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Posted November 19th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Pilgrimages

 Tasty Travels

 

I just returned from leading a retreat, pilgrimage, and a ‘taste-and-see-the-goodness-of-the-Lord-tour’ in Napa Valley.

The hills of Napa Valley.
Yes, you heard it! It was a real “retreat” “pilgrimage” with daily rosary, daily Mass, daily meditations, and a daily search to find God!
But you may ask, “Isn’t Napa Valley famous for wine rather than God?”  Well, actually, if you go on my tours you will see that Napa Valley is famous for both. Our Catholic Theology requires both to understand the other.  “Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands” and “Take, eat and drink in memory of me.”  Sound familiar?
Jesus turned water into wine….and lots of it.
Sharing delicious dinners was just another way God blessed us on this trip!

 

A closer (and humbler) look with a Catholic perspective on the Napa culture, the beautiful countryside, and meeting authentic and genuine hard-working folks helped our pilgrims experience God’s powerful presence.  Now, each pilgrim can celebrate and better understand wine, not for itself, but as the instrument through which God reveals Himself in the Eucharist.

 

The Taylor family and I take a picture on one of the many beautiful spots in Napa.

 

That’s what I do in my food and faith pilgrimages.  I’ve been doing these type of culinary trips to Italy, Israel, Spain, on Mediterranean Catholic Culinary Cruises, and all parts of the United States since 1999.  I’ve always led pilgrimages because that’s one way I discovered my own vocation.  What I received, I therefore try and share.  But my tours have always been a little unique, because I use my passion for food as the vehicle for pilgrims to experience God.  Taste and see the goodness of The Lord!  Food is the most powerful unifier!

 

At a tasting in the “Great Hall” at Castello di Amaroso”
Recently Loyola Press wrote an article about Tasty Travelers, and it highlighted how others have recently joined the faithful foodie bandwagon.  That’s great news to me!  I’ve consecrated  our original Grace Before Meals message by putting it in God’s hands.  And God has a penchant for multiplying food!  I’m so glad to read that others are now taking more seriously a “theology of food” which I describe in my recent book, “Epic Food Fight: A Bite Sized History of Salvation.”

 

This book will help readers understand why the Food Network is so popular; why restaurants can be more effective than churches in “serving” God’s people;  it describes a balanced diet for the body, mind and soul.  The book explains how both God and the devil use food as the “weapons” to either save and protect or destroy lives.  Epic Food Fight also helps people  understand (and hunger) for the Eucharist.  Perhaps you can read this to prepare for Thanksgiving – an American “feast of feasts.”  It offers a great meditation for the Season of Advent as we await Jesus, in the manger – a word that is closely associated to the Italian word, “mangiare,” which means “to eat.”
At Bottega Restaurant for a special welcome dinner
Please help spread the Grace Before Meals message by learning more about the Theology of Food.  Feed your children with good food, enriched with spiritual conversations around the dinner table. I have other books for that too!  Click HERE to learn more about our products to help strengthen family life through food!  Learn more about our faith and culture by joining me on my tasty travels.

 

This year’s Napa Valley Pilgrims!We had a great time together and pray for more adventures.
I’m proud to offer a “preview” of the next trip I have planned to Spain!  I’ve teamed up with Patrick Coffin, Host of Catholic Answers Live.  As your hosts, we invite you to enter into a spiritually deep, divine and delicious experience of our faith in Spain – a land of mysticism and meaningful meals! Spaces are limited, and the past few trips were sold out very quickly.  So, don’t delay.  These tasty travels will certainly give you so many graces, one bite at a time!

 

Let us pray:

Father, help us to expand our understanding of faith – not just in our personal prayer, but also in our active search as a pilgrim in this world.  Give us a better understanding of why you give us bread and wine as your divine presence at the Last Supper.  May a “theology of food” give us inspiration to see food as a sign of love – especially when we share it with those who hunger for You!  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A shot of a vineyard.

