Posted February 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized

Mary’s Touch!

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That’s the name of the organization that hosted a Grace Before Meals event this past weekend in Lakeway, Texas.  It was truly a blessed event which began on a very sweet note.   As the first part of the event, I judged a cake competition for both adults and children entries.  Talk about a sugar high!

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However, I needed the energy for the interactive the cooking demonstration, a Grace Before Meals presentation, the celebration of Mass, and of course the delicious pot luck supper where I had the chance to meet some great people and sample all of the unique and family friendly deliciousness.

These kids are extra happy because dad makes fresh pasta and fresh sauces!

These kids are extra happy because dad makes fresh pasta and fresh sauces!

The day was filled with culinary goodness and faithfulness to inspire the soul.  I have to admit being rather humbled when I saw the place mats on the table, which was printed like a dollar bill, with my face in the middle of it and a motto that said, “One does not live by bread alone.”  How fitting!  It’s equally inspiring to meet so many families, who although may have never heard of me or the gracebeforemeals.com movement, are already practicing the message of having regular family meals.  I remind people that Grace Before Meals is not a “ministry” but a movement – to encourage a new evangelization apostolate to feed each other.  You don’t have to be a minister to do what I do.  You just have to be willing to put on an apron and serve your family with love.

For Christmas gifts, the mom made aprons to encourage her kids to cook with her.  That was really a gift to herself!

For Christmas gifts, the mom made aprons to encourage her kids to cook with her. That was really a gift to herself!

Congratulations to the winners of the cake baking contest, especially to the winner of the children’s division – Mary.  How fitting.  Her chocolate cross cake with a sweet glaze drizzle really had “Mary’s Touch!”

Mary, her 1st place medal and her proud family!

Mary, her 1st place medal and her proud family!

After this wonderful event, I had the opportunity to travel about 25 miles outside of town to a famous BBQ spot in a town called Driftwood.  The restaurant is called “Salt Lick” and it gathered hundreds of people in a fiery food love fest.  I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming “Faithful Foodie Adventure” (which you can get when you sign up for the free weekly email blasts).  But for now, as a savory chef, I must say that my style of dessert came from barbecue pit!

One of the open BBQ pits at the "Salt Lick" restaurant. One of their T-Shirts says, "You can smell our pits from a mile away".  And it was deliciously true!

One of the open BBQ pits at the "Salt Lick" restaurant. One of their T-Shirts says, "You can smell our pits from a mile away". And it was deliciously true!

Thanks to Cheri Lomonte, Fr. Hose (pastor of Emmaus Catholic Church), the volunteers and the enthusiastic crowd for a BIG Texas-styled welcome.

If you attended this event, have any recipe suggestions (especially any of the people who brought a pot luck dish), or have ever been to Salt Lick BBQ Restaurant (or have other BBQ joints you want to suggest), please be sure to post your comments below.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Posted February 23rd, 2011 | From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals, Past Emails

A few years ago, I set off the fire alarms during a presentation – for a group of senior citizens.  The fire chief gave me a constructive critique:  Don’t flambé directly underneath a smoke detector!  The only reason I didn’t get a fine was because the fire chief said, “That’s darn good pasta!”

(A few years ago, I set off the fire alarms during a presentation – for a group of senior citizens.  The fire chief gave me a constructive critique:  Don’t flambé directly underneath a smoke detector!  The only reason I didn’t get a fine was because the fire chief said, “That’s darn good pasta!”)

Most of my e-mails are very, very encouraging.  However, like most people, I’m not without my critics.  A movement for the force of good will always have challenges.  Perhaps the most common complaint or critique I receive is from people who just don’t understand the purpose of the Grace Before Meals movement.  To some, the idea of a “cooking priest” reduces the priesthood to a gimmick.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Yet the fact that I receive these challenging words shows just how much we appreciate your support, comments, and prayers.

So for this first “From the Feedbag,” I thought I’d share my response to a rather critical e-mail I received around the New Year.

