Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pope-pourri No. 2

by Ryan

In light of the news from the Supreme Court today (and my rather morose, but resigned, mood as a result), I will attempt a more "stein-oriented" Pope-pourri today. Good luck to me!


If you haven't discovered Librivox already, you really should check it out. Librivox is an Internet "acoustic library" with recordings of books and other documents in the public domain — at no charge. I am currently working through Summa Theologica: Pars Prima by St. Thomas Aquinas, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle and various works by Francis Bacon. If you are brave enough, you can volunteer to create audio recordings of works not in the library. 



So, you've probably noticed by now that I don't really have many hobbies. There's probably some wonderful Confucian quote that will inform me as to why that is a good thing or not. At any rate, the knowledge and history of beer is a hobby that consumes more of my time than any other hobby. And, perhaps, there's a small chance that you've thought, "I wish I knew as much about beer as Ryan." Michael Jackson's The Beer Hunter series is a nice introduction to the major beer cultures: Belgian, monastic, German, Czech, English and American. The episodes are in English with Dutch subtitles, which works fine until you reach the Czech Republic where no one speaks English. And, in case you are wondering, it's not that  Michael Jackson, as he points out in the introduction to his first show:
"My name really is Michael Jackson, but I don't sing, and I don't drink Pepsi. I drink beer; that's what I do for a living..."
Nice work if you can get it.


You probably aren't thinking of making a big pot of soup when it's 102 degrees outside, but, in case the fancy strikes you, this recipe is a "copycat" recipe for the chicken and gnocchi soup from Olive Garden. Personally, I make a few changes:

- Substitute the chicken with shrimp (cut into small pieces, or whatever you desire)
- Use green onions instead of regular onion (just buy one bunch and chop the green "leaf" up)
- Add one or two cans of cream of broccoli/celery soup
- Use frozen spinach (still one cup)
- Omit parsley and nutmeg for whatever fresh herbs you have around (I used lemon verbena recently.)

Serve with some crusty bread, and top with an earthy cheese. Consume for the next several days.


We will be off the blog for the next few days; expect our newest post at the end of next week. Until then, happy Independence Day, and may God bless you and your family with an abundance of graces.

Cruncher splashing at Meemaw and Papaw's, May 2010

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A "Swill Free" Independence Day

by Ryan

So, it's Independence Day, and you're thirsty — what do you do? If you aren't a teetotaler, you might be reaching for a beer in that cooler. Well, for starters, a simple question — why did you buy that beer? Refreshing? Drinkable? Water and lemonade are much cheaper, friends. If you're going to drink a beer, shouldn't it have ... how do I put it ... flavor?

If you've continued to read, I'm assuming that you are interested in some alternatives; perhaps I reach too far with that assumption. But, if you are, I hope the suggestions below are helpful. They will be organized by accessibility and will feature beers made or available widely at beer specialty retailers.

1. "I'm not too adventurous ... and I usually only drink beer on July Fourth, anyway."

Primary suggestion: Schlafly Kolsch

This beer will be more flavorful than your run-of-the-mill brands, but it shouldn't overpower even the most sensitive palate. Low bitterness, hay-like qualities and apple/pear notes make this a quenching, yet satisfying, choice.

Food pairing: chicken salad, salmon, bratwurst, lighter cheeses (monterey jack, etc.), lemon tart, transparent pie (for my homies in Mason County)

2. "I don't consider myself a beer expert, but I always enjoy a good beer with friends."

Primary suggestion: Ayinger Brau-Weisse

American alternative: Victory Sunrise Weissbier

An authentic German hefeweizen (wheat beer) with plenty of character, German hefeweizen typically carry some light tartness, making them ultra refreshing. This particular example starts with honey, gum and clove, continues with some slight pepper, and terminates with an herbal bouquet.

Food pairing: grilled chicken (especially with a lemony rub/marinade), burgers, salmon, sushi (for that international flair), weisswurst (the traditional pairing), goat/herbal cheeses, strawberry shortcake

I thoroughly enjoyed my bottle of Ayinger Brau-Weisse.

3. "One of my guests has completed the Beer Judge Certification Program. Help!"

