Originally published June 16, 2010
The Year dedicated to the Priest came to a close this past weekend. I felt it fitting to offer a reflection about the priesthood, especially since I spent this past weekend going to different ordinations and receptions for newly ordained priests!
Also, since food images are so closely related to the priesthood, how could I not write about it!
Priests serve a sacred meal. Pastors feed a hungry flock. Ministers prepare souls for the eternal banquet of Heaven. And since the church is a family, it requires its members to share in the One Bread and One Cup. Despite our differences we become one family united around the commemoration of the Lord’s Last Supper.
Recently I was asked to represent Mount St. Mary’s Seminary at an ordination of one of our seminarians in the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana. In this Diocese, there are several families with multiple vocations within the same family. For example, in one family there are two priest sons, and in another family three brothers became priests. In my work with seminarians, I’ve met twin brothers who are also priests. I guess the idea of “service” runs in those families. While God takes all the credit for calling priests to serve the larger church family, the idea of a religious vocation oftentimes begins at home with the man’s own family – the domestic church.
That was very evident for one very special family in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This past weekend, the Rapisarda family celebrated two priestly vocations – but not as siblings – instead as a father and a son!
Meet Fathers Rapisarda – John and Gregory. The son, Fr. John, was ordained a priest a few years ago. Little did he know he would be privileged to vest his own father in the priestly vestments. The dad, Fr. Gregory, was already an ordained deacon and a widower. As a son, John could technically call his own dad, “Father daddy!” I think Jesus was the only one to have such a privilege, that is, until he taught us the prayer: the Our Father.
This father and son priest from one family is a first for the Premier See. I’m sure it’s definitely a unique situation for the Rapisarda family too. But at the same time, serving the Lord comes very naturally for this faithful family. One could say, it’s their “family style” – the way they approached their family upbringing. I realize “family style” is more often associated with a type of dining – big portions in the center of the table. But as people of faith, the Rapisarda’s also have a “life style” that fostered the sense of vocation. They have always been devoted to prayer, had devotions to the Saints and the Blessed Mother, and have always shared the Sacred Meal of the Eucharist as a family. I’m also confident they had regular family dinners together.
While the death of the late Mrs. Rapisarda four years ago caused great sadness for the family, it also increased their faith to be even more devoted to the Lord. Since her death, her devoted husband and father moved one step deeper into the mystery of fatherhood. Perhaps the Lord saw Gregory as such a faithful dad with his own children that He then called Gregory to a spiritual fatherhood for other children.
Special stories like Fr. Gregory Rapisarda’s are “common” in my experiences of seminary work. I hear marvelous stories of faith from men and women who sacrifice everything in order to serve others. It’s inspiring! While the Rapisarda situation is unique, it does follow a consistent path. Stories of multiple family members going into some religious vocation and even becoming canonized saints has been part of the Church’s tradition – a tradition of families who pray together and stay together! A family that teaches service, by loving one another, usually makes life choices to love others. That’s very much true for the Rapisardas!
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A Happy Father’s Day Prayer for our Dads and Spiritual Fathers
Being a father isn’t easy when culture portrays the male parent as unaware, unintelligent, or even unavailable. Ironically, that description is exactly what dads are not supposed to be. Perhaps it’s just one more trick by the Great Deceiver who wants to break up the family by placing a mistrust in the role of fatherhood – telling us dads aren’t necessary. In God’s loving plan, dads are not only useful, they are called to Sanctity. They are, in fact, quite necessary in helping their children become saints too! This upcoming Father’s Day, remember our fathers – living and deceased. In a special way, also pray for our spiritual fathers, those who help God’s children to become saints as they provide the Daily Bread that comes down from Heaven.
Let us Pray: Father in Heaven, keep us ever grateful for the gift of fatherhood, which You have shared with our dads and our spiritual father. Help our fathers to remain close to Your loving heart. Give them grace to live virtuous and holy lives. Remind them of Your love for them by reminding us children to love them as You love them. Forgive any of the faults of our fathers caused by human weakness, and in Your mercy, grant them a path to peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Originally published June 9, 2010
A few weeks ago I had the chance to cook up a few dishes for some folks in the Hollywood, California, area. Originally I was going to give a presentation at an event with Eduardo Verastegui, who starred in the award-winning film, Bella. Unfortunately that event was rescheduled. It would have been a treat to spend time with someone so famous! Okay, let’s admit it, who doesn’t get a little star-struck sometimes? I know I do! After all, the night stars once guided sailors in the right direction in their lives. Today, Eduardo’s passionate Pro-Life message encourages us all!
