John Zmirak

John Zmirak

Dr. John Zmirak is editor of a series of guides to American higher education, and author of four books: one on economics, two humorous guides to Catholic doctrine and devotions, and the blank-verse graphic novel, The Grand Inquisitor. He teaches writing in New Hampshire.


The Empty Manger

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The Empty Manger

The God we Christians adore climbed down from the pillar of fire, emerged from the burning bush, to walk among us. He didn”€™t, like Zeus, impersonate a swan or bull, or like Apollo a golden youth. Instead, He lay down as a helpless infant among the beasts, and placed Himself entirely at our mercy. So likewise would He, one day, lay down His life.

Sell Your Souls to Save Your Skins

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Sell Your Souls to Save Your Skins

Giuliani discovered that conservative voters are less principled than liberals, more willing to trade off what they hold sacred so as to save their skins. Too many Americans who watched with horror the events of Sept. 11, 2001 on television have turned to the man who stood resolutely behind a microphone all through the day, reassuring them in a deep, masculine voice that all was well”€”even as George Bush cowered somewhere with My Pet Goat, and Dick Cheney lurked in an undisclosed location studying oil maps of Iraq.

Christmas on the West Bank

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Christmas on the West Bank

If family members have been broadly hinting that it’s “€œsomeone else’s turn”€ to host the holiday, I suggest you leap to your feet this year and volunteer. That”€™ll get you points for being proactive. But when your guests arrive on Christmas Eve or Day, they”€™re in for a big surprise. You”€™ll be serving no turkey, no ham, no stuffing and no eggnog. There won”€™t be a trace of pine, poinsettia, holly or mistletoe. And no Christmas carols either. Because you’re hosting an “€œauthentic Middle Eastern Christmas,”€ just like they have over in Bethlehem.

The Addams Family Chapel

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The Addams Family Chapel

If the Immaculate Conception is all about the liberation from death and decay, no one told that to the Capuchin friars of the parish in Rome named for this feast, Santa Maria della Concezione. This chapel attracts only discerning visitors because”€”hold onto your lunch”€”it is furnished entirely with human skeletons and skulls.

The Real St. Nicholas

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The Real St. Nicholas

One legend of St. Nicholas tells that three young boys had been killed by a local maniac in Myra, and their bodies preserved in a pickle barrel. The bishop opened the barrel, discovered the corpses, and promptly raised them from the dead”€”winning acclaim ever after as the patron saint of children, pickles, and barrels.

Halloween: The Seven Deadly Courses

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Halloween: The Seven Deadly Courses

Make your front door the gateway to the spooky realm of purgative suffering by hanging the entrance, inside and out, with thick black velvet curtains. Keep the lighting dim, and improvise a fog machine with dry ice and a fan-or clouds from your favorite hookah pipe. Cover all the windows with black crepe paper, and rope off whole sections of the house with crime scene tape. If you have wooden floors, play a game with the kids, where you sketch the outlines of their little “corpses” on the floor. The atmosphere you want is something like a funeral parlor”€”run by the Addams Family.

Absinthe and the Apocalyse

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Absinthe and the Apocalyse

As the Bush administration, with the full-throat support of an unhinged media, whips up the public for a looming war with Iran, a sober citizen’s thoughts run naturally to the Apocalypse. One’s next thought, inevitably, is of absinthe.

Flogging Brother Ass

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Flogging Brother Ass

Francis subjected himself and his followers to a poverty that appalled their fellow beggars, fasting frequently and sleeping on dirt (when perfectly good piles of filthy straw were available), taking all too literally Christ’s eerie injunction, “€œSell all you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.”€ When it comes to sex, Francis didn”€™t just give up playing the field and settle down with a life partner; he embraced total celibacy, and scourged his own flesh to remind it of its place. Naming his body “€œBrother Ass,” he treated it as harshly as Italian peasants did their donkeys.

The Vatican Space Program

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The Vatican Space Program

The Assumption is not something invented by Pope Pius XII in 1950, the year when he infallibly declared it a dogma of the Catholic Church. Nor was he introducing some pious innovation to the core of the Catholic faith, indulging the excessive piety of Marian Catholics, or even”€”as C.G. Jung suggested”€””€œrestoring the feminine principle to the Godhead.”€ No, the pope was doing something much more important: He was beating the Russians into space.

Malta: Knights, Wars & Wines

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Malta: Knights, Wars & Wines

One of the most delightfully anachronistic institutions in the world is an order of military monks called the Knights of Malta. The Knights got named for Malta because that small, Mediterranean island was ruled for centuries by this distinctive religious order, the last group to carry on the spirit of the Crusades. When Jerusalem fell to Saladin’s Arab armies in 1187, most Christian armies declared victory and went home. The Hospitallers stuck around, conducting a kind of insurgency until 1291, when they fled to safety in Cyprus, and then to Rhodes”€”which they conquered in 1309, and governed until 1522. While they gave up dreams of reconquering Jerusalem, the Knights kept up a first-rate navy to suppress the Arab pirates who traded in white slaves. When Rhodes fell to the new Islamic superpower, the Ottomans, the Knights removed to Malta.

