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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

Mailbag Time: March Edition

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It’s time for the March edition of Mailbag!  Without further ado. . .

You speak of many gentlemanly endeavors.  I would like to suggest that letter writing, a lost skill for most of us, must be recovered especially as a Catholic Gentleman.  I have recently attempted to recover it myself, because as a priest in training it always seemed clear to me that people take great solace and consolation from a hand-written letter or note. It seems more intentional and sincere. It allows for prayer intentions to be passed on in a very concrete way; which is how I have taken to using it now that I’m no longer on any social media. C.S Lewis, Tolkien and the like would do such things with their correspondence and I so greatly admire them and have a thing Catholic/Christian English Literature of the 19th and 20th century. 

So just a thought that I would pass on, when you have a chance in your busy schedule to write on such a topic. I couldn’t agree more.  

Letter correspondence is a lost art.  There is something intensely personal about a letter as opposed to an e-mail or text message.  A man penning a letter has time to carefully think about each word.  I think that fact alone should make the letter more meaningful from the recipient’s perspective.  Anyone can send an e-mail or text.  Only a committed man can sit down at a desk, pen out his thoughts, find a stamp, and deal with an insufferable quasi-federal agency to have it delivered to the dear recipient.

You also hit wonderfully on the idea of pen pals.  I read the Brownson-Hecker correspondence in college, which I now have a copy of sitting on my shelf, and I have to say that the idea of men communicating through traditional correspondence over the years as their ideas, philosophies, and circumstances change is without parallel.  Letter correspondence is the extraordinary form of communication.   You can certainly expect three or four posts on this subject and perhaps a letter in the mail.

For three guys who love Chesterton you simply don’t seem to know him that well.  He almost certainly would have embraced marriage equality.  

Chesterton supporting “marriage equality?”  You can’t reason with stupid.  This letter made me remember the Baronius Press Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, by Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who writes:

[I]t is a waste of time to argue with one who refuses to listen, or with one who seriously defends an absurdity, who maintains, for example, that a great work of literature is a mere chance arrangement of words or that thieving and bribery are not vices.  Folly is mere imbecility, mere incapacity of understanding, while prejudice acts like a break on reason, impeding its natural movement. . .People of such views, however, are rare.  They suffer from some twist of the mind and are abnormal.

Is there a way to subscribe to the blog via email?  I think my husband would be interested in reading but he doesn’t use a “reader”– or “tweet”, so I think an email subscription would be the way to go, but I cannot find that option on the blog.

Not currently.  We will add that to our list of “fixes” for our June meet up.

What is your daily consumption of whiskey? I’m kind of worried of the health and psychological issues (i.e., possibility of addiction) regarding spirit consumption.

Not counting social events, perhaps one drink two nights a week.  I do not have a strict “drink limit” but it is difficult to find a quiet moment to enjoy a drink and a book with family and work commitments.  Speaking personally, I find that my palate deteriorates pretty quickly after the first drink so it becomes more difficult for me to truly appreciate a fine scotch on the second drink.  I have no problem with second and third martinis in social situations.  My rule with drinking is that I only do it when I am happy or contemplative — never when I am angry or upset.  I think this is a healthy rule to follow because it immediately alleviates some of the concerns of alcoholism.

For those Catholics who might have a problem with addiction, please consider making use of the resources available.  The Fathers of Mercy have a nice list of some of the many programs available for Catholic men suffering from addictions.  In particular, please consider asking your spiritual director about the Calix Society.

Does a Priest Dressing Well Bring Scandal?

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From a reader:

As professional men, I seek your opinion on a matter that is a constant reoccurring debate in the seminary.  People always refer to what “the laity” think, so for the purposes of actually knowing (I suspect I already do know)…
1. If you were to see a priest show up at a graveside for a funeral without his jacket when every other man is wearing one, would you think it disrespectful of him?
2. If you saw a priest at a white-tie dinner where everyone else is in cuff links and the priest was not, would you think him under-dressed?
3. If you saw a priest going about his day to day business (daily Mass, work at the parish, hospital visits, NOT special events like weddings) and he wore bright orange sneakers, would you think it unprofessional/inappropriate?  What about black Crocs?  what about black sneakers?
If you wouldn’t find it inappropriate, is it because you would be indifferent, or would you actually take it as a sign of his simplicity of life/holiness/ability to relate to the “common man”?

