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Secular Institute Priests: 

News that Feeds

Continuing the conversation from a couple weeks ago about my transition into a Community of Consecrated Life, I wanted to address some of the ongoing question I receive from people who just want to learn more about my new community of Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite.  



I’ll admit, when I was studying to be a priest I knew little about this priestly option.  And even after I became a priest, it took me several more years to understand the unique richness and diversity of ways people can serve in the Catholic Church.  So hopefully this Q & A e-mail Blast can be helpful and nourishing to your mind and soul.

A young Fr. Leo meeting soon to be SAINT John Paul II in Castel Gondolfo, the Pope’s Summer Residence.

What’s the difference between a Diocesan Priest, Religious Order Priest, and a Secular Institute Priest?

A Diocesan Priest (aka a “secular priest,” oftentimes considered a “parish priest”) serves the local bishop and God’s people within a diocesan boundary (i.e., generally a designated geographical area).  Diocesan priests do not make solemn vows.  Instead, Diocesan priests make promises of celibate chastity, obedience to a bishop, and are also bound to pray the Divine Office in union with the Universal Church.


Most Diocesan priests are parish priests tasked with the administration, spiritual, pastoral, and sacramental care for the local parish needs.  Although some diocesan priests have “special ministries” serving in different settings (teachers, hospital chaplains, central service administration employees, etc.,), they serve according to the needs of the Church and always under the direction of the local Bishop.

Diocesan priests can live in rectories or in private homes, but they do not live a communal life, even though they ought to foster a sense of community and fraternity with other priests and God’s people.  It is normal custom, but not a requirement, that Diocesan priests wear the Roman collar (clerical shirt).  They do not wear a specific outfit such as a habit, religious robes, or a particular uniform.

Since Diocesan priests do not take the vow of poverty they can own property, make extra income, and are required to collaborate with the local diocese in maintaining a professional salary, retirement, and pension.  Diocesan priesthood’s “charism” is in service to the Archbishop and not a particular function or specific service or ministry, although a priest may be given permission to devote his life to a particular type of service, as long as it’s approved by his Bishop.

The Pontifical North American College Class of 1999 with the late soon-to-be- Saint John Paul II, along with then Monsignor, now Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City (second from the Holy Father’s right side, kneeling)

Religious Order Priests, such as Dominicans, Jesuits, and Franciscans to name a few, generally live in a common household with other members.  They follow a particular regimen of spiritual requirements – a type of “Rule of Life” or “laws” that are formed by their group’s constitution.  They normally wear a distinct religious outfit as a requirement, but always in accordance with the norms and local customs, with some possible exceptions and modifications.

These priests profess vows, also known as the “Evangelical Counsels,” of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, which they make to the Superior of the community.  They are also required to live and serve with the permission of the local Diocesan Bishop.  In other words, a Religious priest, although not vowing obedience to a local bishop, must always respect and collaborate with that bishop.  Since Religious priests take a vow of poverty, they are required to give their income to the community, which will then provide for all of their needs – food, housing, personal allowance, medical needs, and retirement.

Religious priests follow a “rule” of living set forth by the governing members of the community, requiring them to pray a certain way, live a certain lifestyle, and work in a particular setting according to the charism of the community.  The charism of the community is what ultimately distinguishes Religious Orders from Diocesan priests.

Each religious order has a certain charism.  For example, the Jesuits’ charism, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, was to give glory to God and to serve all of the needs of the Pope. Franciscans have a special charism to serve the poor, like their founder St. Francis of Assisi. Dominicans, following St. Dominic, have a charism as The Order of Preachers.

Men become priests in these religious orders because they sense God calling them to work in a specific field, but as you can easily observe in the modern world, Religious Order priests can now serve in just about any capacity as determined by the Superior, and are not just limited to one task or one charism.  Some Religious priests now serve as parish priests, like their Diocesan colleagues.  Ultimately, these Religious Orders are distinguished by their charism, the Rule of Life (or the Constitutions of the Community), the fact they live together in a community, and that they vow to live the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience to their community Superior.

The Missionaries of Charity Brothers serving in Kolkata, where they care for men dying of AIDS, including the 4 young orphan boys infected with AIDS at birth by parents who died from the disease.