Primary suggestion: Lindemans Gueuze Cuvee Rene

American alternative: Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (not a gueuze; most American "lambic" is produced and distributed in limited locales)

What on earth is gueuze, you say? Well, gueuze (usually pronounced "gooz" in the states) is a mixture of different ages of lambic, a beer style indigenous to Pajottenland, a region southwest of Brussels, Belgium. This mixture creates a secondary fermentation, producing a beer with different characteristics from the original two lambics. Still confused? Essentially, this beer is the true Champagne of beer — they have an interesting interplay of sour/tart flavors, various fruits and a very dry finish. In terms of wine, a Riesling is comparable.

Food pairing: mussels, duck, game, smoked salmon, crab cakes, bluefish, sardines, ceviche, smoked sausage, salad with raspberry vinaigrette


Some of these beers may be difficult to track down. If you wish to have further alternatives, just leave a comment, and I will do my best to find a comparable beer for you.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cruncher Chronicles: Beautiful Boy

by Shannon

Can you believe this is our soon-to-be 5-year-old?

I was letting him play a game on PBS Kids' site yesterday, learning to use the mouse for the first time, and I notice how mature he looked. I can envision him as a young adult just by looking at this picture, which is exciting and altogether frightening. Of course, you wouldn't have seen a mature child this evening when he was crying a fit because I wouldn't let him play that game again since he didn't eat a good dinner.

Today, we met Meemaw midway between our respective homes, and we spent some time in a quaint little town that we both neglect to visit as much as we could. We had a lovely afternoon together, and I got some nice shots of Meemaw and her eldest grandson.

Please excuse me having a little fun in Picasa. It's a great photo-editing and collage program you should check out. I normally don't like editing photos in unnatural ways, but the sketch option made the architecture and textures really pop (click to enlarge). In the top right photo, they're in a little shop's basement, made up to look like a forest. Thanks for spending the afternoon with us, Meemaw — love you!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pope-pourri No. 1

by Ryan

A sword-oriented collection of thoughts and links from the past week. Perhaps my next "Pope-pourri" will reap some lighter material.


If you haven't already read this elsewhere, Leah Libresco, who is apparently a well known Atheist blogger, has decided to convert to Catholicism (Unequally Yoked). (I'd never heard of her before this, honestly.) Libresco spent much time over the last few years arguing with Catholics coming to her blog. A fascinating change of heart and a brave move on her part.


One of my personal favorites, Archbishop Charles Chaput, delivered a speech to kick off the "Fortnight for Freedom," which starts this evening (First Things). Though the archbishop spends time addressing religious liberty, he also implores the faithful to look inside our parishes for renewal:
"From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to Francis: Repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Those same words fill this room tonight. How we respond is up to us."

How about this for a new Independence Day tradition: Read aloud the Declaration of Independence! (National Catholic Register: Simcha Fisher) I can't think of anything more appropriate, except blowin' junk up and drinking crappy, watered down beer. Oh, and grillin' out. And blowin' more stuff up. And watching some John Wayne ... maybe that's just me.


Are there any possible drawbacks to free birth control, you might ask? (Creative Minority Report) Read this scenario and tell me what you think.


With regards to reason, are religion and science on an equal footing? Fr. Longenecker explains (Standing on My Head).

Saint Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, Indiana

Monday, June 18, 2012

Of Saints, Skeletons and Saison (Part 2)

by Ryan

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; 
he who finds one finds a treasure."
– Sirach 6:14

With all of this talk about saints from centuries long gone, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Catholic Church puts too much focus on these outstanding individuals. However, as my friend Marie points out, the Church is often a “both/and” institution. As in, we focus on saints of the past and of the present. While the saints of the past no longer need our aid in reaching their heavenly reward, the saints of the present need all the help they can get.

Without getting into a long discussion about the sacraments of the Church and their role in maintaining the saints of the present, one might wonder how a saint can be recognized. The book of Galatians offers this handy checklist:

“...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23
Reading that list of wonderful qualities makes me shudder! I feel that I fall horribly short of those aspirations most of the time. That’s why I find immense value in friends like John. I met John and his wife Drina in our parish choir, and we visit each other when we have the opportunity. 

After listening to the ninety-minute presentation on SS. Magnus and Bonosa, John and I went over to Sergio’s World Beers, a beer lover’s paradise located a short distance from the popular Frankfort Ave. area. I love visiting Sergio’s because it has such a wonderful beer selection, but is also usually quiet enough to have conversations and relax. 