While no one wants to be criticized in that special time of the year, you will hopefully see how my response gave me the opportunity to better reflect on our mission and explain why I do what I do with this movement.  As you will read, I never shy away from responding to criticism, simply because that’s what a family is supposed to do:  listen to each other and respond.  Conversation can bring out conversion.  And while I am willing to hear anyone’s comments and critiques, I recommend we learn the art of critiquing each other “well.”  Critique – especially around the family dinner table, is supposed to be constructive, not destructive.  This somewhat dramatic and sensitive topic gives us all a chance to consider how we are supposed to help build each other up rather than bring each other down.  And where is the best place for this loving, but at times challenging, exchange to occur?  You guessed it.  The dinner table!  Hopefully in sharing this exchange, you will be strengthened in your resolve to share our movement far and wide.

“Savoring our Faith” taping with some EWTN Priests.

(“Savoring our Faith” taping with some EWTN Priests.)

Fr. Leo:
I’m sorry but I find the tone of your grace before meals website nothing short of blasphemous.  Since when do we equate human nourishment with the sacrifice of the Mass? This is going too far and the appearances on TV to be even more sacrilegious and foolish. Get back to your parish or seminary and learn something more correct about the Catholic Faith!

Signed,

“J”
(Obviously I’m going to keep these letters anonymous.)

Dear “J,”

Thanks for your note.  I’m truly sorry you don’t like the Grace Before Meals message.  By calling it blasphemous; however, you are saying that I’m trying to disrespect God and make profane the things that are sacred.  That is not my intention, nor do my actions reflect that accusation.

Giving a presentation at Bishop Guilfoyle School, Pa. January 2010.

(Giving a presentation at Bishop Guilfoyle School, Pa. January 2010.)


Before I can accept your suggestion to stop the movement of Grace Before Meals, I’d rather learn more about what you find blasphemous.  Theologically, Jesus tells us His Flesh and Blood are true food and true drink.  Jesus’ greatest lessons were taught around the meal.  He even became our sacred meal!  Does that go, as you suggest, too far?  Granted, our language about food and faith is only analogous, but the Sacred Scriptures make the same references.  As a “Pastor” it is my job to “feed” the sheep.  As Christ changed water into wine and multiplied loaves and fish as a prelude to His teaching, he showed how something as seemingly insignificant as food could teach us something far more meaningful.  He revealed Himself when he broke bread!

Jesus


Our objective with Grace Before Meals has encouraged people to remember how God is part of their family dinner table – the “altar” of the “Domestic Church.”  We are best in communion with God through food, i.e., the Bread of Life and Cup of Eternal Salvation.  You see J, food and faith go hand in hand as ordained by God Himself.  What I do on TV, in our book, or on our website is not my idea – it’s God’s.

As a Catholic Priest, I’m always willing to hear how I can be a better priest.  I’d be happy to hear your suggestion.  However, the approach you seem to have taken in your e-mail sounds more disrespectful to my pastoral experience and my priestly office.  And your tone makes it difficult to accept your advice as sound or helpful.

Me with some Baltimore seminarians at the National Press Club Dinner – check out the video.  Priests and seminarians do what we can to help each other with good advice.  They even critiqued my meal.  The verdict:  Tasty!

(Me with some Baltimore seminarians at the National Press Club Dinnercheck out the video.  Priests and seminarians do what we can to help each other with good advice.  They even critiqued my meal.  The verdict:  Tasty!)

In case you had any doubts, I became a priest because I love God and His Catholic Church.  Your comment about “blasphemy” not only offends me, it makes me take pity on your inability to judge wisely the things of the earth.  I’m not saying that you blaspheme the priesthood, but the tone of your e-mail sounds more rude than helpful.  I can only trust that you wrote me in order to help me be a better priest in this art and discipline of evangelization.  Do you have evangelization experience to share ways for me to improve?

Bobby Flay and I exchanging cooking ideas.

(Bobby Flay and I exchanging cooking ideas.)


