Keeping the Dead Alive
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.|
|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.
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.
10/25/14 – 10/28/14
Taste of Travel – Bitter Sweet
|Passion fruit dessert with bitter sweet chocolate mousse|
|Averna Amaro, an Italian bitter sweet after dinner drink to help digest your meal. Amaro means “bitter”.|
|We are called to carry our crosses in life, through which we prove our faith and prepare ourselves for heaven.|
|Happy Christians, eh?|
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Let us pray:
Palm Beach, FL
San Diego, CA
Meals, Manners and Moms
|Novices at the event in Ann Arbor MI.|
|Me with the wonderful sisters and some students at the Academy I spoke at.|
No doubt, children raised by loving moms and dads grow up more mature and healthy. This doesn’t need scientific studies, but common sense cooperating with God’s grace. This is the subject of the Extraordinary Synod on families occurring in Rome.
|I probably shouldn’t be taking selfies at school. Now all the kids will thinks it’s ok.|
|The residents returning to their rooms after Mass|
|Sisters praying at Mass.|
Unfortunately, modernity can lack refinement, social graces and basic manners. Without being overly reactionary by raising scrupulous rigid robotic prudes for kids, parents ought to have a healthy discussion with their children about the basics in life, including manners at our dinner table and the Lord’s Table.
Thankfully, God continues to call women to be more than consecrated “Miss Manners.” Instead, they are called to be our spiritual moms.
|Her husband was at men’s retreat, and this mother was “practically” helping their 6 boys to become men of God by bringing them to one of my events.|
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Fall into Grace
|Fall is a great time to use some extra spice, thanks to the good folks at Tabasco for a great gift of spicy sauces.|
|Entire families come out for Fr. Leo’s events. A great way to bring the family together!|
|We’re excited to launch The Table Foundation and do more good for those most in need.|
Let us pray:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
|An Ironic Super September|
For some reason, when the month of September rolls around, I feel like it goes so quickly that I already feel the pressure of Christmas shopping! There’s an ironic truth about how being busy makes the time go faster while the devil can tempt us when we’re idle and bored. So, thank God for a busy September!
Let me recap my month. (By the way, this list is not to “show off” but a personal exercise for me to keep my own sanity!). In this month alone, I had speaking, cooking, or media events in New York City, New Jersey, the western part of Maryland, Washington DC, Ohio, Denver, Little Rock, Arkansas, Iowa, and Wisconsin. In that time, I recorded 4 episodes of my radio show, “Entertaining Truth“ and 3 new traveling episodes of “Savoring our Faith (LINK)” We continue to make great progress with my newest project, “The Table Foundation” – which, if you’ve ever started a non-profit, it’s an exercise of “hurry-up-and-wait.”
In the meantime, our team is organizing trips to bring you and the good news around the world through our faith, food, and culture trips to New York, Italy, Napa Valley. Soon we will extend invitations to the Holy Land and Spain in 2015. In light of the Papal visit to the Philippines, I’m participating in discussions to travel there in January 2015. On top of all that, I’m coordinating a “meet and greet” for people interested in learning more about the Consecrated Life through my community Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite set for October 8.
Despite my sheer busyness, I can honestly say that it all pales in comparison to the busyness that a family goes through, especially if it’s a young growing family. So, while I’m busy, my project manager and his wife are extra busy! Can you please join me in welcoming a new member of the Grace Before Meals family: Joshua Giorgio Hansbrough, the son of my project manager, Joe and Erica Hansbrough, and the little brother to Grace.
As many of you know from working with him to schedule or coordinate events, Joe Hansbrough is just as busy behind the computer or phones while I’m busy on the road. Joe reports that Joshua Giorgio is a real “eater” and has great metabolism! Can’t wait for the opportunity to cook for him as I did for his big sister – another really good eater!
Joshua Giorgio was born on September 11, 2014. On that eerie day for airlines, I was on a plane headed to Denver to film a catechetical segment for the Augustine Institute. If you’re familiar with the Grace Before Meals story, you’ll see the irony. The idea of Grace Before Meals was intimately connected to the tragic date of September 11. With Joshua Giorgio, September 11 now has extra special meaning. God works in ironic, beautiful and wonderfully mysterious ways. A date that reminds people of death and destruction. But for people of faith, this date becomes a date to remember hope, courage, fortitude; a day of new life, and increases love for people that extends beyond the limits of life on earth.
Maybe because of my transition into a community of Consecrated Life I’ve been more aware of the ironic and providential ways that God has been encouraging and affirming our Grace Before Meals apostolate. Little signs, like encouraging emails, cards from children, affirming encounters, and now the celebration of the new life of Joshua Giorgio on September 11th speaks to my heart about how God does not give up on humanity. It’s my prayer that in the increasing challenges of our economy, politics, social struggles and world wars, I pray that humanity doesn’t give up on God!
Let us pray:
Despite our busyness God, may we always hear your voice speak to us a word of encouragement, reminding us to pray, to find quiet, and to never forget your presence in the dignity of humanity and the gift of life! We pray for all who continue to struggle in the aftermath of world tragedies and those who silently struggle in their hearts and homes. I pray that all will be faithful to see the providence of God, sometimes working through the irony of life. May we never give up on you God, as we know You are always faithful to us. Amen.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
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