Faithful Foodie

“From the Feedbag” will be a weekly Grace Before Meals e-mail that answers questions or responds to comments subscribers send to us.  As our movement continues to grow, we want to make sure you have a voice.  We will sincerely try to answer every question or respond to every comment, even if it may take a little time.  Thank you for your past comments and e-mails.  We value your input and ideas.  So keep sending us your questions, sharing your comments, and being blessings to our movement. E-mail us at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com.

Multiplying Meals!

Family meals can present unique challenges, especially for large families.  I hear it all the time from our subscribers, and they all seem to have the same question about preparing for big meals. Hopefully my response to some of these questions can provide perspective to bring a “piece” of “peace” back to the table.

My Big/Little Family. Lots of mouths to feed, but also lots of love to go around!

(My Big/Little Family.  Lots of mouths to feed, but also lots of love to go around!)

Hi Fr. Leo,

We have 6 kids, five of which are boys.  As they get older, they get louder.  At meal time, everyone interrupts and talks at the same time.  My husband and I are exasperated.  Meal time isn’t fun!

Any ideas to help us out?

Signed,

Exasperated!

————————————————————————————————–

Dear Exasperated,

Let’s be realistic.  Until your children get old enough to fully integrate the manners you’ve been teaching them since a young age (hint, hint), dinner times will be a little hectic.  Hopefully you’re not spoiling your children and you are enforcing proper disciplinary measures.  However, I offer to you a few ideas for your consideration:

  1. Make sure you are teaching them manners and using all parenting skills and tools at your disposal.  For example:  reward children for being on their best behavior by giving the best behaved the first dessert.  Create “special” meals where you suggest a particular teaching lesson or a topic for which each child is supposed to share an answer.
  2. Create a rule that no one will speak until everyone has something on their plate.  Have a “buzz” word that suggests when people are getting loud.  For example, my dad simply had to cough in a certain way to indicate that he or my mom observed something inappropriate at the table.
    Some seminarians joined my family for a summer cookout. We shared our food. They shared inspiration!


    (Some seminarians joined my family for a summer cookout.  We shared our food.  They shared inspiration!)
  3. Make sure your children are part of the cooking, serving, and cleaning up process.  If they are part of the action, and not just there to be served, they will be more invested in making the meal more special!
  4. Be sure to explore different menus, i.e., don’t get boring with your meals.  And perhaps even change the setting to a once a week “picnic” in the TV room – IF, they are good the rest of the week.
  5. Don’t ever be afraid to use some appropriate old-fashioned discipline, which is the right and responsibility of parents.  In other words, dinner time is a place to teach manners and discipline.
  6. Finally:  Parents – don’t be afraid to hire a trusted babysitter, so that you can also get some romantic and personal date time together.  You’ll need that.  And I know grandparents, uncles, and aunts will be more than happy to watch your little precious children, as long as you’re not raising them to be little terrors!
    (Children “patiently” waiting at Family Day in North Carolina.)
(Children “patiently” waiting at Family Day in North Carolina.)

Dear Grace Before Meals Team,

I would love to see Fr. Leo address “Cooking for Crowds with Finesse,” geared for moms cooking for large families. As someone who is culinarily-challenged, I’d love ideas on how to present amazing dishes to my family of 8 (five boys, one girl, a momma and dad) how to make this quick and easy and delish!

Thanks and blessings to you and your ministry,

Rachel Balducci,

testosterhome.net

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(Young students serving with “finesse” for a school fundraiser. Requires many hands AND good equipment.)

(Young students serving with “finesse” for a school fundraiser.  Requires many hands AND good equipment.)

Dear Rachel,

First of all:  Our Grace Before Meals team is grateful for your being part of our movement.  Your blog is fantastic and I hope many of our subscribers check it out: testosterhome.net.  With this response, hopefully we’ll not only promote your blog and good work, but also answer your question, which I think is:  How can parents prepare a finessed meal with a big and busy family?  Here are some suggestions to help make your meals more meaningful rather than maniacal.

