the Mass as those in retirement homes.  We do not celebrate the Mass at a parish to bond together over post-communion doughnuts and coffee.  We celebrate together so that the priest may mediate to the Father on our behalf, and to give Him the glory He deserves.

As a final note, a loud Mass, one which includes plenty of gooing and gaaing, is a sign of a healthy parish. Young people are getting married and having babies, lots of them, and providing more souls for the kingdom of heaven.  It would be a pity to shove these little victories aside for our own selfish feelings.

Man Skills: The Art of Apologizing

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The apology is a lost art in modern times.  A well-intentioned expression of shortcomings and remorse has been replaced by meaningless platitudes such as “I’m sorry if you were offended by…” and “I could understand how some might find my conduct offensive.”  A man owns his shortcomings, apologizes to those harmed by them, and promises to correct his behavior in the future.

Here are four basic rules for a good apology.

  1. It’s all about you. This is one of the few times in life that it is really all about you.  Leave the other person out of your shortcomings.  Any expression of guilt that involves the word “you” is insufficient.  “I am sorry that you were offended by my behavior” — for example — indicates that some people, perhaps even the average person, would not have been offended by the behavior and that at least part of the guilt belongs to the other person for being so sensitive.  Own up to your mistakes like a man and allow the other person to apologize for any of their own shortcomings if and when they feel like it.
  2. Specifically identify what you did wrong. Let the other person know that you can identify the shortcoming that upset them.  A simple “sorry” is for children.  Putting your finger on the specific shortcoming communicates to the other person that you carefully reflected on the shortcoming and listened to feedback.  It also communicates to the other person that because you understand the shortcoming, you are highly unlikely to repeat it in the future.
  3. List future corrective actions.  Listing future corrective actions communicates to the other person that you take the shortcoming seriously and are willing to undertake the time and effort necessary to fix it permanently.
  4. Make the apology unconditional.  There’s nothing worse than an apology that uses the word “if.”  For example, we often hear athletes condition an apology by stating that they apologize “if anyone was offended.”  The very fact that an apology is being issued through the press indicates that people were in fact offended.  Again, this indicates that the normal person might not be offended and that the apology is really directed at the fact that there are so many sensitive members of society (which may be true but also besides the point).  Own up, unconditionally.

Finally, it should be noted that prudence, above all, should govern apologies.  Apologize when you are wrong and have affected another with your shortcoming.  Do not apologize so frequently and for such trivial matters so that your apologies become meaningless and worthless.

Bourbon Review: Woodford Reserve

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Drive several miles from the city of Versailles through the rolling green hills of the Kentucky countryside and you’ll find the oldest currently-operating distillery in Kentucky.  Distilling began in the 1780s on the land now occupied by Woodford Reserve. In 1941 the distillery was purchased by Brown-Forman Corporation, the American company that today owns Jack Daniel’s, Chambord, Southern Comfort, and other spirit businesses. Operation ceased in the late 1960s, however, and Brown-Forman sold off the property in 1971. It wasn’t until 1993, when Brown-Forman repurchased the distillery, that the Woodford Reserve brand was created.

Since then the distillery has produced its flagship product, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon. In 2012 it introduced Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon, and this year the brand will introduce Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey. In addition to these permanent products, Woodford has released a Master’s Collection expression each year since 2005.

This review is for the flagship Woodford Reserve bourbon.

Type: American Kentucky Bourbon
Proof: 90.4 proof
MSRP: $35

Color: Dark goldwoodford2
Aroma: Vanilla and banana with a hint of honey.  Upon opening, charcoal and oak.
Palate: Sweet caramel and spice with a slight hint of banana.  The oils leave a thin coating on the tongue.

Andrew: Not only is Woodford Reserve my go-to choice for bourbon-based cocktails, it’s also an excellent sipping whiskey. Though it’s owned by a larger company, Woodford produces a high quality bourbon that does justice to the historic distillery where it’s created.

Michael: There are a handful of whiskies that I failed to appreciate at the inception of this blog that I have since come around to, and Woodford Reserve is certainly one of them.  The brand has a strong desire for innovation, but, unlike so many craft distilleries, it does not forget the foundations and traditions of the bourbon industry. It is this crossroads of tradition and innovation that I find so intriguing.  Woodford Reserve is the perfect bourbon for early summer afternoons and evening and I look forward to reviewing other products from this distillery in the weeks to come.