J”, while you may not believe me, or agree with our statistics, I can say that Grace Before Meals has helped many people make a connection to the Eucharist as the true source of Food.  God has actually used this movement to help people with eating disorders.  We now dialogue with the secular world about seeing food as a “blessing” rather than a “right.”  We’ve supported families that struggle to spend some quality time together.  We’ve helped families return to the practice of praying grace before meals.  We’ve provided a way for people to discuss faith around the dinner table again.  We’ve showed people how the purpose of food brings us together, as the Eucharist does each Sunday.  And we’ve helped people convert to the Catholic Faith.  Should I take your advice and let this all stop?  We can judge by the fruits.  Are these good “fruits” to you?

Family that attended the Wegman’s cooking demonstration on February 2nd.  They used the Fusion Fajita marinade with several other dishes – and with great success!  And, they also believe in our message!

(Family that attended the Wegman’s cooking demonstration on February 2nd.  They used the Fusion Fajita marinade with several other dishes – and with great success!  And, they also believe in our message!)


Again, as a priest my job is to feed people.  Not all can/should receive the Eucharist.  But I must still feed people in body, mind, and spirit.  Blessed Theresa of Calcutta showed that simple acts done, with lots of love, help people to become saints.  Can feeding someone human food with Godly love be a way to sanctity?  The Gospels say ‘”Yes!’”

Fr. Pohlmeier spends some time with school children at the cafeteria’s “snack store.”  He even blesses their snacks!

(Fr. Pohlmeier spends some time with school children at the cafeteria’s “snack store.”  He even blesses their snacks!)

I hope this dialogue helps. I hope you don’t think I’m “angry” about your e-mail. As I mentioned before, you may want to work on your communication skills, especially since people deserve a bit more respect than you communicated in your very sharp sounding e-mail. Hopefully you’re a bit more patient if you have disagreements with family and friends around your dinner table. If I did something to offend you, please let me know what that is and I’ll be quick to apologize. After all, as God’s human family we will need to exercise that virtue of patience and forgiveness.

Some couples who attended an event at St. Patrick’s Church in Bellefontaine, OHSt. Patrick’s Church in Bellefontaine, Oh.  The message was simple: Love requires patience and forgiveness.

(Some couples who attended an event at St. Patrick’s Church in Bellefontaine, OH.  The message was simple: Love requires patience and forgiveness.)

The fact is, you may not like my style, my heritage, my way of speaking, or even my cooking abilities.  Should that be the case, I suggest that you simply turn off the TV when they air my episodes,  and take a moment and to say a prayer – for the both of us.  But again, if you have concrete ways on how I can improve the Grace Before Meals message, please share that them with me in a more prayerful and respectful way as I hopefully have tried to do for you.

In the meantime, I hope that your encounter of with my website on the day that marked our New Year was not a moment of frustration, but truly a moment of Grace. Sometimes, they are not mutually exclusive.  Perhaps, before you eat a meal today, you can say grace before your meal and say a prayer for me, the dedicated people who serve with me, and the people who can be helped by our message.

A group of young Hollywood Actors actors who participated in an informal meal that I prepared, which gave me the chance to share in a discussion about faith and culture.  Yes, "Grace Before Meals" even in Hollywood!

(A group of young Hollywood Actors actors who participated in an informal meal that I prepared, which gave me the chance to share in a discussion about faith and culture. Yes, “Grace Before Meals” even in Hollywood!)

With Mary’s Prayers and Christ’s Blessings,

Fr. Leo

There you have it.  How do you think I did with my response to this critic?  Do you have advice on how to better handle criticism and critique, especially in your own family?.   Let me know your thoughts and questions.  Send me questions at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com.  Click HERE to post your comments.

Posted in From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals, Past Emails | 53 Comments »

Posted February 16th, 2011 | Faithful Foodie, Past Emails, Restaurants, Reviews

Faithful Foodie Adventures is all about exciting opportunities that await us at various tables and food destinations across God’s beautiful world.  Some weeks I may offer a cooking class tip, a restaurant critique, or even some food ideas that hopefully expands faith and satisfy our culinary sensibilities.  If you have any food adventure ideas, please be sure to let us know.  E-mail me your ideas at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com.