  1. Get the proper equipment:  Large kettle drummed pots, large baking racks, and really big serving bowls make all the difference in the world.  I’ve seen too many families waste time and energy by using equipment too small for large proportional cooking.  For example, fried chicken for a large group can be much simpler by purchasing a big cast iron skillet, which you can purchase at any outdoor camping store.  A large skillet can cook a whole cut up chicken in one setting, and the cast iron helps retain heat so that you don’t have to keep changing oil for new batches.  So take a look around your kitchen and make an investment in big, but quality cookware.
  2. Mise en place:  When cooking a big meal, make sure you take the time in advance – say at the beginning of the week, when you plan the menu and prep all the ingredients in individual disposable bags or reusable containers.  It’s no different from what a restaurant has to do, which requires some planning.  But mise en place, which is a French term for “putting things in place,” is the best way to make a finessed meal even for large portions.

    (July 3, 2010 – Taste of Chicago Food Festival.  Setting up all my ingredients before a cooking demonstration.)

    (July 3, 2010 – Taste of Chicago Food Festival.  Setting up all my ingredients before a cooking demonstration.)
  3. Learn some cooking techniques such as beginning the cooking process of searing meats in a frying pan, but then finishing the cooking process in the oven.  Or another tip is to make sauces in advance, and keep them in squirt bottles for easy use and assembly.  And another quick pasta tip I like to use, especially for big events:  cook the pasta in advance al dente, completely drain it, and put all the pasta in an “ice bath” (i.e., a large bowl filled with ice water).  This ice bath will stop the cooking process and keep the pasta’s texture perfectly tender but not mushy.  After the pasta has cooled down, drain the water completely.  Drizzle a little olive oil, and then store the pasta in Ziploc bags for easy use to later incorporate in warmed sauces.

Hopefully these tips will help make your meals flavorful and fanciful, but less stressful!  Now I know I can’t teach everyone to love cooking, especially when it can be a daily chore.  But I can encourage and remind families that when you do take time and cook for your children, you show how much you love the people for whom you cook.  Again, loving to cook and loving those for whom you cook are two different realities – but each requires generous, heaping portions of love!

(Mom cooked with love. Even with a busy schedule, she made sure her pineapple presentation was decorative but, more importantly, functional. She would slide her knife diagonally to remove the pineapple pits.)

(Mom cooked with love.  Even with a busy schedule, she made sure her pineapple presentation was decorative but, more importantly, functional.  She would slide her knife diagonally to remove the pineapple pits.)

Let us pray:  God help our families, especially our really big ones, to experience some peace and, more importantly, a purpose with their family meals.  When things get hectic at the dinner table, inspire parents with the knowledge of the investment they make when they use the family dinner to teach, to love, and to serve the kids.  Help us all to remember the table’s blessing is really the people around the table more than the food on it.  Amen!

What tips do you have for cooking for large families?  Do you have a recipe that is fail-proof?  What’s the largest group you have had to cook for, and how did you make it through the crowds?  Your comments and questions help encourage our movement.  Please post your comments below.

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Posted in From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Posted May 19th, 2011 | Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals

Faithful Foodie

“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 expand our faith while satisfying 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.

Big Apple Pizza Adventure!

For the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of visiting New York City, primarily for work, but I’ve still been able to work in some quick food visits.  And if there’s one food that always seems to be available and always done with culinary precision, it’s pizza!  No doubt New York has some of the best pizza in the world!  I know Chicago would argue with me, and Italy would completely disagree.  The fact is, many of the original pizza makers who came to America through Ellis Island brought their pizza making skills and set up shop in the “world’s city” of New York, New York.  And if they can make pizza there, they can make it anywhere!

In a non-scientific survey, I counted more than 50 pizza-selling restaurants in Manhattan alone.  Here’s a Google map of just some of them! And incredibly, I know there are even more fantastic specialty pizza shops in the other boroughs as well.  That could rival the number of pizza shops in Rome!

(A big pizza from a Jersey Shore boardwalk pizza joint.)

(A big pizza from a Jersey Shore boardwalk pizza joint.)

