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March 27, 2008
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The Transfiguration: Trinkets on Mt Tabor, by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak
The Transfiguration reminds us that God left the apostles with no excuse for doubt. The Father spelled things out, as if to ask, “What part of ‘THIS IS MY SON’ don't you understand?”

Top Ten Things for Mediocre Catholics to Give Up for Lent, by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak
Did your Lenten penances get lost in the desert? On April 1st, here are one bad Catholic’s ideas for making Holy Week suitably grim.

Celebrating ‘All Hallow’s Eve’: The Seven Deadly Courses, by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak
This Halloween recall the festival's sacred roots by dressing as your favorite soul in purgatory and serving up these seven deadly courses.

November 5th: Guy Fawkes Day - Go Out with a Bang by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak
Every Nov. 5th the English celebrate the day in 1605 that Catholic conspirator Guy Fawkes and friends—a group we might call Al-Chiesa—tried and failed to blow up Parliament. This year marks the 400th anniversary. There's no reason Catholics can't enjoy it too—albeit giving it a bit of a twist.

The President and the Pope: Reading the Signs of the Times, by John Zmirak
Ronald Reagan and Pope John  Paul II shared more than a distaste for communism. They shared an ability to read the signs of the times and act accordingly.

The Unbearable Reality of Love: The Passion of The Christ, by John Zmirak
In this film we see with unbearable clarity how Jesus descended into the personal Hell each of us carries around - and purged it clean.

Drink: Kava “blong” Pentecost
is a mudlike drink made from the root of a pepper plant, popular on Pentecost Island. To keep in the fiery spirit, be sure to add some pepper vodka to the mix.

Drink: Polish Fire Vodka (Krupnik)
This hot, mulled vodka drink combines the tastes of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Drink: Swedish Flaming Glog
This flaming punch makes quite a visual impression—and is impossible to drink in moderation. Keep it away from your designated drivers.

Drink: Whitsun (Pentecost) Ale
A light fruity traditional ale.

Flaming Strawberry Shortcake
A spirited variation on the traditional summer favorite. Once the cake is ready to serve, douse it in 151 proof rum and ignite.

Carmelized Pineapple
A simple, explosively enjoyable dessert.

Contraception, Bulimia, and Frankenfoods, by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak
If it feels good—stop it! Is that all the Catholic Church has to say about sex? A Saint Valentine Catechism.

Cornish Hen
Tender little birds roasted with sherry.

Dark Young Thoughts: A Review of the film, ‘Bright Young Things,’ by John Zmirak
For all his cultural libertinism, director Stephen Fry imbues his new film, 'Bright Young Things'— an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 'Vile Bodies'— with more of a Christian spirit than Waugh’s pre-Catholic novel ever had.

Fathers, Sons, Feuds and Myths: An interview with Alexander Waugh
"Alexander believes that the banana story was true: 'He was a very greedy little boy, and he definitely would have remembered the bananas and he definitely would have resented them. But my point in the book is that you cannot trust the testimony of a very greedy jam tart thief, who would rather have a jam tart than meet his father.'"  [Telegraph]

Flambeed Mushrooms in Sherry
A sweet and satisfying Spanish tapa. Follow this recipe, then flambé with brandy.

Flaming Chicken Brochettes
Easy to serve, delicious, decorative and light.

Flaming Spinach Salad
The last thing your guests expect to see on fire.

Interview with Stephen Fry
"'I would, in a sense, not hold my hand up to being a full artist. I think there are artists with a capital 'A.' There are people who are utterly uncompromising. I'm much more of an entertainer. I like to engage and to provoke. I certainly don't want to be formulaic.'" [Onion]

My Lunch with an Old Friend of Dan Brown Proves Revealing About The DaVinci Code, by John Zmirak
Is Dan Brown a convinced heretic hell-bent on bringing down Christianity, or a hack writer who stumbled on a crackpot conspiracy theory on par with alien abductions, Holocaust denial, and lizard men?

Preaching with a Punchline: An interview with John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak, Patrick Novecosky
John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak admit to being bad Catholics. But they're in good company, they say - Mother Teresa was a self-professed bad Catholic, too. Which means they're really good Catholics? Whatever. The duo has teamed up to write 'The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living'— a zany but reverent guide to Catholic life and celebrations.

A beloved appetizer of flaming Greek sheep milk cheese

Sizzling Steak au Poivre
One of the richest, most satisfying concoctions we know about.

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Pentecost: Because Fire is Cool!

We like to celebrate the birthday of the Church with fire, fancy, and foreigners…Try these flambé recipes and risky (if not quite risqué) games.


Flaming Punch and Speaking in Tongues

The Feast of Pentecost is one of the most important to Catholics, for a number of reasons. First, it marks the birthday of the Church, the day when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and Mary, and gave everyone the nerve they needed to preach the risen Christ to a hostile mob.

Pentecost also reverses the story of the Tower of Babel—the Old Testament tale of a king so ambitious he wanted to reach heaven through technological means. God tweaked him by inventing that bane of American schoolchildren over the millennia: foreign languages. In what we might call multiculturalism's founding moment, God scattered the king's workforce into a squabble of hostile ethnic groups, who couldn't communicate with each other. Then, at Pentecost, He reversed the process—giving the Apostles the gift enjoyed by Star Trek crewman ever since the very first episode: the ability to be understood by anyone, no matter his native language. The Holy Spirit provided this universal translator, which is called "the gift of tongues," to kick start the Church into universality. For just a few hours on Pentecost morning, the Apostles came out speaking Aramaic; but they were heard in Greek, Latin, Esperanto—you name it. They were so jumped up with joy that people assumed they must be drunk; Peter quipped back at them that it was only nine in the morning—they couldn't be drunk. (For later generations of Catholics, this wouldn't prove a thing-but we digress.) This is what it means to "speak in tongues." When Texas-based televangelists lapse from prayers into gibberish, mumbling "Hamana-shamana-freddigah-limina-bop-bop-a-doowop..." then ask you to send in a check.... Well, that's something else.