An angel to welcome visitors

(An angel to welcome visitors)

This week’s food adventure brings you to Emmitsburg, Md.  That’s where I live, teach, and serve as a priest.  As the Chair of Pastoral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s University I am always reminded of how blessed I am to work and live here. Located in such a pastoral setting, the area is flooded with a great spirit of peace – not just from the good example of the seminarians and faith-filled college students, but also from the surroundings that are filled with other impressive Catholic History.  If you didn’t know, Emmitsburg, Md., is one of the stops for people who visit the Gettysburg Battlefield.  There are beautiful areas to hike nearby at Catoctin Mountain Park, which also contains the very secretive and high security grounds of Camp David.

(Seminarians hiking on Wolf Rock.)

(Seminarians hiking on Wolf Rock.)

Frederick County and the surrounding towns are also a wonderful place of spiritual pilgrimage.  It’s the home of the First American National Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.  Visitors make their way through landscaped prayer paths leading to a grotto replica of Lourdes, France; a pool of blessed water; devotional shrines; and a view that makes you want to say, “God is good!”

Only a few miles away is the shrine and burial place of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born Catholic Saint.  Her story, which you can learn about and experience in a short movie when you visit the museum, will truly inspire you.  As a dedicated wife, soon to be widow, mother, and convert from the Episcopalian faith, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton showed that saints are very real.  Her courage to start up an educational system was a prelude to the Catholic Education system in America.  It’s perfect for family day trips.

Pilgrim Seminarians praying at the Seton Shrine

(Pilgrim Seminarians praying at the Seton Shrine)


Admittedly, Emmitsburg, Md., isn’t known for any culinary excellence.  However, the Wikipedia article for “Emmitsburg, Maryland” actually makes mention of the cooking competition I won against Food Network’s Bobby Flay in his hit show Throwdown!.  Seriously?  Grace Before Meals is in Wikipedia twice – once for Bobby Flay and now for Emmitsburg!

If you come to Emmitsburg and find yourself a bit hungry, there are a couple places I’d recommend.  First is the Carriage House Inn – a local, rustic, but very quaint restaurant around the corner from the only traffic light, right in the center of town.  This restaurant features delicious American fare.  There are a small handful of other places to eat in the area.  A favorite breakfast place for seminarians is called the Palm House.  They always make their thick-cut bacon perfectly extra crispy, and their sweet potato pancakes are fluffy and naturally sweet!

For dinner, the seminarians usually make their way to either Gettysburg or Frederick, each about 20 minutes away.  In Frederick you’ll find plenty of variety, including one very high-end restaurant called Volt, where Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio wows locals along with food connoisseurs  from DC, Baltimore and beyond with his intensely unique and even scientific gastronomy.

(Bryan and I at the final episode screening party.)

(Bryan and I at the final episode screening party.)


But if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, not travel too far, and still have something more “exotic,” I would recommend a simply elegant Asian “bistro” called Simply Asia.  Before the restaurant came under new ownership I stayed away because the service was poor and unreliable, yet the décor (even for such a small town) was “quaint.”  Thank God the new owners got rid of the fish tank.  The water was never clean and the fishy water smell lingered.  The new owners made delightful changes in the ambiance, menu, and most importantly, their service!  Their food covers a variety of Asian preparations, from Thai to Japanese Teriyakis to traditional Chinese cuisine.

Simply Asia even has fresh sushi

(Simply Asia even has fresh sushi)

Some of my favorites:  Pork-stuffed Eggplant and their Curry Shrimp, served with a rich and complex flavored broth and all the traditional goodness that makes curry a soul-satisfying comfort food.

Emmitsburg. Md., and the surrounding towns will never be a food destination – but they have enough to satisfy people coming to hike, to explore the history, and most importantly, to pray.

Perhaps I may even host a public cooking class at the seminary during one of the summer breaks.  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to bring our Grace Before Meals family all together in a spirit of food, faith, and fun?

Small Chapel at Grotto of Lourdes.

(Small Chapel at Grotto of Lourdes.)


Come and visit this faithful foodie adventure and be filled in body, mind, and spirit!

