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Posted September 24th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Events, In Memory


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!
To Book Fr. Leo for Future events, click here.
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 YorkItalyNapa 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


This is the picture that I took of the Holy Father at a General Audience. He looked after I yelled out, “I want to cook for you!”
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.
Joshua Giorgio Hansbrough, born 8 lbs 4 oz, named after Joe’s brother Joshua (died 1982) and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Joe’s late father James considered them some of his favorite ‘heaven dwellers’.
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!
Grace mastering the pasta twirl with my creamy basil pesto linguine.
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.
The New York City skyline.
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!
Image of the original Holy Stairs of St. Joseph in the Loretto Chapel in New Mexico.

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.



Your comments encourage us in our efforts. Please post your comments here.
(1)  Did you celebrate a new birth in the month of September?
(2)  How do you encourage people in difficult situations?
(3)  Is there a go-to-meal to help you get through the challenges of life?
(4)  Do you have an ironic situation that helped you find God’s presence?






Pittsburgh, PA

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Frying Rice & Grilling Ray Rice
Click for my Grandfather’s Garlic Fried Rice Recipe.

To cook fried rice well, allow it to dry by keeping it in the refrigerator, uncovered.  Drying the rice is essential before attempting to fry it in oil, whether using sesame seed or peanut oil.  Add the right amount of seasoning, choice of meats, veggies and viola – you have the perfect fried rice. The variety of flavors and ingredients is your choice, but let it dry out first. If you avoid this step, you will get a clumpy and greasy mess.

Due to the popular demand for this once-in-a-lifetime trip, Fr. Leo and Gus will be adding a second bus. Register now for this incredible trip!
This cooking tip has been helpful for me as I try and figure out my thoughts regarding Ray Rice.  [Yes, I make food connections with just about everything.  That's just how my mind works, ok?!?] The incriminating viral video of the popular football player physically knocking out his then-fiancée-now-wife in a hotel elevator is a horrible display of ugly anger. The world wide attention and insipid commentaries is just as ugly.  What we have here is one big mess!
Former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice and his wife Janay during the press conference following the arrest.
Unfortunately, some of the comments show parallel impatience of people trying to fry rice without first drying it out. In other words, the people making useless and judgmental comments are skipping an important step:  patiently discerning when to “cook” Ray Rice, his life and his career.
Patient discernment would first make us consider the following questions:
- “What were they arguing about that would make a public figure lose his temper to the point of violence?”
- “Is there a double standard because Ray Rice is such a popular person?”
- “What can we say about how his wife seemed to be the aggressor before she became the victim?”
- “What did his parents teach him about respecting women?”
- “Would the manly-minded feminist rights movement find my last question offensive, implying that women can’t take care of themselves?”
Further, I’d like to know, “Who appointed the National Football League as the arbiter of moral judgments over a couple’s personal relationship?”
You see, it’s all so confusing, and there are more questions than answers.  In other words, when we make quick judgments over this type of news story, are we being impatient in our fact finding?
Other questions have to be asked:
“Why did his beaten fiancée marry her attacker?”
“Is love so blind or willing to forgive their enemies and persecutors?”
There’s more to this story than a sports figure.  This spectacle speaks to our humanity and how we deal with our relational struggles.


This is the LAST week, so click for information and call now to reserve your spot for this extraordinary food and wine retreat.
Frying rice and grilling Ray Rice require a similarly delicate process of patience and discernment.  Let me be clear, what Ray Rice did is horrendous;  the fiancée should have seriously reconsidered marrying him.  And yes, all of the media’s talk about this topic is just nauseating.  Yet, these sensitive topics provide an opportunity for people to talk with God in prayer before posting uninformed opinions on the internet.
I’d recommend that families, especially children who are sports fanatics, talk about these issues without trying to give an “easy answer” or a decisive judgment.  If we try to bypass the step of patient discernment, we will just get a mess on a plate.  We will get what we deserve.

Let us pray:

Father, we pray for couples experiencing challenges. We pray for an end to domestic violence and for more patient discernment as we try to use these news headlines to educate our children about the real meaning of marriage.  Keep us focused on the grace and not the “train-wrecks” of society, lest they become the only model of relationships that unfortunately form our conscious.  Help us to remember how your Son Jesus gave us the perfect example of what it means to love one another, without violence and always with forgiveness.  We ask this in His most holy name.  Amen.

Jesus came to forgive us our sins.



(1)  How are you using this headline news to teach your children?
(2)  What advice would you give to anyone experiencing domestic violence?
(3)  Do you think that men are a “stronger” gender, and how does that affect the conversations about women’s equality?
(4)  Do you have any other fried rice tips?
We appreciate your responses. Please leave your COMMENTS HERE.