Secular Institute Priests are, in a sense, a “combination” of the qualities of Religious and Diocesan.  Secular Institute priests live consecrated vows, maintaining some characteristics of Religious communities by vowing Poverty, Chastity and Obedience to a Superior (or Director). Institute priests also live by a Constitution or Rule of Life, and have a unique charism that governs the practical work and lifestyle of each member.

In the case of my community, Voluntas Dei has the charism to be like the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, by saying yes to God’s will.  In its practical charism, Voluntas Dei imitates St. Paul as an evangelizer and missionary, spreading God’s love to people in different circumstances and situations.

Like the Diocesan priesthood, Secular Institute priests maintain a secular character by not living in a community, but rather as serving as spiritual leaven in secular society.  Secular Institute priests must discern whether to live in a small community or to live simply in a solitary setting – but always within the context of bringing Christ’s presence in the secular world.  In other words, Institute priests don’t live separate from the lived reality of the people they serve.  Rather, Institute priests follow the example of the Holy Family and early apostles by living in the world as a consecrated person but not succumbing to worldliness – which is the antithesis of faith.

Although Secular Institute priests take the vow of Poverty, we do not give our income to the community, but rather, we must be completely self-sufficient, to live simply and always within our means, and to be ever mindful of, and actively provide for, the needs of the poor.  Like Diocesan priests, there is no specific religious garb, but we follow the normal local custom.  In my case, I will wear clerical clothing in ministerial settings and always represent the Church as a Catholic Priest.

In Voluntas Dei, the local team/community is required to gather each month for formation.  Secular Institute priests can serve in various settings – some serving in parishes, while others serve in special ministries, and others are called to live a contemplative life.  It is the responsibility of the Voluntas Dei Institute to help each member discern the particular gifts that God has given to each person and to provide community support and spiritual formation in order to fulfill God’s will.   

Posing with Steubenville University students who help lead retreats for high school students. This group is called, “Sent.”

In the coming e-mail Blasts I’ll be sending out more information about my community, and even an invitation to come to a gathering meeting for those who want to learn more about Secular Institutes and my own community, Voluntas Dei.

This form of consecrated life, which falls under the direction of the Pope and the Vatican’s Congregation of Consecrated Life, is a beautiful response to the modern and newly emerging needs in the Church and in the world.  Secular Institutes and other modern spiritual movements have been a very helpful component in keeping the Catholic Faith alive and strong in many parts of the world, simply because it has a mission to use the gifts and talents of the laity to provide a deeper sense of community and permeate the culture at a grass roots level.


In Voluntas Dei, we have the unique charism to foster community among priests, lay members, and even consecrated married couples.  So, if you’re in the Baltimore Washington area and want to learn how to become a member of the Institute, send an e-mail to me at and I’ll be sure to reach out to you with information on upcoming gatherings.    

With Students at Lake Catholic High School in Ohio, where I gave a talk at an assembly to help the students celebrate Holy Week and prepare for Easter.

Let us Pray:

 Lord, as we continue to celebrate the great feast of Easter, may we experience a great sense of “mission” to spread the Good News in the world – everywhere and with everyone!  May this season of celebrating life give us a great awareness of Your love and mercy, and help us to live according to Your plan. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 




  • What is your favorite religious order, and why?
  • If you could create your own religious community, what would be your primary work or charism?    
  • Have you ever thought about being part of a spiritual community?  If so, which one?  And if you haven’t yet joined one, what’s stopping you? 

Your comments and questions are an important part of sharing our message and our meals.  Please leave your comments below.

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Fr. Leo’s latest book, Epic Food Fight: A Bite Sized History of Salvation


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Inspired Cookies for a 

Christian Kitchen

As we approach the most Holy Three Days, called the Triduum, I want to reoffer recipes from the CRS Rice Bowls – perfect for Good Friday. Actually, they’re perfect for any day of the year.  

Click to watch Fr. Leo’s Appearance on NBC 4 in NYC.

Along with this recipe, I want to share a faithful foodie cookie idea families can share with children. It came from one someone who attended one of my parish missions. 

St. Timothy Parish Mission – So blessed that our parish missions fill up the churches, making the pastors very happy.

Because I don’t have an exact resource, I want to clearly explain that I didn’t create this recipe. I’m just sharing this recipe with you with great inspiration. In my opinion, inspiration is one of the most important ingredients in cooking. 