Verdict: Saturn, the 7th level of Paradiso.

Whiskey 101: Difference between Bourbon and Rye

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A few readers have written us asking various questions ranging from how to properly use a decanter to what is so special about a rye.  Rather than answer these questions individually, we are now beginning a series of articles discussing the basics of enjoying a good whiskey.  Our first post concerns the difference between a bourbon and a rye.

A bourbon, which is made with at least 51% corn, is generally produced to achieve a sweeter and more syrupy finish while a rye is generally produced with a spicier, drier taste profile in mind.  Traditionally, bourbons have been more popular neat or on the rocks while rye whiskies have been preferred for cocktail use.

Perhaps the largest factor impacting the development of rye and bourbon whiskies is simple geography and climate.  Rye grains tend to be relatively more prevalent in cooler climates, where they thrive despite harsh conditions and lead to comparatively more profitable harvests.  In contrast, corn is more prevalent in warmer climates.

Rye tends to have a more complex flavor profile than corn.  Its drier and more peppery taste generally makes a superior cocktail when compared to bourbon.  Rye is also notoriously difficult for distilleries to work with.  Mash bills can turn into porridge or glue with only slight deviations.  I suspect that the combination of rye being difficult to work with and the fact that most people cannot tell whether their cocktail has been made with a bourbon or a rye has traditionally depressed the rye market significantly.

Lately, we have been pleased to see a resurgence in rye offerings, a few of which we will begin reviewing over the next few weeks.  Distilleries from Woodford Reserve to Hudson have begun experimenting with ryes, and the early results have been quite positive.  Andrew and I both prefer ryes for cocktails and I have been known to sip rye neat when I have it handy.

In contrast, corn is one of the easier grains to distill.  Corn’s high sugar and starch content makes the grain significantly easier to work with and allows for higher yields of alcohol per input.  Because of the high sugar content, corn allows bourbon to achieve a much sweeter, even syrupy, taste.  In the history of whiskey, the sweeter, smooth taste allowed American bourbon to be one of the first whiskies that could be pleasantly consumed neat.

Because of its popularity, bourbon is often used in modern cocktails.  This practice generally does not achieve excellent results.  Many cocktails utilize sugar or some other sweet ingredient, which when combined with the sweetness of a bourbon, can lead to a sugary mess.

When in bar, a simplistic rule might be: use bourbon when drinking neat and rye in a cocktail.

Have questions about whiskey or Catholicism?  Write us at whiskeycatholic@gmail.com.

Easter Drinks: Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander

Earlier in the Easter Season we profiled the White Russian, a modern dessert drink made with vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream. While the White Russian is a great drink, it’s but a shadow of its predecessor, the brandy Alexander. A descendant itself of the “Alexander” (made with gin), the brandy Alexander is sweet, yet refreshing.

It was also referenced by one of the most influential conservatives of the twentieth century. It is always important that a gentleman is able to make up his mind. With his expected wit, William F. Buckley, Jr. reminds us of such when, in one of his 1975 columns, he despairs of the indecisiveness of guests at a party:

[…guests] saying at a cocktail party, when asked, “What can I bring you from the bar?” -“Anything. Anything at all.” People who say that mean to be accomodating. Actually, they merely confuse and exasperate. I’d rather a guest asked me for a brandy Alexander than for “anything at all.” To be sure, I would have to learn to make a brandy Alexander.”

The brandy Alexander is made with 1/3 cognac, 1/3 crème de cacao, and 1/3 cream, all shaken over ice and served up in a cocktail glass with nutmeg to garnish. It’s a delicious dessert drink and, again, an excellent way to celebrate the Easter Season.

Scotch Review: Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014 – Amontillado

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Laphroaig needs no introduction, and neither does its Cairdeas series, which as we’ve mentioned in the past, means “friendship” in Gaelic. This is the 2014 edition of Cairdeas, finished in Amontillado casks. Amontillado, the Sherry wine named for the Spanish region of Montilla, has a rich amber color that is transferred to this scotch when it is finished in the used casks.

Type: Islay Scotch
Proof: 102.8
MSRP: $75

Color: Dark Straw
Aroma: Musky peat smoke, figs, and hazelnuts, with hints of lemon zest. Strong undertones of sherry and wet hay.
Palate: Sherry, cereal, dried fruits. Long, peat smoke finish.