John, though not a beer enthusiast at heart (he prefers bourbon, I believe) seems to always have an open ear as I endlessly rattle off beer stories, facts, style, etc. One of our most recent conversations involved saison, a beer style originally consumed by Belgium’s seasonal farmers. These beers range from a pale gold to amber in color (usually the former), though darker examples can be found; Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Noire, for instance, pours a deep, rich brown.

Fantome's Dark White saison with stoneware vessels 

The saison we shared was from the small Fantome brewery in Soy, Belgium, and also represents a departure from typical saison with its darker amber color. This saison, called Dark White, struck with a damp, musty, herbal aroma with some notes of red grape and apple. The initial pouring of this beer filled our glasses with a huge, billowy head that never really went away. The flavor was quite similar to the aroma — lots of damp, musty character, but the fruit shined through a bit more, making the overall flavor much more refreshing than the initial aroma; the finish was dry and lingering. Dark White, in the manner of other great Belgian beers, had an effervescent mouth feel that seems to dissolve on the palate.

Before my rather extended passage on beer, I was talking about John and Drina, and their “immense value.” The Catholic Church actually considers the saints — past and present — as part of the “Church Treasury.” We usually associate the word "treasury" with money, but the end goal of the Church is for those who were born of God to return to Him; to this end, the value of the saints on earth as extensions of God’s virtues cannot be measured. I consider John, Drina, and many other friends and family as part of this treasury. I hope you find yourself just as fortunate.

John (hopefully) enjoying his glass of Dark White.

A Day at the Museum

by Shannon

"Let the wise hear and increase in learning, 
and the one who understands obtain guidance."
– Proverbs 1:5

Cruncher, Orland* and Daddy went to the history museum today. Kids 4 and younger get in free, as do teachers, so they just had to cover parking. Excellent. 

Cruncher's review: "Well, it was kind of boring. Daddy wanted to do boring stuff, and I wanted to do awesome stuff." Well, Ryan isn't here to dispute that accusation, so I'll take Cruncher's word for it.

According to Cruncher, all things pictured here are awesome except for that vase (which
I happen to think looks awesome, but what do I know). "It was kind of weird," he says.
And Cruncher said this was really cool. (Aside: I love his fluffy hair. And maybe I should
buy him that tea set he's picked out on Amazon.)
There just happened to be a small collection of Catholic items from the 16th and 17th 
century, so the museum must have heard Ryan was coming for a visit. The plaque said 
Japanese Christians were forced underground back then, and they had to hide symbols 
like these items. Cruncher says the "Jesus things" were "kind of impressive." Hah!

So, this mama thinks if Cruncher says all things above were impressive, awesome and cool except for a lone vase, then it was a trip well worth $5 parking. Educational and inexpensive — good job, Daddy!

*Cruncher's happy little doll baby that he takes EVERYWHERE, pictured top left of first photo collage.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Of Saints, Skeletons and Saison (Part 1)

by Ryan

"One of the major highlights of Fr. Zabler’s pastorate came on December 31, 1901, when St. Martin received possession of the relics of two martyrs, St. Magnus and St. Bonosa. During the early third century A.D., the emperor Diocletian vented his fury against Rome’s Christians. In an effort to purge these 'heretics,' he put to death more than 15,000 persons in a single month. Among those who died were Magnus, a Roman centurion who cast his lot with the Christians, and Bonosa, a Roman virgin.[1]"
This, according to Church legend, is the account of SS. (saints) Magnus and Bonona, whose remains have called St. Martin of Tours home since December 31, 1901. Recently, with the permission of Joseph Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, Fr. Frederick Klotter allowed archaeologist Philip DiBlasi and four students from the University of Louisville to examine the remains while the side altars, where the saints' bones rested, could be repaired.