I’m always happy when the camera crew lines up to eat the food I cook for different food news segments.

As you and your family participate in the holiness of the liturgies that lead to Easter celebrations, I pray you will always remember how much God loves you. His love will feed you – body, mind, and soul. This food ought to inspire us to live our lives following Jesus to Heaven.  

Icon of the Last Supper.


This Week’s Recipe: 
Photo from

The Catholic Review:

Let us Pray:

God of love, give us the Grace to see how the liturgies of Holy Week inspire us to anticipate with great joy the Easter mysteries.  May we be patient with those who may come to church out of obligation or may not fully understand the spiritual depth of these celebrations.  May our joyful presence, non-judgmental faith, and sincere prayers be an inspiration for all Christians and people of good will to live as a peaceful human family.

The Garden of Gesthemane, Jerusalem.



  • What will you cook during these upcoming holidays?
  • Do you have a special Easter recipe with a story that you can share?
  • Did you use any of the CRS Rice Bowl recipes?  If so, which did you enjoy the most?

Your comments and questions are an important part of sharing our message and our meals.  Please leave your comments below

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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Posted in CRS Rice Bowl, Culinary Confessions, Easter, Lent, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe, Restaurants, Restauraunt Reviews, Video | No Comments »

Posted April 10th, 2014 | CRS Rice Bowl, In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Recipes

Brussels Sprouts and Culinary Conversions

We apologize for the blast being a day later than usual; we have been in mourning since the passing of Project Manager Joe Hansbrough’s father, James D. Hansbrough Jr, husband to Maria Hansbrough for over 38 years, father of nine children, and grandfather to seven grandchildren and counting. He died of a heart attack on Monday unexpectedly. According to Joe, he was instrumental in making sure that Grace was said before every meal and that the Faith was instilled in his children. We ask you to please keep him and his family in your prayers in this time of grief. You can view his obituary HERE. Thank you.




Last week I had the chance to cook Brussels sprouts for Gus Lloyd, the host for the popular morning show, “Seize the Day” on Sirius XM Catholic Channel 129.  He was known for sharing on air his anti-love for Brussels sprouts or as he would call them, “those little horrible critters.”   (Gus is so nice, he would never use the word “hate,” so in my mind, Gus felt “anti-love”).


Since I was in the Tampa area, where Gus hosts his show, I accepted his invitation to join him live in studio. At the same time, I gave give him a chance for a culinary “conversion” by cooking him Brussels sprouts. I vowed that he would LOVE the way I prepare these little “gifts of God.”


Gus Lloyd live on radio, staring at his former food enemy, Brussels sprouts, presented two ways and served with pan-seared chicken.

He sampled the Brussels sprouts LIVE on his show.  And, as expected, loved them!  A miracle and conversion occurred before his listening audience!  Because so many people asked for recipes I’ve copied them below for you to enjoy.

CLICK for recipe: Brussels sprouts and Granny Smith apple slaw.
CLICK for the Recipe: Pan-seared chicken served with two preparations of Brussels sprouts, including a bed of braised Brussels sprouts with bacon and balsamic vinegar reduction.

In this time of Lent, we are asked to experience a deeper conversion.  That can only begin when we are willing to have an honest and sincere conversation. We need to truthfully admit our feelings, while also being brave enough to try a different approach (or in Gus’s case, a different recipe). Jesus did that quite a bit, leading many sinners to conversion. He ate with them.  He showed them the Father’s love using different language, telling stories and ultimately sacrificing himself.  He didn’t approach faith like the “experts,” which for him was the scribes and the Pharisees who imposed burdens, not blessings.  He definitely presented the message of God’s love in a different way.  Now, we must be brave enough, like Gus Lloyd, in eating the Super Food that Jesus gives to us: His Body & Blood and his sacred teachings.  


Procession of the Blessed Sacrament at the Jacksonville Eucharistic Congress.

Gus Lloyd had a “conversion” because he was willing to have a conversation. He admitted some of his past prejudices from bad Brussels sprouts experiences.  But he was also courageous enough to give this former food enemy another try in a different way.  Hopefully, in this season of Lent, we can do the same with people in our lives.  With honest conversation and courage, we can get over our prejudices, our past bad experiences, and reverse our “anti-love” for one another.  Conversion begins with an honest conversation with God, called prayer.