Andrew: What I love about the Cairdeas series is that every year is a new attempt to find an interesting take on Laphroaig. The 2014 Cairdeas is no exception, and while it’s not nearly as good as the 2013 port wood finish, the Amontillado finish presents a new perspective on a whiskey I thought I knew well. The winey notes are clear, but so are new notes of figs, nuts, and lemons. I’m looking forward to the 2015 edition.
Michael: Whether it’s fair or not, the 2014 Cairdeas will always be judged on its immediate predecessor, the 2013 edition, which was simply masterfully done.  The 2014 edition is an excellent whisky in its own right — Laphroaig with a twist of American bourbon barrels and dry sherry — a combination that combines wonderfully.  The 2014 edition has grown on me as I have worked my way through the bottle over several months.  Cairdeas 2014 is a wonderful complex whisky, even if I was initially disappointed that it did not achieve the mastery of the 2013 edition.  Such is the nature of experimental limited releases.

Verdict: Stars, the eighth level of Paradiso.

Easter Drinks: Boston Sour

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The Boston Sour, which has served as my drink of choice this spring, is one of my favorite cocktails.  Purists might object to our use of the more modern term “Boston Sour” for what is essentially a “Whiskey Sour,” but for the purposes of clarity, by “Boston Sour” we are essentially referring to a Whiskey Sour with egg white.

The origins of the Boston Sour predate the American Revolution, with some sources suggesting that the drink began as a type of rudimentary cure to scurvy.  Others have suggested that some early recipes indicate that the drink was used as a punch.  In any event, about 100 years ago, the egg white was added (thus separating the Boston Sour from the Whiskey Sour), which when shaken creates an appealing foam on the top of the cocktail.

There are many variations to the Boston Sour, but one of the most basic recipes includes:

  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • .5 oz. simple syrup
  • .25 oz. egg white

I typically make my Boston Sours with Jack Daniels Green Label, but frankly any sweet bourbon will do. Alternatively, a mild rye will serve as an excellent base because the simple syrup provides plenty of sweetness.  If I have a good rye on hand, it is typically my first preference for any cocktail.

A more traditional taste could be achieved by mixing powdered sugar with soda water to create the simple syrup.  Of course, the benefits of the soda water will be rather limited once the carbon is released by the mixing and shaking process.

Enjoy!

Book Review: The Way of Perfection

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During March 2015, I read Baronius Press’ The Way of Perfection to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Theresa of Avila, one of the first two female doctors of the Church.  St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Carmelite nun who lived and wrote during the Counter Reformation, penned The Way of Perfection as a handbook for the nuns in her convent, explaining: (1)  the reasons and rationale for committing to the contemplative life; and (2) how to make progress in one’s spiritual life.  As with all of Baronius Press’ offerings, Catholics are in urgent need of this book and every effort should be made to widely distribute it among local parishes and schools.

IMG_0402While I have long known that The Way of Perfection is a “Catholic classic,” I was skeptical when Baronius Press sent me a copy of the book because it was difficult to envision how a handbook for the Carmelites could presently effect a man living in modern times with no hope of living the contemplative life until retirement.  Simply put, the charity, order, and humility that St. Teresa of Jesus envisioned for the reformed Carmelite order must be present in our homes if Catholic families hope to withstand the buffets of modernism.  As St. Teresa puts it:

I see very great evils, and that human forces do not suffice to quench the fire started by the heretics, and which is gaining such proportions, that it seems to be necessary to act as in time of war.  When the enemy has over-run the whole country, the lord of it, seeing himself closely pressed, takes refuge in a city, which he causes to be well fortified.

If every man’s house be his castle, then let each man see to it that his castle has the requisite defenses to overcome modernism, beginning with the methods for spiritual advancement provided in The Way of Perfection.  For St. Teresa, humility and charity are the cornerstones of these defenses.

IMG_0406St. Teresa embraces humility to Christ and His Church throughout the book in a manner that must be described as heroic. She briefly discusses Enlightenment key-words, such as “rights,” “liberty,” and “independence,” with the understanding that were these concepts to exist in reality, our submission to Christ and His Church precludes us from exercising them in a manner incompatible with justice and virtue.  Humility drives St. Teresa’s desire for perfection; her wish to wholly submit her will to Jesus leads to the heroic virtue for which she was canonized.  To St. Teresa, humility was more than some phony self-deprecation.  It was the realization that one must submit one’s will wholly to Christ and His Church in order to achieve salvation.