So, this naturally raises the question: Why would a parish have any interest in keeping the bones of saints anyway? What sense does that make? Fr. Klotter explains below: 

After Fr. Klotter spoke briefly on the legends behind the saints, Professor DiBlasi began to explain his team’s findings:

This ceramic container holds the blood of St. Magnus; these samples will be tested in the future.
Professor DiBlasi with his team and SS. Magnus (right) and Bonosa (left). Notice that Magnus and Bonosa are both holding palm branches; these are traditionally signs of martyrdom and the paradise (Heaven) that awaited those who died in faith. (Click the photo to enlarge.)
The remains of St. Bonosa are noticeably more complete; both were later confirmed to have their own bones (not mixed with other skeletons).
One of the pictures of Bonosa, confirming aspects of her life believed since the third century. Other pictures confirm Bonosa was a young woman (approx. 24 y.o.) and Magnus was older (approx. 47 y.o.).

Ultimately, DiBlasi and his team were very pleased with their findings; it seems that these skeletons of Magnus and Bonosa provide nothing to refute the legends that accompany them. DiBlasi also noted how easily skeletons in Roman catacombs (where they were originally placed after death) were mixed up, and bones often filled in the gaps of other skeletons; this seems not to be the case here.

Professor DiBlasi reveals the results of his study.

In the case of SS. Magnus and Bonosa, and their skeletal remains, the future holds much promise. Testing will hopefully provide data from their blood, and computer reconstructions of their faces (at the very least, Bonosa, with her nearly complete skull) should finally reveal to us how the saints looked if we would have met them so many centuries ago or if, one day, we should encounter them in Heaven. 

[1] Dr. Carl E. Kramer, PhD, “The Church of St. Martin of Tours, A Brief History: 1853-1985.” In The Renaissance of The Church of St. Martin of Tours by Deborah Yetter (Shepherdsville, KY: Publishers Printing Company, 1992), 47.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fr. Barron on Opposing Heresy

Is tolerance defined by accepting any idea, or by accepting any person? Fr. Barron addresses this topic above.

Friday, June 15, 2012

In the Beginning...

by Ryan

“We seem to have our best conversations in the car.”
– Me (Ryan)

When I decided to leave Facebook about a month ago, I knew right away I would face a challenge in keeping people in my life up to date with things at our household. This blog — The Sword and the Stein — is Shannon and my solution. This may seem like a peculiar family blog name, but I find the meaning behind this title very appropriate for our lives, as well as the lives of Christians around the world. (More on that in a bit.)

A typically cliché statement when naming a blog might be: “Naming a blog is like naming a baby!” Well, in a way, I think it’s more difficult. That is, unless you are like Frank Zappa, and your children have completely zany names, such as Dweezil and Moon Unit. Anywho, needless to say, we had a hard time naming the blog and went through several ideas before coming to
The Sword and the Stein.

One of the more interesting ideas we had stemmed from a visit to St. Charles Borromeo parish in Milan (pronounced: My-len), Indiana. This parish has always felt like home to me. We were attending the 8 a.m. Mass when we heard an announcement that went something like this:

“If you left your rosary at the Resurrection … I mean, The Reservation … (various laughter from the parishioners), it is available for pickup in the Parish Hall.” (The Reservation, by the way, is a restaurant in Milan with cheap Native American-ish décor and a tasty breakfast menu.)

Because of this hilarious instance, Shannon and I long contemplated playing with “If you lost your rosary at the Resurrection…” as a blog name, among others. Shannon and I usually discussed the rationale behind these choices on various car rides, bedtime conversations and other stolen moments.

Hey, girl. Nice mug.

So, I’m guessing you really just want me to tell why we named our blog after a weapon and a drinking vessel. The sword represents the word of God; in Ephesians 6:17, the word of God is “a sword of the spirit.” Hebrews 4:12 calls the word of God “sharper than any two edged sword … and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” So, while we may wish from time to time to scrutinize the behaviors of our fellow man, we will also look for opportunities to scrutinize our own hearts, since “a good heart is a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).

Awkward Family Photos, anyone?

The stein, the well-known drinking vessel of Germanic peoples (and the German word for “stone”), represents the world and all of its pleasures. We all have some pastime, hobby, diversion, etc. that adds dimensions to our lives and perhaps contributes in some way to our uniqueness as individuals.

Some of our blog posts may be more of the “sword” variety, with other posts addressing more “stein”-worthy topics. And then some may be a mixture of the two. I think this is the essence of the devout life, which we try to live with God’s aid. 

Either way, we hope you enjoy our blog.