(1)  Have you ever been to Spain? If so, what was your favorite church and cuisine?
(2)  Do you think it would be “easy” or “hard” to experience God in a place like Napa Valley?
(3)  Are you a wine-lover? If so, what’s  your favorite wine pairing with a traditional Thanksgiving meal?
(4)  Want to join our pilgrimage group to Spain?  If so, call 800-842-4842 to learn more and reserve your spot!
Leave your responses by clicking below and posting on our blog, or by posting on Facebook or Twitter!

At Chateau Montelena with Judy Barrett, owner of the award-winning wine, and her staff who helped me prepare a mid-day feast!

 

 

 

11/20/14 

 

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Pilgrimages | 2 Comments »

Posted November 12th, 2014 | Menu Inspiration, Recipe

 Fresh Berry Yogurt Parfait

 

 

I’m filming a new season of Savoring Our Faith for EWTN. This time, there’s a wonderful twist.  This season, I share the faithful foodie message with people around the country and around the world.  I could be coming to a city near you! 

At Steubenville Atlantic in Halifax Canada.
These traveling shows are an opportunity to showcase how food and faith are expressed a little differently depending on where you’re eating or praying.  Granted, we are all called to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith, and the Holy Communion is a sacred sign of our communion.  But, there are nuances from location to location.  These episodes are a combination of travel tips, personal profiles, exploring religious sites, restaurant reviews, and a cooking show all wrapped up in a half hour episode.  
My team while in Little Rock AR for a Savoring Our Faith episode.
The places we visit are in conjunction with my traveling Grace Before Meals apostolate.  I film episodes the same days that I’m giving parish missions, talks or other presentations.  Talk about multi-tasking!  That means you’ll see Savoring our Faith in Little Rock, AR; San Diego, CA; Phoenix, AZ; and even possibly filming shows while I’m in the Philippines! 
Me with some of the special guests at our San Diego Episodes, Members of our US Military serving in Coronado.
With each new episode comes new recipes, highlighting the local cuisine. Recipes will be truly tasty and faithful to the local flavors.  Remember, you can always download recipes from our own website HERE.  You can also access more recipes from the EWTN website as well.  
To give you a little highlight, I’ve provided a recipe for one of the episodes devoted to healthy consciousness of students for an episode highlighting the John Paul the Great University near San Diego California.
Click for the Fresh Berry Yogurt Parfait recipe as featured in the upcoming season of Savoring Our Faith

 

Our next taping will be in Phoenix, Arizona in December. I’m giving a parish mission at Our Lady of Perpetual Help from December 7-10. You’re invited!  Click here for more information. To film in the Phoenix area, we need your helpful suggestions!
Timmerie and Charles from John Paul the Great University sampling one of the dishes before tasting the dessert.

– What’s the most beautiful (or your favorite) church, shrine, or place to pray in the Phoenix area?

– What’s your favorite restaurant in the Phoenix area, especially if it’s owned by people of faith, well-known for unique cuisine, or has a special story worth sharing with our viewers?

- When you think of food from Phoenix, what do you suggest I learn and cook for TV?

Your responses are not only helpful for our film crew, it’s especially encouraging to our Grace Before Meals team!  Please post your comments below.

Let us pray:

Father, bless our efforts to strengthen families and relationships through Your gift of food and the family meal.  Bless also our efforts to produce these new TV shows and the work of EWTN. May these shows reach people in all parts of the word to inspire faith, communion with each other, and most importantly, communion with You in heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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Posted November 6th, 2014 | From the Feedbag

 

 

 

Sweet and Sour

 

 

Being a public person, not just as TV & Radio Host and Speaker, but even just having your face on the internet, opens you up to a whole host of comments.  Occasionally, I like to share some of what I receive and even my responses. This week, I hope you enjoy the variety of unique and even awkward messages, along with some inspiring messages.

This one came from my Facebook page, and it’s copied verbatim, so any grammar issues are not mine:

Rev Leo,

when you cook Italian I want to barf I make home made sausages home made wines home ade pasta, pickle veggies of all sorts and for you to represent a priest maybe studied in Rome dosen’t make you chef of the future . With all do respect try teaching the foods from the country you were born in I beleive Philopines!?