For those pizza aficionados and those who simply love those savory bites of sauce, cheese, and toppings, I have a few faithful foodie pizza tips for you when visting the Big Apple.

First:  If you want to visit just some of the more popular/famous pizza stops, I have a perfect pizza tour just for you.  It’s owned and operated by Scott Weiner, a well-traveled pizza foodie who has brought all of his love and taste-tested experiences together into a packed tour that you can either take by bus or on foot.  He’s been featured on several TV and radio shows.  He’s engaging, funny, and has a keen sense of what makes the best NYC pizza shop.  And he’s willing to share that love and knowledge with all of you!

Second:  While Scott’s tour does not take you to Bella Napoli Restaurant of 150 W 49th Street, that if you have a pizza craving while in the city, this is one stop I can definitely recommend!  It’s a typical pizza place but with a real Roman Italian feel.  The staff, primarily Italian, will respond in the mother tongue if “tu parli l’Italiano.”  I also appreciate the seating capacity in the back room for large groups, all of whom definitely appreciate the very large pizzas!  If you go, please remember, it’s a NYC pizza joint and not an upscale place.  So don’t be upset if you were expecting fine dining.  The last time I was there, I was serenaded by an Asian man singing Italian songs.  It’s just that kind of a place, which I’m perfectly content with – as long as the pizza is good!  And here, it’s pretty tasty and also in a perfect location, at the heart of the city and right next to the SiriusXM Studios, where I sometimes go for radio shows.

(Me with Adam Hamway, producer of the Advent and Lenten Radio Show and The Catholic's Next Door.)

(Me with Adam Hamway, producer of the Advent and Lenten Radio Show and The Catholic’s Next Door.)

When I’m doing the radio show in NYC or visiting friends from the Catholic Channel, we usually take a little lunch break and enjoy a slice, or two, or three.  I know you will enjoy it too.

Finally:  Instead of simply gorging on pizzas made by other people, be sure to try your hand at making it yourself.  Chef and Pizza Guru Mark Bello will inspire passion as you experience hands-on cooking classes making artisanal pizzas.

Mark Bello in the midst of setting up the Pizza A Casa shop on 371 Grand Street, NY, NY.

(Mark Bello in the midst of setting up the Pizza A Casa shop on 371 Grand Street, NY, NY.)

Featured as a guest judge on the popular show Food Wars, along with other TV shows, magazines, and newspapers, Mark’s creativity and respect for tradition can help home chefs prepare pizzas even better than what they might pay for at a restaurant!  His pizza teaching shop even provides all of the proper accoutrements to make you a real “pizza-nista!”  My producer’s wife and son even took the class, as did my seminarians.  And I can attest:  Mark can teach anyone how to make awesome pizzas!

9/24/10 – Soon to be Priest, Rev. Mr. Matthew Gray from the Diocese of Charleston, SC

(9/24/10 – Soon to be Priest, Rev. Mr. Matthew Gray from the Diocese of Charleston, SC.)

If you’ll be in NYC, be sure to call ahead and schedule a pizza class for you and your friends today!

Is there a spiritual connection to pizza, besides loving the way it tastes?  As a matter of fact, yes!  Pizza begins with the crust.  The “leaven,” the “yeast,” and the proper “formation” of the crust “in the hands of an artist” is spiritual talk found in the scriptures.  We are called to be leaven and yeast in society.  And in the powerful hands of God, we are formed into that perfect person, as a perfect crust.  And as the crust is the base for the pizza, a well-formed person is the true “base” for society.  Each ingredient topping represents all of humanity.  Each person is different.  We can bring about a unique aspect of life, simply by our presence.  But the key to all of the toppings and the crusty base is balance.  Too much or too little of an ingredient can throw off the balance, weigh down the crust, make it soggy, and essentially make a mess of things.  Isn’t that true for our life – when things are balanced on a proper base?