Have you ever visited Emmitsburg or these restaurants?  Tell our subscribers what you think?  Are there other faithful foodie destinations you want to tell us about?  Would you be interested in coming to this peaceful part of the world for a culinary “retreat”?  Post your questions and comments!

Posted in Faithful Foodie, Past Emails, Restaurants, Reviews | 16 Comments »

Menu Inspiration gives subscribers exclusive access to original and inspired recipes from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, host of the movement Grace Before Meals.  If you subscribe to the weekly newsletter, you’ll get access to the recipes.  If you have a special recipe that inspires the family to come together more regularly, please share it with us and our faithful foodie community.  Pictures of your food surrounded by your family and friends are always welcome!

Gourmet Potato:

One of the Scripture Professors at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary comes from the “holy land,” i.e., Ireland.  Besides his Irish brogue, you can tell he’s a true Irishman by his untiring love for potatoes at every dinner!  If you really want to give him a hard time, tell him the cafeteria ran out of potatoes!  It would be just as tragic as Ireland’s Potato Famine of 1845.

Potatoes

For my Filipino-American family potatoes made their way to the table primarily in stews and the 4th grade science project where I watched a water soaked spud give new life as a root.  Instead we ate rice – jasmine rice in particular.  Growing up we ate “mashed potatoes” during Thanksgiving.  But this wet gob of goo came from a box on top of the refrigerator next to the boxes of cereal.

I didn’t really consider French fries from fast food restaurants to be real potatoes, which was confirmed after I saw the person behind the counter throwing a bag of these frozen sticks into hot oil until the beeper indicated it was time to pull them out, salt them, and serve them in grease drenched paper bags.  I liked them, but I didn’t realize the power of the potato until much later.  And of course, I loved those perfectly shaped potato “chips” that came in the bright red tube.   I even liked the little shards that remained at the bottom.

Snack

You can clearly see my limited understanding of that dirt covered rock-looking root.  Ironically, my appreciation for potatoes did not blossom until I tasted other preparations of this starch in Europe.  And no, I’m not talking about Ireland.  I’m talking about Italian preparation of potatoes.
Sorry to say, I find the old-fashioned potato preparation – boiling them in salted water and slathering it in butter – very boring and rather heavy.  Prepared that way, I can see why people have to eat a lot of potatoes to find some satisfaction.  By eating large quantities, it’s understandable why diets that avoid starch and carbohydrate see the potato as a foe than a friend.

Perhaps a moral to learn for those who love potatoes:  quality is much better than quantity.  Avoiding starches, such as the simple potato, will help you lose weight (it’s been scientifically proven).  But you will also lose out on an ingredient that is near and dear to the hearts of traditions, history, and family memories around the dinner table.  And starch-free dinners do get boring – at least in my opinion.  Perhaps a moderate outlook on the potato, or other starches for that matter, would be that you can eat it, but just eat less of it. And make sure it’s more flavorful in its preparations, in order to satisfy your culinary cravings.

To help “remake” the potato, I turn (once again) to Italian influenced preparations.  In my opinion, Italians are as impressive with potato treatments as they are with pastas.  The Italian gnocchi, for example, (when prepared well) are pillow-like potato dumpling often served in a ragu or in a sage and brown butter sauce.  A small bowl of this potato preparation won’t leave a person feeling stuffed.  Instead, I’ve always left a good gnocchi dinner feeling content and guilt free.
Another Italian potato recipe is roasted potatoes with rosemary.  A few pieces served as a side dish with grilled lean meat and a fibrous vegetable always left me feeling satisfied and never heavy.

(Pan-roasted potato with rosemary.)

(Pan-roasted potato with rosemary.)


I admit that the Italians, while more famous for the pasta, should be very proud of how they opened my rice eating background to a whole new world of potato goodness.  The use of herbs and roasting techniques for Italian preparation of potatoes reminds me of the message I shared last week about portion control.  It’s not about how much you eat, but the quality of the food.  The potato is not a dieter’s enemy.  When prepared well, it can help bring about balance to protein-heavy diet meal plans.