The Feast of Pentecost...it marks the birthday of the Church, the day when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and Mary, and gave everyone the nerve they needed to preach the risen Christ to a hostile mob.
But the very best thing about Pentecost, from this book's point of view, is that it involves fire. Fire is cool. Setting fires is cool—except that it's usually illegal. Well, Pentecost gives us a marvelous excuse to set lots of fires, all around the house, in the form of a flambé dinner party. To decorate the house in flaming red, and send out invitations replete with fiery puns. To stage a night-time party that none of your friends is liable to forget (especially the dimwits who come away with third-degree burns). Since the theme of the feast is universality, this is the party to which you should invite your international friends. Fill up the house with foreigners, and watch the Holy Spirit (and other spirits) break down those barriers of culture and conversation. Present a multi-ethnic menu with some incendiary treat to please everyone. But keep the boys away from the 151 rum....


Think red. Think flaming. (No that's not what we meanthough we do want you to have what the Flintstones called "a gay old time.") Hang bolts of scarlet silk in place of your curtains, and fill the house with glimmering red candles—you know, like in Rosemary's Baby. Get hold of as many silver platters as you canand this time remember to polish them. No, the tarnish isn't quaint, no matter what your husband says. Dim the lights, maybe burn some incense to get the room fragrant and smoky. It's that simple.

In the Old Testament, Pentecost made its first appearance as a harvest festival, marking 50 days after Passover, under the title the "Feast of First Fruits." Carry on this part of the tradition by providing lots of tasty fresh edibles, from kiwis to kumquats, arrayed around the house in bowls. It will help the guests' digestionsince the meal doesn't include the ordinary quantities of greens. (They'd clash with the red; we're not going for a Christmas theme.) The Israelites also hung the home with garlands and flowers—a custom that in the Christian East meant roses throughout the house. (The Greeks called Pentecost "the feast of roses.") If you can afford the expense, collect a few dozen red roses or other flowers, and plant them all over the house.


Pentecost gives us a marvelous excuse to set lots of fires, all around the house, in the form of a flambé dinner party.
Many curious activities arose to mark this feast—perhaps the strangest in Merrie Old England. Some villages in Gloucester still keep alive these customswhich include a cheese-rolling contest, that pits country folk against each other in a race with enormous cheeses down the nearest hill. The winner gets to keep, and presumably eat, the giant, dusty cheese. In St. Braivels, the villagers celebrate the day after Pentecost by hurling baskets full of bread and cheese from a castle wall, for the common folk to scramble and fight over on the ground. It's said that this custom began as a way to pay the villagers' wages, but it strikes us as a nasty bit of mischief perpetrated by aristocrats on famished peasants. So we encourage you to try it with your hungry guests. Make sure that no appetizers or snacks are laid out to precede dinner. When people start to grumble about being hungry—as they smell the sizzling meats in the kitchencast each one a fresh, crusty baguette from the bakery, and an individually wrapped cheese—such as a chevre or a wedge of Laughing Cow. Explain that "it's an English tradition." Then casually announce that tonight you're serving all English food. This should provoke a wave of anxiety, as they visualize plates piled high with flaming Scotch Eggs, Spam sautee, Toads-in-the-Hole and Marmite-smeared dry toast. When your flambéed international delights come out of the kitchen, they'll be greeted by sighsof relief.

In Italy, rose petals were traditionally scattered from the church ceiling on this feast; in France, trumpets were blown to sound forth the Holy Spirit. Before the Reformation, English priests released a dove inside the church during Mass. Any variation on these customs would be most festive—until you have to clean up after the bird.

The most exotic Pentecost activity we found arose on the tropical island named for the feast, near the Pacific tax haven of Vanuatuthe home of the original "Cargo Cults," where cannibalism, we must insist, is no longer legal. On the Catholic half of religiously divided Pentecost Island, the natives practice a perilous sport they call "Nagol," or land-diving.1 As soon as the yam crop is ready, the island's Catholics start to build enormous towers out of wood cut from the forest, tied together with liana branches, standing 40-50 feet high. Any male old enough to be circumcised (see Jan. 1) is expected to climb the tower, have his ankles tied with vines, and leap to the ground, bungee-style. If the vine is even a foot too long, he splats on the ground in an ex-Pentecostal heap, so divers pay close attention to the art of measurement. Missionaries say that this leap of faith is meant to evoke the descent of the Holy Spirit on His feast day. Locals know better: The diving is what ensures the next year's yam harvest. We strongly advise that you make this a central part of your festivities.

If you don't have the nerve for Nagol, there's a simpler game you can play at the Pentecost party that doesn't involve quite so many lianas or yams: Speaking in tongues. Not the real thing, which happened in Jerusalem, or even the charismatic variety which occurs in Sunbelt megachurches, but your own improvised "miraculous speech." After everyone has adequately been washed in the spirits, as the hostess emerges with dessert, have the host lead everyone at the party in a chorus of polysyllabic flim-flam, waving their arms, rolling on the floor-even handling rubber snakes (which you'll discreetly provide each guest upon arrival). Nothing brings a group of friends closer than a few minutes spent babbling and writhing before a platter of flaming pineapples.

May 26, 2004

Excerpted from the upcoming book, "The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living," by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak.

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05.27.04   Godspy says:
We like to celebrate the birthday of the Church with fire, fancy, and foreigners…Try these flamb&eacute; recipes and risky (if not quite risqu&eacute;) games.

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