Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Reform Yourself! and other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Italy.
I always thought the hamburger was an American invention until I was told as a child that it was invented in Hamburg, Germany. Well, I still like to think we perfected it.
My interest in burgers is uncanny. No matter where I am I find people trying their best to make the perfect burger and no matter what, I find myself willing to see how good the local burgers really are. From San Diego to Omaha to Alaska to Florida and Connecticut, from Japan to Ireland and Kuwait to Italy, I have not had my fill of burgers. I will never tire of eating these scrumptious sandwiches. They’re perfect on a summer day in the backyard with a pickle or on a cold and snowy tailgate with a beer before the big game. Burgers are among the highest achievements of mankind. Right up there with the moon landing and the spork.
So I wanted to dig a little deeper into the history of burgers recently, and I was astonished to discover that although they are named after their popular namesake location, their real birthplace is in Avignon. If you didn’t know it, Avignon is where the popes were goofing off for about seven decades until a saint or two convinced them to come back to Rome. Avignon at the time was a part of the Holy Roman Empire, which is just a fancy name for Germany. It's is now part of France, and in that time it was the highest exporter of beef and cattle before the Black Plague wiped out 98% of the population of livestock in the area.
But while things were economically booming and the papacy was in town, culinary artisans whipped up their finest creations and delicacies. Several novelties were created at this time right in this little place, and one of them happened when King Philip IV of France visited the pope and a member of his service entourage was also asked to serve the pope a minced steak. To preserve the juices and not expose the minced beef to utensils that would cause it to fall apart (or that might be contaminated), bread was always used to transfer from plate to plate. Two slices of the ends of a loaf were always used because they were the least desirable, and a prince said to the pope, “just leave it as it is” as a joke, but the pope, Boniface VIII, ate it like a sandwich anyways. It wasn’t named the hamburger, but it was recorded, and it was the first time minced beef was placed between two buns. Catholics invented the hamburger.
Isn’t that great? Well, it’s a complete lie.
I apologize if I excited you. I have no idea where the burger came from. Maybe it was Germany, or perhaps it was Mars. The point I wanted to elucidate is that lies are ridiculously easy to concoct and equally easy to miss. There are so many Catholic lies; haven't we all heard them? All it takes is a good story, a few swapped details, a misquote from the pope or a real quote that's twisted from its intended meaning. Even the most well-intentioned Catholics fall for these, and non-Catholics even more.
They’ll tell you Jesus was a Buddhist. They’ll say to you that Jesus fell unconscious on the cross, or that the Pope said there is no hell. It’s duly important for Catholic to get their facts straight so that they avoid despair and doubt, but also to defend the Faith. Pope Pius V said that “all the evils in the world are due to lukewarm Catholics.” So here are some easy ways to deflect the lies you encounter, or the savory wins you think you’ve encountered but are indeed lies.
First, don’t believe everything you hear. If you hear the media saying Pope Francis is going to change the words of the Our Father, there is probably little basis to it. For example, I was informed several years ago that our concept of hell is wholly based on the writings of Dante who was the first to introduce suffering, fire, but that’s incredibly untrue. Jesus spoke of gnashing of teeth and Revelation describes the lake of fire. Even if you think it’s in your favor, I don't suggest you believe everything you hear.
Second, do your research. If a priest tells you that it’s okay to rob a bank, that’s a simple one to refute, but what if he tells you that it’s okay to receive Holy Communion even if you haven’t arrived at Mass until the consecration? Do you know the rules on that? Do your own research.
Lastly, don’t react. This is really the first, last, and a constant step. It’s rewarding to win arguments and engage a person when they’re telling a lie, but sometimes, you shouldn’t answer right away. Sometimes the full story isn’t out yet, or the full quote from the pope isn’t released. Wait, take your time, and defend your position when the time is right. Remember Jesus in front of Pilate: he provided no defense though he had all the answers. Sometimes, you’re called to be ridiculed, and other times you’re called to preach the truth boldly. While still, other times your best bet is to be patient and wait for the truth to speak for itself.
Sorry, the pope didn’t invent the burger, but I hope this spoke to a more important lesson.