(This is my version of a roasted potato, grilled corn, and grilled green bean salad. A delicious and healthy meal in itself!)

(This is my version of a roasted potato, grilled corn, and grilled green bean salad. A delicious and healthy meal in itself!)

Faithful Foodie Notes:  We have a few more spots left on our Culinary Cruise and our Napa Valley Retreat – both provide a combination of culinary and spiritual opportunities, world class accommodations, and incredible family fun at very affordable rates.  We will close booking for the culinary cruise next week, so act now and contact Diana George (dgeorge@ctscentral.net) at Corporate Travel Service 1-800-727-1999 x 180, or click here to view the full brochure.

Posted in Grace Before Meals, Italian, Menu Inspiration, Past Emails | 4 Comments »

Posted February 9th, 2011 | Uncategorized

Krakow in December 1996, topped the coldest place I visited. Bismarck, ND in January comes at a close second!

Bismarck's Capital Building. People joked with me about the beautiful Bismarck Skyline!

Bismarck's Capital Building. People joked with me about the beautiful Bismarck Skyline! Sorry for the blurry pic, as I was in a moving car.

As the plane  touched down,  I saw the icy snow blowing back and forth.  The airline attendant said that our hand carried bags cannot be brought to the gate because their baggage apparatus was frozen.  As soon as I stepped off the plane I felt that instant chill through my bones, my frozen nasal passages, and the shivering came instantly.  What was I doing in Bismark, ND in January?!?

Me with some of the members of the Schweiters' Family

Me with some of the members of the Schweiters' Family. All of the children were alumnus of St. Mary's High School

I had been invited  to help  kick off Catholic Schools week at St. Mary’s Central Catholic HS by giving a talk to the students, speaking at each classroom and hosting an event with the parents.  My presentations came complete with breakdancing, board breaking and bread breaking!

From a Youth Rally in Florida - Teaching kids how to "break through" the barriers that prevent us from growing closer to God

From a Youth Rally in Florida - Teaching kids how to "break through" the barriers that prevent us from growing closer to God

It was definitely worth the cold!  I’m very proud to recognize this St. Mary’s Central High School as one of the most outstanding Catholic High Schools that I’ve visited!  And yes, I do tons of talks for different school systems across our great country and this is truly one of the best!  This school has several “walls of fame”, but the most impressive wall proudly displayed all of the different religious vocations that have come from the school since 1916.  And they continue to produce more.    That’s impressive as it is!

A Wall of Priests and Religious Vocations from One High School.  Impressive!

A Wall of Priests and Religious Vocations from One High School. Impressive!

When I arrived, the students and some teachers were still in the hallways as the announcements began.  Right before the bell rang for first period, they all prayed the Angelus – by memory – and they all even genuflected at the proper time of the prayer.

Pausing for Prayer - and not just saying words.  They really prayed at this High School.

Pausing for Prayer - and not just saying words. They really prayed at this High School.

I also discovered that all of the religion teachers were male.  They had nothing against women teachers, and in fact seek them out.  They recently had one female religion teacher until she left to raise her family. I guess Bismarck is just a tad more traditional than big cities, and for that reason, they thrive in their Catholic Identity.  I find this impressive because it’s hard to find male role models of faith.  In some cases there is an agenda, a more liberalized feminized version of religion that creeps into Catholic Faith Formation.  That cannot be!  In a modern world where religious education is primarily done by women (and thank God for moms and faithful female teachers!), that sometimes means that faith is taught to the exclusion of dads – the fatherly figure.  While I have no hard statistic on this, I can say that the schools that have males as teachers for religious education have a stronger sense of Catholic Identity. It’s the same as a family.  When dads get involved in the faith, the children are more sincere, accepting and practicing than when the mother exclusively teaches the faith. In some cases, the mothers do it because dads aren’t interested or available.  Again, no disrespect for female teachers and a mother’s approach to faith. I’m simply suggesting we need to have BOTH – men and women teaching the faith, and not just one or the other.

"Know Your Faith" Championship Trophy.  This Catholic Quiz Competition is SERIOUS and Serious FUN stuff for these students!