Please allow me to tackle this question in the three parts it was asked.

  1. Yes, assuming he is not wearing a cassock.  My understanding is that since the American Councils of Baltimore, the preference of the U.S. Bishops is that priests wear secular dress with a clerical collar (i.e., the black suit and white collar).  Readers may correct me here if I am incorrect, but I believe that this was done to conform to the secular customs of the United States.  Since the secular custom at such an event would be for the men to wear jackets, it seems only reasonable to expect the priest to wear one as well.  Not wearing a jacket — when all the other men at the funeral are — might be construed as the priest taking the event lightly, which he should not.  Personally, my first preference would be for the priest to wear a cassock, but at minimum I would expect him to wear a jacket.
  2. Again, at a black tie dinner I would expect the priest to be wearing a cassock, which was explained to me once as the “tuxedo for priests.”  It has certainly become customary in American Catholic culture to view the cassock as being “more dressed up” than a jacket and collar.  That said, if the priest was wearing a jacket, I would not give a second thought to whether he was not wearing cuff links.  If he was wearing cuff links, I would definitely notice and compliment him though.
  3. Yes, yes, and yes.  The only time a priest should be wearing sneakers is for medical reasons, in which case they should be black.  I seriously question the moral compass of any priest who pairs orange sneakers with black pants, a black shirt, and a Roman collar.  As members of the Faithful, we are asking the priest to mediate on our behalf, not be our friend or look cool.

I think the concern over the “common man” — which to be frank is practically just an excuse for sloppiness in dress and Liturgical form — needs some serious re-calibration.  I find that people who think that the “common man” wants priests who wear t-shirts or have liturgical dance at Mass are exactly the types of people far too many parishes listened to in the 1960’s and 1970’s when too many common men turned away from the Faith.  What we wear is important when it reflects a greater internal reality.  If we do not dress and conduct ourselves seriously, the common man cries bullshit with respect to the entire religion.  “I don’t believe you because you do not appear serious about what you are saying or doing.  If you really believe that the Creator of the Universe is present, why are you wearing crocks?”  

The common man may enjoy simplicity but he is not stupid.

Finding the Catholic Gentleman Update

A reader suggested that Wyoming Catholic College might be a great place to meet the Catholic Gentleman.  After watching this video, I couldn’t agree more.  I certainly would have considered WCC if it was around when I graduated high school.  What more could you want in a college experience than traditional Masses, a classics program, and the breath-taking Wyoming wilderness?

 

 

Reader E-mail: Where to Meet the Catholic Gentleman

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We’ve received more than a few e-mails from single Catholic ladies inquiring about where to meet the Catholic Gentleman.  Catholic Gentlemen are more common than ladies might think, but you have to look in the right places.

First, join a parish known for beautiful Masses.  Catholic Gentlemen tend to gravitate toward parishes with a reputation for liturgical beauty.  On purely anecdotal evidence I believe that “higher Masses,” or those which employ reverence for the Sacrament through tasteful music, bits of Latin, and thoughtful homilies tend to attract a disproportionate number of young people.  Becoming more involved with parish ministries also increases the likelihood of meeting other single Catholics.

At the college level, orthodox Catholics tend to find each other in what can only be described as a spiritual magnetic pull.  There is likely either a formal or informal group of Catholics who go to daily Mass and hang out on a regular basis at nearly every university in the country.  Finding that group can be challenging, but it is always worthwhile to have Catholic peers, especially at a time as critical as college.  There was not a Newman Society at Boston College but my understanding is that the society generally has a strong presence at secular institutions, or those without formal campus ministry programs.