Even though one event didn’t work out, God provided me an opportunity for other faithful foodie experiences with other Hollywood personalities. I filmed a few Webisodes with reknown screenwriter Laurice Elehwany-Molinari and her family. Laurice wrote The Brady Bunch Movie, as well as My Girl, starring Macaulay Culkin. She also has an inspiring script in the works titled “Front Lines.” Pray this movie gets made – it will be a hit – just like the dishes we cooked up in her kitchen!
I also had a chance to visit and dine with Joe Anderson, a rising Youtube Personality. I was assigned to his Clarksville, Md., parish when he was a youngster. He’s made an effort to stay in touch, even though he’s moved to L.A. in the hopes of fulfilling his filmmaking dream. We had a chance to go out for some delicious Korean Barbecue while discussing important personal, moral, and faith issues.
We discussed a filmmaker’s difficulties in trying to communicate real talent versus the temptation to produce “cheapened” forms of entertainment, which unfortunately translates to instant popularity. Joe will be the first to admit, he’s hardly a saint, and it’s even harder to become one in Hollywood. But at least he was willing to talk with a priest (and friend). I think a really delicious meal aided his willingness to discuss these tough issues. I keep Joe and our friendship in prayer. He even wants me to cook for him and his very popular Youtube friends in his one-bedroom Hollywood Flat. That should be an interesting episode!
Finally, I was invited to participate in a supper club for young group of Hollywood types.
Matt Malek and I met when I gave a keynote speech at a recent convention. Since then he’s had the idea for me to cook up a meal with some of his Hollywood friends who have engaged in philosophical and theological discussions. Matt, an evangelist at heart, saw this philosophical opportunity to discuss the Faith. It’s working. One of his roommates recently converted to the Faith. After all, true philosophers would agree with one of the great philosophers, St. Anselm, who said, “Fides quaerens intellectum” – “Faith seeks understanding.” In other words, Faith is “required” for true Philosophy.
I had a blast with this group. It was also quite an experience shopping in a Hollywood grocery store. How unique it was for me when people at the store recognized me as that “fun priest” on the Food Network! Okay, it felt kinda’ good to be recognized – in Hollywood of all places – but I couldn’t let that get to my head. I was on a mission! On the menu was Norcina Pasta, grilled salmon, pan-roasted chicken, and fresh field greens in a strawberry feta vinaigrette.
Without trying to sound prideful, their voracious approach to my food made me feel like a superstar. I thought there would be some carb-restricting diet, but not with this group. They were hungry, not just for good food, but also for the fellowship opportunities. Big cities can sometimes be a very lonely place. Their appetite for cuisine, culture, and intellectual curiosity impressed me.
When I asked if the group had a “name,” they suggested I offer suggestions. In a Hollywood minute (which means 30 seconds or less), I offered the name “Fame.” I explained that “fame” means one thing in English, but in Italian, “fame” (pronounced Fah – meh) means “hungry.”
The name fit the group perfectly. They are hungry for truth and wisdom. Philosophy literally means “friend or lover of wisdom.” As philosophers, they must be hungry for truth, rather than the fame (or infamy in some cases) that often comes with being a celebrity. They thought it was such a good idea that they even wanted to print t-shirts!
What are we hungering for in life? We know our hungers and our heart’s desires can make us healthy, whole, and holy, or disordered appetites can lead us to a slow but surely destructive path. These young (and beautiful) people in Hollywood showed me the need for Shepherds to feed souls in a city notorious for fame-starved people who will lose their soul just to get their name on a sidewalk. I found it refreshing to meet people who were hungering for something more eternal: truth!
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While in Hollywood I had the chance to stop by the Family Theater, directed by Holy Cross Father, Rev. Willy Raymond. I learned about the impressive array of films they produced, the mission Fr. Peyton started, and I saw for myself how this place is making a faithful impact in Hollywood. For example, during my visit I met Eric, a young Hollywood actor who regularly comes to the Family Theater’s chapel to pray a Holy Hour. Fr. Willy, his staff, “clients” like Eric, and the rest of the good faithful people I met on my Los Angeles/Hollywood trip showed me there is holiness in Hollywood. I’m sure God would be very pleased to one day rename that city “Holywood.”
Let us Pray: Father, give grace to those in the entertainment industry. Help them to share their talents in such a way to ennoble society and culture. Give them fortitude to never compromise their morals. Help them to experience a hunger for truth before experiencing hunger for fame and notoriety. Give shepherds to guide those in the entertainment industry, and bless those such as Family Theater and all those already doing such good work in this city. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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