Signed,

FaceBook Follower

Me with Chef Jeff of Flip my Food. Celebrity Chef who conquered struggles in his life, including prison, to become the first African American to serve as Executive Chef at the Bellaggio in Las Vegas.

Dear Facebook Follower:

Thanks for your note, even if it was insulting.  Your racial prejudice leads to an illogical result.  I enjoy cooking Italian food, like other types of cuisine, because I studied some culinary arts while I lived in Italy for several years.  I would hope your Italian heritage would be “complimented” in that other nationalities also enjoy the cuisine.  Highlighting other cultures and cuisines provides an encouraging opportunity to experience a global cuisine because we are a global family.  You don’t have to be Italian to cook Italian, and being a Filipino American doesn’t mean that I cannot eat, learn and cook other ethnic foods.  I never claim to be a “chef of the future” but a cook to bring families to the dinner table.  Gratefully, I’ve had Italian Chefs taste my cooking and it was humbling to hear their compliments for my cooking.  One day, I’d like to learn from you some of your cooking techniques. In the meantime, I pray you will have the humility, discipline and patience to teach your children and grandchildren these techniques, even if they’re not 100% Italian, so that your memories and meals will last for generations.  Buon Appetito!

——

Here’s a letter I received from a young man, with whom I had the privilege to cook with during a Mission trip to San Diego.  I edited some of letter to get to the really good points.

David, a young man who is connecting generations through food!

 

Dear Fr. Leo,

My name is David […] a sophomore at St. Augustine High School.  I would say I’m a typical teenager who likes to play sports. But what makes me unique and a little quirky is my love and passion for food.  At age 5, my mom remembers that instead of asking for the children’s menu at restaurants, I would ask the waitress, “What is the fresh catch of the day?”  I definitely liked fine dining and would say I have developed a pretty good palate….

This past summer, food would take on a different meaning to me. My grandfather suffered a stroke. His movements and abilities definitely slowed down.  My grandfather, who was a chief cook in the US Navy, was having a hard time cooking dinner for himself and my grandmother.  My mom started making dinner for them 1-2 times a week and bringing it over to their house. I started helping her and enjoyed learning how to cook other meals and I also enjoyed talking to her and hearing some of her childhood stories.  Then when we delivered the food to my grandparents I learned so much about them.  I heard stories of how my grandfather met my grandmother, which was pretty funny.  […] Every time he would talk about his Navy days his eyes would swell up with so much gratitude that the Navy gave him the opportunity to raise his family in the United States.  I realized at that moment food was connecting generations […]  I have been so busy with sports, tournaments and studying that I was missing out on learning about my culture and my family.  It’s sad to say that my generation is so focused on being the best in everything that we’re spending less and less time with our grandparents.

What I wanted to do is to start a movement of “Connecting Generations with Food.”  The problem is I don’t know how to begin. How can I promote this in my school and in the community?  My mom told me about your movement, “Grace Before Meals.”  Perhaps I can get involved in your ministry and [perhaps] you can mentor me on how to get my movement going.

Thank you for your guidance,

David

One of blessings of my work is that I get a chance to speak to large groups made up of different generations. Young, old and everything in between love the Grace Before Meals message!

 

Dear David:

This letter brought tears to my eyes.  You are embodying my Grace Before Meals message. You see that food has power!   That’s why Jesus became our “food” in the Eucharist.  I’m proud that you’re making the connections with your parents and grandparents.  I’m so excited to hear of your ideas.  To help you get your movement off the ground, here are a few suggestions:

(1)  Say a prayer, and ask God for help! With God, all things are possible.  Even for a cook like me to win a recipe cooking competition against Bobby Flay!

(2)  Talk with your teacher or school principal on possibly getting a club together, one that combines food and different traditions. You could even host a school-wide cooking presentation. AND, I’d love to come and present the message to your fellow students.

