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Posted October 15th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion

 

  Taste of Travel – Bitter Sweet

I travel a lot.  That’s actually an understatement.

Being an itinerant preacher, a missionary of the new evangelization, and a “roaming restaurant” that seeks to truly feed people brings “bitter sweet” to a whole new level of meaning.  There are times when I ask God a question, even though I already know the answer. But I ask so that I can better understand,  “Why is doing Your (God’s) will so bitter sweet?” Why can’t life just be sweet?
Passion fruit dessert with bitter sweet chocolate mousse
We can learn a spiritual lesson from the culinary world.  The “bitter” is a necessary flavor profile to counteract the overabundance of the other flavors.  Bitter things, such as bitters in drinks or an herb or vegetable, opens up the rest of the tastebuds so we can appreciate sweet, salty and sour.  Bitter foods also have medicinally beneficial qualities.  Bitter greens, for example, break down fats, stimulate the immune system, recharge the body’s metabolism and even cleanse the body. Spiritually, accepting some of the bitter-sweet has that same effect.  Jesus requires his saints to not be afraid of bitter herbs and spices. Truth can sometimes be “bitter” – a hard, but necessary, pill to swallow.
Averna Amaro, an Italian bitter sweet after dinner drink to help digest your meal. Amaro means “bitter”.
For me, despite the bitterness of travel in today’s not-so-sweet-travel experiences, I’ve learned to take the bad with the good.  The tough schedule I have keeps me humble – a hard thing for me to be!  The bitter times help me to more sincerely appreciate the simple consolations of life, like prayer, a walk through the park, a cup of cocoa, and time with my family. The tough travel days also help to toughen my spirit, helping me remember that my faith doesn’t depend on my feelings.  Becoming a “disciple” requires “discipline.”
We are called to carry our crosses in life, through which we prove our faith and prepare ourselves for heaven.

 

I raise this food and faith topic because I have to ask myself the question, “Do the bitter experiences in my hectic travel life turn me into a bitter person?”  That’s not God’s plan.  Nor should it be our experience.  Faith can help us see the usefulness of bitter moments while not becoming bitter ourselves.
Happy Christians, eh?
Thankfully, I know that bitter sweet challenges provide a realistic understanding of what my apostolate requires.  It reminds me that Christianity isn’t for wimps!  If all I want from faith is sweetness, then I better watch out for the cavities!

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

Your responses and comments remind me and our Grace Before Meals team of the importance of these email blasts.  Help encourage our efforts to spread good news by sharing this email with family, friends and parishioners.  Post your comments and questions below.

1) What, in your experience, is the most bitter thing you’ve eaten?
2) How do you deal with bitterness in life?
3) How can we avoid becoming bitter?

 

Let us pray:

Father, you allow us to experience challenging and even bitter moments in our lives. Teach us how to approach difficulties without leaving a bitter taste in our mouths. Keep us humble so that we can accept our crosses, carry them well, and learn from our personal crosses in life.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

10/16/14

     

Palm Beach, FL

 

10/18/14

   

 

THE LATE FR. JESS ESPLANA’S APOSTOLATE FOR OUR LADY OF PENAFRANCIA

San Diego, CA 

 

 

10/18/14 – 10/21/14

      

 

ST. CHARLES PARISH MISSION

San Diego, CA

 

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Posted in Dinner Discussion | 2 Comments »

Posted October 9th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Prayers

 

Meals, Manners and Moms

During a recent work trip I visited a school run by the Dominican Sisters in Ann Arbor Michigan. This vibrant group of women made headlines when they welcomed into their convent a reporter from Oprah who sought an in-depth look and experience of consecrated religious life.
Novices at the event in Ann Arbor MI.
In the presence of good, holy and Godly women, I can’t help feeling like a child again.  Though I’m a priest, in their presence, I am reminded that I am still a child seeking to be a man of God by becoming a real brother of the Lord.  Yes, they humble me!
Me with the wonderful sisters and some students at the Academy I spoke at.
Religious sisters provide a unique and necessary maternal presence that nurtures, disciplines and loves like a spiritual mother.  We need more of these type of vocations, especially in a world where the role of women and motherhood faces confusing messages from unfeminine-feminists and anti-child-pro-abortion groups.  But God continues to call women to serve as sisters and spiritual moms.  A new reality TV show called “Sisterhood” on Lifetime will chronicle the experience of 5 young women seeking to discern religious life in a convent.

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.
I saw the same positive power of women over children when I recently offered Mass for the Missionaries of Charity, a group of women dedicated to working with the poorest of the poor.  In America, poverty isn’t limited to a lack of income but a definition extending to those who do not have the richness of parents, faith, and family.  These Missionaries of Charity provide spiritual motherhood for men dying of AIDS.  These men were in gangs, tough guys, thugs, and drug abusers who lacked the needed discipline from mom and dad.  The streets raised them, not parents.
The residents returning to their rooms after Mass
At Mass, I found it humbling and slightly humorous to see how the Sisters were not afraid to discipline these grown men.  Despite their rough edges from a life of hard knocks, they now behave like well trained altar servers.  Sit up straight.  Pay attention.  Be reverent.  Be still and know that God is with us.  These are the lessons that come from mom and dad, and in this case, spiritual moms we call nuns.
Sisters praying at Mass.
In this month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, we meditate more intentionally on the life of Christ through the eyes of the woman who knew Him best, His Mother!  We realize that Mary’s role is not “important” but “necessary.”  It may be hard to believe, but Mary taught Jesus the basics of living life well in this world. As a mother, she fed him, taught him how to feed himself, reminded him to share his toys, helped him learn his prayers, and taught Jesus table manners.  In His humility, Jesus was obedient to her even though He was the Master.