Shrine dedicated to praying for those who suffer with cancer, at the Assumption Church in Chicago, IL.


Let us Pray:

Father, may we experience an ongoing conversation with You in prayer, which will lead to a conversion of Heart.  Teach us how to get over negative experiences of our past. Give us courage to be open enough to trying those things which we know are good for us – such as healthy food, exercise, forgiveness, patience, serving the poor, learning more about faith, and praying more faithfully. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Seminarians for the Diocese of St. Augustine Florida. These men all know the need for ongoing conversion in their life as future priests.


  • How do you prepare Brussels sprouts?
  • Is there a food that you need a ‘culinary conversion’ for – i.e., a new way to try something you don’t like to eat?
  • Is there a “spiritual food” that you may have a prejudice against (ie., fasting, church’s moral teaching, praying the rosary, meditation) that you need to have presented to you in a different way so that you may better appreciate the spiritual foods of the Church?


Your comments and questions are an important part of sharing our message and our meals.  Please leave your comments below.


This Week’s Lenten Recipe from CRS Rice Bowl:
Visit for more on Fr. Leo and 
CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen: For Lent, For Life
Fombell, PA
4/12/14 – 4/15/14
Brunswick, OH
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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Posted in CRS Rice Bowl, In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Recipes | 3 Comments »


News Feed!

Remember the video, when I asked for prayers about a discernment decision regarding my application to a religious community called, Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite? Well, I have some news for you.


On the feast of St. Joseph, I received official word that I have been accepted as an aspirant member to the Institute!  That means that for the next several years – 7 years to be exact – I formally continue discernment and formation in the life of this unique community.  The community’s charism is dedicated to saying “Yes” to God’s will, especially in the efforts of evangelization.

Stopping by the youth group gathering for a recent mission for St. Timothy Catholic Church near Tampa, Florida.

This impacts my day-to-day priestly responsibilities, and I know many people may have questions about what this all means.  So, for the next two email blasts, I will have a few Q & A’s about this transition. 

 I hope these informational blasts (i.e., news feeds) will help answer your questions as we continue our work to give good news (i.e., evangelize) that truly feeds your soul!

Will I still be a Catholic priest?

OF COURSE! I will remain a Roman Catholic Priest in good standing in the Roman Catholic Church.  I love my priestly vocation and seek only to be a better priest by trying to live out the calling that God has given to me. So, do not worry. Voluntas Dei is a type of religious community with status as a “Pontifical Rite,” meaning it is approved by the Pontifical Council for Consecrated Life, i.e., a commission established by the Pope according to official Church Law.


One of the families I met at the Jacksonville Eucharistic Congress for the Diocese of St. Augustine Florida.

How did I make this decision?

I have been thinking of Voluntas Dei since 2002 when I first met one of the Voluntas Dei priests serving in one of my parish assignments.  He had a silent but profound influence on my spirituality and my understanding of the Church and the different forms of priestly ministries.  I first approached my bishop in 2007 about my desire to discern Voluntas Dei, the same year I was asked to be on faculty at the seminary.

When the assignment at the seminary ended in 2012, I immediately engaged the discernment process with the Voluntas Dei community.  Now, after 15 years of Diocesan priesthood and over 7 years of active discernment, I am very grateful to have received the permission of the Archbishop and the acceptance as an aspirant member of Voluntas Dei Institute.


I was also welcomed as a member of Chefs for Peace – a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim chefs who work together to bring about peace through the gift of food.

Where will I live?

Baltimore is home for me.  It’s where I grew up, where I was ordained. Here, I’m close to my family and close to my community of priest friends, and of course, it’s the home of Grace Before Meals.  Me and another Voluntas Dei priest will also be organizing the local monthly “group/team meetings” which will be open to any person seeking to learn more about the spirituality and community life of this Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite.  You’ll read more about that in upcoming email blasts.

While I am based in Baltimore, my work requires me to travel a lot, similar to St. Paul –  a missionary preacher. Actually, extensive traveling priestly ministry is what I’ve been doing as a Baltimore priest with the blessing of the previous Bishops for the past several years. Now however, all of my apostolic activities with Grace Before Meals, including giving missions, presentations, cooking demonstrations, retreat leadership, classes, and talks, will all be under the direction of Voluntas Dei and with the approval and blessing of the Superior/Director.


