The Art of Constructive Critique for the Family
Originally Published February 23, 2011
|Most of my e-mails are very, very encouraging. However, like most people, I’m not without my critics. A movement for the force of good will always have challenges. Perhaps the most common complaint or critique I receive is from people who just don’t understand the purpose of the Grace Before Meals movement. To some, the idea of a “cooking priest” reduces the priesthood to a gimmick. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yet the fact that I receive these challenging words shows just how much we appreciate your support, comments, and prayers. So for this first “From the Feedbag,” I thought I’d share my response to a rather critical e-mail I received around the New Year.
While no one wants to be criticized in that special time of the year, you will hopefully see how my response gave me the opportunity to better reflect on our mission and explain why I do what I do with this movement. As you will read, I never shy away from responding to criticism, simply because that’s what a family is supposed to do: listen to each other and respond. Conversation can bring out conversion. And while I am willing to hear anyone’s comments and critiques, I recommend we learn the art of critiquing each other “well.”
Critique – especially around the family dinner table, is supposed to be constructive, not destructive. This somewhat dramatic and sensitive topic gives us all a chance to consider how we are supposed to help build each other up rather than bring each other down. And where is the best place for this loving, but at times challenging, exchange to occur? You guessed it. The dinner table! Hopefully in sharing this exchange, you will be strengthened in your resolve to share our movement far and wide.
I’m sorry but I find the tone of your grace before meals website nothing short of blasphemous. Since when do we equate human nourishment with the sacrifice of the Mass? This is going too far and the appearances on TV seem to be even more sacrilegious and foolish. Get back to your parish or seminary and learn something more correct about the Catholic Faith!
“J” (Obviously I’m going to keep these letters anonymous.)
Thanks for your note. I’m truly sorry you don’t like the Grace Before Meals message. By calling it blasphemous; however, you are saying that I’m trying to disrespect God and make profane the things that are sacred. That is not my intention, nor do my actions reflect that accusation. Before I can accept your suggestion to stop the movement of Grace Before Meals, I’d rather learn more about what you find blasphemous.
Theologically, Jesus tells us His Flesh and Blood are true food and true drink. Jesus’ greatest lessons were taught around the meal. He even became our sacred meal! Does that go, as you suggest, too far? Granted, our language about food and faith is only analogous, but the Sacred Scriptures make the same references. As a “Pastor” it is my job to “feed” the sheep. As Christ changed water into wine and multiplied loaves and fish as a prelude to His teaching, he showed how something as seemingly insignificant as food could teach us something far more meaningful. He revealed Himself when he broke bread! Our objective with Grace Before Meals has encouraged people to remember how God is part of their family dinner table – the “altar” of the “Domestic Church.” We are best in communion with God through food, i.e., the Bread of Life and Cup of Eternal Salvation.
You see J, food and faith go hand in hand as ordained by God Himself. What I do on TV, in our book, or on our website is not my idea – it’s God’s.As a Catholic Priest, I’m always willing to hear how I can be a better priest. I’d be happy to hear your suggestion. However, the approach you seem to have taken in your e-mail sounds more disrespectful to my pastoral experience and my priestly office. And your tone makes it difficult to accept your advice as sound or helpful.
In case you had any doubts, I became a priest because I love God and His Catholic Church. Your comment about “blasphemy” not only offends me, it makes me take pity on your inability to judge wisely the things of the earth. I’m not saying that you blaspheme the priesthood, but the tone of your e-mail sounds more rude than helpful. I can only trust that you wrote me in order to help me be a better priest in this art and discipline of evangelization. Do you have evangelization experience to share ways for me to improve? “J”, while you may not believe me, or agree with our statistics, I can say that Grace Before Meals has helped many people make a connection to the Eucharist as the true source of Food. God has actually used this movement to help people with eating disorders. We now dialogue with the secular world about seeing food as a “blessing” rather than a “right.”
We’ve supported families that struggle to spend some quality time together. We’ve helped families return to the practice of praying grace before meals. We’ve provided a way for people to discuss faith around the dinner table again. We’ve showed people how the purpose of food brings us together, as the Eucharist does each Sunday. And we’ve helped people convert to the Catholic Faith. Should I take your advice and let this all stop? We can judge by the fruits. Are these good “fruits” to you? Again, as a priest my job is to feed people. Not all can/should receive the Eucharist. But I must still feed people in body, mind, and spirit. Blessed Theresa of Calcutta showed that simple acts done, with lots of love, help people to become saints.
