This week we had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Taylor Marshall, Chancellor of the College of Saints John Fisher & Thomas More and author of the famous Catholic blog Canterbury Tales. Dr. Marshall does an outstanding job with his blog, sharing the fascinating stories of Catholic saints while informing readers on the finer points of Church teachings. He is steadfastly loyal to both the teachings of Rome and his favorite whiskeys. He was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions.
What do you think the purpose of the modern Catholic university is? Should the university engage strictly in utilitarian career preparation or should it continue to teach and inform in the more traditional liberal arts education?
The purpose of the Catholic college or university is to cultivate the soul. Pope Pius XI (in his Divini Illius Magistri) wrote that the purpose of education is “to form the true and perfect Christian.” If this is not the primary mission of a school, from Kindergarten up through Ph.D. studies, then the school has fallen short of the mark identified by the Holy Father.
How does a liberal arts college train Catholic Gentlemen to engage the world? What are your general thoughts on what it means to be an educated Catholic Gentleman in today’s society?
A Catholic Gentleman must cultivate his interior life and his exterior life. He must be engaged in daily mental prayer, daily Rosary, and daily Mass if his profession allows it. He must be in constant battle with his vices and have a solid spiritual director. The Catholic Gentleman must become a saint.
Meanwhile his external activities must mirror the placidity of his soul. He must pursue his career with fortitude and seek to excel in his duties. If married, he must strive to be chivalrous. He should have a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He must always “play the man,” and spurn all temptations to become effeminate, soft, and luxurious. That being said, he should speak well, dress well, smile, and act respectably. There should be a certain nobility about him. The Blessed Trinity dwells within him. He should be different. Both humble and noble.
Fisher More College uses the traditional Latin Mass. Why do you think that young Catholics are more attracted to higher Masses than their parents and grandparents?
Young Catholics did not inhale the air of the 1960s-70s. The false optimism of that time did not infect them. The banal praise songs, felt vestments, and odd architecture of that era do not inspire them. They sense that the one true God must transcend our time and culture. The extraordinary form of the Latin Mass (1962 Missal) communicates a sense of awe in those that assist. There is an aesthetic element to it, but it’s not beauty for art’s sake. It’s the beauty of holiness. The silence. The Latin. The bells. The incense. The complicated and carefully rehearsed rubrics. All of this communicates that Christ is offering Himself to the Father. We experience ourselves in the liturgical court of God.
What is your favorite saint who embodies the virtues of being a Catholic Gentleman?
Saint Edmund Campion comes to mind. Well educated. Well on his way to becoming a great and prosperous man out of Oxford. Instead, he abandons this track and enters the Catholic Church. He flees to the continent where he becomes an educated Catholic only to return to England as an underground priest. His thinking is pure and clear. He takes on Queen Elizabeth and all of Protestant England. He was not content to think small. He was hungry for the greatest adventure of all – martyrdom. If you haven’t read Evelyn Waugh’s book on St Edmund Campion, drop everything and read it. It will blow you away.
What is your favorite whiskey?
I’m a Scotch man, so please allow me to drop the ‘e’ in whiskey. When it comes to scotch, I like Dalwhinnie 15 year and Oban. My favorite is probably Glenmorangie 21 year. A priest friend of mine tries to push me toward the Islay scotches, but unless we’re in an extremely manly context (like a cold winter expedition or an elk hunt), I just can’t get into them. A friend of mine recently introduced me to Redbreast 12 year Irish whiskey and I’m really digging that. It’s a great break from Scotch. Something different.
Now if I’m not in a relaxed mode, I’ll drink something cheaper. Understand that I have six children. If they are running around and jumping on my lap or whatever, I cannot really get in the mental state to enjoy a nice whisky. In this situation, I’ll just drink a blended scotch. I might get mocked on this, but I like Chivas blended 12 year in this context.
There are some interesting micro-stills producing good stuff in America. I recently sampled Garrison Brothers Texas Bourbon Whiskey. Pretty awesome. I’m excited about this movement.
Can you share your thoughts on virtuous drinking?
Virtuous drinking involves male friendship, plain and simple. It’s usually a time for men to remove themselves from the company of women that they love and sit together around a fire pit, in the darkness, or on the back porch. Some of the most meaningful conversations that I have had with my father, my brother, and my friends have been over a Scotch. Real relationships are forged. It’s a beautiful thing.
Yes, beer can work. But whisky raises it to another level. To compare it to the Latin Mass, whisky is the extraordinary form of alcohol.
I have hosted two formal scotch tastings at my house. I require the men to wear ties and blazers. We eat an amazing steak meal with great wine. And then we sample 5-7 scotches (very small glasses). We discuss and contemplate the whiskys. We take notes. It’s great fun. We even include priest or two. I insist on the ties and blazers because it keeps the evening civil. It’s hard to get blasted and act like a fool when you’re wearing a sports coat. The goal is virtuous drinking and I think that Catholic gentlemen can have a great time at it. Don’t just get together and open a bottle. Plan it out. Be intentional. Carve out time. Make it classy. Have a formal tasting. You can experience knew scotches and introduces the uninitiated into the joy of whisky.
Thank you for your time, Dr. Marshall. We hope you stop by again soon!
Dr. Taylor Marshall is the Chancellor of Fisher More College. Please explore his latest book by clicking on the following link: The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholicism.
Image Source: fishermore.edu