Sioux City, IA 

9/20/14 – 9/22/14




River Falls, WI


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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Entertaining Truth, Grace Before Meals, Recipe | 2 Comments »

Posted September 10th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Pilgrimages


  The Real Ice Bucket Challenge: Building an Ice Bridge

The ice-bucket challenge, the current craze to raise awareness and funds to research a cure for ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease, dares people to donate money to the ALS Association or  dump a bucket of ice water over your head. People usually do both.  The challenge demonstrates a passion for fun and solidarity with people who are suffering with this disease.  This Public Relations “gimmick” brings out the best in people.  It attempts to build a bridge of compassion.  Bravo!
Like many good ideas however, there are also some imperfections.  Some very watchful groups have cautioned morally-minded donors and/or “ice-bucketers” about participating because this particular recipient, the ALS Association, allocates money for the undignified embryonic stem cell research (i.e., using aborted babies for science).
Instead, many groups alternatively donate to groups that only research adult stem cells, which actually has been found to be more effective and does not have moral implications.
I thought and prayed about this crazy / fun phenomenon while I was on retreat at the Shrine of Notre Dame du Cap (Our Lady of the Cape), where I experienced the real “ice bucket challenge” or rather, the “buckets of ice miracle.”
Notre Dame Du Cap Shrine in Montreal.
The shrine exists as a testament to a miracle that occurred because a priest “dared” or “challenged” God.  At the time, the community of believers needed a bigger church, but couldn’t build without getting across the St. Laurence River to obtain stones for the church.  However, God responded to the challenge and the prayers of the people by creating a miraculous bridge made out of ice in Spring time, giving the townsfolk, horses and carriages the chance to safely cross the river.  You can read all about it HERE.
Miracles do happen!  We can hopefully pray to God to help us find a cure for horrible diseases like ALS, cancer, ebola, AIDS, and other diseases – much like we have discovered vaccinations and treatments for leprosy, for instance.  What’s needed is the miracle to build a bridge from heartless ignorance to a selfless compassion.
Click to watch Fr. Leo’s video from his trip to Kolkata, India
The Ice Bucket Challenge provides an idea – an ingenious one – to create a forum for people to develop compassion while have some fun.  Sure, we need to be careful where to donate our monies.  But most importantly, we need to pray that we can find ways to build bridges for people to turn ice-cold-hearts to loving acts of kindness and generosity.  God has made these miraculous bridges in our Church’s history using the original buckets of ice challenge of Notre Dame du Cap.  Our job is to cross that bridge and fulfill the miracle.


Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, may our generous hearts and prayerful concerns bring about miraculous cures for diseases that people suffer from. At the same time, may You bring about a greater good, such as compassion and service, amidst the suffering.  Bless efforts of people doing research to find cures.  Inspire them with wisdom, guided by a morality, never compromising the dignity of the human person.  May those who suffer experience the consolation of Christ’s Cross, which bridges us from sickness to health, from death to life.  Amen.


(1)  Did you participate in the ice-bucket challenge?

(2)  How can we be a bridge for those who suffer?

(3)  The miracle of Our Lady of the Cape makes us think how God always answers our prayers.  Is there a prayer or miracle that you received from God?

Your comments and questions help us to create stronger connections and bridges to our Grace Before Meals community.  Post your comments HERE.

This Week’s Recipe






Defiance, OH 

9/13/14 – 9/17/14




Little Rock, AR

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


Posted in Dinner Discussion, Pilgrimages | 1 Comment »

Back to School
The rush to get families back to school and all the other activities brings about the blessing of a regular schedule, but also the struggle to get back into a routine after a (hopefully) relaxing summer. Our Grace Before Meals Team feels that same pressure.  For that reason, we want to keep this week’s Blast nice and simple:  we want to pray for the blessing of the school year and also to provide highlights and links to events and news in which you can participate.
Fr. Leo with some of the University of Steubenville student youth conference workers in July 2014.
We have so much to share with you that we hope you stay in touch through our social network on Facebook,Twitter and more regular blogging on the website.  Stay tuned. We don’t want you to miss out on any of our “soul-stirring-specials” which will definitely feed you body, mind and spirit.
From the top of the Apostolic Palace overlooking the Basilica of St. Peters.
Things to keep in mind:

Napa Valley Trip November 9-14, 2014: 

Vineyards in Napa Valley , CA.


Registrations will close by the end of next week so sign up and reserve your spot for this gourmet food and wine spiritual retreat. Click here for the brochure or call Diane at 313-565-8888 x 122. 


Holy Land Food and Faith Tour February 1-12, 2015:  

The Mount of Temptation – where Jesus conquered the temptations of the devil.
Jerusalem is truly a city of peace.  Despite some of the tensions shown on the news, Christian pilgrims go to the Holy Land each day and share in the blessings of the land.  We have once again opened up our registrations for this incredible opportunity to grow in our faith, help spread the efforts of peace, and show our solidarity for the Christians living in the Holy Land.  Our tour operator can provide all the information to let you know all of the safety measures that are taken to ensure a beautiful and enjoyable tour of the Holy Land.  Click here for the brochure or call 800-842-4842.

Savoring our Faith Season 4:

The new season of EWTN’s popular show, “Savoring our Faith” will commence filming this September with a traveling show.  Fr. Leo will visit different parts of the country, share some of the spiritual blessings, bring you to Catholic owned restaurants to share their culinary perspective, and then take us all into the kitchen to learn how to make these foods that will remind you of the the blessings from your own travels.  You can watch Fr. Leo’s weekly show on EWTN by checking your local listings.  