Can feeding someone human food with Godly love be a way to sanctity? The Gospels say ‘”Yes!’” I hope this dialogue helps. I hope you don’t think I’m “angry” about your e-mail. As I mentioned before, you may want to work on your communication skills, especially since people deserve a bit more respect than you communicated in your very sharp sounding e-mail. Hopefully you’re a bit more patient if you have disagreements with family and friends around your dinner table. If I did something to offend you, please let me know what that is and I’ll be quick to apologize. After all, as God’s human family we will need to exercise that virtue of patience and forgiveness.
The fact is, you may not like my style, my heritage, my way of speaking, or even my cooking abilities. Should that be the case, I suggest that you simply turn off the TV when they air my episodes, and take a moment and to say a prayer – for the both of us. But again, if you have concrete ways on how I can improve the Grace Before Meals message, please share that them with me in a more prayerful and respectful way as I hopefully have tried to do for you. In the meantime, I hope that your encounter of with my website on the day that marked our New Year was not a moment of frustration, but truly a moment of Grace. Sometimes, they are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps, before you eat a meal today, you can say grace before your meal and say a prayer for me, the dedicated people who serve with me, and the people who can be helped by our message.
With Mary’s Prayers and Christ’s Blessings,
There you have it. How do you think I did with my response to this critic? Do you have advice on how to better handle criticism and critique, especially in your own family?. Let me know your thoughts and questions. Send me questions at firstname.lastname@example.org . Click HERE to post your comments.
This Week’s Recipe:
|Click for the recipe!|
7/26/14 – 8/4/14
Originally Published May 2, 2012
This week, I want to talk about a challenge for people who love food and God. I call them faithful foodies. How do you make truth taste good?
In the culinary world, food should be pure, clean, and fresh tasting. Salad ought to taste like lettuce and vegetables and not be overwhelmed by heavy salad dressing. If we are eating fish, it shouldn’t taste like chicken nuggets, like most breaded seafood. Masking the authentic flavors is a big no-no in the modern food world. Manipulating ingredients - salt, pepper, oil, vinegar – to highlight natural flavors separates novices from top chefs.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we had that same attitude and skill towards proclaiming the truth? But in a world when political correctness is like another form of religion with its own set of dogmas (we have to be inclusive; we can’t say this; we always have to say that, etc., etc.), we tend to manipulate the truth in such a way that we distort and, in some cases, destroy it. This is especially the case with language about protecting the dignity of human life! But in these challenging times, we also have to recognize that our objective is not to cover up the beauty of truth but to understand and manipulate the other factors, like ingredients, to highlight the beauty of it and make the bitter truth more palatable.
Don’t feel guilty about doing that. When proclaiming the truth, we have to be as smart as parents who top broccoli with little buttered breadcrumbs or incorporate cream and cheese with some spinach to help kids to eat it.
You get the point. Jesus certainly understood the art of making eternal truths bite-sized and appetizing. People came in droves just to savor some of the crumbs that would fall from the Master’s table.
Each May 2, the Universal Church celebrates St. Athanasius who struggled to learn how to present the truth. It wasn’t easy for him. He was a fiery speaker with a temper. Other religious leaders even sought his death. To his credit, he volunteered his own exile, but continued to teach through writings and debates and taught creative and engaging classes to a growing number of students. Eventually he won over hearts and minds of his enemies, similar to the way parents eventually get children to eat their vegetables.
Today, St. Athanasius provides a unique example for faithful foodies – people interested in proclaiming truth unmasked but creatively prepared and beautifully presented. There will always be detractors and hostility towards the Faith. However, our good example will at least get them to appreciate what we hold dearly as uncompromising truths, even if they don’t agree with or fully understand us. Using a cooking example, I still don’t enjoy eating liver, but I realize that different forms of preparation make it a bit more palatable. Depending on how it’s prepared, I can accept liver in bite-sized portions. With a maturing palate, I can also appreciate those who have a penchant for it.
By our good example, our evident joy in celebrating the sanctity of life, and by developing the skill to present the truth of our faith more joyfully, we can win over hearts and minds of people. Maybe they won’t eat up everything we’re serving, but, at the very least, they can learn to nibble on bite-sized truth.
