March 9, 2014

Mardi Gras 2014 Recap with Lino Rulli

Mardi Gras 2014 Recap with Lino Rulli
Lino Rulli and Jeff Young at Pat O'Brien's on Mardi Gras Day 2014.

It’s Lent Now, I Know

Yes, today is the First Sunday of Lent. I know. But I think it’s appropriate to take a look back at Mardi Gras at this point. I mean, doing a recap on Ash Wednesday just doesn’t feel right. And Friday would not have worked either since Fridays throughout the year are seen as days of penance.

So, it’s either now or never.

Lino Rulli at Mardi Gras 2014

You may have already heard the news that I shared the week before Mardi Gras… that Lino Rulli (of Sirius XM’s The Catholic Guy Show) planned to come back to New Orleans for the festivities, but that he wanted to experience the real deal this time… not all the craziness that happens on Bourbon Street.

All the fun started on Sunday.

On the Sunday before Mardi Gras some of our favorite parades roll: Thoth and Bacchus. Thoth rolls in the early afternoon and Bacchus rolls in the evening. There are usually a couple of hours in-between those two big parades.

I picked Lino up from the airport on Sunday afternoon. After dropping his stuff off, we met up with Big D and my family just as the last float of Thoth was about to roll by.  So Lino got to see one float before taking a break for a couple of hours! But the scene on St. Charles Avenue cued him in that this was a totally different Mardi Gras from the one he experienced in 2010. In 2010 he never left the French Quarter.

Lino Rulli and Jeff Young at Mardi Gras 2014
Lino, Me, and Big D!

The Catholic Guy Broadcasting from New Orleans During Mardi Gras

Monday’s show was broadcasted from St. Stephen’s school, with Fr. Tony Ricard co-hosting and Msgr. Christopher Nalty joining the show as a guest. While the show was being broadcasted, me and my wife and kids joined the parents club of St. Stephen’s School in preparing the hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and nachos they were selling as a fundraiser. The school sells food to parade-goers on every big parade day (there are 11 of them!). The money they raise selling food during the Mardi Gras season every year pays for all the school’s textbooks.

Tuesday’s show was broadcasted from The Irish House on St. Charles Avenue. I was the co-host and Chef Matt Murphy and John Fitzmorris was the guest.

Tuesday was a mess. It was THE Mardi Gras day. Fat Tuesday. Parades roll early that day. Zulu starts at 8:00 in the morning and Rex follows at noon. Following those two “highlight of Mardi Gras season” parades, are what we call “truck floats,” which is a seemingly endless convoy of 18-wheelers with decorated trailers full of revelers throwing beads and trinkets. Usually, the truck floats will roll all afternoon and into the evening.

But not this year.

This year was different. It was the coldest Mardi Gras on record. And it rained all day. There were snow flurries north of Lake Pontchartrain. Ice was a concern, so the interstate was closed between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. But the parades must go on. So Zulu started at 8:00… they just picked up the pace a bit so that they could finish earlier. Rex followed suit. So did the truck floats. By the time 4:00 came, the truck floats were over. From a parade standpoint at least, Mardi Gras was over.

But the weather wasn’t the only interesting thing that happened on Fat Tuesday. While I was driving with my family to pick up Lino and take him to The Irish House for a front row seat at the two famous parades of Zulu and Rex, I received a text. From Lino. He had some news.

Msgr. Christopher Nalty had worked it out for Lino to actually ride in the Rex parade! What an amazing experience! Lino ended up on the very last float of the Rex parade, so, in a sense, Lino closed down Mardi Gras! [Be sure to check out the video below of Lino throwing beads from the float.]

Lino Rulli Riding in the Rex Parade Mardi Gras 2014
Lino riding in Rex!

Lino showed up at The Irish House later that afternoon freezing and wet. He ran into technical difficulties with his equipment, so the show didn’t start on time. He was on the phone with New York for over an hour trying to fix the issue. In the end, we did a one hour show. It was fun, even though I think we were all exhausted… and Lino was freezing and wet.

Special thanks to Chef Matt Murphy and Damian for allowing us to broadcast from The Irish House and for taking such good care of us on Fat Tuesday!

Ash Wednesday, St. Louis Cathedral and Ye Olde College Inn

Ash Wednesday was a calmer day, but it had it’s own issues too.

I picked Lino up in time to get to St. Louis Cathedral for the noon Mass. Archbishop Aymond presided. The church was packed. Standing room only, and we were standing. In the back. The liturgy was beautiful, reverent, even though there were many “colorful” people peppered throughout the church, including street performers and what looked like either hardcore bikers or gang members. I found that aspect… interesting.