My suggestion to families:  get a pizza night going.  But instead of making your own individual pizzas, organize a system so your family members can make pizza for each other.  Dad makes it for mom, sister for brother, youngest grandchild makes it for grandpa – you get the gist of it.   Even if you don’t make the crust yourself (although Mark Bello can teach it to you perfectly), you can always get premade pizza crusts.  This would still let family members be creative with toppings as well as show just how much they know what the other person likes.  These specially made pies will help bring families together, like a perfectly made pizza.

Anticipation! Come and Get it!

(Anticipation!  Come and Get it!)

My favorite:  sausage, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, and black olives!

Let us pray:  Father, You gave to the people of Sicily the inspiration to make the first pizza.  Since then, almost every country in the world shares a love for this food.  In a sense, pizza became a food source that brings the whole world together!  May we see, even in the delicate art of making pizzas, the inspiration to bring our world together.  No matter how different we are, may we always work together in harmony with Your law of love and may we always feed the hungry people in this world!  We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Do you have any tricks on how to make the perfect crust?  What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Any original or unique combinations?  Your comments help encourage our movement, so please be sure to share.  Post your comments below.

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Posted in Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals | 3 Comments »

Posted May 11th, 2011 | Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, vacation

Menu Inspiration

“Menu Inspiration” gives subscribers exclusive access to original and inspired recipes from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, host of the movement, Grace Before Meals.  If you try this recipe, let us know what you think.  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!  Post your comments below.

Family Foods!

(Raleigh, NC, Family Day: Lot’s of hungry mouths to feed.)

(Raleigh, NC, Family Day:  Lot’s of hungry mouths to feed.)

Last year I had the opportunity to film a few webisodes with the Scouts from the Archdiocese of Washington.  It impressed me to see how tight families became on these nature outings.  While my family never went “camping,” we definitely had many outings that tightened our bonds as a family.  How could we be anything else but “close” when parents, four kids, and sometimes a relative or two would cram in the family station wagon, along with luggage and a cooler packed with food!  As families prepare for the summer months, I’ve included a few recipes and cooking tips to help get everyone on a faithful foodie adventure!

(Filming for the Bobby Flay Throwdown!)

(Filming for the Bobby Flay Throwdown!)

RECIPE # 1:  Solar Warmed Beef and Onion Tortillas to Go!

I created a version of this recipe for a scouting family outing.  You can check out a video that features a similar version of this recipe online, click here.  In this “updated” recipe, I make it so easy to make, transport, assemble, and clean up, thatfamilies can prepare this in advance.  .  .  It’s also very “easy” on the taste buds.  This recipe will be perfect for families who may not be packing a grill or portable stove for this day trip dinner, as you finish the cooking/warming up process using the sun, plastic bags, and simple gastronomical tools, i.e., using acids and vinegars to cook the meat. So let’s get cooking!

(A taco food truck inspired this recipe.)

(A taco food truck inspired this recipe.)

Ingredients:  Feeds a family of 4

3 Ziploc bags

2  6-8 ounce New York Strip Steaks, cut into thin strips

½ cup of your favorite hot sauce

1 Tbs olive oil

1 white onion, minced

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

¼ cup cabbage, shredded

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced

1 lime, juiced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

8-10 tortillas

Instructions:  Prepare the beef at home.  Cut beef steaks into thin strips.  Season with half of the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and hot sauce.  Heat ½ Tbs of olive oil in a pan and sauté until beef is cooked rare.  This will cook quickly, only 2-3 minutes.  Set aside until beef is cool.  Then put beef in a plastic bag and keep chilled.  To prepare the rest of the fixins, mince onion and cilantro, and shred the cabbage.  Place these veggies in a plastic bag, and season with the rest of the salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Then add the lime juice to the fixins’ mix.  Store in a plastic bag and keep chilled.  Place the tortillas in a separate plastic bag and also keep chilled.  Pack all of these in a small cooler and to keep chilled for transportation.  When you’re ready eat, simply set these plastic bags out in the hot sun for a few minutes to warm.  The acids from the lime and the vinegar in the hot sauce will “cook” and “tenderize” the contents in the plastic bag.  Assemble each beef tortilla by spooning a little of the meat and the fixins on a tortilla.  Wrap, eat, and enjoy!