(3)  Keep on learning about your grandparents, parents, and one another. Keep learning cooking skills from different cultures and cuisines.  Don’t be afraid to try different foods, but also learn its history.  And, above all, keep learning about your faith that has the power to connect you to more than your grandparents. Faith can help connect you to the Saints in Heaven!

———

Finally, here’s a question that I’ve been getting since I was given permission by the Archbishop of Baltimore to enter a formation process for consecrated life with Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite.

Me praying at the tomb of the founder of the Voluntas Dei Ponfitical Secular Institute, Fr. Louise Marie Parent, in Trois Riviers, Quebec, Canada.

Dear Fr. Leo,

Are you still a priest? I’m confused because you said you’re now in a “secular” community?  Does that mean you’re no longer able to say Mass and hear confessions?  

Signed, 

Confused


—-

 

Dear Confused:

Yes, I’m a very happy Roman Catholic Priest and will, God willing, die a priest – faithful to the Lord, His Church and to my priestly promises.  Since January 2014, I received permission to enter a communion of consecrated life, called Voluntas Dei (the Will of God), a group known as a “secular institute.” That means that my job is now to help be a leaven in the “secular world,” following the example of the Lord who sent his disciples ‘into the world’ to spread the good news! (Matthew 28).  So, I’m a priest. I still say Mass everyday. I hear A LOT of confessions because now I speak at large venues and evangelization conferences. I still celebrate the sacraments. I’m connected to my community through monthly gatherings.  In fact, we’re starting a local “Voluntas Dei Team” in the Maryland area. What has changed is my living situation and priestly duties.  Now, I live in a small private place, where I can experience solitude in the midst of my busy schedule.  As part of our charism, we do not live separate from the world, but in the midst of the world – again, just like Jesus.  My work is not focused only on the local parish, but now the universal church. That means, with the permission and support of my community and superiors, I travel as missionary, a preacher, retreat director, conference and keynote speaker, and TV and Radio host spreading the news beyond the walls or geographical church boundaries.  For many years I felt a call to heed Jesus’s Great Commission: Go out to all the world and spread the Good News!  Now, as a priest member of Voluntas Dei, I finally sense that I’m doing His specific call for me.  Pray for me!

At a great parish mission for Sts. Anne and Joachim Parish in Fargo, ND

Let us pray:

Father, help us to recognize how your voice is communicating a powerful message to us through the Scriptures, the prayers, the wisdom of the saints, and even through the emails and voicemails we may receive.  May we always listen for your voice and have the strength the follow your will.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post your comments, questions or concerns HERE.  It helps us to stay focused on our mission! Help spread the word by passing this email on to family, friends, pastors and parishioners!  And, if you want to experience Fr. Leo’s message live and in person, contact the project manager HERE.

(1)  How do you handle critical emails and social media posts, like the one I received from my Facebook page?

(2)  What suggestions do you have for David to get his “Connecting Generations with Food” movement off the ground?

(3)   Besides parish administration and sacramental ministries, how do you think a priest can help build up the body of Christ in this modern world?

Me with Fr. Schmid in Phoenix Arizona, he was the cover picture for a new book to help priests learn how to cook!

 


11/9/14 – 11/14/14

 

 

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Posted in From the Feedbag | 6 Comments »

Posted October 29th, 2014 | All Souls Day, Holiday, In Memory, What's On the Table

 Keeping the Dead Alive 

Occasionally I try to send updates with our growing Grace Before Meals Family.  As you know, I have been traveling here, there, and everywhere spreading the importance of family meals and a “Theology of Food!”  If you want to be part of our events schedule next year, CLICK HERE TO BOOK EVENT. These are life-changing events, sure to bring so many people together for faithful foodie fun!
Fr. Leo’s missions pack the churches with families!
During some downtime, I try and stay in touch with the rest of the world by searching for interesting Grace Before Meals connections on the internet.  I came across this unique cookbook that combines food and faith, but with a particular spin, as it involves the Popes!  This book was written by one of the Swiss Guards who shares some favorite Pontifical Recipes. This book, along with my own cookbooks, may be great Christmas gifts for faithful foodies!

