Thursday, November 23, 2017

I did not 'flip the bird,' and other Thanksgiving news...

Project "Feed my hungry relatives" continues pretty much on schedule.

The alarm went off at 3 am, and I got the turkey out of the fridge, first thing. Here is the prize turkey, weighing in at just under 24 lbs. Note the time on the coffee maker.



Then I prepared the stuffing. I had already broken up the staled white bread and cornbread yesterday; now I sauteed the vegetables with the various spices. Thrown in were: cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, thyme, plus celery and onions. I thought about mushrooms, but decided against (I had some in the fridge).


Here is all that stuff in the bread, plus a cut up Granny Smith apple. At this point, I made a rookie mistake. I added all my liquid at once. Never do that! The stuffing was soupy. I quickly toasted several slices of bread and cut it up, and that helped, but I didn't want to throw in too much added bread, or else the balance wouldn't be right. I wasn't happy with the consistency even then, but I went with it.

Note: always add liquid slowly. You can always add more, but you can't take it away. I forgot that at 3:30 this morning.



Here is the stuffed bird, with the skin rubbed with butter and sprinkled with coarse salt and ground pepper. At about this point I realized there was no way I was going to "flip the bird": even if the stuffing hadn't been too wet, the problem would be that the stuffing would come out. I also realized that it pays to stuff the neck cavity first, because you want to be able to lift up the bird to do it. But I'd already stuffed the thorax, so I only put a little in the neck and closed that up with a toothpick.


Since I wasn't going to cook the turkey breast down, I covered the breast section with aluminum foil, and into the oven at 4 am. I then remembered the thermometer, and so I put that in, poking through the foil (not shown).



So back to bed I went, but I didn't really fall asleep. I was up again around 7 am to shower and shave, and head over to church for Lauds and Mass. The turkey was fine.

After breakfast, I remembered I needed to fix the stock, that would be the base for gravy later. So I cut up an onion and a stalk of celery, and sauteed these in butter.


I had bought "Bone Broth" in case I needed extra liquid for the stuffing (ho, ho!), and as I hadn't used it, I made use of it here, instead of water. That went in, plus a bay leaf, plus salt and pepper, and of course, the turkey innards -- sans the liver, which Martha Stewart says shouldn't be cooked too long. So that'll go in later.


Here is the stock, on the way to a boil. After taking this picture, I turned it back to simmer, and that is what it is doing now.

So, the plan from here:

- Finish the stock and strain it, adding back the liver and the gizzard. 
- Take out turkey and remove all stuffing. (If it's too wet still, we can try to tighten it up later when I arrive, by baking it. Or else give up on it.)
- Pack all these items in a large cooler for the trip to Cincinnati. 

If time is short, there may not be more pictures, sorry! You'll just have to imagine what it looks like!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Can you guess what Father Fox is cooking?

Some of my readers, here in the parish, have been asking me for more cooking posts. FYI, it's not that I haven't been cooking, but I am usually too focused on food to take time to take pictures and compose a post!

But in any case, I thought it was time to do one. But first let's do a little sleuthing. Can you figure out what I'm working on from these photos? If you are wondering what is in the paper bag, it is some biscuits from McDonalds. While I was out running errands yesterday, I got a couple of their breakfast biscuits, and ate the contents, while mostly not eating the biscuits (too many delicious carbs!); but instead of throwing them away, with my project in view, I brought them home.


This is butter, by the way...


I'm sure there are better ways to make this, but this works. What do you think?


Batter in the skillet, which goes in the oven...


After...


After after (fyi: those are old palms, which I found in my car; I will burn them at the next Easter Vigil). Are you starting to figure out what I'm going to make? By the way, the biscuits mentioned earlier are in the picture; do you know where?


Here are ingredients I will be using in this project today. Stay tuned for more pictures...


Update, 4:22 pm...

Have you figured it out? Here are more pictures with more narrative. After I offered Holy Mass at the nearby nursing home, I went to the parish hall with my box of supplies, above. (Hint: I put two items in the box by mistake; they were not needed for this particular task after all.) The recipe I was following called for me to simmer some water with coarse salt, coriander, bay leaves, mustard seed, fennel seed and black pepper. It called for whole coriander and black peppercorns, but I had ground coriander, so I used that. And I couldn't figure out how to remove the grinder-top off the jar of black pepper I had from the store, without breaking it, so I simply ground it in. Here is that concoction simmering:


The same recipe called for some dry Riesling wine, and sliced onions. I decided to leave the brown skins on, but I did cut off the ends.