Father in Heaven, make us instruments of Your peace and grace. When we get frustrated about how people reject the beauty of truth, may our patient example inspire us to present it more creatively to win them over. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
|Jack Belby, from St. Mary’s Church in Hudson, Ohio, a master at milkshakes.|
Do you have a technique that helps your children eat something they don’t like?
What is the food that you just can’t stand eating?
Was there a food that you eventually began to appreciate when you matured or at least learned better ways to prepare it?
Your comments encourage our movement and tell us that you are being fed by these Blasts. Please post your comments and questions below.
7/18/14 – 7/20/14
Cookies fit for a Pope
This week, I wanted to share a recipe and an article sent to me by some GBM fans (or as I refer to them, ‘fams’ since it just seems fitting that you are part of the family). I always appreciate hearing from each of you, as the movement is truly for all to partake in. So if you have a delicious family recipe you want published, advice for family life, a great experience at a restaurant or an adventure you want to share, send them to me at email@example.com.
The recipe I’d like to share is from Gloria Piantek, who had these cookies madde and presented to now Saint Pope John Paul II. Click on the following link for the recipe or watch the video she made by clicking the image below.
I also wanted to share an excerpt from an article written back in 2002 by Sean Wright called “Intimate Dining with Family – And Jesus”. It was published by the Archdiocesan paper The Tidings in Los Angeles. He shares about his ‘Roman feasts’ with his son DeForeest and just how beneficial that time was for them, both in learning and in appreciating time with one another.
Intimate Dining with Your Family – and with Jesus
By Sean M. Wright
…My former wife, Kelly, had come up with having Roman feasts when DeForeest was yet a toddler. He was so taken with ancient Rome after watching episodes of I, Claudius, that Kelly made this kind of meal as a fun and educational follow-up. It worked. DeForeest was reading the histories of Tacitus and Suetonius by the age of eight. Our son now knows more about the first five Roman emperors than most Americans know about the first five US presidents.
DeForeest placed four pillows on either side of the bed, with the board in between, to suggest a triclinium, the couch on which Romans reclined for their meals. Leaning on our left arms facing each other, we said grace, talked about his schoolwork, my writing, the latest news, and – well – the stuff that gives a shared meal a happy intimacy.
Reclining at table is civilized, inducing diners to savor, not gobble, their food. Reclining at table is a touchstone with our forebears, it being the usual way in which Romans, Jews, Greeks, North Africans and just about everybody of consequence ate meals 2000 years ago. Reclining at table is relaxing. Servants stood to eat at a high-standing table in the pantry so as to be ready at their masters’ beck and call. Reclining at table is therefore a distinguishing mark of freedom. For this reason alone people all along the Mediterranean borrowed the custom from the otherwise detested Roman conquerors.
DaVinci’s famed fresco to the contrary, Jesus and his apostles celebrated their last Passover Seder while reclining, so close that St John describes himself as leaning against Jesus. There, Jesus explained Scripture to His apostles, sang and prayed with them. It was in this manner that Jesus first gave Himself to His friends [the editor added the word "before" here] imparting Himself in bread and wine become His true body and blood.
For their followers in the Faith, the apostles continued the intimacy they had known at table with Jesus through their proclamation of whatever Scriptures they had at hand. They eventually offered a prayer of thanksgiving in remembrance of what had occurred at that last supper with Jesus. In the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of the cup, the same Lamb of God came into their midst – body, blood, soul and divinity…
We thank Gloria and Sean for sharing with us food and faith, and we hope to hear from more of you as we try and bring more families back to the dinner table. God bless!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
- Do you have any recipes that you make for large gatherings or occasions?
- What is dinner time like for you and your family?
- Have you ever seen the Pope in person? When and where?
Please post your comments HERE, as these help our movement learn and grow.
Family Summer Fun and Faith
I’m heading out to my second Steubenville Conference, this time in Nova Scotia (!), but I wanted to share some videos and suggestions for improving family life and opportunities for growing in your faith together as a family. There are so many ways to strengthen the family, which is what Grace Before Meals is all about. Regular family meals are only the beginning to spending more time with your kids, spouse or loved ones. Praying together more often, being involved with your church or community, taking time out of your busy schedule to let others know that you here for them are all vital to bringing home the faith, and making your family the “domestic church”.