I honestly expected about a third of the church to clear out after getting their ashes. They didn’t. The church was just as packed at the recessional as it was when the Archbishop processed in.

Apparently, We’re All Going to Hell

Before the final blessing, Archbishop Aymond announced that there had been protestors outside the cathedral on the previous Sunday, and he said that they may very well be there again to “greet” us after Mass. He urged us to treat them with kindness if we were to encounter them.

They were there.

As soon as the large doors in the back of the cathedral were opened, the “preacher” on the loudspeaker started to condemn us all. Apparently, the Roman Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon mentioned in book of Revelation, and we’re all going to Hell.

“Colorful,” is how I would describe that experience. There were lots of chuckles from the congregation… and lots of tears too. It really was a sad sight to see.

Thankfully, the Ancient Order of Hibernians were there to form a human shield to protect the Archbishop. Meanwhile, Archbishop Aymond smiled and greeted the congregants, shaking their hands, and wishing them a blessed Lent. He completely ignored the craziness happening behind him.

Ye Olde College Inn on Ash Wednesday

Wednesday’s show was broadcasted from Ye Olde College Inn. It was ironic to broadcast Ash Wednesday’s show from a restaurant. Ash Wednesday is one of only two days on the Church’s calendar when we need to fast and abstain from meat. And we were in a restaurant. I guess we really wanted to add a little more suffering to Lenten fasting. 😉

We got to the restaurant early. We wanted to give Lino plenty of time to set up in case he encountered the same technical issues as on Tuesday. He did. But he was able to work around it.

A shout out to Joe at Ye Olde College Inn for helping us to get setup… despite the tall ladder he had to climb! And a big THANK YOU to John Blancher for allowing us to broadcast from the restaurant!

The show went well. It was more relaxed than Tuesday’s show for sure. We talked a bit about Mardi Gras, then about Lent and what Lino was going to give up for Lent. I played Lino’s conscience as he went through audience suggestions (sent via Facebook and email) on what he should do for Lent. He even took 4 or 5 phone calls too. It was fun! In the end, he put me on the hot seat too. Now, I have to go to Mass 5 times a week. I guess that works out better than what I had originally thought about doing for Lent. I like it.

Toward the end of the show, Lino called Fr. Leo Patalinghug’s cell phone. He wanted to find out who first came up with this “food and faith” thing. As Lino was dialing, I told him that the Bible came up with it. He didn’t let that deter him though. It was so much fun to have Fr. Leo on the phone with us. He was in his car on his way to celebrate Mass somewhere in Baltimore. Fr. Leo is just a quick-witted as Lino. Listening to the banter back and forth between them was a riot.

As to who came up with the “food and faith” thing first, Fr. Leo is the winner, hands down. He started Grace Before Meals on September 11, 2001. I didn’t start The Catholic Foodie until October of 2008. But I still think that the real winner is the Bible. Food appears in so many ways all throughout the Bible. Food and faith really do go hand-in-hand. I wish I had discovered Grace Before Meals earlier than I did. I don’t think I even heard about Fr. Leo until sometime in 2009. But, if I had discovered him earlier, I might not have had the courage to start The Catholic Foodie. And I think this Catholic town is big enough for the both of us. 😉

The last 20 minutes or so of the show was reserved for our very special guest, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, the Archbishop of New Orleans.

I expected Lino to bring up the protestors, but he didn’t. Lino talked with the Archbishop about his experience of Mardi Gras growing up and what he thought about how the media portrays Mardi Gras. They also talked about Lent and Ash Wednesday, particularly why the ashes never really seem to make a cross… only a dark smudge. The good Archbishop says he is working on something to help the cross to look like a cross. Ha! I guess Lino will have to come back next year to see what the Archbishop comes up with.

After the show, I said goodbye to Lino. That was the end of my work. I headed home, back to “normal” life. Lino stayed in New Orleans for another day, and did Thursday’s show with Sr. Tracey Dugas, a Daughter of St. Paul. The show was broadcasted from their Pauline Books & Media Center on Veterans Blvd. in Metairie.

Happy Lent!

And that’s that. Mardi Gras is over for another year, and Lent is here.

I’m excited about Lent. It’s a great opportunity to grow in prayer and love. There are lots of good things happening this Lent. One of them is the new CRS Rice Bowl App. It’s an easy way to stay focused this Lent on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It’s not too late. Today is only the FIRST Sunday of Lent. 😉

Listen below: