October 28, 2013

The Sacred, the Profane, and the Perverse: Of Hamburgers and Holiness

The Sacred, the Profane, and the Perverse: Of Hamburgers and Holiness

Kuma’s Corner and the “Sacrilicious” Burger

Early this month I received an intriguing email from Ellen Hirst of The Chicago Tribune about a hamburger in Chicago that was raising some eyebrows. She wanted to get my thoughts on it, and her main question was simple. “Is this offensive?”

Ellen definitely piqued my curiosity. “What do you mean by an offensive hamburger?” I thought. I was just leaving the palatial studios of Catholic Community Radio in New Orleans, and if I was going to be interviewed on the phone, then I wanted to do it before getting in the car to navigate the potholes peppered throughout New Orleans’ streets.

I clicked on the link she sent me in the email. It was small on my iPhone, but I could tell what all the fuss was about. Kuma’s Corner, a heavy metal hamburger joint in Chicago, had just announced their burger of the month: the Ghost Burger. Each month, Kuma’s Corner creates a new burger in homage to one of their favorite bands. For the month of October, they chose Ghost B.C., a Swedish heavy metal band that had just released a new album and was touring the United States.

The members of Ghost B.C. dress up as hooded monks and no one knows their identity. The lead singer dresses up as a Roman Catholic Cardinal and wears some sort of skull mask. Oh, and they sing psalms of praise to Satan.

Not the kind of band I would think to honor with the creation of a new burger.

But Kuma’s Corner did.

The Ghost Burger consists of a 10 oz beef patty, slow-braised goat shoulder, aged white cheddar cheese, Ghost chili aioli, red wine reduction, and an unconsecrated communion wafer as garnish. On their Facebook page, Kuma’s Corner was quite clear that the red wine reduction represented the blood of Christ and the communion wafter – obviously – represented the body of Christ.

The burger itself sounds pretty good… if you take away the communion wafer and the obvious mockery of the Catholic faith.

Now, remember, Ellen wanted to know if I thought this burger was offensive. I told her that it was certainly in poor taste. Here’s how what I said came out in the article:

Jeff Young, producer of the Catholic Foodie blog, thought the burger crossed a line.

“It’s not the Eucharist, but it’s still symbolic,” Young said. “For us as Catholics, the Eucharist is more than a symbol, it’s a sacrament. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that symbols aren’t important. … It is a mockery of something that is holy. The same thing could be said of the band itself.”

Ellen did a good job. She was pleasant to speak with on the phone and she represented me well in her article, which was published digitally around 5:00 PM on October 2nd. Traffic spiked on CatholicFoodie.com and I thought it was pretty cool that I was in The Chicago Tribune. And I thought that was that, but I had no idea what was about to happen.

I woke up the next morning to find emails in my inbox from CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press, all wanting an opportunity to talk with me about the “controversial hamburger.”

That morning I spoke with Daniel Burke of CNN and Caryn Rousseau of the Associated Press. The two of them were a bit more “creative” with my comments, but still conveyed the gist of what I was saying.

Their articles were published on Thursday afternoon, October 3rd, but the hate mail had already started. Apparently in the United States of America it is OK to berate, belittle and to verbally attack in public individual Catholics and the Catholic Church as a whole. This type of behavior is not publicly tolerated against Jews or Muslims, but against the Catholic Church it is acceptable. As Thursday morphed into Friday, the hate mail continued, and then the hate voicemail started.

Not. Fun.

But it was eye-opening for sure.

And once the AP piece hit, it was picked up by news websites around the globe… and translated into multiple languages.


South Louisiana is steeped in Catholicism. In many ways we live in a bubble down here. I have been on the “front lines” living my faith publicly since I about 16 and I have never experienced the anger and hatred toward the Catholic Church as I experienced it earlier this month. It was shocking.

I think I am still trying to process it.

What’s the Opposite of Sacred?

As a society we are losing a sense of the sacred. This is something that Pope John Paul II addressed. So did Pope Benedict. The problem is that when we lose sight of God we also lose our humanity.

Sacred has to do with holiness. It means that something is “set apart” for a holy purpose. Like a temple or a church, or the chalice and paten used for Mass, or even people (like ordained ministers).

Profane just refers to something that is not set apart. It comes from the Latin pro fanum, which means before (or outside of) the temple.

Perverse is what we see today. Perversus means “turned around.” This is when we call good evil and evil good. It’s to have things backwards, and that is not a good thing. According to the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!”

Sound familiar? Is this not what we are witnessing today?

Losing (and Finding!) the Sense of of the Sacred

So we are losing the sense of the sacred. How do we get it back?

I’m afraid that the simplest answer is also the hardest answer. It really boils down to prayer. Honest prayer.

To sincerely pray from the heart. To turn back to God. That is the essence of conversion. It’s the first step.

In turning back to God in prayer we will recover the sense of the sacred… and restore our humanity.

Edita Krunic of Select International

Our guest today was the perfect guest to have this week: Edita Krunic, President of Select International Tours.

Last spring she led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for Cardinal Rigali and about 40 people who were traveling to Israel with him. While there she made connections with Chef Johnny Goric and the Chefs for Peace organization. Chef Johnny had lots to say about biblical foods, and that got Edita thinking…

Listen to the show to hear not only my experience of the Ghost Burger debacle, but also the Food Meets Faith pilgrimage to the Holy Land that I will be leading in February. Click on the “play” button below to listen now, or to download the MP3 version and listen at your convenience just right-click this link and save it to your computer: The Sacred, the Profane, and the Perverse: Of Hamburgers and Holiness.


Travel with Me to Israel: Food Meets Faith in the Holy Land

Experience food preparation and cooking demonstrations led by “Catholic Foodie” Jeff Young and the “Chefs For Peace.”


Price of $3,795.00 includes airfare from Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Newark.

3 nights in Nazareth and 5 nights in Jerusalem

Highlights include:

  • Celebrating Mass at Mount Carmel, the Church of the Nativity, the Mount of the Beatitudes, the Basilica of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Renewing Marriage Vows in Cana and Baptismal Vows at the River Jordan
  • Visiting the Churches of the Annunciation, Visitation, and Assumption
  • Sailing on the Sea of Galilee and Swimming in the Dead Sea
  • Touring a Franciscan Winery in Bethlehem and a Brewery in Taybeh
  • Praying the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, and visiting the “Wailing Wall,” the “Upper Room,” the Palace of Caiaphas, the Pools of Bethesda, the Mount of Olives , and Dormition Abbey
  • And finally a Farewell Supper at Emmaus

Deadline for Registration is the end of October 2013!

Contact Information

Susan Prendergrast
(800) 842-4842