You’ll notice the title of this blog seems somewhat morbid, right in line with the Halloween season as it has come to be known. But as October comes to an end, we enter into several sacred celebrations:  All Hallows’ Eve, All Souls Day and All Saints Day! These Feast Days give us opportunities to reflect on family and friends who have gone before us and we pray have experienced God’s mercy in heaven. While it’s easy to put on a Halloween costume, these feast days remind us to ‘put on the virtues’ that make our deceased family and friends so missed.  That means, keeping the faith of our loved ones alive in our hearts, mind and actions!
Click to watch Joe’s tribute video for his Dad, and share your comments about your own loved ones.

 

Here’s a special video that speaks of “putting on virtue.”  It comes from Joe Hansbrough, the Grace Before Meals project manager. He has a busy schedule too as a young husband and father of 2.  Since I’ve known him, he and his family have shared many personal challenges, including family health problems, the death of a two siblings, and recently the death of his father.  Yet, Joe and his faithful family continue to move on with life because of their Faith in God.
Faith is the stuff that makes family life such a blessing.  Despite the struggles of life, a family has each other to console, encourage and strengthen one another.  I’m so grateful to Joe and his family for the sacrifices made for our Grace Before Meals mission.  I wanted to share with you this beautiful tribute that Joe made to honor is dad.
I hope this video inspires you to see how each member of your family is a gift from God. We’re all called to be this “super hero” to one another.  When we do that, we put on more than a costume for Halloween.  We become who we are supposed to be.
Joe’s son Joshua at 6 weeks old, named for his late uncle. He’s got some family to look over him from above!

Let us pray:

Father in heaven, as our church celebrates All Hallows’ Eve, All Souls Day and All Saints Day, we pray that see the spiritual significance of our prayers by remembering the souls of the faithful departed and by living lives of sanctity so that we will one day share in the eternal victory celebration in heaven.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

 

Please post your comments and answers below as a way to say in touch and to help keep our message focused on faith, family and food!
 (1)  What’s your favorite Halloween Costume?
(2)  How will you remember your faithful departed on this upcoming feast day?
(3)  What saint inspires you the most?

 


 10/30/14

  

 ANNUAL CLERGY & RELIGIOUS APPRECIATION BANQUET

Corpus Christi, TX 

 

11/1/14

Royal Oak, MI

 

 

11/3/14

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Posted in All Souls Day, Holiday, In Memory, What's On the Table | 3 Comments »

Posted October 22nd, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Recipes

 

 

Seafood, Sex, the Synod and the Pearl of Great Price

Connecting food and faith is what I do. And if I were to characterize my faith the past few weeks as a food it would easily be that particular shellfish: the crab! Admittedly, hectic travel, news of spreading Ebola, terrorist threats, political mudslinging commercials, rude people in restaurants and airports can make anyone “crabby.”

Sometimes, it is easy to feel crabby, right?

 

For me, the greatest frustration came when I read church chatter about the recently concluded Extraordinary Synod on the Family. What was supposed to be an honest dialogue about difficult pastoral issues turned into a media circus that distorted Church teachings and made Church leadership look like out-of-touch-mean-spirited-shepherds. According to pop-culture news, sabotage, dissension and mistrust characterized the conversation.  Unfortunately, the labels “conservative” and “liberal” seemingly replaced “faithful” and “compassionate.”

 

In the midst of these struggles, I thankfully had an event in sunny Florida, giving me a day to walk along the beach and pray. Being close to the ocean reminded me of God’s ocean of mercy.  We all need it! There, I sensed God telling me to help people think of the Church, not as a crab, but as another type of shellfish: the oyster.

Pope Francis called this extraordinary synod to discuss how to pastorally serve the Church’s families, which includes separated, divorced, remarried and homosexual persons. When boiled down, the Church’s leadership was talking about sex and sexual practices that don’t fulfill God’s plan. Sex, as a topic, makes us a little defensive and nervous, like parents explaining “the birds and the bees” to inquisitive children. But it’s about time the Church got practical in its discussion because the spirit of the world talks about sex in ungodly ways! It’s been reported that some synod participants said the Church’s teachings are clear and that “pastoral discussions” are just watering down the Faith, creating even more divide between “progressive” and “traditional” Catholics.  So who’s right?