The Real Bastille Day

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The Real Bastille Day

The French Revolution was really a digestive eruption of all the basest instincts in the lowest elements of society, led by power-drunk ideologues of the radical Left. It was utterly unlike the American rebellion against the English colonial officials “€“ which amounted to a regional secession, led by the responsible members of the upper middle class. And for that fact we should be forever grateful, as should other countries which emulated the American model of political reform, rather than the French, as Hannah Arendt and Wilhelm Röpke have written. Of course, apologists for the Revolution will point to the inequalities and injustices of the Ancien Regime as justification for the bloodbath.

Sake and the Latin Mass

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Sake and the Latin Mass

In the 1970s, as Pope Paul VI faced wholesale rebellion by progressives in the Church, he wielded his papal authority instead to persecute the small numbers of Catholics who resisted the most expansive readings of Vatican II. As a flag of resistance, these traditionalists also rejected the new, truncated liturgy which Paul VI had imposed, suppressing almost entirely the rites which the Church had used for well over 1,000 years. In 1970, with initial Vatican approval, French Archbishop Marcel Lefèbvre founded the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to meet the needs of Catholics bewildered by postconciliar changes”€”most of which went far beyond what was authorized by the documents of the council. Indeed, so did the liturgy imposed by Paul VI, which bore little resemblance to the reforms called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium”€”a point recognized in several books by the present Pope Benedict XVI.

Highballs and High Society

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Highballs and High Society

I would especially like to believe the theories of David Icke, a former British soccer player who “€œdiscovered”€ the fact that the world has been dominated, for the past 10,000 years, by a race of alien lizard-men who can take on human form. According to Icke, keeping up a human appearance is hard work, and if you stare at George Bush, or Queen Elizabeth, long enough, eventually you can get a glimpse of lizard. Or if you want a shortcut, Icke suggests, there’s a surefire way of seeing the lizard-men: Just drop a little LSD. That’s right, this wonder drug can pierce the veil of reptilian illusion . . . which is precisely why it’s illegal!

Revolting Elites and Their Pet Amnesty

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Revolting Elites and Their Pet Amnesty

Here’s one aspect of the amnesty which no one is talking about: The moment each of these illegals receives his walking papers, he will be eligible for affirmative action preferences over every white male in America. Including veterans of the Iraq war. Instead of guarding the U.S. borders, our men are patrolling the frontier between Iraq and Syria, attempting to tamp down a civil war between two equally murderous sects of Islam. Meanwhile, bloodthirsty neocons like Joseph Lieberman are demanding that the U.S. launch a Pearl Harbor-style pre-emptive attack on a sovereign state, Iran, which poses no threat to us whatsoever. The pilots who (God willing) return from bombing Iranian cities into powder will return to find a country where lawbreakers who snuck into their homeland and used forged documents to work have more rights than veterans.

The Wines of Provence and the Armies of Allah

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The Wines of Provence and the Armies of Allah

What happened to turn wealthy sixth-century Gaul into the howling wasteland it would become just a hundred years later? It was the Islamic conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, which cut Europe off from the ancient centers of grain production in Egypt, and Asiatic trade in Syria and Persia. The new Islamic occupiers of these still mostly Christian regions cut off all trade with France, Italy, and any other region inhabited by infidels. This draconian economic boycott had devastating effects”€”helping within a century or two to virtually destroy urban civilization in Europe. As the post-Christian French”€”to the horror of the faithful remnant among them”€”complete the deconstruction of their Christian heritage, the heirs of the Moors and Saracens who once again populate Provence and other regions in prodigious, fertile numbers, meekly wait their turn to inherit the earth. If and when they do, I expect that the vast, green fields of grapes will once again be torn up and burned. So drink the stuff while you can.

Pentecost: Because Fire is Cool

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Pentecost: Because Fire is Cool

The Feast of Pentecost is one of the most important to Christians, for a number of reasons. First, it marks the birthday of the Church, the day when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and Mary, and gave everyone the nerve they needed to preach the risen Christ to a hostile mob. Pentecost also reverses the story of the Tower of Babel”€”the Old Testament tale of a king so ambitious he wanted to reach heaven through technological means. God tweaked him by inventing that bane of American schoolchildren over the millennia: foreign languages. In what we might call multiculturalism’s founding moment, God scattered the king’s workforce into a squabble of hostile ethnic groups, who couldn”€™t communicate with each other. Then, at Pentecost, He reversed the process”€”giving the Apostles the gift enjoyed by Star Trek crewman ever since the very first episode: the ability to be understood by anyone, no matter his native language.

