Posted March 31st, 2007 | Food for the Soul

The churches will be full this weekend. It usually is on Palm Sunday. I joke with some of my priest friends about the reason why churches are full on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. Some would say, “Because parishioners get something for free!” Ashes and Palms! When you walk out of church with ashes on your forehead or Palms in our hands (conveniently weaved into wicker baskets by the end of the homily), we somehow “prove” that we’re “faithful.” Sorry, Faith must come from within. External things don’t necessarily prove faith.

I’m glad people come on this High Holidays. I’m not one of those who would get angry of PACE Catholics (Palm, Ash, Christmas, Easter Catholics). In fact, I’m quite happy they do come. However, I do my very best to remind people, especially people who come infrequently, of what we’ll hear in the Gospel: If the people don’t proclaim Jesus’ Glory then the very stones will cry out.

In other words, we who are faithful have to “voice” our faith – and not just with words, but especially in our external actions. Not with symbols that show we went to church this weekend, but with the discipline of faith that brings us back every weekend – a discipline that makes us “show up!”

Here’s a great challenge for those who are “regulars.” Be as welcoming as possible to people who may be sitting in “your” pew this weekend! Take a moment, outside of the church, either before or after Mass and introduce yourself to them. If you see someone who may be an “obvious” visitor, politely ask if you can be of help to them. Granted, these are things church ushers do, but the ministry of Hospitality is not limited to them. In fact, as the people welcomed Jesus into the Holy City, we’re also called to be very welcoming to people who will come this weekend and Easter Sunday to the place that is God’s Home – where there is always room at the Lord’s Table. We need to welcome them!

Holy Week – it comes and goes very quickly. We need to help the priest and pastor create an environment of loving welcome to our “PACE” brothers and sisters, so that the Holiness of this Holy Week will truly, truly last in them!

May you have a Blessed Passion Sunday and Holy Week to Come!

Fr. Leo

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Posted March 29th, 2007 | Grace Before Meals

I just returned from Renegade Studios, the home of the Grace Before Meals concept. We met briefly to discuss the cookbook and looked at some of the drafts and proposals. Can I tell you, it’s going to be an awesome “Recipe Book for Family Life!” It’s way more than a cookbook. The team is doing a fantastic job in putting everything together – from the visuals, the colors, the pictures – everything! It’s looking excellent. I’m getting excited by it and I know it’s going to be a very helpful tool for families.

It couldn’t come at a better time. I was just listening to a famous talk radio personality (OK, I’ll admit, I listen to Sean Hannity every now and then), and he read a report from the Census Bureau. 1 out of 3 children will grow up in a home without a “traditional” mother and father situation. Or is it the other way around, that only 1 out of three will have a traditional family. I’ve got to do some more research on that. But either way, when I heard that report, I was shocked. And then I said a prayer for families.

Our children deserve a loving home from the mother and father that created them! Families, we’ve got work to do! After hearing that report, I got a bit more enthused about our projects. I don’t want to suggest that a child cannot survive or somehow will be less of a person if they come from a single parent home. I know many fine people who have. But, I’m suggesting and reminding parents – MOM and DAD – to consider the awesome responsibility and privilege they have in forming a children and the family. Parents, TOGETHER, must help our younger children to understand the real meaning and definition of family. And to teach them, not just with words but by example.

It was such a shock to hear that news that I’m going to be sure to thank my mom and dad for the “formative love” they gave me, especially as I’ll see them for lunch tomorrow. I’ll also be sure to let you know what my mother (who is a FANTASTIC cook) made me… her “favorite” child (at least according to my “jokingly jealous” brother and sisters).

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgot your requests to learn some of my mother’s secret recipes for Filipino Food. If you keep reminding me I’ll be sure to remember and do my homework and spy while mom is cooking!

Peace

Fr. Leo

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Posted March 27th, 2007 | Events

Today the parish school children did a BEAUTIFUL performance of a living Stations of the Cross. They basically reenact the various experiences that Jesus had on his way to Calvary. It is basically a combination of pantomime and some choreography. It’s quite moving. By the end of the performance, especially when Jesus triumphantly rises from the dead, the spectators can’t help feel a “chill” of joy.

It’s definitely that time of the year when we reflect on what is to come when it all comes to an end. The teachers and students rehearse this for quite a long time. It’s a project that takes time and obviously a creative eye, especially to foster the creative sides of young students. This creative side of life can only help the young people develop a keener sense and perspective of life. We could stand a bit more art in the world because our world, especially now, craves beauty!

A great book by Fr. Dubay, called the “Evidential Power of Beauty” discusses how art, beauty, and culture are becoming less and less important to a more technological age. When we suffer in the arts, we suffer in our humanity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about technology. I think I’m slightly addicted to my palm pilot / phone / camera gadget. I kinda’ feel like Buck Rodgers of the 21st century when I use that (OK, I just dated myself).

Technology is tremendously helpful. But, I’ll admit there are times when I get so tied up in the techno side of life that I forget how incredibly beautiful, mysterious and wonderful a simple flower, or a painting, or watching kids play a game can be. It’s so easy to get so busy, we don’t even enjoy a peaceful and relaxing meal!

