Breaking Boards and Bread
Originally Posted 8/31/11
NOTE: Every so often, we offer “Blasts from the Past”, which are older posts that still provide a great message and often times, food. With the Napa Valley trip coming up November 9-14 (click the link above to register), check out this letter from one of the Vineyard owners who felt blessed following Fr. Leo’s last “Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands” pilgrimage in 2011.
Yes, this is SPAM, but in French it’s called “KAM!” Why not just call it Spamé?
This week, I offer two unique e-mails. One came from a vineyard I visited during the “Fruit of the Vine Retreat” I offered in Napa Valley last June .
|Some of the pilgrims from the tower of Castello di Amorosa Vineyard in Napa Valley.|
This trip was a highlight of the summer. The pilgrims who came along experienced incredible faith opportunities, complemented with food and wine, exquisite views, and fantastic people. I can’t say enough about it! I’ll just have to leave up to you take advantage and truly understand for yourself when we offer this trip again next year. So many people are already calling/e-mailing me about when we’ll go to next year. Let’s just say the plans are in the works. So stay tuned! [Note: You can still register for the November 2014 trip by clicking HERE.]
|A top of the mountain view of Napa Valley from Hall Winery.|
One of our stops took us to the beautiful home of the Taylor Family, with a vineyard of the same name. While we never discussed the specifics of faith in detail, the family definitely had plenty of it as they embarked on this new venture to produce high quality wine with a personalized, family touch. While I was there, I blessed the vineyard (at their request). So after getting drenched I prayed for God’s protection on this land, with the hopes that the land, like our souls, will be fruitful, productive, and yield a harvest to be shared with a hungering and thirsting world.
|Getting a hands-on lesson about growing grapes.|
Here’s a pleasant and surprising e-mail from the owner. You’ll read how blessings DO work! You better believe that the next time I lead a group there, we will go back and visit this family and celebrate God’s blessings around our table and in the Lord’s vineyard!
It was such a pleasure hosting and meeting you and your entire group during your recent Napa visit. Thank you for taking the time to visit us and for the vineyard/estate blessing. Several weeks ago while our fruit was in bloom we had a very strong storm come through Napa that caused a lot of damage in the vineyards. I am convinced that your blessing protected our vineyard from damage as miraculously we escaped major “shatter” from the 1 1/2″ downpour. Many of our neighbors had considerable loss in their vineyards. Thank you so very much.
I hope that you decide to return to Napa. I would love the opportunity to cook alongside you in our new wood fired oven.
Sandra Taylor Carlson
|Our Lady’s Fruit, Jesus, blessing the vineyard of Meritage Winery and Resort – our hotel with a chapel!|
And now for a completely unrelated question/topic about the martial arts, and its connection to my faith and my spirituality that also promotes peace. It’s a question I receive regularly. Most recently I reflected on it as I participated in my sister’s 4th Degree Black Belt test. There, I had a reunion with my former instructor and my students. I even had a chance to “spar” against a few of the testers. Yes, it brought back memories and reminded me of how God worked even in the midst of my martial arts training.
Hello Fr. Leo,
I had a quick question about the Catholic faith and learning martial arts. If man is ordained a Catholic priest, could he still learn/practice a martial art? If not, why can lay Catholics engage in the martial arts but not Catholic priests?
A Catholic Priest IS permitted to practice martial arts. I still do, to some degree. As a former instructor, I taught my students – no matter what religion they professed – the need to practice natural virtue while engaging in martial arts training. To be a good and effective practitioner of martial arts, you have to be humble, obedient, and disciplined. That doesn’t sound bad, does it?
|Me and my former instructor, Mr. Fred Ocampo.|
The popularized/Hollywood impression of martial artists is that they’re all tough guys who go around bullying people. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the traditional practitioners were monks, who were willing to defend their country and culture if necessary.
For most modern practitioners, martial arts is a sport. It gives training to the body and mind. Some people make it a “religion,” which, at my school, we heartily rejected. While we could be considered “masters” of the art, we all preferred to just be called “teachers,” as humble martial artists recognize there is only one trust Master: God of the Universe!
As a sport, you can approach it with humility or pride. I’ve seen more violent basketball, baseball, and football players than martial artists.
|“Great in the Lord Conference” – The “Bread Breaker” now “Board Breaking.”|
My suggestion: take martial art training for all the right reasons. Do it for exercise, for toning, strengthening muscles, and gaining flexibility. Study and respect the antiquity of the Asian culture, which has produced incredible inventions and unique techniques that still work today! Practice this skill with the intent to be humble.
If you have the opportunity to use it to defend yourself or your family, then thank God you know how to. The fact is, God gives us strength, wisdom, and a right mind to avoid situations where we will have to use it. In other words, martial artists don’t frequent rough and tough places. Our skills teach us to avoid problems and to only use the skills as a last resort.
