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Showing posts from June, 2013

Justice for the Pour: Wine Under $15.00

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Our final bottle this evening is a Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon (2010). This red, aromatic, and relatively youthful wine lacks the smokiness of the previous wine and bears a higher degree of fruitiness. At $11.69 a bottle, this one may be a sweepstakes winner for many of our groups.

As we drink, we are made mindful of the 1993 song "Linger" by the Cranberries. There's a lovely finish to this bottle, rich in cherry and raspberry with a lightly smokey aftertaste.

Stephen: I'm just getting into it. It's very smooth. I like to wear soccer jerseys.

Liz: I like the AIDS wine better. This one smells great but leaves me unsatisfied. I have high expectations...I want more. I want it to be less "tart" and more "rich."

Bobby: It's like drinking John the Baptist. (What the Hell does this mean??). If the last wine was AIDS, this is the cure. Not flashy, but a steady friend to keep you warm at night. Easily taken at a wine-and-cheese party.

John: "L…

Justice for the Pour: Wine Under $15.00

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Our final wine under review this evening is the 2010 Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet. At $7.59 per bottle, this wine has the distinction of contributing $1.00 to the prevention of AIDS.

Stephen: It's like a Camel, smooth and smokey. Like Smokey the Bear. It's like I licked the Quaker Oat Man's hat - it's delicious.

Bobby: If this is what it takes to eradicate AIDS, I will drink it noon and night. A bit tart, doesn't live up to its smell. Like so many times in our lives, the smell is far more interesting than the taste. The finish bores me. Everything dies but the tartness. Not smooth, not rich. Boring.

Liz: Very rich with unspeakable riches. Impressive, bold, and would were this an eligible (ie., healthy, normal, psycho-sexually integrated man), I'd go on a date. Not terribly surprised by the body, but I really liked it.

John: Dark berries, chocolate, and just a wee bit of spice. There's a toasty finish, sort of like cozying up by the fireside and reading Heming…

Justice for the Pour: A Rosé for under $15.00

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Our second wine of the evening is the Chateua de Lancyre Rosé (2012). Don't let the pink color fool you: this is a big wine.

A wine of a pale salmon color, in is a clear wine with a moderate aroma of berries. It's a big-bodied bodied wine, not the kind that would have to buy two seats on an airline but big enough to make its presence known upon arrival.

Rosé is a hard wine for many drinkers. It elicits a wide variety of opinons,  as you'll see from the comments below. Yet, for $13.79, it was worth the risk...at least, I thought so!

Bobby: I don't dislike this. It hits me where the grapefruit hits me. I love Hugh Johnson's big guide to wines.

No, Bobby, an oenophile is not going to jail. It means wine lover.

I like the color. Nondescript. Enjoying Rosé is like my 73-year old aunt who dumps cube after cube of ice into wine.

Liz: Not impressed. It's too...sour, not enough taste. If I could rim it...with sugar...I think I'd really like it. I would have liked more…

Justice for the Pour: Costco Wines Under $15.00

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Several of us have gathered together tonight to embark upon a new adventure: amateur wine tasting. By amateur, I mean, we have no skill, no expertise, and no real credibility apart from being able to say what we like and give some type of reason for why we like it.

Graduate students in theology, we are accustomed to the "discernment of spirits" and avail ourselves frequently of liquid consolation.


Today, we selected several bottles of wine under the $15.00 price range from Costco. Our first wine, being evaluated as I type this, is a 2011 Mongris Collio Pinot Grigio produced by Marco Felluga.

Liz: This wine is sweet, with enough maturity and sass not to give you a stomach ache. Smooth, really good, the kind of wine you're glad you've been offered another glass. Mildly tart.

Ryan: A mineral quality to the flavor evoking a large, lush field. It's a full bodied wine but by no means flabby. Fruity but not overly so. Perfect for a summer evening on the patio (like tonig…

Lord, if you wish...

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In today's short Gospel reading taken from St. Matthew, we witness a scene able to capture the dynamic of many of our hearts. A man, a leper, approaches Jesus and says, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." Jesus touches the man and proclaims, "I will do it. Be made clean." The leper was healed immediately.

For me, there are two key elements in the reading. First, Jesus is not alone: he is surrounded by a crowd. The leper had to break into a crowd of others, many of whom would shun him normally, in order to approach Jesus. Before the crowd, this man had to acknowledge his need for help. He did what so many of us struggle normally to do: he allowed himself to be vulnerable.

Second, the man gives us an instance of what prayer is at its best: he tells the Lord exactly what his heart desires. He doesn't pray for world peace. He doesn't pray for an end to world hunger. Instead, he opens his heart and asks for what he desires most: to be healed, to be …

The Wake of DOMA

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The quality of a civilization may be measured both by the complexity of its ingredients and by the harmony of their order. The more diverse elements it succeeds in integrating within a harmonious and unified balance, the greater its potential and, usually, its achievements are.
                                                          ~ Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity, 29 Yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has yielded simultaneously great rejoicing from some, much hand-wringing from others. From Twitter to Facebook, blogs to news sites, the Court's actions were debated and discussed, celebrated and denounced. Mike Huckabee tweeted that "Jesus Wept" and the USCCB called it a "tragic day for marriage and our nation." The New Ways Ministry website likens the experience to "justice rolling down like a river," washing away what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to in March as "skim-milk m…

The Francis Effect?

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Yesterday afternoon, an interesting editorial appeared on CNN's Belief Blog. The author, John Gehring, asks the admittedly hyperbolic question: Can Pope Francis save the Catholic Church? At the end of the piece, he draws attention to what I think is the most telling contribution of these first 100 days of Francis's papacy: a change in style. "A smiling, good-humored pope stands in stark contrast to those dour-faced religious leaders who act as gloomy scolds and spy threats around every corner."