I guess the point of this little blog is just a simple reminder that in the crazy business, we have to take some time and to reflect on art, beauty, and culture! Have you been to a museum lately? The children’s living Stations of the Cross performance – a work of art – definitely helped me keep a focus on what will come when it all comes to an end. In the end, the technology can’t save us, but the beauty of our lives will live forever!

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Posted March 26th, 2007 | Past Emails

Click Here to check out this weeks email blast.

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Posted March 25th, 2007 | Events

And the Word was Made Flesh, and Dwelt Among Us!

The Annunciation! What an incredible Feast Day we celebrate. Besides the powerful readings of the woman forgiven of her sins in this weekend’s Gospel, we also remember the day when Mary said, “Yes” to the Angel Gabriel’s surprising message from God (Luke 1:26). Nine months after her “Yes” Jesus would be born.

It was also a day when I had the chance to concelebrate a Confirmation Mass with Bishop Malooly for my eldest niece, Alyssa. She has grown up to be such an impressive and talented young woman. I know I’m getting older because I was getting sentimental when she sang the Communion Song (title I can’t remember), with the words, “This is the air I breathe, Your very presence, living in me. This is my Daily Bread, your very Body, living in me!” It brought tears to my eyes – even now as I think about it. You see, I am getting older and “mushier” every year!

But, before the confirmation I just flew into Baltimore from another conference in Raleigh, NC. The John 6:35 Eucharistic Congress attracted about 600 teens and college age students. They all gathered around the Eucharist exposed in the center of the auditorium, while speakers, musicians and prayer leaders led the young people through spiritual exercises, life lessons and ultimately, closer to God! The teams of people who organized the event did a masterful job, and the teens were explosive in their excitement about what they experienced. The participants came from all walks of life – some were excited to be there, others were not. They were, after all, “normal” teens. But, by the end of the very powerful Eucharistic Procession on Saturday evening, even the most unenthusiastic person “felt” the presence that my niece sang about at her Confirmation. God’s presence is REAL and dwelling among us (thanks to Mary’s yes)!

I remember one young man who I spoke with a few hours before the Procession. He was not indifferent, but not completely enthusiastic as well. But afterwards, he approached me with tears in his eyes and gave me a big joyful hug after rediscovering his love for God’s presence – dwelling among us! Now, can you see why it’s a great day to celebrate! Peace! Fr. Leo PS: To all of those at the conference – share with me some of your pictures you took and post some of your comments. It would be great to chat with you all!

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Posted March 25th, 2007 | Events

Sorry! It’s the only expression of JOY that I thought rhymed with Utah. I just returned from a quick trip, offering a retreat to the 7th and 8th grade class to the “world famous” Madeleine Choir School . Bill Hambleton, the Principal and a former classmate of mine, heard that I give conferences and school retreats. So, he invited me two years ago to give his school faculty retreat. Since then, I’ve been back to offer a one-day retreat to his students. I found these students in particular to be exceptionally intelligent, talented, cultured, well-behaved and just tons of fun! The students are internationally known for their choir performances. They sing like angels. Last year they gave me a CD of one of their performances. Just lovely! This year the students really needed a break, especially after several high-pressured musical performances to welcome their new Bishop, His Excellency, Bishop John Wester. This young new Bishop from San Francisco will bring vibrancy and joy to the Catholic Church in Utah. He has a Cathedral that is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in the US. If you ever get to Utah, be sure to visit the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I’ll have to email blast you about a fantastic experience I had there. But more on that later.

Utah is a beautiful state. I’m impressed by the mountains, the sense of family and the healthy and “outdoorsy” feeling. In my first visit, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to see such a “big city” menu of restaurants in this city that felt more like a close knit town. I was very pleased when Mr. Hambleton extended the invitation to dine with him and his lovely girlfriend, Adrian to one of Salt Lake City’s finest Italian restaurant Cucina Toscana. Owner, Valter Nassi’s larger than life personality permeates every aspect of the place – from the décor, the plating, seating, and especially the food. He greets each guest with an Italian baccie embraccio (hug and kiss). I immediately felt at home!

His menu offers the best of Italian cuisine. Each bite of my meal was packed full of flavor. We started off by sharing a plate called “Trittico” which is a sampling of three pastas: a hearty fettuccine Bolognese, air pillow gnocchi dumplings in ragu, and a paper thin spinach ravioli in a light cream. For seconds, I ordered the pork braised with a chianti and mushroom reduction and freshly seasoned with green peppercorns. On the side were some herb-roasted potatoes and some perfectly blanched green beans seasoned with citrus zest.

I know what you’re thinking! “Gosh Father, isn’t that a bit too “celebratory” for a priest who is supposed to vow poverty / simplicity?” And, “Isn’t it the season of Penitential Lent?” Let me tell you, I thought the same thing! But, a Franciscan friend of mine (and he’s one of those CRF Franciscans who really practice poverty) had a great line when asked about dining so well with some parishioners as an extra thank you for the great work he did for a parish mission. He quoted Scripture, “I only eat what they set before me.”

Utah sure served me up some inspiration. Beautiful view, beautiful faith, Soul satisfying food, and great friends with whom to share God’s blessings!

Peace
Fr. Leo

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