Posted September 28th, 2011 | From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals

From the Feedbag

“From the Feedbag” is 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.

“Try It, You’ll Like It”

It’s always great to hear from our subscribed members, but especially from people I’ve met or who I’ve had the privilege to present to an event.  And yes, we have arrived at a very busy season of presentations.  Check out the listings of events already on our schedule for this fall, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to meet!

(Lake Charles Louisiana Event break out session with high school teens.)

(Lake Charles Louisiana Event break out session with high school teens.)

For this week’s E-mail Blast, I’m responding to some e-mails with an encouragement to be appropriately adventurous and try something new.  I say “appropriately,” because I don’t want people to fall into harm by doing risky things.  But adventure helps makes life fun – not dangerous.

(Not risky, just lots of fun – complete with hardhat and harness!)

(Not risky, just lots of fun – complete with hardhat and harness!)

FYI:  I always try to keep all our subscriber e-mails anonymous by taking out names and circumstances that compromise identity.  And please know that if you have comments, concerns, suggestions, or questions about anything, all you have to do is get in touch with us by clicking HERE.

In this simple message, I’m encouraging people to be adventurous in their foods.  Go ahead and try something new.  You may wind up really enjoying something exotic.  After all, what’s strange cuisine for some may be daily cuisine for others.  Also, I want to encourage people to take an “adventure” in faith by doing what Saints have done in their lives.  They lived adventurously exciting lives by stepping out of their comfort zones and becoming instruments of compassion, service, faith, hope, and love!

(Picture of Blessed John Paul II as a young priest, with the featured canoe where he would go to pray.)

(Picture of Blessed John Paul II as a young priest, with the featured canoe where he would go to pray.)

Dear Father Leo,

First I’d like to tell you how much my friend and I enjoyed your keynote speech at a recent conference.  It was engaging, informative and encouraging.  My friend and I contribute to our local paper.

In case you don’t remember, I approached you during the break and shared our family dinner idea with you.  You asked me to send you the details of this event and I am doing so.

We have four sons:  One is 28 years old and stationed at an army base in Colorado.  He enlisted as a cook and has been to Iraq twice.  His unit will be going to Afghanistan.  Cooking is his passion.  My other son is 22 years old and a recent graduate.  The third son is a junior at the State University, and my “baby” is 16 and homeschooled.  He has Aspergers, which falls under the autism spectrum.

Our family has always believed in sitting down together for meals.  We’ve used these times to engage the boys in conversation, whether the topic was on something interesting they had learned at school or games involving one-liners from movies and television shows.  Holiday meals are especially important and we have our traditional Italian menu that must be followed to the letter or the kids let us hear about it!  Christmas means Italian wedding soup, homemade ravioli with meat or cheese filling, falsa magra, braciole, and pizzelles.  Easter isn’t Easter without panettone.

Last year one of my sons came up with the idea of a meal involving each member of the family.  Unfortunately my oldest was in Iraq and unable to participate.  We filled out slips of paper with the words appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, and dessert and had each person reach into the hat and pick one.  Each recipe had to be Italian and something none of us had tried before.  We kept our contributions a secret until the day of the big meal.  There was a lot of excitement as we each scoured the internet in search of the right recipe.  There were whispers and questions about what items were available at home and which had to be purchased.

My husband had picked appetizers and he made a bruschetta with a variety of toppings.  I made cioppino – rather expensive, but it was worth it. Chris made a spinach salad, more Greek than Italian, but it was welcomed.  John made a pasta dish with a sauce of tomatoes, olives, red peppers, and wine and Dan prepared cherries marinated in wine and also homemade cannoli.

We took our time eating each entry and oohed and aahed over each contribution, fussing over and congratulating the cook.  We plan on having our second “Family Dinner!”  We’re all looking forward to the evening and hope to make this an annual event.

Ti ringrazio ancora per la tua presentazione. Spero e pregho che il tuo viaggio che viene si sara’ piacevole.  (Italian translation:  Thank you once again for your presentation.  I hope and pray that your upcoming travels go well!)

Dear mom of four great sounding sons!

Your e-mail helps explain the beauty of adventure, especially in the culinary world.  Thanks to your son serving in the military, and, as always, encourage your other sons to get involved in service/other oriented work too.  Who knows, one of them may even consider service in God’s “army” as a priest!

And by the way, those recipes sound delicious.  Be sure to send them our way, so we can post these on our website too!

(My version of a Cioppino con Spaghetti.)

(My version of a Cioppino con Spaghetti.)

Let me know how your cioppino compares to my simple Seafood Pasta Pan Boil.

And keep up the great work trying something new, so you can bring a little spice to your table!

God bless!

Dear Fr. Leo

As always, I am enjoying reading the weekly e-mail blasts!  I try to take your mission of sharing a family meal to heart and share not only the meal, but (as much as possible) the preparation of the meal with my family.  Of course, my two sons are three and five, so the extent to which they can help is limited, but they get a thrill out of doing anything.  Unless, of course, the weather’s nice.  Then they’re too busy tearing around the neighborhood on their scooters.  But I digress…

I wanted to share a recent experience with you that you may appreciate (or disregard…honestly, once I hit “send” I’ll never know what became of the message).  For several years, our parish has collected books, school supplies and other materials for a local elementary school.  My older son, who recently celebrated his fifth birthday, loves to read and has really taken a shining to our local pastor (who studied in the Seminary in Rome with you).  Our son would do absolutely anything in the world for our priest, and he decided that instead of birthday presents, he wanted all the kids who came to his party to bring a book that he could then give to our pastor for the students at the school.  Needless to say, I was a very proud of him when he told me.  I couldn’t imagine that level of generosity from a 5-year old…to pass up new toys in order for less fortunate children to have books?  I was humbled by a 5-year old!