Me with Host Nicki Mayo for “The List” – Check out the video here.

What will I do now that I’m an aspirant member of a secular institute?  

My primary work will be to lead the apostolate of Grace Before Meals. I’m so grateful that the Institute finds value in this unique priestly work!  I will also be organizing “The Table Foundation” which will serve as the nonprofit charitable component of Grace Before Meals. These duties will be coordinated through a new Catholic Media and Marketing Group called, Messenger Eagle Communications, which produces the efforts of Grace Before Meals and other dynamic Catholic resources.

While serving in the field of evangelization, I will also be going through personal and group formation with Voluntas Dei.  Each month, our community gathers for ongoing formation by learning more about the writings and teachings of the founder, Fr. Louise Marie Parent.  As a community, we will deepen our theological awareness of Catholic Church Teachings, while building a true sense of charity and fraternity among our members. Above all, we dedicate our lives to praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that each of us will know and follow God’s unique will for us.


This t-shirt says a lot about the work of Voluntas Dei – to pray as if everything depended on God!

More to Come:

We make our news feeds short because we know it’s hard to handle a lot of information all at one time. I’ll be sending out more bite sized pieces of information in future email blasts to keep explaining this new vocational change for me and what it means to be a Secular Institute Priest.  I’ll even send out invitations by Facebook and Twitter  for those who may be interested in learning more about this community.

For now however, please join me in prayer of thanksgiving for this great opportunity to serve the Catholic Church as a priest in the Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite.  Please know that I’m grateful for your support, and I pray that this news will feed your soul.

This young man says that he enjoys my TV show, Savoring our Faith, on EWTN each Sunday @ 5:00pm EDT. He asked me to cook for him one day, but I’m sure I’ll have to cook much BIGGER portions!



Let us Pray:

God our Father, You call us to a renewed life in the Spirit, to serve You according to Your unique plan, and according to the unique gifts that You have given each of Your children.  May all take up the great work to discern God’s plan in their life, and may they recognize and receive how God gives them strength to follow His Will in Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen. 



  • Have you ever considered becoming a member of a religious community – whether as a priest, lay person or even a married couple?
  • Do you have questions about Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite?
  • How do you know if something is God’s will for you?  

Your comments and questions are an important part of sharing our message and our meals.  Please leave your comments below.

If you’re in the Baltimore/Washington area and would like to learn more about Secular Institutes, please contact me at

This Week’s Lenten Recipe from CRS Rice Bowl:
Visit for more on Fr. Leo and 
CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen: For Lent, For Life
Yorba Linda, CA
Fombell, PA
4/12/14 – 4/15/14
Brunswick, OH
Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView our videos on YouTube
Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Posted in CRS Rice Bowl, Dinner Discussion, Epic Food Fight, Events, Prayers, Recipe, Video | 6 Comments »

 Superstar Sisters

Last week we discussed the vocation of St. Joseph as a spiritual father to Jesus and as a Protector of the Church’s spiritually adopted children.  In my previous Blasts I devoted much attention to the priestly vocation, especially since at one point I used to work at a seminary.  But recently, perhaps by God’s providence, I have received such wonderful inspiration from the vocations of women, aka, nuns, sisters, and spiritual mothers.

Missionaries of Charity who raised this orphan girl to womanhood. She’s now married and pregnant with their first child, in Kolkata India.

The unfortunate cliché about angry nuns teaching in Catholic Schools with hand-slapping rulers just doesn’t work for me.  I never had that experience.  While I recognize that a nun can have had a bad day or that some may have been strong disciplinarians, that should never obfuscate the tremendous good and gentle presence nuns have given in the Church’s (and the world’s) history.  Nuns, as spiritual mothers, have to be strong, because mothers and women have to be strong.  That is what a nun is: a spiritual mother, a real woman, a gift from God.