The Saint Who Invented Therapy

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The Saint Who Invented Therapy

St. Dymphna was buried in Gheel, where she was martyred, and a shrine was built in her honor. Several centuries later, a group of “€œmadmen”€ who”€™d been driven from town to town happened upon the shrine”€”and were miraculously cured. Word of this cure spread quickly, in a world without Paxil or Lithium, and soon large numbers of mentally afflicted pilgrims began to descend on the town. Instead of locking them up, or burning them as “€œwitches,”€ the Christian folk of the town admitted the pilgrims to their homes to await their cure. From this unlikely beginning came the West’s first humane facilities for treating the mentally ill. To this day, pilgrims and patients come to Gheel and are welcomed by the locals. To honor this saint and the heritage of her shrine, I suggest you turn your home into a little Gheel for a day, by throwing a party for your most insane friends and relatives.

The Rothschilds, Opus One, and Opus Dei

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The Rothschilds, Opus One, and Opus Dei

If there’s one thing that makes people happier than finding a forgotten bottle in the cupboard or a six pack in the fridge, it’s finding out that world events are dominated by an evil conspiracy. It’s hard to explain why such a discovery proves so consoling, but it does: Some 35 million people shelled out cold, hard cash to buy The DaVinci Code“€”most of them Christians, eager to read a tale which portrayed their entire religion as a scam cooked up by a Roman emperor and perpetuated by a spectral order of murderous, albino monks. Clearly, they were not picking up this book because it depressed them. Such books give readers the free and easy feeling that they needn”€™t lift a finger to change the world”€”it’s all so futile anyway. (“€œWhat can you and I hope to do, against the likes of… Them? So let’s go rent Jackass again.”€)

Excerpted from The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey and Song
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Just War, Jeremiah, and Jeremiah Weed

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Just War, Jeremiah, and Jeremiah Weed

The prophets whom God sent to His people carried a two-fold message, which can be boiled down to this: “€œGo to Temple”€”and don”€™t provoke the goyim!”€ Again and again, the prophets of Israel countered the claims of ambitious kings and zealous nationalists (think of them as the first neocons), whose plans for national greatness entailed risky and needless wars. In fact, the Hebrew prophets were the precursors of the Christian critique of conquest. While the Church has never advocated outright pacifism, beginning with St. Augustine it has developed increasingly strict criteria by which to judge the causes and conduct of war. These criteria take all the fun out of war”€”banning naked land-grabs, empire building, torture, mass-rape, fire-bombing cities, and the use of America’s 10,000 or so nukes for pretty much anything at all. Since the Just War tradition is such a buzz-kill, Christians of a certain kind often argue it away as cleverly as a canon lawyer wangling an annulment for a Kennedy.

Easter, Beer, and Yeast

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Easter, Beer, and Yeast

Easter was once something more than an uptick on the sales charts of the milk-chocolate industry. Instead, it was like the last day of a very bad school”€”a feast of liberation, an end to dreary rules, celibacy, and fish-sticks. You can see why this would inspire the brewing of Easter beer. The monks themselves were often the ones tending the barrels. Among the breweries of monastic origin or ownership which still produce a special Easter brew are the Belgian St-Feuillien, St. Bernardus and Grimbergen. Like Christmas ale, Easter beers are often flavored with spices or hints of fruit, but they are lighter and simpler, more like the lagers with which Americans are (all too) familiar. They go well with a roast pork, ham, or Easter Bunny Fricassee

Roast the Easter Bunny

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Roast the Easter Bunny

Color raw eggs instead of boiled. Awaken the little ones at sunrise for the Easter Egg Hunt. But as you collect them, instead of peeling and eating hard-boiled eggs”€”let’s face it, who really wants to eat them?”€”have a raucous egg-fight, boys against girls, on the lawn in front of your home. You might even want to lead them in an Easter hymn as they hunt and hurl, hunt and hurl, such as “€œJesus Christ is Risen Today,”€ “€œVictimae Paschali Laudes,”€ or the beloved Polish “€œChodzimy po dyngusie i śpiewamy o Jezusie.”€

Holy Thursday: Sangria in the Streets

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Holy Thursday: Sangria in the Streets

Mark this multifaceted feast by making a pilgrimage to seven churches in your city”€”preferably visiting congregations you wouldn”€™t normally see, in neighborhoods you might avoid, to remind yourself of the universality of the Church, and why you moved to the sterile suburbs in the first place. Since the authors dwell in New York City, it’s easy for us to make this trip on foot. Each year, we go from a Russian Catholic liturgy to a cathedral built by the Irish, a parish in Little Italy, a Slovenian and then a Polish church, then to a succession of parishes populated by Catholics from Ecuador, China, Peru, and Puerto Rico, ending up at a Gothic church full of devout Filipinos.

St. Patrick and All Those Potatoes

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St. Patrick and All Those Potatoes

The St. Patrick’s Day parade is split in New York City, as in many others, between the traditional parade sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and an “inclusive” march which was created to include homosexual activist groups. The Hibernians have had to fight like the dickens to keep their parade permit for Manhattan–citing as a last resort the First Amendment, reminding the City and themselves that they are, after all, a Roman Catholic organization. Indeed, the Order was founded in 1836 as a kind of militia to defend Catholic churches from getting burned down by Protestant mobs.


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