My friends Greg and Jennifer Willits, of The Catholics Next Door fame, have a video they just created for The Archdiocese of Denver to provide tips and resources (which you can get at http://archden.org/family/) to strengthen your family, and you got it, family meals are very important. Watch the video below and start using some of these tips to let those you love know just how much they mean to you. And that includes God.
Another great way to grow in your faith with friends and family is to host a special Spiritual Event to share the film The Blood & The Rose with your community. The film is a powerful documentary that really shows the incredible history and undeniable miracle of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of Life. The 225 is a celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the nation’s first Catholic Diocese, which is Baltimore. To celebrate, Leo McWatkin’s Films has created a special package which includes the film, video reflections from me and Fr. Steven Roth, 20% of merchandise sales, and promotional materials to help communities and organizations raise money for their cause while evangelizing, all for $525. This is half as much as it normally costs, which means you will be able to raise even more money for your cause, parish or group.
It is as simple as purchasing the license agreement by going HERE and setting up an event at your parish or school. The goal is to feature it in over 225 locales this year, so please promote this spiritual event to your parish priests and committees, as it truly serves as a way of growing in your faith.
Finally, family vacations are a great way to take time out of work and to spend it with your kids and spouse. It may seem like a lot of stress (and it is) but it is truly a great way to be present for your kids. Not everyone can afford the luxury of a vacation, but as long as you break away from your computer or TV long enough to communicate with your family, it goes a long way in helping them to grow in love and faith.
For those who may not have the kids at home anymore or are just looking for a great adventure to go on, please consider coming with me to Napa Valley (November 9-14, 2014) or The Holy Land (February 1-12, 2015). Registration ends soon for Napa Valley, so sign up today! And the Holy Land will be here before you know it, so check it out and let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment HERE or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
- What do you like to do over the summer with your family?
- Have you seen The Blood & The Rose?
- Do you have a cause, event, group or parish that could benefit from a spiritual event?
- What are other ways to make your family the ‘domestic church’?
Please post your comments HERE, as these help our movement learn and grow.
Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia
God Is (Isaiah 12:2)
God is. Simply put, to say the least. But what a big statement! What, or more accurately, who is God to you? There is no answer that can encompass the entirety of God, for He is entirety and then so much more. But the Prophet Isaiah has a pretty good answer for us to consider:
“BEHOLD, GOD IS MY SALVATION, I WILL TRUST AND NOT BE AFRAID; FOR THE LORD GOD IS MY STRENGTH AND SONG, AND HE HAS BECOME MY SALVATION.”
I will be at 3 Steubenville Youth Conferences this year, and as you may have guessed, the theme is “God Is”. This weekend, I will once again be going to Steubenville On The Bayou, at the Houma Civic Center in Houma, LA, then I will be at Steubenville Atlantic (in Canada) (7/4- 7/6/14) and Steubenville Main Campus 5 (7/18-7/20/14). And what wonderful opportunities to come together with so many young people ready to be set on fire with love for God in their faith.
I will be giving more than giving a talk, but will also be leading the entertainment like last year, and am looking forward to the fun waiting to be had. More than just talks and musical performances, there is a true unity felt among the crowds of young people and adults, all brought together in the love of God.
The theme of “God Is” should provoke you to think about what that means to you. Is it a statement, or is it the start of a sentence? Even the most devout would benefit from seeking to find out more about who God is in their lives. I highly encourage you, your children or any young person you think would benefit from the experience to try and make it out to one of these conferences. There is a full listing HERE.
Also, you can check out my Epic Food Fight video, preparing Blessed ‘Milk & Honey’ Salad by clicking the picture above. Check it out and let us know what you think! Finally, I want to encourage anyone interested in joining me for pilgrimages to Napa Valley (11/9-11/14/14) and the Holy Land (2/1-2/12/15) to register soon. The deadline for Napa Valley is July 7, so call Corporate Travel Service at 313-565-8888 x 122 to register today.
I’ll hope you are excited for the journey ahead to seek who, what, or that God is. God is.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
- What does the Steubenville Conferences’ theme “God Is” mean to you?
- Have you been to a Steubenville Conference before? How was your experience?