Religious Sisters at 2013 Steubenville Conference in Rhode Island

The strong-loving-and-not-easily-fooled presence of a spiritual mother is sorely needed in our world.  Unfortunately, the idea of a “false feminism,” as needing to challenge (not compliment) masculinity, has confused and even diminished the role of religious sisters.  And evidence of this can be seen in the declining numbers of women wanting to become nuns in the world today.  But, in God’s providence, what may be missing in numbers is certainly made up for in quality.  And in some cases some religious groups for women continue to grow, bringing a positive influence on the world – a world that needs a mother’s guiding hand!

The tomb of Mother Teresa, The Blessed Saint of Kolkata.

Recently I taught a theology course to a group of Missionaries of Charity, the branch of religious sisters started by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (now spelled Kolkata).  The class was on Mariology – the role of Mary in the Bible and Salvation History.  It was a fitting course, as nuns aspire to imitate the virtues and loving influence Mary had on Jesus and the Catholic Church’s tradition.

One of the Missionaries of Charity making a pastoral visit to a resident in a community of people affected with leprosy.

Much like the Blessed Mother, these women are incredible witnesses – powerful, strong, disciplined, loving, and nurturing.  They showed me the incredible value of a feminine vocation well-lived.  While they are truly graceful, beautiful, and dignified, they are also very determined and powerful witnesses of the strength of the “feminine genius” – a term used by Blessed Pope John Paul II in a document dedicated to the role of women in the life of the Church.

These women, nicknamed “MC Sisters” (Missionaries of Charity Sisters), work in the poorest of the poor parts of the world.  They are leaders in the education, healthcare, and social reform of those parts of the world that desperately need a loving maternal presence.  And they do it with the simple basics: they feed God’s Children! 

These children were abandoned by their parents because of physical conditions. The Missionaries of Charity have taken them in their loving care and will continue to do so until they can be adopted into a loving home. If not, they will remain as well-loved children in the Missionaries of Charity family.

When I returned to the United States – and back to our world of technology – I received a twitter feed about a nun who shocked the Italian entertainment industry with a powerful musical performance on the Italian version of the hit show, The Voice.  As I watched this young woman, a very real nun (as she described herself), sing her heart out and stun both judges and the audience into a standing ovation, I had to laugh (with joyful tears in my eyes).  

Why would people be surprised about a nun that can sing and mesmerize God’s family with talents?  Has the world become so blind that they forget talent is not just reserved for the entertainment industry?  Is it because nuns wear religious habits that makes people think they can’t have fun and be inspiring through their God-given talents?

This nun has become a great heroine for me, especially because she espouses much of the Grace Before Meals and evangelization philosophy: God gave us talents so we could use them, not just “in the church” but for the evangelization of the world!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this video clip, just to see some of the biggest Italian stars weep in joy and actually ask for “God’s Grace” from this spiritual SUPER SISTER! 

Be sure to click on the English translation of the conversation after her jaw-dropping performance.)

For me, these recent experiences coincide with a spiritual exercise I’ve taken up during the Lenten Season.  I’ve been meditating on the 14 Stations of the Cross each day.  In the 4th, 6th, 8th, 13th, and 14th Stations of the Cross we reflect on the very powerful images of women who intimately participated in Jesus’ most powerful saving act of suffering for the sins of the world.  These meditations – along with the experiences of serving the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata and the  recent clip of a mega-talented-singing-sister – have reinforced what I have already known but sometimes take for granted: Women, whether they are biological or adoptive, moms or sisters, in blood or in spirit, reveal God’s love in singularly powerful way.  Without them, we wouldn’t have life! 

This couple from Switzerland adopted this beautiful child, “Hiya,” from the missionaries of charity. To learn more about adopting a child from the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage, click here – and call the Missionaries of Charity Group.

Food for Thought

  • Who is your favorite nun (religious sister) and why?
  • What was your experience of nuns growing up?
  • Have you ever considered joining a convent or encouraged a young girl to consider it?  How would you help them discern a possible religious vocation?

Please post your comments below as these help our movement learn and grow. 




Let Us Pray:  


Father in Heaven, You chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of Your Son, Jesus our Lord.  In imitation of her, You raise up women to be “Brides of Christ,” professing their lives to You in service to God’s children, desperately in need of a loving mother’s presence.  May You bless these women in all things.  Keep them ever in Your care. Protect them from destructive tendencies of a false feminism.  May they have the blessings of children, spiritually, adoptive, or by biological, who will always value their presence, respect their dignity, and be ever grateful for their lives.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

Statue of Mother Teresa of Calcutta taking in an abandoned child under her motherly care.
Click to watch Fr. Leo’s appearance on FOX45 for CRS Rice Bowl.
Tonight, tune into WMAR Channel 2 News in Baltimore for Fr. Leo’s appearance on “The List” at 7pm EDT.

