Here’s my Sunday reflection on how BBQ is a metaphor for the spiritual life…Enjoy!
Today’s readings can be found here.
I very vividly remember my mother telling me not to touch the hot plate because I would burn my hand, but still I reached out and touched the hot plate. Sure enough, I burned my hand. I imagine most of us had such an experience growing up as children, we have to learn for ourselves, even if it means getting burnt. Of course, I too, just like many of you immediately pulled my hand back. It’s an instinct we’ve all learned.
That’s why when I read stories such as today’s 1st reading, or the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, I am so amazed. These individuals were willing to forego that instinct and endure great pains for the faith. Yet when we touch fire, we pull back. So while we are not at risk of being literally burned for our faith, perhaps we would do well to reflect upon what is it in our spiritual life or faith that is causing us to pull back? What about our spiritual journey or faith scares us so much that we instinctually pull away from it as if it were a hot plate? Are we willing to follow the example of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, St. Lawrence and so many others by not pulling away from our fears? Are we willing to endure some difficulty so that we might grow and even in doing so become a witness of the faith to others?
(P.S. – St. Lawrence is the inspiration for my BBQ team name, “Turn me Over Now”)
There are over 250 seminarians at the North American College. It’s a great blessing, yet with so many guys it can be hard to get to know everyone. Within the 250 there are many smaller groups created which form more of a family environment. One of those groups is formed by the people you live with, your corridor or hall. There are four residential floors in the building, each floor divided into three wings or halls. For all three years I have lived in the same room on the hallway known officially as, “3rd Hospital” and affectionately as, “3rd Carnivore.”
Once a semester each of the individual the halls get together to have dinner. Tonight was that night for the men of 3rd Carnivore. Naturally, in order to fulfill and maintain our hall’s namesake, I fired up the smoker and cooked some chicken. Other guys helped contribute with homemade breads and desserts.
Before we all leave our home of 3rd Carnivore to return to our homes in the United States, Canada and Australia, it was nice to gather as a group and finish the year with a good meal and good company.
*Unrelated Note* – While cooking, a gentleman from Oklahoma was touring the college and when he saw me with the smoker, he asked, “Are you that guy from Lino’s show?” Sometimes it’s just a small and funny world.
Last Tuesday I sat down for a half-hour interview with Lino Rulli of “The Catholic Guy” radio show on SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel 129. All week-long Rulli stayed at the NAC while interviewing seminarians about our lives. In the pre-interivew meeting he said he didn’t want to necessarily sit around and talk about theology and Church issues, but rather about us and our lives as seminarians and our lives before entering seminary to show that we are in many respects just regular guys trying to live out our vocation, which just might be the priesthood.
My interview touched on quite a few topics from my life. As in the past, it was a little different being the one being questioned as opposed to the one asking questions. My experience in journalism was one of the things we discussed, in addition to Albania, seminary life, and of course, BBQ!
Since SiriusXM is a subscription service it is hard to find the interview, if you’re already a subscriber you can go to the SiriusXM web site and go through the on-line player to find the show from May 8, 2014. It is also possible to sign up for a free trial in order to hear the piece as well, at least, that’s what I had to do.
For more on some of the topics discussed in the interview see the following posts. If you can’t listen, reading these posts will in some instances give much more detail than in the half-hour interview.
This spring I will be finishing my three year course of study known as ‘First Cycle” which results in the ecclesiastical degree, S.T.B. I have been working towards this degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Seeing that we are at the end of the three years, my classmates and I decided to invite all of the professors from the core classes throughout the course of the three years to come for a dinner at the North American College.
Naturally, we decided to go for a somewhat American theme. Therefore, I was asked to take over the BBQ duties. I cooked pork shoulder for 11 hours and pork ribs for 6 hours. I also grilled some vegetable skewers. Other classmates provided great help in preparing potato salad and cheesecake for desert.
What made this evening so entertaining and memorable was the opportunity to interact with so many of our professors in a new context. Our professors come from so many different countries, cultures and backgrounds. They are both men and women, consecrated religious, diocesan priests, and laity. Normally we only get to see one professor at a time, and normally, they are lecturing while we sit, listen and take notes. In this context, there was more than one professor present, and it was a more social setting. Everyone seemed to have a very good time while enjoying both the food and the company.
As mentioned in a previous post, last weekend I participated in the Gasconade County Fair BBQ Contest sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal.
This was not a KCBS sanctioned event, so it was very unlike any of the other competitions I used to compete in before entering seminary. The rules and regulations were much looser or relaxed. This made for an easy going, enjoyable day, but definitely left me a little confused at times as well.
The day of the competition they only announced the top 3 finishers. There were exactly 80 contestants.
Yesterday the final results arrived, I ended up in 9th place! I’m pretty pleased with that considering I had to throw it all together at the last minute. Most importantly, it was a fun time and I got to hang out with some of the parishioners and other good folks of Gasconade County.
Every year in early May some of the students from the southern states at the NAC get together for a grand event simply known as “Southern Night.” It took place this past Saturday and was wonderful once again.
The dinner always begins with a social hour accompanied with Hors d’oeuvre. Afterwards everyone takes a seat at their table for a nice long meal. Each of the dishes is prepared by different chefs, so we all pool our talents together to make the night come together for the approximately 70 people in attendance.
This year I helped prepare three dishes. The first two were the Hors d’oeuvres, pepper poppers and sausages. The pepper poppers were made with the closest spicy type of pepper to a jalepeno I could find at the market. I then cored the peppers and stuffed them with a mixture of cream cheese, garlic, and spices. Finally they were wrapped in bacon and smoked for approximately two hours.
The sausages came from the college’s butcher, we simply grilled them over a gas grill for the sake of time. The important thing for this dish was the BBQ sauce. I acquired some basic, bland sauce. I then heated it up on the stove and added a bunch of spices and other things to give it some flavor. After cutting the sausages into bite size disks they were served in a pool of sauce in a serving tray.
The last dish I cooked was a pig candy salad. To make this dish I candied a bunch of bacon on the smoker. Ten crumbled it up and mixed it in with lettuce, apple smoked pecans, and flaked parmesan. To dress the salad I used a simple olive oil vinaigrette. However, for the vinegar I used an apple cider vinegar to match the other flavors in the salad. After I had finished cooking, I felt the least confident about this third dish, though after trying everything, and seeing the reactions of everyone, this was definitely my best dish of the night. Unfortunately I have no photos of the salad to share.
In addition to these courses, here’s a list of some of the other things that were served. All were prepared from scratch by the seminarians.
– Beer Bread
– Fried Sweet Potatoes and Vegetables
– Lemon Sorbet
– Black Eyed Peas
– Peach and Bourbon Pig Belly
– Green Bean Cassarole
– Macaroni & Cheese
– Bread Pudding with Caramel Rum Sauce
Just as important as the great food is the great fraternity. In such a large seminary it’s important to build fraternity. This is done through so many different ways. There are many smaller communities within our larger community which help to establish fraternity and build lasting friendships. These smaller communities can be based not only on geographic region but also many other things such as: sports, past job experience, house jobs, seminary class, university, pilgrimage and so many avenues her are too many to mention.