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:   

(1)  What positive lessons do you remember if you were taught by nuns?
(2)  What manners are missing the most in today’s culture?
(3)  Which of the formal manners did you like least as a child?
Post your comments or questions below. Your messages help keep us focused on our message and mission.
Let us pray:
Father, we thank you for the gift of moms and spiritual moms.  As we celebrate a month dedicated to the Our Lady of the Rosary, give us the grace, courage and discipline to pray this prayer more frequently on our own and with our family.  May the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the family be an opportunity for the entire church to remember that we are God’s children, still learning and needing constant reminders of how to live, act and love like His children.  We ask this with Mary’s prayers through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Did you know that Fr. Leo has an advanced degree in Mariology – the study of Mary in the Life of Christ.  If you want to learn more about the Blessed Mother, consider working with our team to host Fr. Leo for an event to grow in our knowledge and love of Mary.  Simply click here for details.

Upcoming Events:

10/10/14

Albuquerque, NM

 

10/11/14

   

 CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP

Rapid City, SD

 

 10/12/14

   

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Prayers | 4 Comments »

 

  Fall into Grace

Fall is my favorite season.  The chillier “sweater-weather” brings some seriously savory foods.  October also brings with it some fantastic opportunities to grow in our knowledge of food and faith.  Since we can get so busy with all of events and travels, I wanted to highlight some upcoming events and news notes for our faithful foodies – that means you!
Fall is a great time to use some extra spice, thanks to the good folks at Tabasco for a great gift of spicy sauces.
Traveling with Fr. Leo and the Grace Before Meals Family:  It’s our objective to make connections between food, faith and culture. The best way to do that is through our culinary and Catholic-infused pilgrimages. These trips have become real opportunities for conversion because it opens people up to new ideas and sensory experiences of the universal faith.
Please be sure to reserve for any of the coming trips and bring a friend:
1) November 9-14, 2014 – Napa Valley Pilgrimage(SOLD OUT)
2) December 1-5,  2014 – NYC with Fr. Leo and Tom Leopold (EXCLUSIVELY for Sirius XM members)
3) June 18-28, 2015 – Shroud of Turin and World Food Fair in Italy with Fr. Leo and Gus Lloyd (SOLD OUT)
4) August 23-September 3, 2015 – Taste of Spain’s Mystical Meals (call now to pre-reserve your spot @ 800.848.4842).
5) October 25-November 6, 2015 – Faith and Food Tours of the Holy Land (Rescheduled from February. Call now to reserve your spot @ 800.848.4842)
Exclusively for Sirius XM Subscribers.
Booking Fr. Leo for Events:
We will soon be opening up our dates for new events in the fall of 2015 and beyond. Consider hosting a Grace Before Meals event at your parish.  If you have a team of people who want to spread this fantastic message, be in touch with our project manager Joe Hansbrough (jhansbrough@gracebeforemeals.com) who can help you develop one of the most dynamic events your parish, diocese or organization has ever seen!  It’s true!  These events change lives, while having food-tastic fun at the same time.  To book an event, click here.

 

Entire families come out for Fr. Leo’s events. A great way to bring the family together!
What’s on the Table?  The Table Foundation:
We will soon announce the official Table Foundation Initiative to all of our subscribed members.  So many of our Grace Before Meals members have wanted to contribute and share some of their blessings with our organization in order to help spread the love and to make room at the table for even more members.  Now, you can be part of our non-profit charitable outreach which will do some rather incredible things.  Stay tuned for more information very soon!
We’re excited to launch The Table Foundation and do more good for those most in need.

Let us pray:

Father in Heaven, as we arrive to October, help us to be mindful of the many needs we have in our family and in our communities.  Keep us open to being generous in serving you by serving one another.  Remind us to take time to pray, and teach us how to be ever aware of your abiding presence.  Grant us the courage to be like your saints!  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

(1) Have you ever heard or experienced one of Fr. Leo’s presentations?  If so, what did you think of it?
(2) Do you have any recommendations for chilly weather foods?
(3) What would you like the newly coming “Table Foundation” to do, and how do you think you can get involved?
Your comments, questions and responses are helpful to our organization. Please let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

 

 

10/2/14

Troy, MI

 

10/4/14

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Posted in Events, Pilgrimages, The Table Foundation, What's On the Table | 3 Comments »

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.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

 

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?

9/25/14

9/28/14

    

 

ST. ANNE PARISH CELEBRATION

Pittsburgh, PA

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Events, In Memory | No Comments »

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.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

 

(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.

9/19/14

   

 

 MERCY DAY FOR MERCY HOSPITAL

Sioux City, IA 

9/20/14 – 9/22/14

    

 

 MISSION AT ST. BRIDGET CATHOLIC CONGREGATION

River Falls, WI

9/23/14

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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.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

(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

 

9/10/14

   

 

SECOND HOUR CATECHESIS 

Defiance, OH 

9/13/14 – 9/17/14

    

 

PARISH MISSION AT OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SOULS

Little Rock, AR

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Pilgrimages | 1 Comment »