"Know Your Faith" Championship Trophy. This Catholic Quiz Competition is SERIOUS and Serious FUN stuff for these students!

This school should be very proud of the “fatherly character” that comes from their religious school classes.  I can tell that even the tougher HS boys were more authentic in their faith, simply because they had such good, manly, and Christian gentlemen as role models.

Fr. Waltz, school chaplain.  A good spiritual father. He's a real outdoorsman, but also likes sushi!  Sushi, in Bismarck?  Hear all about it in an upcoming blast!

Fr. Waltz, school chaplain. A good spiritual father. He's a real outdoorsman, but also likes sushi! Sushi, in Bismarck? Hear all about it in an upcoming blast!

I found the chaplaincy program quite effective, relevant, and vibrant as well.  They obviously have Catholic Identity as a hallmark for this school – even calling their sport teams, “Saints!”  You can’t go wrong with that.

Catholic Schools week is a great time to celebrate the dignity and honor of raising your children in the Catholic School System. I am very impressed and edified by the number of schools, like St. Mary’s, that takes the religious identity very seriously.  Authentic Catholic education doesn’t hinder social development.  Some suggest that Catholic education doesn’t help a young person integrate well into mainstream society.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve found these St. Mary’s students to be quite impressive future leaders.  The ones I met demonstrated virtue, intelligence, athleticism, kindness.  They were normal, funny – dare I say it – COOL!

Some of the students serving as sous chefs!

Some of the students serving as sous chefs! These students were big foodies too - an "A +" in my book!

On the flip side, I’ve been to schools where I wonder if the parents know how much money they were wasting on education.  Classrooms were sloppy, the teachers were whiney, and the Catholic Identity was  fluffy – nothing substantial – nothing to be proud of!  Discipline in such schools pander close to psycho-babble-affirmations; Uniform and dress codes weren’t followed as boys walked around with drooping pants while girls hiked up their skirts leaving very little to imagination.  Catholic Identity for some schools showed up once a week – during Catholic School’s Week.   Admittedly, there are some very sad Catholic Schools. Dear Bishops – close these down or make them take away the name “Catholic!”  Or, even better, recruit a strong religious order to take over, and employ nothing but the best teachers that come from my University 0 Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, or other places like Steubenville, Christendom, Aquinas College and a few other really good Catholic Colleges and Universities!

This blog is  an invitation for parents to be more invested in their children’s education.  Education is FOOD FOR THE MIND!  We need more of a wake up call for those schools that call themselves Catholic.  They need to celebrate their Catholic Identity more than once a week.   They need to be more authentic and to live out their faith more fully, joyfully, and regularly.  If they do, they will excel in enrollment and their students will excel in life.  I just read an article about how Catholic School students best in academic competitions.  Happy as I am about that statistic, those statistical numbers should be much higher than reported!

One of the most edifying things about this Catholic School’s week at St. Mary’s High School happened after the closing bell rang of the first day.  The chaplain and administration invited parents of the students to come to a Grace  Before Meals demonstration so that I can share our message about the domestic church – the family’s role in educating their children.  So many parents came! We almost ran out of food.  I definitely ran out of books and aprons.  It was so great to see so many families come together to learn from the dinner table and  not just the desk table.

Check out the crowds waiting in line for the food!  I guess this could be considered a communion of "saints".

Check out the crowds waiting in line for the food! I guess this could be considered a communion of "saints".

The students who helped me cook for this event were just as impressive as they were helpful.  After meeting some of their parents, I can see why!   The best Catholic Schools don’t simply rely on the chaplain, the principal or the teachers.  These successful Catholic Schools rely on the parents as the primary (not exclusive) educators.  In other words, you can have the best Catholic School system, but without parents getting involved, the program will suffer.

Perhaps this is also another wake up call – not just for schools, but for parents – to make sure that education requires information for the mind but also authentic inspiration of the Holy Spirit for heart and soul!  We can’t leave God or His Catholic Church out of authentic education.  We need to be more disciples (i.e., disciplined students) that come from disciplined homes and more obedient school systems.