This Week’s Lenten Recipe from CRS Rice Bowl:

Visit for more on Fr. Leo and 
CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen: For Lent, For Life
South Bend, IN
Jacksonville, FL
Lutz, FL
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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Posted in CRS Rice Bowl, Dinner Discussion, Epic Food Fight, Lent, Prayers, Recipes, Vegetables, Video | 6 Comments »

St. Joseph: Husband and Father

Originally Published 3/19/07

On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come! Post something by clicking here.

Every year on March 19th, I gather with several priests to celebrate St. Joseph’s Feast Day - Husband of Mary and Foster Father of Jesus.  Living in Italy as a seminarian gave me a new perspective on this celebration.  Italians consider it a National Holiday – their own “Father’s Day” – with traditions that call for setting up a small shrine for St. Joseph and lots and lots of food. Why?  Especially since the New Testament doesn’t even give Joseph any speaking parts!  How important of a role could St. Joseph play as “Husband” and “Father?”  The answer is in the question!

It’s no secret, but unfortunately fatherhood has unique challenges in today’s culture.  Whether it’s because society is pushing an agenda to see fathers as “not as smart” as mom or kids or whether it’s because dads are not stepping up to the plate, we can all observe a decline in family structures where fatherhood is not properly integrated.  This little email blast won’t solve the problems of deadbeat dads or unappreciated fathers.  But I can offer a gentle reminder about a father’s responsibility: to put food on the table and feed his children in body, mind and soul.  I recently read a powerful article about this and I immediately saw why St. Joseph’s day should be celebrated with Gusto!

Admittedly, the Scriptures say very little about this man.  My dad jokes, “I’m like St. Joseph in my family.  I don’t say anything!”  I know he’s joking because I’ve personally heard PLENTY from my dad.  But my dad (thank God) shares similarities to St. Joseph, who is described as being “Upright” (Mt 1:19).  Let’s admit, we would all want our dads to be “nice,” but have we ever appreciated that our dads are called to be “upright?”  It clearly doesn’t mean that dadIS always right.  But it indicates that dads should know the difference between right and wrong.  Together with mom, dad has the responsibility to teach and feed these very lessons to his children.  To teach children how to be upright, and to do it nicelymeans that our dads, like St. Joseph, are no “Ordinary Joes.”



If you want to discuss something at our Grace Before Meals table, please let us know!  Also, please be sure to check out the Blog Site and let us know what you’re thinking.  Our Grace Before Meals Family is growing, and it would be nice to meet each other at our cyber table.  So go ahead and introduce yourself to our growing family!

I was really young when dad came home from the office with his first paycheck, after struggling to get his own private medical practice up and running.  He took us all to a steakhouse chain restaurant called “Rustlers.”  Remember that place?  It was a cafeteria-style steak house where you ordered your steak, slid a tray along a counter, picked up your sides, paid the cashier and sat down for a family meal.  It was an extraordinary moment for me to see these huge grills cook my steak to order!

The Grace Before Meals Team tries to help families see the blessing of the food on the table and the blessings of the people around the table.  I’m sure St. Joseph felt that way.  Can you imagine how St. Joseph felt having breakfast with Mary, the Mother of God, and Jesus, the Incarnate Word – the Only Son of God?  I wonder what they talked about. More importantly, how did they pray before meals?  We’ll consider adding a special prayer for each person in the family along with the grace before meals.

Today, you may want to say a special prayer for dad. Tomorrow, mom, and the day after, one prayer a day for each child!  The prayer can definitely help us be more “upright” like St. Joseph’s family.

“Father, you entrusted our Savior to the care of St. Joseph.  By the help of his prayers, may your Church continue to love and to serve the Lord, by loving and serving one another.  Amen!”

This Week’s Lenten Recipe from CRS Rice Bowl:
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Posted in Blast from the Past, CRS Rice Bowl, Feast Days, Lent, Recipe-Fish, Recipes, Video | 1 Comment »