And here is all of it, poured over a 24 pound turkey, which is in a clean garbage bag, in a very large pot. After this, I tied the bag and placed the whole thing in the walk-in cooler. This, plus the very large pots, are why I did this at the parish hall.



All this marinates for 24 hours or so. What I didn't photograph was my last-minute decision to add more of everything, when I saw that the liquid didn't cover the turkey. So I simmered some more salt and spices, and thankfully I had bought a second bottle of wine, which I dumped in. The proportions will be off, but I don't think that matters very much. That is to say, it may matter to Martha Stewart, whose brine recipe this was, but it doesn't much matter to me. (I'd already left out the juniper berries, because Kroger didn't have them, and I had already decided I wasn't going anywhere else for them.)

Update, 11/22, 4:22 pm...

Here is a progress report, with more pictures!

Here is the turkey, having emerged from its bath. It was going to be 24 hours, but I got antsy. Here it is in the refrigerator, so that the skin dries out. The plan is for me to rise at 4 am, get this thing out of the fridge without dropping it, and then getting the stuffing ready to go inside it. I have been resisting the 4 am wake-up, but I can find no way around it.


Meanwhile, I did what prep I could for the stuffing. This is equal parts cornbread and white bread (the picture is deceptive: this is a very large bowl).

Everything else is wet, so I will wait till the wee hours to finish the stuffing. I have no idea whether I'll have too much -- I'm hoping!


Meanwhile, I have been busy with other matters. I had purchased a disposable baking pan; however, it was too flimsy. So one of my crack staff kindly brought one from home. Also, I verified that the cooler I will use to transport the turkey, with stuffing, broth and fixings for gravy, will actually fit in my car. The good news is that it will indeed fit. The bad news is that, once in the car, I can barely open the lid. That means the cooler can only go in the car loaded; so another of my crack staff kindly volunteered to come over tomorrow around 11 am and help me load this in my car.

Also, I also got a couple more onions, just because -- and duct tape. Why duct tape? A parishioner -- whose brother is the king of roast pork hereabouts -- swears by his technique of keeping the roast pork in a cooler for the last hour of cooking; and it must be taped shut! With duct tape! So we aren't messing around here.

I forgot to take a picture of the oven mitts I bought, which are silicone or something like that. These will be handy tomorrow morning, after morning Mass, when I flip the bird topside again, to brown the breast meat. That's right: I'm going to cook the turkey backside up. That is my solution for avoiding the breast being overcooked.

Please pray for my sister

In your charity, please pray for my sister, who is very ill. She was recently diagnosed with advanced lymphoma, and began receiving chemo a few days ago. Right after that, she developed some severe complications, and she is still dealing with them.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Do you have a lot or a little? (Sunday homily)

The first reading is about more than a “worthy wife.” 
It is about the personification of God’s Wisdom, 
which is manifest in this woman who excels as a spouse.

It’s worth considering the alternatives. 
The author could have spoken of a valiant queen like Bathsheba, 
or a prophetess like Deborah, or a warrior like Judith – 
all part of the history of God’s People. 
But instead, the author chose a wife.

To cite something St. Josemaria Escriva said: 
“Perseverance in little things for Love is heroism.”

And that is what we see in the Gospel. 
The three servants were all given different amounts of money. 
Don’t be confused by the word “talent” – 
in the Gospel, it doesn’t refer to abilities, but rather, to money. 
A “talent” of silver was approximately 100 pounds. 
In today’s dollars, that would be about $20,000. 
So one servant was given five talents – or $100,000; 
another was given $40,000, or two talents; 
and the third servant was given the equivalent of $20,000.

Now, $100,000, $40,000 or even $20,000 sounds like a lot of money. 
But if you have a home and a family, or if you are running a business, 
you know what things cost, and that money can go fast. 

These servants weren’t being given vast enterprises to be in charge of. 
Rather, they were being given relatively small shares 
of a much larger project. 
The challenge for them – as well as for the excellent wife 
in the first reading – is to make the most difference
in an unsung, unglamorous responsibility. 

It’s the same challenge for every parent here, 
every farmer and business owner. 