 

Enter my previous analogy of the Church as an oyster and how an oyster’s pearl is made. This shellfish, like the Church, always appears tightly closed to protect itself. But in order to survive, the Church’s protective walls are open, like the eye of the needle – big enough for a camel to enter, but difficult for the rich and righteous to enter (Matthew 19:24). A pearl is made when, for whatever reason, foreign substances penetrate even the most tightly-closed hardshell, implanting itself within, like an ‘intruder.’ To protect itself, the shellfish doesn’t discharge the intruder but instead secretes a protective substance, called nacre. Over time, the nacre builds up and it becomes a pearl. What started out as something negative and unwanted within the shellfish, eventually becomes something miraculous and beautiful to behold.

Caught up in the waves.

As I walked the shore, I sensed God telling me that nacre is Grace.  The “intruder” is the sinner who, like a child crying and fussing to be heard, is the future pearl of great price. We all know that some of our greatest saints were the greatest sinners. St. Paul was even a former “enemy” of the Church! How difficult was it for St. Peter and other apostles to accept him in their fold? A sinner’s presence in the protective shell of the Church provides an opportunity for the merciful Lord to do His miraculous cure by covering that sinner with Grace.  In dealing with people, who through sins experience a separation from the Church, it’s tempting to just hunker down, tighten up the shell, or immediately throw out the sinner. Instead, the synod sought to better understand the reality of individual complex situations. It simply tried to surround that future pearl of great price with miraculous Grace. While excommunication remains a viable option for the Church to protect itself, Jesus seemed to reserved that action to only a few instances, such as money changers and the self-righteous at the end of time.

 

The pearl of great price is not some ideology of puritanical faith, but a result of a miraculous and grace-filled process. We have to trust that God is in charge of that process. God will not allow even confusing or conflicting news about the synod to destroy the Church.  The Fisher of Man is praying for Peter’s Successor, Pope Francis. (Luke 22)

Pope Francis blesses a child.

The challenging synod discussions simply recognized how divorced, remarried people, and any well-intentioned and sincere members of the homosexual community are already within the Church’s protective shell. What do we do with them? Are we trying to “get rid” of them or rather shower them with Grace and patiently wait for the Grace to build up despite our broken nature?

 

Walking along the beach, praying for more Grace to make sense of all of life’s difficulties reminded me to be faithful, patient and “less crabby” in the process. We’re called to never give up but be faithful and trust that God can use these difficult situations to strengthen our faith, even if we can’t easily see God’s plan. After all, despite the tumultuous history, the Church continues to produce great saints, pearls of great value, making this world a better place.

 

As I walked along the beach, I prayed for my heart to be a pearl-producing oyster.  Honestly, I still felt a little crabby knowing I had to get on another airplane, deal with security lines and read the news headlines.  But God’s Grace can transform even a tough-shelled crab into something delicious, satisfying and worth celebrating.  It just requires a recipe to boil the “hell” out of the crab, season it with the salt of the earth and earth’s bitter herbs like a blend of chicory, coriander and chives.

 

There’s good news! The Church IS a pearl-producing oyster. We’re not all crabby!  But, there’s even hope for crabby folks!  Melted butter for dipping and a cold beer.

 

Click for the recipe for Seafood Stew with crab and a coconut curry cream sauce

 

Let us pray:

Father, turn us into the pearl of great price by surrounding us with Grace. We know our sins should be an automatic “eject” button for us, but you allow us to remain inside the Church’s family. Transform us into pearls of great price. Help us to be patient and more trusting of the process, especially as the synod deliberates the difficult topics of the day. May faithful people desire to act union with the Pope. May honest disagreement be spoken in charity. Lord, silence our arrogance. Holy Spirit, continue to convert the heart of each synod participant to become like the Good Shepherd – not just in intellectual orthodoxy but also in the practical compassion that welcomed the prodigal son to the feast. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.  