Second, St. Teresa advocates for charity as demonstrated in its purest form, through the concern for the salvation of the souls of others. She is obsessed with bringing souls to Christ, and at one point mentions that if she were a man, she would willingly lead an army for Christ because it is better that 1,000 die prematurely in the arms of the Church than one die outside of it. Such things are not spoken of in softer, more modern realms of the Church but military warfare aside perhaps it is high time that men rediscover the importance, significance, and lordship of Jesus, who did not compromise with those aligned with the devil.

Days after finishing the book, I was struck by the fact that the two cornerstones of St. Teresa’s thought, humility and charity, or the desire to love Jesus more than ourselves and the desire to love others more than ourselves, uniquely parallel the two great commandments in the Gospel (Matthew 22:37-40).  It is interesting that St. Teresa built one of the strongest spiritual lives in the history of the Church — a spiritual life that perfectly conformed to Church teachings — through a unique focus on two of the most fundamental and simplistic precepts of the Christian faith.

It is interesting that some scholars have debated whether St. Teresa’s writings are compatible with those of the Angelic Doctor, but to me St. Teresa is the perfect compliment to St. Thomas Aquinas.  It is always extraordinarily comforting when experience confirms what we know in theory.  While the Angelic Doctor so wonderfully laid out the doctrine of reason and that of the Catholic Church in a manner that speaks to his unique relationship with truth and reason incarnate — our Lord — St. Teresa beautifully applies the doctrines of the Church to her daily life to achieve personal spiritual growth and formation — which is perhaps the most worthy reason for studying doctrine in the first place.  In this sense, the two doctors of the Church build on one another and certainly do not stand in contrast.

St. Teresa approaches the Catholic life with an enthusiasm and vigor frowned upon by many quarters of the modern Church. Like a doctor for the soul, she prescribes the medicines considered taboo in modern times — mortification, self-denial, and an uncompromising loyalty to Christ’s Church.  Every father should consider purchasing a copy of The Way of Perfection when forming his family and spiritual life.

St. Teresa of Jesus, ora pro nobis.

Bourbon Review: Eagle Rare

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Eagle Rare is brought to us by the highly renowned Kentucky distillery Buffalo Trace.  You may remember Buffalo Trace from our visit to the distillery or from our past review of its flagship product.  Buffalo Trace has firmly established itself as the cutting edge American distillery and each of its products are highly sought after.

Eagle Rare is an older, more mature, release than the more familiar Buffalo Trace Whiskey.  Aged for a minimum of ten years, each barrel is hand selected by the master distiller to achieve a consistent taste across bottles.  Eagle Rare has already brought home some hardware in 2015, earning a gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Type: Kentucky Bourbon
Proof: 90
MSRP: $36

Color: Copper
Aroma: Spice, herbal, vanilla, old wood, and tones of orange zest that become more pronounced on opening.
Palate: Very dark chocolate, intertwined with citrus and almonds. Finish is warm and dry.

Andrew: Eagle Rare is what a bourbon should taste like — classic, refined, and smooth.  I will certainly purchase another bottle because of the brand’s versatility; it will go down nicely either neat or in a cocktail.  Eagle Rare, likely the second or third best release from this distillery, is better than most flagship products.

Michael: I was slightly disappointed by Eagle Rare.  I did not think that the palate sufficiently matched the aroma and for me personally, it was a bit spicy for a bourbon.  Please note that I am in the minority here and that most whisky experts — which I am most decidedly not — give Eagle Rare high praise.  I am deferring to Andrew’s judgment for the verdict.

Verdict: Saturn, the 7th level of Paradiso.

April Mailbag: St. George’s Edition

St. George

Every now and then a letter comes along that is so witty, well-written, and downright interesting that it deserves a mailbag post all to itself.  Happy St. George’s Day!