Check out the “Seafood Diet” episode Thursday at 5:00pm and Saturday at 4:00am (EDT)

Let us pray:

God our Father, help us to be good disciples (students) in the call to live lives of loving service to You and each other.  Please Lord, give to our schools teachers blessed with patience, wisdom and a dynamic ability to communicate truth.  Provide for our students a heart that seeks wisdom, a humble disposition, joy and gratitude for the opportunity to learn. Offer the gentle reminder to families that the primary educators of all children are their parents who teach a way of life and encourage faith which begins at home.  May our saints, especially those gifted with intelligence and learning, pray for us so that we can learn the greatest lessons in life; lessons that teach us how Jesus came to this earth to teach us by His words and example.  Amen.


  • Do you have any questions that you’d like for Fr. Leo and the Grace Before Meals Team to help answer for you?


  • Would you like Fr. Leo to come to your parish, organization or (arch)Diocese? Simply reach out to my project manager Joe Hansbrough at 410-667-1400 or at

Your communication encourages our efforts. Please post your comments and questions HERE.


This Week’s Recipe







Defiance, OH 

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Epic Food Fight, Pilgrimages, Savoring Our Faith | 2 Comments »


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 [2011].

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!

Fr. Leo,

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.


Warm regards,


Sandra Taylor Carlson

Taylor Family Vineyards



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?

Thank you,


Dear Nick,

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.



  • 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


Click to read the interview on

READ: Fr. Leo’s Eggplant Caponata Recipe featured on

Click to check out


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


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Posted August 20th, 2014 | Epic Food Fight, Events, Faithful Foodie


When it is Right to Retreat
Currently, I am up in Montreal for a personal priestly retreat, and it is truly a wonderful place to reflect and pray. When you consider there is so much history and even some nice eateries nearby, I think a great pilgrimage is in the making (possibly Fall 2016). It has been great to take the time for a retreat, which, thankfully, is actually something I have to do. It is essential for clergy, religious and lay people alike to take time out of their busy schedule and spend it with God. Much like you make time to eat (assuming you are so fortunate), let us make the time to pray. You can combine the two by saying Grace Before Meals….dot com. (hehe)

The Notre Dame du Cap Basilica Shrine near Montreal is an impressive place of prayer and history. It’s also a place where the founder of my community, Fr. Louise Marie Parent (Voluntas Dei) prayed and ministered.

This past weekend, I was able to minister to hundreds of Filipino youth from Canada and the USA at the

Bukas-Loob Sa Diyos (BLD) Covenant Community. It was held in Kearny NJ at the Archdiocese of Newark Retreat Center, just 10 minutes away from the impressive Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark. The event was aimed at the Filipino community to grow stronger in their Catholic Faith by showing them the Sacred and how it affects our lives. We also addressed how the Secular world should not be seen as separate from our church life, but part of God’s creation, and one in need of genuine witness. Finally, there was a strong emphasis for these people to be a strong part of the New Evangelization, as our actions can speak louder than words often times. And let me say, this group was loud and full of spirit!

Youth from the BLD Conference. They have inspiring faith at such a young age!

The faith, reverence and joy that the attendees to the event had is exactly what we are all called to have in our everyday lives. I know very well how tough it is to make time, but if there is an opportunity for a retreat or day of reflection at your local parish or within your Diocese, you should take it. We are much more likely to grow in our faith when we are focused on it, and retreats are a fantastic place to start as you can truly immerse yourself in it. When we are spiritually fed, we are more nourished and able to be a force for the good in this world. Similarly, it is then when we are most able to make a difference in the lives of those around us. In a world rife with Christian persecution and people in great need, may God grant you the virtues of courage, faith, hope and love to serve Him through actions of kindness and selflessness.

The events I speak at are great opportunities to be fed spiritually and sometimes with actual food! We strive to show people not only the importance of making time for family and one another, be it at the dinner table or in family life situations, but to give thanks to God for giving us these gifts. So check out the calendar in the coming months and find out if I am near you, and I will hope to connect with you there. May you find the time to be nourished, because that’s what God wants for you. And don’t be afraid to retreat and surrender to God’s love and mercy.

Leave comments below and if you would like to find a time to create an event, go to the “Book Fr. Leo” to bring me out to your parish or community.


  • When was the last retreat you went on?
  • Where are your favorite places to reflect, pray or just ‘get away’?
  • Are there any events coming up that you would like to attend?

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


Let us pray:


Father, we take the time to praise you for your love and providence. We thank you for the many blessings we have, be it food to eat, family and friends to cherish, a home to live in, or a job to help provide for those we love. May we make more time for you in our daily lives, and we pray for those who are persecuted for their faith, who go hungry everyday or don’t have a shelter to call home. Have mercy on them and may we be true disciples, providing our help however possible to those in need. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


READ: Fr. Leo Interviewed on


Click to read the interview on

READ: Fr. Leo’s Eggplant Caponata Recipe featured on

Click to check out

8/23/14 – 8/26/14

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



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