Why Cigars Are Good For You

July 25, 2012

I’m being a little facetious, of course.  And I tend to think weird (i.e. lofty and true?) thoughts when I’m smoking a cigar, as I am now.

But I’m being a little serious, too.  Through my experience, I’ve come to believe that there are certain qualities to a cigar — and to a (moderate) habit to smoking one — that can help us live a better life, and a more Catholic life.

Montecristo Cigars, the favorite of one of Hollywood’s great Catholic directors, Alfred Hitchcock

How, you might ask?

Perhaps it’s the way cigars help build friendships.  Some of the most memorable and meaningful discussions for me have occurred over a cigar — from personal heart-to-hearts about life and love, struggles and fears; to joint intellectual exploration of important ideas, such as the compatibility of American democracy with Catholic hierarchy.  Times such as these are what C.S. Lewis called “the Golden Sessions.”

Perhaps it’s the way cigars help you relax and reflect on life when you’re alone…Those are the moments when you can be with yourself and with God and can say with full honesty and gratitude:  “Life is good.”

It might be in the ideas associated with a cigar.  Its celebratory connotations remind us that after struggle and work come respite and reward, while its connection to class can inspire a lad towards self-improvement and the life of the Catholic gentleman.

Maybe it’s the way cigars clear the mind and sharpen the senses, making you more aware of (and thankful for) the world’s beauty around you — whether it’s a city’s bright lights and passing cars, or nature’s shining stars and whispering wind.  (I recommend an accompanying glass of bourbon or merlot when you’re doing this.)

And maybe it’s simply the way cigars disappear.  Smoke fades, the wrapper burns away, and when it’s gone, you’re left contemplating the transient nature of  life…and the eternity to be gained beyond it.

GK Chesterton: champion smoker and a Catholic champion

Cigars, in short, help you reflect.  They loosen the tongue, they clear the mind, and they help you contemplate…and learning how to contemplate is the first step to learning how to pray, and learning how to pray is the first step to meeting God.  Above all, cigars can be an aid in making you present to the mystery of the here and now — the mystery of finding the eternal God in the ephemeral moment…or better yet, letting Him find you.

Now I’m not saying that smoking cigars is a moral imperative; there’s no real morality (or immorality) connected with it at all.  It’s a luxury, a pleasure that should be enjoyed in moderation.  Yet it is a pleasure that can be edifying — not just physically and mentally, but spiritually as well.  (Maybe that’s why liberal California tried to pass a law placing an extra tax on tobacco recently…)

What are your guys’ thoughts?  Is this too much of a stretch?  Maybe I should start being a little more coy about my favorite habits…

a helpful note:  To those interested in picking up this venerable habit but are poor college students like me who wince at cigars’ sometimes high prices, might I recommend Trader Jack’s?  Tobacco might not be top-notch, and the wrapper is often poor quality.  But for the sweet aroma and long ashes, it’s a solid bargain for beginners at $1.50 each. Read the rest of this entry »


for the sake of sanity, prayer

January 31, 2012

One of the little blessings I’ve had throughout my life is that I’ve always gone to school with a chapel nearby.

At St. Philomena Elementary, I always liked to visit the Blessed Sacrament across the street for a couple of minutes after school.  At Loyola High School, I attended a short 20-minute mass offered everyday before class.  And at Notre Dame, I’m supremely blessed — everyone is — to have a chapel in the dorm.  (And I’m even more blessed that my dorm is one of the few on campus that celebrates mass in an orthodox fashion).

Especially in my freshman year, Little Flower Chapel in Morrissey was my safe haven — a place that offered stability and calm, where I could relax, think, and know that God was listening.  And when life got busy after freshman year — well, at least I had the Grotto, the place from which I believe grace flows most on campus.  With how crazy life gets at Notre Dame sometimes, I seriously believe that it’s the Grotto that kept me sane.  It was the Grotto that gave me perspective.  It was the Grotto where I was reassured that our Lady and our Lord are watching over everyone who walks the grounds of Notre Dame.

If there’s one place I miss most while I’m in Rome, it’s the Grotto.  I also miss daily mass, and I miss simply having a place where I can sit down, unwind, and reflect.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been a tad bewildered these days and why I’ve been getting left behind…I don’t take time to thank God and put things into perspective anymore, so I’m living life wandering aimlessly about, trying to find direction that only daily prayer and reflection can offer.

I discovered that there’s a chapel just on the corner of my program’s building here in Rome that offers daily mass at 6:30pm every night.  I think it’s time I start going.

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To close, some words on the Grotto from Tom Dooley, engraved on the hearts of every Notre Dame student:

But just now. . . and just so many times, how I long for the Grotto. Away from the Grotto Dooley just prays. But at the Grotto, especially now when there must be snow everywhere and the lake is ice glass and that triangular fountain on the left is frozen solid and all the priests are bundled in their too-large too-long old black coats and the students wear snow boots. . . . if I could go to the Grotto now then I think I could sing inside. I could be full of faith and poetry and loveliness and know more beauty, tenderness and compassion. . . .