On Tuesday afternoon, after I'd run some errands, I got caught in a deluge of rain. Seeking shelter, I ducked into the doorway of a bar I visit sometimes. I recognized the bartender and, since the rain showed no sign of letting up, I ordered a beer and a chicken sandwich. Being only 4:00 in the afternoon, the place was pretty quiet. Feeling extroverted, I made small-talk with the two other guys at the bar and the bartender.

Unsolicited, the bartender started talking about…

The Importance of Character(s)

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Just about twenty years ago, when I was 13, an old Irish musician took me aside to give me some advice about playing in an upcoming music competition. Eager to learn from the wisdom of one of the masters, I focused my attention on his words.

Ryan, Tom said, looking directly into my eyes, when you get up to play at the competition, it's just you up there playing. When you get up there, you won't be playing with Jackie. When you get up there, you won't be playing with Timmy. When you get up there, you just have to play with yourself. 

Another memory: I remember coming home excitedly one night from a music lesson with my main music teacher, Tom Hastings. Dad! Tom gave me a compliment tonight: He told me that I was piece of work.

Then there's the story, now enshrined in family lore, of my grandmother's response when the driver of the car called attention to a group of homeless men gathered outside of a local shelter. With great indignation, she shot back: How do you kno…

The Gay Lobby

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The Holy Father's unscripted comments about "a current of corruption" and the existence of a "gay lobby" in the Curia of the Catholic Church have elicited no small amount of commentary these past few days. The New York Times, Rocco Palmo, John Allen, the Daily Beast, and a host of other sources contain sometimes lengthy pieces about what would otherwise seem to be a tiny quip.

Without question, there's been a rush to sensationalize the Pope's comments. When I think of "gay lobby," I tend to think of overly decorated sitting spaces, not curial officials wielding tremendous power. I don't think it surprises anyone - or, at least, it shouldn't - to learn that there are gay priests, bishops, and cardinals. And, while we should never fail to be disappointed when anyone - gay or straight, married or vowed - fails to adhere to one's vows, we know that many have stumbled during their lives. The stumbling, I suspect, most of us can underst…

The Jazz Pope

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An edited version of my blog post about the Holy Father is now posted to The Jesuit Post. The TJP guys have posted as well a link to the video clip of Pope Francis speaking to the students. If you get a chance, pop over and give it a watch!



Going Off-Script: Pope Francis and Jazz

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There were times when, as a teacher, I'd abandon my prepared lesson plan and go "class rogue." On these days, we'd have an impromptu discussion of matters pertinent to the students. Because it was off-script and a breach of our usual operating procedure, I found the students to take these conversations with the utmost seriousness. These were the classes we'd talk about traditionally sensitive issues - poverty, racism, inequality, sex and sexuality, relationships - in a way where we could be honest and genuine. If these lessons mattered more to my students than the pre-planned lessons I prepared for them, it is because the structure and stability of the regular class day made the rare venture off-script meaningful to them.

This, perhaps, is a lesson learned best by high school teachers who have come to appreciate the importance of flexibility-in-structure.

As we know, when he was a young Jesuit, Pope Francis taught chemistry to high school students. His recent audie…

A Poor Church for the Poor

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I have to admit, I was moved today when I read that Pope Francis had announced that he'd be spending his summer in Rome rather than at the papal villa, Castel Gandolfo. This is certainly not because I have anything against taking a holiday or making use of a villa. But, in a country where 1 out of 2 Italians are unable to take a vacation this year, I believe his actions are significant.

I'm the first to admit that as a part of the clergy, it is easy to succumb to a "I deserve" mentality. "I deserve" to have a nice glass of wine sometimes because of everything that I've given up as a part of my vocation. "I deserve" to have a summer holiday at a nice villa because I work hard during the year. What is problematic with the line "I deserve" is that it's centered on the wrong person. When "I" am at the center of anything rather than the God revealed in and through Jesus Christ, things tend to totally off-balance. In many wa…

Thoughts on the Sacred Heart

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Leave it to the Catholic Church to dedicate a feast day to an internal organ. A cynic might chortle and, with a roll of the eyes, mutter, "What next? The Blessed Toe? The Immaculate Hangnail? The Miraculous Gall Bladder?" Such utterances notwithstanding, June 7th marks the Church's celebration of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Although understandably neglected by most of us - no children, after all, get a Sacred Heart vacation - it may be worthwhile to spend a few moments considering what it means to celebrate the "Sacred Heart."

The symbolism of the heart is hardly foreign to any of us. Top-40 songs croon melancholically about the "broken heart." Students feel devastated when the college they had "set their heart on" sends them a rejection letter. As loved ones struggle with an issue, one feels "heart sick." In the Scriptures, "hardness of heart" prevents Pharaoh from allowing the Hebrew people to leave Egypt and ke…

Domestic Traveler

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It's hard to believe that it's already June 3rd. The month of May screamed past me: my first year of theology studies came to a close, my German course started, and I began playing for Irish dancers just about every weekend. Over the past few weeks, I've flown to Cincinnati, Lexington, Chicago, and Detroit. This weekend I'm heading to Austin, followed by Chicago, and then Dayton. A week later I'll be in Iowa and then, ten days after that, Denver for three weeks.

In short, I'm wracking up the Frequent Flier Miles. 
As an Irish musician traveling with an accordion, airports can be a bit dicey. I once had to carry my accordion and an Irish dancing costume my mother had made for some child. Imagine the sight of a balding man, about the age of 30, carrying a pretty pink dress and an accordion. I'm surprised I didn't end up on Dateline or some TSA watch list. 
This is not to say that all travel involves personal embarrassment. On Saturday, en route from Detr…