RECIPE # 2:  Beer B-Q Italian Sausages and Onions

This recipe was also featured in a webisode and on a few local news shows as well.  It takes Italian sausage and onions to a whole new barbecued level!  You don’t need a culinary degree to prepare it, and it can be cooked over an open flame or even an electric burner.  It’s great “food snobby” picnic food!

(The bubbling goodness!)

(The bubbling goodness!)

Ingredients:  Feeds 3 people – each person can get 2 sausages-dogs

1 disposable aluminum pan

6-pack of Italian Sausage, sweet or mild

1 can of beer (light beer is preferred for this recipe)

1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

1 large white onion, cut into thin strips

¼ cup blue cheese or feta cheese

Fresh cilantro leaf

6 hot dog buns

>

(The finished product.)

(The finished product.)

Instructions:  Put sausages in aluminum pan over heat source (grill pan or stove).  Turn occasionally so sausages begin to brown on at least two sides.  Add beer and barbecue sauce, and mix together.  Then add onions, and cook until the liquid reduces to half and onions are braised completely (until limp).  To serve, place a sausage and some of the onions into a hotdog bun, and drizzle some of the beer infused barbecue sauce on top.  Top off with some cilantro and blue cheese.  Crazy delicious!

RECIPE # 3:  A Hearty Meatless Lunch

(Open market in Italy – Shopping for fresh vegetables in an open market in Italy is a meal in and of itself.)

(Open market in Italy – Shopping for fresh vegetables in an open market in Italy is a meal in and of itself.)

This recipe is another perfect picnic recipe that provides families an opportunity to work together in the kitchen BEFORE packing up a simple cooler filled with delicious goodies.  A food trip to an Italian market in Providence, RI, on a hot summer day inspired this simple lunch idea that will help families keep their food delicious and healthy, but also super simple.

(Providence, RI – Italian Market.)

(Providence, RI – Italian Market.)

Grilled Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients:

1 bunch of broccoli rapini (a.k.a., broccoli rabe), washed with tough part of the stems cut and discarded

2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

¼ cup water

2 Tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp vinegar

Instructions:  Clean and prepare the broccoli by washing, and then cut off about ¼ inch of the bottom of the stem.  That’s generally the “woody” and very fibrous part of the stem.  And while it has great nutritional value, it can be difficult to eat.  Next, heat water and garlic in a large sauté pan.  Once water comes to a boil, add the broccoli rabe.  Use tongs to turn broccoli, so that each side turns a bright green color.  When water has almost completely evaporated, add the olive oil.  Let cook and sizzle.  Then add the vinegar, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then set aside until cool.  Preserve in a plastic bag and keep cool.

Grilled Olives, Mushrooms and Peppers:

Ingredients:

1 tsp olive oil

1 cup green olives, pitted

1 cup fresh mixed mushroom (your choice)

1 red bell pepper, cleaned and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions:  Heat a nonstick pan over high heat.  When pan is very hot add the olives, and sauté until they take on some color.  Next, add olive oil (be careful of hot oil splatter).  Then add the mushrooms and peppers, and sauté 2-3 minutes.  Season the entire mixture with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cool before placing contents in a plastic bag.  Keep refrigerated or chilled before serving.

Marinated Mozzarella:

1 small container of fresh mozzarella balls, with water drained

2-4 fresh basil leaves, finely minced

1 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp salt and pepper

Instructions:  Drain the water that was used to “pack” the fresh mozzarella.  Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir together before putting in a plastic bag.  Keep refrigerated or chilled until serving.

Each of these recipes can easily be mixed and matched in order to prepare your family’s outdoorsy meal!  Hopefully these ideas can inspire your family to go on a road trip with some delicious meals that are economical, friendly on the preparation time, and a snap to clean up!

Faithful foodies, how did you enjoy these recipes?  Do you have any recipe tips for family outdoorsy events?  What will you prepare for your next family outing?  Your comments and questions certainly encourage us to persevere!  Post your comments below.

____________________________________________________________

Big News for Grace Before Meals team

Not my actual ship, but you get the idea.