- Have you ever engaged in a conversation about who God is with a non-believer? What happened?
Please post your comments below as these help our movement learn and grow.
Let us pray:
God, may we come to seek you are in all things, for you are all that we desire and you provide all that we need. May we trust that you are here with us always, and that you know what is best. May we surrender our hearts, our fears and our ambitions to you, so that you may do with us what is most pleasing to you. We love you always, and ask your blessing on all people, whether young or old, rich or poor, big or small. May many come to love you more through these conferences and in the work we do for your glory. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
This Week’s Recipe:
BEER-B-Q ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND ONIONS
6/27/14 – 6/29/14
WATCH: Fr. Leo makes New York Strip Steak with Advieh Seasoning
As you may know, my latest book Epic Food Fight: A Bite-sized History of Salvation came out earlier this year, and unlike my other books, Grace Before Meals: Recipes & Inspirations for Family Meals & Family Life and Spicing Up Married Life, this book does not contain recipes, but rather a “Theology of Food”.
What you may not have known is that Franciscan Media, the publisher of the book, produced some videos for Epic Food Fight as well. So I wanted to share with you the first 2 episodes.
The first video is an explanation of the book, and may provide some insight on why this is important and such a big part of what we do at Grace Before Meals. Click the picture and watch it below.
|Click to learn more about Epic Food Fight from Fr. Leo himself.|
The second video, I do actually cook up a meal that quite a tasty dish: New York Strip Steak with advieh seasoning. I gave steaks a whole new flavor profile by using advieh seasoning, which combines cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cloves and ginger – ingredients often associated to sweet baking, but also uniquely used in savory style cuisine. You can watch and learn just how easy it is to cook up some good steak by clicking the picture below.
|Easy to make, and even easier to eat, click the picture to watch how to make some delicious NY Strip Steak with advieh seasoning.|
Just as with my work with Grace Before Meals, TV and radio, this book makes clear how faith and food go hand in hand in bringing us closer to God and one another, as it is all truly a gift. If you haven’t already done so, I recommend that you check out Epic Food Fight this summer and be spiritually fed.
“Now this is great news-God cares about good food! In this refreshingly simple and joy-filled book, my friend Father Leo takes us from the dining room table to the Eucharistic altar and shows us how God wills to nourish us, body and soul.”
-FATHER JONATHAN MORRIS, program director of
The Catholic Channel on SiriusXM Radio
Next week, I will share the third episode where I make “Blessed Milk & Honey” Salad. At Grace Before Meals, we hope to help bring you closer to God and your family in the work we do, and this book is a big part of it. So share your stories of faith and food, and if you’ve read the book, let me know your thoughts on it by leaving comments HERE.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
- Have you read Epic Food Fight?
- What are your thoughts on a “theology of food”? Does it make sense to you?
- What do you consider the greatest culinary connection to the Catholic faith?
Please post your comments HERE, as these help our movement learn and grow.
Let us pray:
Father, we praise you for your love for us and for the food you give us to eat. May we be fed with your Body and Blood, serving you by helping those in need. And may we always be strengthened and willing to fight the temptation to partake in the ‘forbidden fruit’, eating and drinking the spiritual food only you can provide. We love you and thank you for your mercy, and ask for your blessing in all that we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
WATCH: Fr. Leo on ‘The World Over with Raymond Arroyo’ on EWTN
|Click to watch Fr. Leo on The World OVer with Raymond Arroyo.|
Fr. Leo was a special guest on ‘The World Over with Raymond Arroyo’ on June 5, 2014. Fr. Leo speaks on Grace Before Meals and The GIFT Vessel in greater details.
- All Souls Day
- Blast from the Past
- CRS Rice Bowl
- Culinary Confessions
- Dinner Discussion
- Entertaining Truth
- Epic Food Fight
- Faithful Foodie
- Feast Days
- Food for the Body
- Food for the Soul
- Food for Thought
- From the Feedbag
- Grace Before Meals
- In Memory
- Menu Inspiration
- Merry Christmas
- New Year
- Past Emails
- Recipe- Dessert
- Recipe- Pork
- Recipe-Side Dishes
- Restauraunt Reviews
- Savoring Our Faith
- Simply Blogging
- Special Religious Theme
- Spicing Up Married Life
- Taste Tester
- What's On the Table