It’s the same for you students. 
You feel pressure from others around you 
to cheat on exams and papers, 
to try to fit in with the crowd that drinking and using drugs, 
and it seems so much easier to do that 
than to do the right thing, the honest thing. 

But the payoff is to hear, one day, Jesus say to you: 
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. 
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy!”

To quote St. Josemaria Escriva again: 
“Perseverance in little things for love is heroism.”

There’s a film called “A Bronx Tale,” and it tells the story 
of a boy who grows up in a neighborhood 
where there’s a gangster who seems really glamorous, 
and the boy is drawn into the mobster’s orbit. 

His father wants nothing to do with crime, 
even though there’s easy money in it for him. 
And one time he pulls his son away from hanging out with the crooks. 
His boy is upset, and parrots what the mob boss says: 
that working people are “suckers.” 

And the father tells his young son, 
"He's wrong, it don't take much strength 
to pull the trigger but try and get up every morning day after day 
and work for a living, let's see him try that. 
Then we'll see who's the real tough guy. 
The working man is the tough guy."

This year, Pope Francis has started a new tradition; 
he has designated this day the “World Day for the Poor.” 
This is as good a time as any to remember 
that whatever challenges any of us have 
with paying our bills or making ends meet, 
how blessed you and I are in comparison to 
the full reality of poverty and privation. 

Even the poverty we see in this country is far different 
from what people face in so many other places. 
When we think about it, we may be tempted to say, 
it’s all so overwhelming, what can I do?

That risks making the same mistake as the third servant in the Gospel, 
who said the very same thing. 
And he buried what resources he did have, 
and made absolutely no use of them.

As you know, there is a second collection today 
for the Campaign for Human Development. 
The bishops, who created this fund, 
have the purpose of helping people escape poverty. 

I will be very candid with you: 
I know that many people have serious questions 
about how these funds are spent, 
because over the years there have, indeed, been misjudgments 
in where the money was sent. 

I was as unhappy about that as you have been. 
All I can do is to repeat to you what the Archbishop has said: 
that he and the other bishops 
are making every effort to avoid having this money 
go to any organizations promoting abortion or same-sex marriage 
or other things in conflict with Catholic teaching. 

But if you have qualms, and do not wish to contribute, 
that is entirely your decision. 
That said, may I then make this suggestion? 
Look for another way to help people rise from poverty. 
Don’t just put your resources in a hole and do nothing. 

Just to wrap this up.

It’s pretty common for us to compare ourselves to others. 
There is always someone who has more money, more good looks, 
more ability, more opportunity, than it seems you or I have. 

But what really are the best gifts Jesus has given us? 
Is it money? Is it good looks or a great job or a fancy car?
No, of course not!

Here are the best gifts Jesus gives us.
He gives us forgiveness of our sins.
He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us.
He gives us grace, that will – if we cooperate – 
make us saints and take us to heaven.
And he gave you your life, which you may doubt is worth much, 
but Jesus considers priceless, because he died for you.

Is it really true that you don’t have much?
Is not rather true that you and I have everything?
Rich in Christ! Rich in his love. Rich in hope.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Four ways to grow in desire for Christ (Sunday homily)

This parable is one that I have found difficult to unravel 
over the years. Maybe you have too. 
This past week, I came upon an article online, 
and the author, a Protestant professor named Jack Crabtree, 
helped clarify it for me.

He points out what distinguishes the two groups of virgins – 
well, first, let’s point out what does not distinguish them. 
They are all virgins; they are all carrying lamps; 
they are all invited to the wedding; they all bring some oil. 
They all fall asleep; and they all wake up at the same time.

So far, all the same, right? 

So what’s different about the wise virgins, versus the foolish? 
The wise virgins were prepared for a long delay. 
Think about that: had the Bridegroom come right away, 
all of them, without exception, would have been part of the wedding. 
But there was a long delay, 
and the foolish virgins weren’t prepared, and they were left out.

So the reservoir of oil that the wise virgins have, 
is that perseverance that enables them to wait, and wait, and wait, 
and wait some more.

So where does this perseverance come from? 
I submit to you that it is a matter of desire.
A show of hands: how many people here can either speak, or read, 
a language other than English? Raise your hands.

Everyone here – every single person here – 
is capable of speaking another language. 
We all speak one; why can’t we learn another? 
I’m not saying it’s easy; I am simply saying it is possible.

So why don’t we? We don’t want it badly enough. 