To help you formulate a better understanding of the art, I offer you the “creed” students said before every class:
The Martial Arts is: A peaceful life secret, only to be used in defense. It is a commitment to develop and succeed for the good of society. It’s a way of life, following our positive natural virtues, of courtesy, perseverance, and self-control and indomitable spirit.
|Using martial arts techniques for a popular youth conference talk called “Spiritual Combat,” for about 5,000 teenagers at the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, 2010.|
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
- Did you ever have something blessed and then afterwards truly feel that the blessing worked, like the Taylor Vineyard blessing?
- Do you practice a martial art, and how would you reconcile your spiritual commitments with this potentially deadly skill?
- Do you have any questions for which Fr. Leo can offer a perspective – a “food for thought?”
Your communication encourages our efforts. Please post your comments and questions below.
Let us pray:
Father in Heaven, teach us humility so that we, like vineyard workers will depend on You; and, as soldiers, we will hear the command and be willing to fight – not with weapons but with faith – against forces that want to harm our souls. Give us Grace, Lord, to put all things in Your hands – our food, our sports, our hobbies, so as to transform these into gifts, rather than weapons! Amen.
READ: Fr. Leo Interviewed on BeautyInBelief.com
|Click to read the interview on BeautyInBelief.com|
READ: Fr. Leo’s Eggplant Caponata Recipe featured on CatholicMom.org
8/23/14 – 8/26/14
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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.
Seeking “The Good News” in the News
If you turn on a TV, check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, or read a newspaper, it is hard to get good news. For every nice story, such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge social media sensation that has brought much awareness and raised much money to help in the fight against ALS, we are overwhelmed with a million and one stories about celebrities who are cheating on their spouses or in rehab for the umpteenth time or even worse, the fashion faux-pas they made with what they wore to a public outing. Meanwhile, thousands of Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East everyday, and there is less of an outrage over that than there is when someone’s favorite TV Show gets cancelled or athlete gets traded to another team.
And on one hand, it is understandable. As humans, we don’t desire conflict and we’d rather feel safe and sound than face the evils outside our door in the world around us. If you can avoid persecution, than why not avoid it? Life is stressful for most everybody, whether it comes to having to deal with finances, worry about job security, face issues within your family life, staying on top of endless tasks and duties, and much more. So it makes sense why we would avoid the news that adds to that stress given its seeming hopelessness, and instead, settle for non-journalistic approaches to the news that point out the issues that others face, often amplified due to the spotlight.
|Robin Williams, famous for many movies and TV shows, took his life at age 63.|
One such case is Robin Williams, a certified comic legend who has been in show business for over 36 years. He was truly hilarious and off-the-wall, and always found ways to make people laugh. Yet, despite his big personality and his huge smile, he was a man that battled many demons throughout his life, from drug addiction to alcoholism to divorces and depression. In the news of his apparent suicide, millions of people have poured out their love for a man they did not even know but who made them smile, laugh and feel better about themselves, like in this case. It has also been an opportunity to look back and see the signs that were there all along with him. We pray for him and his family in these tough times.
|Chris Farley in the classic martial arts epic, “Beverly Hills Ninja”|
You see, it is unfortunate to say, but it is not untypical for someone known for being so fun and outgoing to be so hurt and lonely. One of my favorite Saturday Night Live actors, Chris Farley, is another example of a popular comedian who went down a bad path of drugs and vices, dying young and alone. But many don’t know that he went to Church often and apparently, he died with a rosary in his hand. I mention this not to make a point about his being Catholic or to speculate where he was in his faith life, but rather to make the point that he was no different from you or me in his desire to be loved. Clearly, he was seeking hope in a hopeless situation.
Whether we are talking about the celebrities all over the tabloids that we can’t seem to get away from, or the quiet kid from elementary school that didn’t have many friends, we are talking about people who not only desire to be loved, but deserve to be. God made us to love, and it is in loving that we come to see Him more clearly. It is in seeking to serve the other, not yourself, that we can come to know what Christ intended for us when he gave his life for us in the most selfless act in history. For unlike us, he didn’t do anything to deserve harm and yet he took it all on just so that we had the hope for eternal salvation.
|The Crucifixion, the greatest act of love in History.|
Christ loves us more than we can ever comprehend, and yet, many become blind to it, only seeing how others see them or never finding that truest form of love they were looking for. In a society that feeds off of bad news or the faults of others, let us be among those that stands up for the “Good News”. May we have courage to seek justice and fight for those in need.
Let us be the light that shines for those in the darkness. Let us be present for our kids in their times of turmoil and in their times of joy; let us show the ones we love a reason to smile; let us serve the hungry some good food (just check out my recipes on www.gracebeforemeals.com/recipes. J/K); let us tell people about the love of God for it is everything we yearn for and so much more.
