March 27, 2013

The Catholic Foodie, Lent, and NPR

The Catholic Foodie, Lent, and NPR

Lent Can Be Full of Surprises

It’s been an exciting Lent so far.

I mean, a pope retires for the first time in 600 years. A new conclave is called. A new pope is elected… the first pope from the Americas, by the way. And we were informed that alligator can indeed be eaten by Catholics on Fridays in Lent.

Oh, and let’s not forget my personal discovery that chicken stock and bacon grease can both be used in cooking on days of abstinence in Lent.

I. Never. Knew. That.

So, yes, this Lent has been very exciting. And it has been fun too!

Early in Lent, after the alligator story first broke, I was invited by my friend Maureen McMurray to be interviewed for a piece she was working on for WWNO and NPR. That story aired locally on WWNO on March 5th.

It was great to see Maureen again. The setting for the interview was classically appropriate. We met at the historic Parkway Bakery & Tavern. And the interview was conducted over alligator sausage po-boys.

Not bad, huh?

[Thanks, Maureen!]

It was fun. And once the story aired, I figured that was it. No more gator talk. Of course I talked about gators on the last episode of The Catholic Foodie podcast, and I even played the clip from WWNO. But I figured that was it. No more gators after that.

Then my friend Pat Padley tweeted me the other morning that he had heard The Catholic Foodie mentioned on NPR the previous evening… and he shared the link.

Sure enough, someone else did a story on Lent and alligators and it aired nationally on NPR. It was more of a newsy story… not as fun and full of ambient sounds as the story Maureen did. But it did air nationally, and that is pretty cool.

Lent Is Almost Over

So here we are.

Lent is almost over. Tomorrow begins the Triduum, the three holiest days of the year, which climaxes with Easter – The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

My family has its own set of traditions for the next few days, and we mean to live up to them.

Holy Thursday – Last Supper & the Institution of the Eucharist

Holy Thursday is something special in our house. I think it issues from my experiences in the seminary. My last two years in the seminary, I studied for the Diocese of Baton Rouge at St. Joseph Seminary College, which is situated on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery, St. Joseph Abbey.

On Holy Thursday, the seminary community would join the monks in their world-famous refectory for a special Holy Thursday meal.

Three things made it a special meal:

  • There was wine served with the meal – That was a big deal for us seminarians.
  • The food was always delicious – This, too, was a big deal for us.
  • And the meal itself was a pseudo-passover / seder celebration, complete with matza bread and the traditional question asked by the youngest, “Why is this night different from all other nights?

One year I had the privilege of playing the role of the youngest, and I got to ask the question of the abbot. Abbot Patrick was the abbot at the time, and he told the story of the Exodus. Later that night, I was privileged to serve at the altar as Abbot Patrick celebrated the Holy Thursday liturgy. It was simply a beautiful night. And it was something that I carried with me into marriage.

Even before we had children, Char and I celebrated Holy Thursday evening in a very similar way to my experience in the seminary. On Holy Thursday afternoon everything shuts down for us as we get busy with meal preparations.

Our typical Holy Thursday menu consists of:

We gather around a candle-lit table and begin the meal with prayer. Once the plates have been served, and my wife and I have raised our glasses in honor of the Lord, I will read the Exodus story while the family eats.

Usually, there’s not much time for dilly-dallying at table. Like the first Passover, we are usually eating while waiting to travel. Except, for us, we are just traveling down the road to our parish church. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins at 7:00, and if you want a seat, you had better be there early. 😉

Good Friday – The Walk of the Nine Churches

New Orleans is a city of tradition. It is also a deeply Catholic city.

One of the traditions that still stands is the “walk” – or the pilgrimage – of the nine churches. Why nine churches? Nobody really knows.

Here’s what I had to say about the pilgrimage of the 9 churches last year:

There are several Good Friday traditions in New Orleans. One of them is what we call the Pilgrimage of the 9 churches. We’re not sure why it is 9 churches. It probably has something to do with the Catholic tradition of novenas. And it is also not written in stone which 9 churches you visit on Good Friday. There are so many churches in the New Orleans area that folks have a choice of which route they would like to take. Those of us who are strict observers of the tradition make the pilgrimage on foot. But others, for health or other reasons, drive from church to church.

We started at St. Stephen’s uptown around 10:00 on Good Friday morning. We made our way down to Old St. Patrick’s on Camp St. in time for the 3:00 service.

This year we do indeed plan on making the “Pilgrimage of the Nine Churches.” I am also very grateful that The Clarion Herald recently published a map of the pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage of the Nine Churches
Click on image to see full size…

Holy Saturday – A Day In-Bewteen

I admit it. Holy Saturday has definitely been “a day in-between” for us.

The USCCB encourages Catholics to continue, if possible, the great fast of Good Friday until the vigil for Easter. But, for our family, the Easter vigil has been an impossible feat since our first-born was an infant. We go to Easter Mass early on Easter Sunday, so Holy Saturday really does end up being sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday – Boilin’ and Rejoicin’!

Easter is THE FEAST of the year. And we celebrate it accordingly… especially for a family in south Louisiana. This time of the year, what is a celebration without crawfish?


So, it is totally understandable that we have celebrated Easter the last few years with a BIG crawfish boil. Right?

For the last few years, after the 8:00 AM Easter Mass, we have made preparations for a celebratory crawfish boil.

As a matter of fact, last year I put together a short video about “Easter Crawfish.” Check it out right here:

Last weekend I placed my order for a sack of crawfish (a sack is about 35 or so pounds of live crawfish). I’ll be picking up that sack from the seafood market late Easter Sunday morning. And Big D will be joining us for this annual crawfish celebration of Easter.

What About You?

Do YOU have certain annual celebrations of Holy Week and Easter Sunday? I would love to hear about them! Leave a comment below!