In the case of this parable, the desire, specifically, 
is for Christ himself, and his Kingdom. 
That’s what the Wedding is; 
that’s what the foolish virgins missed out on, 
because they didn’t want it enough to endure a long wait.

So, how do we gain this desire for the Kingdom, 
before all other things?

I’m going to offer four ways today we gain that desire for Christ:

First, come to confession frequently. How frequently? 
Well, I can be wrong here, 
but I think more than once or twice a year. Monthly is a good rule. 

A lot of people look at it as, “do I have to go”  – 
which is the wrong way to look at it. 
Better is to ask, “will it help me to go to confession?” 

The obvious time to go is when our lamp has gone out, 
because of mortal sin. That is a true “need to go” situation. 

But even better is to go, precisely to keep that lamp from going out. 
Sometimes it’s fading, getting weak; and if we don’t do something, 
the flame will die. 

It is in confession that we get stoked up 
with more oil of the Holy Spirit, so our lamp burns brightly.

Second, make your time at Holy Mass more fruitful.

Now, what I am going to say next, 
you parents of young children should ignore this! This is not for you. 
It can be a real challenge getting your family to church, 
so that’s enough. Save this next advice for 20 years from now!

And that advice is, get here earlier. 
Otherwise, you will be ten or 15 minutes into Mass 
before you “check in.” 

OK, what do you do with that time? 
You can pray the Rosary; you can read the readings. 
And yes, these are things Father Cromly suggested this week.

The third thing is not so much something we do, 
as it is in how you and I respond; that is to say, 
how we respond to suffering. 

We don’t get much choice about whether we have pain and trouble. 
What we can do is see them as times of grace – and if we do, 
then they will be. 

One great grace of our trials of this life 
is that they help us realize this world is not our home; 
and we come to long, more and more, for heaven. 

The final thing you and I can do to grow in desire is the simplest: 
Ask for it.  Ask for the desire.

This has worked for me many times in my life. 
Before I entered the seminary, 
I wanted to start the habit of daily Mass, but I couldn’t get going. 
So I started praying, “God, give me the desire to go to daily Mass.” 
Let me tell you, it was a matter of days!

Now, it doesn’t always happen that fast. 
I know people who have struggled with terrible habits,  
such as alcohol and pornography, for years, even decades! 
I’ve known people who gave up; they lost hope. 
But they found it again, and they kept asking, begging God to help them. 
And finally, things cleared for them. 
In their own way, they were asking, “God, give me the desire!”

If you want to want the Kingdom, if you want to want Christ, 
you will find him in the confessional. You will find him in the Mass. 
You will find him when you are being wronged and when you are in pain. 
And above all, you will find him when you ask.

Ask daily; ask every hour. Ask, ask and keep asking. There is no magic. 
But it is in the asking, pleading, begging, that our hearts grow, 
and become great reservoirs to hold the Oil of the Holy Spirit; 
and it is the Holy Spirit who longs, who thirsts, within us, for Christ.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Lots of activity, not much reporting, sorry!

As you might surmise, I've been busy lately.

Doing what, I hear you ask? Let me tell you.

This week -- Sunday to Wednesday -- we had a Parish Mission. That means we had a priest here who, in addition to talks in church Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, also met with our kids of all ages each day, as well as Sunday evening. That also meant a far amount of planning and activity leading up to it, and some hospitality on my part. For example, Tuesday -- at the request of the visiting priest -- we had a reception at the rectory; so I had to get some food together for that. On that occasion, giving time constraints, I cooked exactly nothing. Everything went well, however; not just Tuesday, but everyday.

So, at 6:30 am, our visiting priest was driven off to the airport, well fed and otherwise having worked very hard for our parish; and immediately, I had to turn to other activities.

First, I had to organize some reply forms we got back from the folks attending the Mission. We had passed out "Go Deeper" reply forms, and on the form was a variety of ways folks could deepen their faith, including an adult Bible study group, several prayer groups, and other choices. So today, after having Mass at a nearby assisted living facility, I sorted them all out into piles, and have parceled out the piles to various people so that everyone who filled out a form will be contacted, and invited to participate in the things in which they expressed interest.