In general, from what I hear from my friends, it is more difficult to meet other single Catholics after college, but that does not mean that all hope is lost.  Many trade and professional associations have Catholic networks, such as the St. Thomas More Society in the legal world.  I might also suggest trying to see if there is an Opus Dei center in town.  I do not wish to get too involved with the particular controversies surrounding specific orders, but I have a deep affection for Opus Dei and believe that their spiritual direction and mentorship of men creates gentlemen who have a laser-like focus in their vocations and careers.  I have also heard that Theology on Tap and Youth Masses (including Life Teen Masses) are helpful in meeting other young Catholics, but I simply do not have any experience in those areas.  Some of our twitter followers have suggested trying to join a Catholic summer camp or FOCUS.

I should note in passing, since this post is mainly dedicated toward the young ladies who have written in, that the mantilla system is the most clear signaling system mankind has at its disposal.  First, mantillas signal that a Catholic lady is an orthodox Catholic, singling her out from the dozens of women at church on Sunday.  Second, the color of a mantilla is extremely important to the single Catholic Gentleman.  A white mantilla means that the lady is unmarried.  A black mantilla means she is married.  It’s really hard to mess up those signals.  I write this bit slightly in jest, in part because I find mantillas pretty and think that they are a wonderful tradition worthy of revival, but I also recognize that they can be extremely distracting at Mass when people are gawking at a tradition they have never seen before.

Finally, be prepared to pray for your own vocation.  Things have a way of working out when you engage in a consistent pattern of prayer with your intentions in mind.  The uncertainty of whether prayer will be answered in a recognizable, concrete manner sometimes leaves us restless, but have faith that your intentions are heard.

Newman on the Gentelman

After my post earlier in the week on Catholic Gentlemen: Cultured, but Counter-cultural, I got a great email from a reader suggesting Blessed John Newman’s definition of a gentleman. It comes from his Idea of a University, Discourse 8, Section 10. It is a fantastic summary of what it means to be a gentleman. The commentary itself is as subtle and refined as we should hope to be in all our actions. It begins:

“Hence it is that it is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast;—all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home.”

Read the entire article here

Mail Bag: Gran Torino Edition

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It’s time for another edition of Mail Bag!  Without further ado. . .

Hi WhiskeyCatholic,

Here’s my submission for good examples of masculinity in popular culture: Walt Kowalsky (Clint Eastwood) in ‘Gran Torino.’  Also, I think that the theme of the Marvel superhero film ‘Thor’ was in part a commentary on the same phenomenon that you address in your post.  Thor begins as the same oafish goof of a “man” at the beginning of the film that you discuss in the section on the various false manly stereotypes, and over the course of the film develops true, responsible masculinity.

Thanks for your posts!

Michael S. 

Thanks, Michael.  Gran Torino is one of my favorite movies of all time.  I grew up watching Clint Eastwood movies with my father and really thought that Eastwood’s best movie-making years were far behind him when Gran Torino came out.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Not only is the movie well done, but it really makes you think about the poor state of American culture.  Walt’s story is far too familiar; a blue-collar war veteran who raises children who lack respect for past generations and tradition.  It has always been a great mystery to me as to how such an amazing generation of men, men who fought two wars against inhumane atheistic regimes, could raise a generation of children who gave us the 60s and 70s.  I simply can’t understand it.

I do like how the movie explores the question of religion.  Walt was never religious, and I think that is clearly reflected by the irreverence his children and grandchildren show at their mother’s funeral, but in his heart he knows that Catholicism is right.  He has a funeral for his wife, goes to confession before his death, and learns to respect the local priest.  It is also interesting how the movie explores the issue of immigration.  The immigrant family has stronger family values than Walt, something he grows to appreciate.  If there is any hope in saving the American sense of family perhaps it is in the examples set by immigrant families.

There are precious few mainstream movies that I could see myself discussing with friends over a few glasses of whiskey but this is definitely one of them.  Great suggestion.