I am out in Californ-I-A right now, but next week, I will be sailing the Mediterranean on a 7 night Culinary Cruise starting on May 14. It is bound to be a great experience with wine tasting, spiritual talks, daily Mass and more.

Also on May 14, our Project Manager, Joe Hansbrough and his beautiful fiance, Erica George, will be sharing the sacred sacrament of marriage, so we wish them many blessings and prayers and support as they seek to love God more through their love.

With all of that in mind, our Grace Before Meals team will be taking a week long hiatus, coming back into full swing on Tuesday, May 24. You will still receive next week’s newsletter, but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at info@gracebeforemeals.com or in case of emergencies, you can reach the Co-Creator of Grace Before Meals, Tim Watkins at twatkins@renegadecommunications.com.

Joe and Erica are getting married!

(Our Project Manager, Joe H. with his wife-to-be, Erica G.)

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Posted in Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, vacation | 3 Comments »

Dinner Discussion

Dinner Discussions from the Grace Before Meals movement gives “food for thought” for your family meals, by combining some aspects of faith, food, and family fun.  Hopefully this little article will give you something to talk about with your family at the kitchen table – a blessed place that enhances family communion.  If you have a comment, a question, or a topic that you would like to discuss, be sure to contact us at www.gracebeforemeals.com.

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Don’t Work, Don’t Eat!

(Teaching students at the International Community College in Japan, during a speaking tour in 2008.)

(Teaching students at the International Community College in Japan, during a speaking tour in 2008.)

The Scripture quote, “Those who don’t work, should not eat.” (2 Thes 3:10) perfectly fits our Grace Before Meals message!  It reflects a phenomenological reality of our existence.  Consider how much work goes into making sure your family has enough to eat.  While many families would prefer to have extra income to purchase toys, gadgets, fashions, and leisure trips, the fruits of their labors go primarily into putting food on the table.  This Scripture quote puts our work in proper perspective!  Eating regular meals with your family is more valuable than purchasing toys and pursuing extravagant hobbies.  Work to eat, not to waste on play!

(Trying to make the best choices in a grocery store.)

(Trying to make the best choices in a grocery store.)

This Scripture quote sums up the life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their home at Nazareth.  This month of May is a perfect time to celebrate that Holy Family.  May is traditionally dedicated to our Blessed Mother Mary, especially in light of American’s upcoming Mother’s Day celebration (Click here for a Grace Before Meals Mother’s Day Menu)!

(Mom’s always looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m doing things the “right” way, i.e., her way – haha!)

(Mom’s always looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m doing things the “right” way, i.e., her way – haha!)

This month also begins with a liturgical celebration of St. Joseph, the Worker.  It’s almost as if May offers a spiritual reminder to moms and dads to celebrate the work that goes into keeping your family fed – body, mind, and soul.

(An Altar dedicated to St. Joseph, under the patronage of Foster Father of Jesus.)

(An Altar dedicated to St. Joseph, under the patronage of Foster Father of Jesus.)

In Italy, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker is a day off from work – similar to America’s vacation day for the “Labor Day” celebration.  It’s ironic that on such feasts dedicated to “work” that people take the day off.  While many people don’t have to report to work on these feast days, we know families continue to use these vacation days to labor together.  Why?  Well, it takes a lot of work to feed a family!

In my prayers and meditation, I have often reflected on how hard Saint Joseph worked for his family, even though he is traditionally known as having been married at an older age.  He was a local carpenter, and so I’m not sure how much money he would have made.  But we can say for sure he wasn’t wealthy.  I’m sure he made just enough to take care of his family.  We know from Scripture that he relocated his family from Nazareth, to Bethlehem, to Egypt, and then to Galilee – not an easy thing to do today, made much harder while traveling on a donkey in the First century.  So, Joseph worked.  He was no couch potato. (See the food reference?)

St. Joseph’s and our Blessed Mother’s efforts to raise Jesus provide a good model for families today.  Jesus didn’t have any expensive toys, as do our modern day children, but he was given the nurturing love of mom and dad.  While Mary and Joseph weren’t rich, they taught Jesus all of life’s lessons, especially how to endure the crosses in life!