Meanwhile, I have yet another project to work on: our annual Forty Hours this weekend! That starts tomorrow. I have things arranged for tomorrow morning; we have several fine altar servers who will assist with a procession inside church. The main thing I must get together is the dinner, on Sunday, for visiting clergy. So just now I was working out the menu, and getting my shopping list together. Alas, I have a narrow window in which to do my shopping! I have four appointments tomorrow, and alas, they are spread out through the day. If I can get my homily finished by tomorrow, however, I have a good window on Saturday. My menu is fairly simple, because with all I have to do on Sunday as it is, I don't wish to have a lot of food prep. So I'm going to have some simple snacks that go with drinks, and then have a slow cooked pork loin dish I tried out recently and was really good; alongside that will be some potato salad (made by others), and some green beans I'll throw in the oven while we're enjoying pre-prandials. And I'll get some cheesecake or something like that. It will be a good time.

So that's my quick report before I head over to hear confessions in a few...er, that is, right now!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Power corrupts, but service saves (Sunday homily)

The problem highlighted in the first reading and in the Gospel 
can be boiled down to: “power corrupts.”
In the first reading, the priests were playing favorites; 
in the Gospel, the Pharisees – who weren’t all priests – 
were more interested in accolades 
than in really helping people get to heaven.

So when Jesus tells his disciples, 
do not be called “rabbi,” “father,” or “master,” 
he wasn’t forbidding the use of these words altogether; 
rather, he was challenging them to think deeply about their motives. 
What did they think it meant for them to be his Apostles?

Other stories in the Gospels tell us what the Apostles were thinking. 
At one point, they are debating who among them is the most important. 
Another time, the brothers James and John 
want to call down fire on a Samaritan town that was unfriendly. 

So we have some sense of what might have been going on 
in the minds of the Apostles. 
Maybe they saw the high priests throwing their weight around,
and given great honor, and they may have thought: 
that’s what it will be like for us.
And that idea is what Jesus is shutting down.

Today we welcome two seminarians for the Archdiocese. 
They shared a few words before we began Mass,
And you can meet John and Stephen afterward.

I remember when I was first thinking about the priesthood, 
it is true that what I focused on 
was more of idealized image of the priest.
That’s to be expected.

When boys and young men are thinking about being a priest, 
I doubt many dwell on filling out paperwork 
or spending time reviewing bids on new phone systems.
There’s no particular glory in making sure the roof doesn’t leak 
or in paying the bills – but there is word that describes this: service.

And it fits with calling a priest “Father” – 
because these are things a father, a parent, does.

So, while the Lord warns, on the one hand that power corrupts, 
On the other hand he tells us, “service saves.” 
Thus in the second reading, we have Saint Paul reminding the folks 
that he was like a “nursing mother,” 
spending himself in order to nourish their faith. 

To bring it home: this is not only what my job is as a priest; 
it is what our job is as a parish. 
Namely, that our parish is a place 
where each of us helps one another to grow in faith.

So, for example, we have five hours of confessions each week. 
You’ll see in the bulletin that I’d like to add another hour, 
but I want your feedback on when would be most helpful. 

This week, we have Father Nathan Cromly leading a Parish Mission.
You will like Father Nathan, but much more important, 
you will be inspired and challenged. 
That’s why we’re having this Mission, 
and that’s a reason to join in: to grow in our faith.

For example, this replaces Religious Education on Wednesday, 
so I really hope our students – with their parents – 
won’t just see it as a “night off” but as a time to grow.

And then, looking ahead to the weekend, 
we will have our annual Forty Hours devotion to the Holy Eucharist. 
One way to think about our Parish Mission 
is that we want Father Nathan to help us hunger and thirst more 
to be with Jesus, to be his companion and co-worker.

Then, Forty Hours is our “face time” with the Lord.
In other words, we want Father Nathan to be like Andrew, 
who said to Peter, “Come and meet the Messiah.”

I’m sure a lot of us have seen various news items – 
from Washington, from the sports world, and from Hollywood – 
detailing just how badly power can corrupt. 
None of us is really immune. 
Pray for me, help me, not to get a big head.

One of the ways that can happen – for me, and for you – 
is that we think we have it all figured out. We are in control.
Or, if we don’t have things in hand, we figure it’s on us to fix it. 
We’re going to do it our own way.

Instead, take some time this week to sit at the feet of Jesus, 
who is the only one who really does have things in control. 
He is the one who knows how to put things right – 
beginning with us listening to him, and learning from him.
Our Parish Mission, and Forty Hours, are a time for us to do that.