Dear Whiskey Catholics,

That was a very interesting post on bow ties, thank you for it. May I offer a little further information? You left out the medical/surgical rationale for wearing a bow tie; a four-in-hand tie, the kind usually worn with a lounge suit (a.k.a.  business suit) hangs down and could fall into an open wound or worse still could cause Cows Tail Swish i.e. scoring the surface of the eye of an unconscious patient. The bow tie does neither.

Éamonn G.

Excellent point.  I hadn’t considered that before.  Nick sports a bow tie and I’m still stuck trying to learn how to tie one.  I’m hoping to learn before I get married because I would really like to avoid the high-school prom clip bow ties.  I’m sure I’ll fiddle with it more this summer as I study for the bar exam.

If I was operating on a patient I would probably want to take my tie off, though.

Whiskey Catholic: 

You are showing your provincialism here.

Ryes have traditionally been more popular in northern states, extending as far south as Maryland, although their popularity has certainly been on the decline since the 1950s. In fact, some of our older guests’ eyes still light up when they see a good rye on our shelf, usually followed by a comment about how “back in the day everyone used to drink a rye.”

We in the “fly over middle states” have a different meaning of “northern states.”  Bob

You’re right!  We’re showing some “east coast bias” right here on Whiskey Catholic!  With any luck this won’t last long as I’m moving to Texas and Nick is moving to the rust belt.

 

Dear Michael, Andrew, and Nicholas,
I recently stumbled across your blog while looking for a review of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, and I’ve found it to be one of the better Catholic blogs around right now.. I like your mix of posts about faith, and ones that are simply practical. It’s also nice to see something like this coming out of my own diocese. You’ve given this seminarian something good to read over his summer break, and I thank you for that. Keep up the good work.
In Christ,
Daniel

We live for e-mails like that. . .

Have something to say?  You can always e-mail us at whiskeycatholic@gmail.com!

Mail Bag! Courtship Edition

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Mail Bag is a new feature for us, one which will reappear periodically as we get mail I find interesting.  You can reach us with commentary, complaints, or questions at whiskeycatholic@gmail.com.  Please include your name and town.  Without further introduction, Greg has something to say.

Gentlemen:

Great blog so far, but I was a little creeped out by the Courtship article’s suggestion that Catholic Gentlemen should compliment women who dress modestly.  Don’t you think that would basically kill any budding romance immediately?  

Greg, Washington D.C.

Greg, I completely understand your concerns in this regard and I’ve received a lot of feedback on this point. I think you’re taking what I said a little too literally.  I said:

“The Catholic Gentlemen employs light humor while avoiding crude jokes.  He helps the Lady with her jacket and chair.  He always picks up the check.  He never interrupts her and always employs his best table manners.  He also compliments his Lady frequently.  By dressing modestly, the Lady has overcome peer pressure and bucked modern trends.  She deserves to be complimented for her virtue.”

Obviously if you approach a Lady on the first date and say “I really admire how your dress protects me from lustful images” or “I see you have only one inch between your neck and dress, excellent job,” the Lady should rightfully take off her high heels and bolt in the opposite direction (and possibly tell her brothers about the creep down the street).  The point I was trying to convey, in the larger context of chivalrous behavior, was that too often in our society women are only told that they look pretty when they reveal more than they should, particularly during college.

When a Lady fights peer pressure and pursues virtue she often suffers something of a backlash, and secular society consequently labels her a “prude” or a “puritan.”  The Catholic Gentlemen’s duty is to help women understand that they can look just as pretty, if not prettier, by dressing modestly as they can when they look like the typical college girl going out on a Friday night.  There are plenty of non-creepy ways to accomplish this.  A simple “You look really nice tonight” does the job just fine.  Perhaps you might feel really adventurous and mention how “the color of that dress really brings out the blue in your eyes.”  In any event, the Catholic Gentleman is not creepy or awkward.  We will have a future post about social grace, but for now I think this clears things up.

Thanks so much, Greg.