(Stations of the Cross - Lourdes, France.)

(Stations of the Cross – Lourdes, France.)

The Holy Family gives modern families a realistic understanding of our working priorities:  food, shelter, and clothing before anything else.  While I appreciate how families work very hard to provide the “best” for their children, I caution against the consumerist mentality that can often confuse family priorities.  I caution young parents who feel the need to take on extra jobs – paying for someone else to raise their children in order to buy their children all they want (not all they need).  Parents make these extra sacrifices, but forget the greatest sacrifice:  time with their children.

Parents:  make time to spend with your children.  We know it’s hard work to create space within busy schedules, but this time is a valuable investment.  And what kids need more of is time with mom and dad!

(Queen of the Universe Church, Orlando, Florida. Statue of Joseph listening to Jesus in carpentry shop.)

(Queen of the Universe Church, Orlando, Florida.  Statue of Joseph listening to Jesus in carpentry shop.)

Tradition, expressed through art, suggests that St. Joseph the Worker brought Jesus to the woodshop as a young boy, so that Joseph could teach Jesus the trade and, of course, spend time with Him.  For that reason, we believe St. Joseph is reaping the rewards of the Eternal Banquet, because he was willing to work hard in order to feed his Son – the very Son who would eventually work to feed us the Food of Eternal Life.

As the school year winds down for many students, children will have more time on their hands.  Perhaps parents will be preoccupied (okay, worried) thinking of ways to keep children busy and to avoid boredom.  Life always gets a little more hectic in the summer, even though it’s a time for more rest and relaxation.  Perhaps, it may be good to begin encouraging kids to start doing work in the summer: lawn care, babysitting, house chores, etc.  They need to learn early that work has purpose and dignity.

(A local team of young chefs who recently competed in a national cooking competition. Find out how they did by visiting our blog.)

(A local team of young chefs who recently competed in a national cooking competition.  Find out how they did by visiting our blog.)

The month of May is also a great time for families to talk about the priorities in life.  Why do parents work so hard?  Remind children (without lording it over them), why you work so hard.  Perhaps families can use this month to have a “family meeting” and determine how family finances require everyone to work together.  Maybe any saved money can be donated to help families who hardly have enough to eat.  These discussions do not have to occur only during the Christmas season.

Referring once again to our opening Scripture passage, we have a beautiful reminder in the Holy Family for modern families, as they prepare for summer activities together.  A family that works hard to spend time together will definitely have a better chance of eating together in that Eternal Banquet to come!

(Picture of Jesus saying “Grace Before Meals” for His mom and foster father.)

(Picture of Jesus saying “Grace Before Meals” for His mom and foster father.)

Work hard so that your family can eat of the food that gives everlasting life!

Finally, this past weekend our Church celebrated another important “father,” namely the late Holy Father, John Paul II, who worked very hard in his own life.  He is now known as “Blessed John Paul II!”  He gave me great inspiration as a seminarian and as a young priest.  He used my chalice!  How fitting that he be beatified on such an important day – the feast of St. Joseph, Divine Mercy Sunday, and the 1st Day of the great month of May (my birthday)!

Let us pray:  Father, teach our human family how to be more like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  While our meditation about Saints can sometimes be so pious and sometimes unrealistic, help us to remember that Saints – like St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary – experienced the same troubles in life as we did.  Give us the same Grace to know how they handled their personal crosses.  May Your Grace turn each cross into a blessing, with the prayers of Blessed John Paul II – who now enjoys the Eternal Banquet in Heaven – through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(I was so young then!)

(I was so young then!)

Tell us what you think of this message?  How do you get your children to learn the value of work?  What will you encourage your kids to do this summer to avoid boredom.  Do you have a devotion to the Holy Family?  Your comments, messages, and questions definitely help encourage our movement.  Please share your thoughts and your comments.


Posted in Dinner Discussion, Food for Thought, Grace Before Meals | 3 Comments »