St. Mary’s Central Catholic High School, thank you for helping restore my faith in the Catholic School Education System.  While it was cold as “Bismarck in January”, you all definitely warmed my spirit with your on-fire faith!

Class of 2011 - Catholic School's Week's "Beach Day" - in North Dakota?  Congratulations and Blessings on your Graduation!

Class of 2011 - Catholic Schools Week. Students celebrating "Beach Day." In North Dakota?!?! Congratulations and Blessings on your Graduation!

Tell me your opinion about Catholic schools.  Are they different now from back in your time?  What can Catholic Schools do to improve and stay true to their name as “Catholic?”  Are you proud and pleased with your Catholic School?  If so, tell us the name and where it is. Maybe someone in your area is looking for a good school.  At this table, your comments are very welcome and important to us!  Post your comments below.

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Posted February 7th, 2011 | Uncategorized

imgp4233Admittedly, as a Baltimore Ravens fan and a natural Pittsburgh Steelers rival, I rejoiced in the nail biting conclusion of the last night’s game when the Green Bay Packers took the Super Bowl Championships!  Congrats to both teams for the honor of playing this incredible game that brought about 10 million viewers together around a love for the football culture.

My Ravens Football Loving Family!

My Ravens Football Loving Family!

For me, of all the organized major league sports, football is my favorite.  It gives my family something fun to watch together and celebrate in the cold winter months. It provides pride for our local team’s players.  We hear edifying stories about many of the players, while providing authentic and wholesome families discussion opportunities when hearing about the wayward actions of some other players.  Competition and organized sports needs a theological perspective which can come only when parents, who love God above all things (including sports), communicate that to their children.

Ultimately, I love the sport because of the tailgating traditions of food, drink and cheer!

Me and some chefs at a Big Brother & Big Sister culinary event at Raven's Stadium

Me and some chefs who participated at the Big Brother Big Sister Culinary Event at Baltimore's Ravens Stadium.

Originally I was going to post a recipe for my beer-becue Italian Sausage.  In the interest of organizing tailgate recipes, I’ll simply direct people to watch the webshows that are based around tailgating.  Great dining and fun guests on those webshows.  Instead, I’ll post that recipe and a few others in my “Menu Inspiration” email that I send to subscribers next month.  If you haven’t signed up to receive these emails, join the fun by subscribing and receiving these complimentary messages of faith, inspiring information and mouthwatering recipes – like this one!

Beer-Becue Italian Sausage, Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese and Fresh Cilantro.  Recipe to come in next month's "Menu Inspiration"

Beer-Becue Italian Sausage, Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese and Fresh Cilantro. Recipe to come in next month's "Menu Inspiration"

For now, I must admit that I’m not the biggest Packer Fan either, although I’m very, very happy for them! But my excitement for them is not just because I’m a Steelers Fan rival, but because so many of the fans wore cheese head hats!   As a foodie, I tend towards supporting food inclined teams, i.e.,  those whose love for cheese is just as great as their love for football!  I guess one of Wisconsin’s slogan, “Cheddar is Better” was true for last night’s game.

Granted, that was pretty “cheesy” of me to say.  Then again, I’m also a New Orleans Saints fan, even though I can’t tell you the name of more than one player on that team.  But, how I can be against the Saints?  Besides my love for the “Holy Ones”, I also really love New Orleans cuisine!

A "True" Saint Fan!

A "True" Saint Fan!

To all the NFL teams, the families that love and support their teams, the ones who are rejoicing and those who are weeping: I think we can all celebrate together, despite our rivalries.  And what is the one thing that can bring us together?  You got it – a big plate of love, and a big group of people who love the excitement of the sport more than they love boasting about winning!

A Sloppy Mess of Food, but DELICIOUS Dining for the Super Bowl Game!

A Sloppy Mess of Food, but DELICIOUS Dining for the Super Bowl Game!

How did your family celebrate the big Super Bowl game?  What cuisine did you serve?  Are you rejoicing or weeping after last night’s game?   Share your insights by posting your comment.

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