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

  • Who’s your favorite saint, who just happened to be a former sinner?  Mine is St. Paul.
  • Have you ever found pearls in your shellfish?  What did you do with it?
  • What’s your favorite shellfish?
  • Do you have any good oyster recipes to share with our Grace Before Meals family?

 

Help us to spread the message by sending this email to your family, friends, parishioners and even your pastor, and post your comments below.

10/24/14

Mesa, AZ

 

10/25/14 – 10/28/14

   

 

 SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM CATHOLIC CHURCH

Fargo, ND

 


10/30/14

    

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Recipes | 7 Comments »

Posted October 15th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion

 

  Taste of Travel – Bitter Sweet

I travel a lot.  That’s actually an understatement.

Being an itinerant preacher, a missionary of the new evangelization, and a “roaming restaurant” that seeks to truly feed people brings “bitter sweet” to a whole new level of meaning.  There are times when I ask God a question, even though I already know the answer. But I ask so that I can better understand,  “Why is doing Your (God’s) will so bitter sweet?” Why can’t life just be sweet?
Passion fruit dessert with bitter sweet chocolate mousse
We can learn a spiritual lesson from the culinary world.  The “bitter” is a necessary flavor profile to counteract the overabundance of the other flavors.  Bitter things, such as bitters in drinks or an herb or vegetable, opens up the rest of the tastebuds so we can appreciate sweet, salty and sour.  Bitter foods also have medicinally beneficial qualities.  Bitter greens, for example, break down fats, stimulate the immune system, recharge the body’s metabolism and even cleanse the body. Spiritually, accepting some of the bitter-sweet has that same effect.  Jesus requires his saints to not be afraid of bitter herbs and spices. Truth can sometimes be “bitter” – a hard, but necessary, pill to swallow.
Averna Amaro, an Italian bitter sweet after dinner drink to help digest your meal. Amaro means “bitter”.
For me, despite the bitterness of travel in today’s not-so-sweet-travel experiences, I’ve learned to take the bad with the good.  The tough schedule I have keeps me humble – a hard thing for me to be!  The bitter times help me to more sincerely appreciate the simple consolations of life, like prayer, a walk through the park, a cup of cocoa, and time with my family. The tough travel days also help to toughen my spirit, helping me remember that my faith doesn’t depend on my feelings.  Becoming a “disciple” requires “discipline.”
We are called to carry our crosses in life, through which we prove our faith and prepare ourselves for heaven.

 

I raise this food and faith topic because I have to ask myself the question, “Do the bitter experiences in my hectic travel life turn me into a bitter person?”  That’s not God’s plan.  Nor should it be our experience.  Faith can help us see the usefulness of bitter moments while not becoming bitter ourselves.
Happy Christians, eh?
Thankfully, I know that bitter sweet challenges provide a realistic understanding of what my apostolate requires.  It reminds me that Christianity isn’t for wimps!  If all I want from faith is sweetness, then I better watch out for the cavities!

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

Your responses and comments remind me and our Grace Before Meals team of the importance of these email blasts.  Help encourage our efforts to spread good news by sharing this email with family, friends and parishioners.  Post your comments and questions below.

1) What, in your experience, is the most bitter thing you’ve eaten?
2) How do you deal with bitterness in life?
3) How can we avoid becoming bitter?

 

Let us pray:

Father, you allow us to experience challenging and even bitter moments in our lives. Teach us how to approach difficulties without leaving a bitter taste in our mouths. Keep us humble so that we can accept our crosses, carry them well, and learn from our personal crosses in life.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

10/16/14

     

Palm Beach, FL

 

10/18/14

   

 

THE LATE FR. JESS ESPLANA’S APOSTOLATE FOR OUR LADY OF PENAFRANCIA

San Diego, CA 

 

 

10/18/14 – 10/21/14

      

 

ST. CHARLES PARISH MISSION

San Diego, CA

 

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