Please say a prayer for all of those who are hurting right now, for all of those who are so deeply wounded, for all of those who are lost and say they don’t want to found, for all those being persecuted and who are suffering. Say a prayer for those in the darkness, that they may see the shining light of God’s face. And may we show people that there is hope in the hopeless, that there is courage to face the evils out there, and that there is love to be shared.
If you are among those in need of help, please be in touch with your local priest, doctor or check out this page (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) to find the help that you need.
REMINDER: My pilgrimages to Napa Valley and to the Holy Land still have some available spots, so register today and join in on the amazing spiritual and culinary journeys that lay ahead.
Safe Travels & Feast Day Foods
|As Fr. Leo continues his retreats and travels, our team at GBM wanted to share a prayer for travelers as the summer vacations roll on and the school year approaches. With special intentions, we pray for those who are away from loved ones that they may return safely.
Dear God, we ask you for your blessings and protection on all those who are traveling, whether for business, for vacation, or for other personal reasons. We trust in your will, and hope that our loved ones may return to us safely and in good spirits. For those who have lost loved ones, we pray for their consolation and that they may find their hope and joy in you. Finally, may they be fed in body, mind and spirit on their journeys, so that they may be nourished and able to do good in this world. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Interestingly enough, there is a book on EWTN’s website called “Feast Day Cookbook” by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, published in 1951. Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the recipes they share for today’s feast include Pilaff and a Spiced Grape Jelly. Be sure to check out the link for more recipes and neat information on Feast Days and meals, as feasting is an important part of the Catholic faith, the Grace Before Meals movement and cookbook.
[Excerpt from Feast Day Cookbook]
August 6: Feast of the Transfiguration
The origin of this Christian festival has been attributed to Saint Gregory the Illuminator who flourished in Lower Armenia during the fourth century. He is said to have substituted it for a pagan feast of Aphrodite called “Vartavarh” (the flaming of the rose) and the old name was retained, in that region at least, to designate the Transfiguration, because “Christ opened his glory like a rose on Mount Thabor.”
In Armenian villages the day is still celebrated with unusual ceremonies in the course of which peasants lead to the church a sheep with decorated horns, on each tip of which is placed a lighted candle. Flowers, fruit, and sheaves are also brought and laid before the altar.
Following this ceremony a fair usually takes place; there are races and games, and a crown of roses is the customary prize. During the feasting that follows is likely to appear.
Soak the cracked wheat (cracked barley may be substituted) overnight. Drain the wheat, mix with the meat, and salt to taste. Place in a large kettle, add about half the stock (water and bouillon cubes may be used, allowing one cube for each cup of water), and heat slowly. Cook for about an hour, stirring almost constantly and adding stock as necessary. Serve in hot, deep plates, pour melted butter over each serving, and dust with pepper and cinnamon to taste.
The Feast of the Transfiguration was slower to be observed in the Western Church and is not mentioned until the ninth century. It was made universal by Rome on the day when Hunyady gained his victory over the Turks on August 6, 1456. It is now the titular feast of the Church of St. John Lateran, and on this day the Pope presses a bunch of ripe grapes into the chalice at Mass or uses new wine.
Also in Rome raisins are blessed on the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Greek and Russian Churches too conduct a special ceremony for blessing grapes and other fruits. Since the grape is given so much prominence on this feast, we may give the following recipe:
Spiced Grape Jelly
Wash, remove from stems, and drain the grapes. Put half of them in a preserving kettle, add the vinegar, cinnamon, and cloves and then the rest of the grapes. Cook gently for about fifteen minutes or until soft. Strain through a jelly bag without pressing so that the juice remains clear. Take 1 cup of sugar for each cup of juice, boil to the proper consistency for jelly, pour into hot glasses and cover with 1/2 inch of paraffin.
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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.
A Sneak Peek at the 2015 Italy Pilgrimage
Quotes from each of the saints to be featured on the trip:
“In order to be Christian, our lives must be a continual renunciation and sacrifice. However, we know that the difficulties of this world are nothing compared to the eternal happiness that awaits us, where there will be no limit to our joy, no end to our happiness, and we shall enjoy unimaginable peace. And so, young people, learn from our Lord Jesus Christ the meaning of sacrifice.”
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
“[In a moment of delirium, as he was dying] Pray! Pray, but with faith – with living faith! Courage! Onward, ever onward!”
St. John Bosco
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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.
|A few years ago, I set off the fire alarms during a presentation – for a group of senior citizens. The fire chief gave me a constructive critique: Don’t flambé directly underneath a smoke detector! The only reason I didn’t get a fine was because the fire chief said, “That’s darn good pasta!”|
“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
- 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