Dear Whisk(e)y Catholic Guys,

While others might email you and tell you that Chesterton would embrace “marriage equality” (no) or chastise you for your provincial view of binary genders, I take issue with the fact that, after all this time, you all have not yet reviewed my favorite Irish Whiskey (whiskies?)–Red Breast and Tullamore DEW.  I hide my Red Breast until special occasions, and my go-to affordable Irish is Tullamore DEW.  I suggest you drink them immediately and then review them whenever possible.  Or, just drink them immediately.  My first question is, “Is it sacrilegious to drink an Irish Whiskey in honor of the Patron of England?  There’s less than a week till St. George’s Day, and I want to celebrate with Red Breast.”

Also, I appreciate that Dr. Marshall mentioned gin, and I’m quite impressed you all suggest Plymouth, which is obviously the sophisticated choice of men who hold pedantic views of binary gender.  Let me suggest the inexpensive Broker’s Gin for a solid gin and tonic, which is, in my mind, a superior drink to the White Russian for Paschal celebration.

And, as a Colorado native and resident of the state where God vacations, I must suggest that you review Tincup Colorado Whiskey on your blog.  It’s not spectacular, but it’s better than Buffalo Trace and Bulleit.  I like it neat, next to a campfire enjoying God’s creation, and it’s a great base for a great Old Fashioned.

Finally, another question in two parts.  While I don’t drink my whiskey from a solo cup, I also don’t own specialty glassware.  How do you drink your leisurely dram?  Should I be pouring my Tullamore DEW, or Scotch into something a bit more sophisticated after my boys are asleep?  Secondly, while I love the look of a decanter and matching glasses, does the decanter actually do anything (good or bad) to your whiskey or Scotch?

No…now a final question.  My foray in to Scotch has been less than exotic–Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.  What should be next on my list?  I’m interested in Laphroaig, but I’m a bit nervous about spending the money and having the peat overwhelm me.  

Now I’m going to drink a beer…a good, Colorado-brewed Left Hand Nitro Stout and await advice.  Actually, I’m headed to bed, where I’ll include you all and your families in my prayers.  You all have created a great site.  I’m a fan of Christ and conviviality.  You provide suggestions on how to find both.  Thanks for that.

Your brother in Christ,
Jim(my)

Jim,

You’re right — not reviewing Red Breast or Tullamore DEW is a major oversight.  At our last Whiskey Catholic meet up we had to choose between reviewing Jack Daniel’s Green Label and Tullamore and chose the former.  When we get together again over Memorial Day weekend I promise that we will rectify the situation. When I was studying in Houston a friend of mine would break out Tullamore when we were both in town on the same day.  I have fond memories of it and Tullamore is certainly one of my favorite Irish drinks.

I thought long and hard about whether it would be sacrilegious to drink Irish whiskey on St. George’s Day and my answer to you is that it would be sacrilegious not to do so.  St. George was (1) not English and (2) heroically and radically Catholic to the point of martyrdom.  If we truly want to honor the saint with a drink, it only seems fitting to raise a glass of a spirit distilled in the most Catholic whiskey-making country in the world; Ireland.

Thank you for the suggestions with respect to Broker’s and Tincup.  We are always looking for new whiskies to try and Andrew is constantly experimenting with gin and tonics.  He makes an exceptional one that I miss very much; they remind him of his travels in India.

Andrew and I both own a set of nosing glasses, which I promise to publish a post on shortly.  The nosing glass is not expensive and certainly enhances the whiskey experience by increasing the surface area of the drink exposed to the air while concentrating the aromas toward the opening of the glass.  A decanter also increases the surface area of the whiskey exposed to air, which can aid in smoothing out flavors and “opening” the spirit.  Personally, I often allow a good scotch to breathe for about 45 minutes in a nosing glass before drinking it.  I enjoy the aromas, am often not in a hurry because I am deep into a book, and believe that the air improves the taste.  For those who drink whiskey frequently and do not wish to wait 45 minutes to achieve the best taste, a decanter is a wonderful option.

One of the wonderful things about scotch is how much diversity there is among the different whiskies.  If you want to experiment with an Islay but are worried that you might not enjoy the medicinal, peaty aroma of Laphroaig, I would suggest either Peat Monster or Kilchoman, both of which combine peat smoke with sweeter aromas.  There is a world of wonderful, light, airy Highlands and Speysides that you might enjoy, however.  I am working my way through two incredible Speysides now that we will feature shortly and Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban is one of my all-time favorites.

Thank you for the prayers.  I cannot say that I have ever prayed for our readers but tonight I will be sure to start.

Have something to say?  Send us a letter at whiskeycatholic@gmail.com