We were blessed that our pastor (who may have replaced me as Danny’s “favorite”) came to our house for dinner so that my son could present him with the books he had gathered.  (Interesting side note – I made penne a la vodka and our priest said it was right up there with the pasta he had in Italy!)  Danny was excited for days ahead of time that Fr. Matt was coming to HIS house for dinner.  Apparently it was the talk of the Pre-K class that day!  I was thrilled to have him over.  We are so blessed to have him as our pastor, inspiring us all with his contagious enthusiasm.

I just wanted to share a recent “Grace Before (and during, and after) Meals” moment with you.  Thank you again for all the inspiration.  I tried to lend our priest my copy of your book, but he said that he was going to buy his own.  He seemed as motivated by your message as I am.  Thank you again.  Talk to you soon!

God bless,

Lisa

Dear mom of a generous son,

This story shows me the power of trying something new, not just for yourself, but trying something new for others!  Your son sounds like one great kid.  He probably learned some of this generosity from the good books you gave him to read as a child, but most importantly from your good example!

(From an event in Michigan last year – this young GBM'er is dressed to serve in his cool apron – available at our online store. Kids have an amazing capacity to be generous – and really cute too!)

(From an event in Michigan last year – this young GBM’er is dressed to serve in his cool apron – available at our online store. Kids have an amazing capacity to be generous – and really cute too!)

Tell him to keep it up!  And tell your pastor how proud I am of him for making such a good impression on you and your family.  Yes, the priesthood can be a very “new idea” for many young men, especially me.  But it sounds like your son has the heart of a good shepherd, who knows the importance of feeding the flock in body, mind, and spirit.  Good books are an important part of our diet, so please thank your son for his smorgasbord-like offering.

Also, please let me know how your pasta sauce compares with my version of penne a la vodka.  As you know, that sauce is best when you add a lot of the “good stuff” (i.e., vodka), but let it reduce to a nice thickness before adding the sauce.

God bless you!

Fr. Leo

(Newly ordained, former spiritual directee, Rev. Matthew Gray, being interviewed after the momentous ordination.)

(I made this dish at a nursing home and set off the fire alarm. Here the Fire Chief explains how a smoke detector works – particularly one right over the where I ignited the vodka to flambé!)

Hi Fr. Leo,

My children attend Catholic school and they have opportunities during the school year to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  During the summer I always invite them to come to the sacrament with me when I go, but they usually decline.  Going to Mass on Sunday is never an option for them.  We all go, but what about the sacrament of Reconciliation?  Do you think I should make them go during the summer, or just encourage them to come and let them decide?

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Lisa

Dear Lisa:

Thank you for being just as concerned about the need for Reconciliation as priests are (or should be), and I’m grateful for your efforts to send your children to a school that upholds religious and sacramental values.  When they grow up and are looking for colleges, be sure to check Mount St. Mary’s University – recently ranked as one of the Top 10 Catholic Universities in America!

(Our Weekend Eucharistic Congress that draws more than 1,500 young people to the Faith!)

(Our Weekend Eucharistic Congress that draws more than 1,500 young people to the Faith!)

Regarding the Sacrament, like all finer things in life, the desire to go to Confession more frequently is an “acquired taste.”  It’s not easy, but after we try it, we wind up “liking” it, as we see the benefits!  It can be an overwhelmingly beautiful experience of mercy.  And so I recommend that you simply encourage your children by your faithful and joyful example.  Technically, people only need to receive the Sacrament one time per year (their Easter Duty), or anytime they desire being absolved from Mortal Sin before receiving Holy Communion.

(While this is an "old style" confessional, asking for forgiveness never goes out of style!)

(While this is an “old style” confessional, asking for forgiveness never goes out of style!)

I recommend going at least twice per year – before Christmas and Easter – and any other time they just want to be washed clean from all their sins.  Frequenting this Sacrament requires knowing the horror of sin, but also realizing we are weak and in need of God’s healing mercy, which rejuvenates our Spirit.  At the same time, we want to avoid scrupulosity, which stifles our imagination and understanding of faith.  Perhaps the best thing to do in your personal challenge can be to lead by example.  Encourage your kids without forcing them.  Show them the wonder and beauty of Confession, and, above all, teaching them about the nearness of God’s mercy.

That may encourage them to “try” going to Confession more regularly, and who knows, they may acquire a taste for it.

God bless,

Fr. Leo

(Not a haircut I'm willing to try, but I appreciate his adventurous fashion – especially since it celebrates LIFE!)

(Not a haircut I’m willing to try, but I appreciate his adventurous fashion – especially since it celebrates LIFE!)

Do you have any special stories where you went out on a limb and tried something new?  Perhaps a new recipe or getting to know someone new at your church?  Tell us about it.  And if you have comments, questions to ask Fr. Leo, or suggestions for our E-mail Blasts, please let us know.  Also, check the links to our recipes, videos, events page, and our website for one of our new sponsors, Mount St. Mary’s University.  Your kids may want to look into this college – voted one of the Best Catholic Schools in the Country.  I think maybe I’ve mentioned it before…just once or twice.  Post Your Comments below.

(These are the volunteers and workers that helped me this past weekend at the Baltimore Book Fest. Check out videos from this past weekend on our Youtube channel!)

(These are the volunteers and workers that helped me this past weekend at the Baltimore Book Fest. Check out videos from this past weekend on our Youtube channel!)

Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube! Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

Posted in From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals | 2 Comments »

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.

Catholic Culinarian in Classic Charleston South Carolina

If you follow us along on our adventures, you can see that I frequently travel for my work with Grace Before Meals. I’m incredibly grateful to the groups of people, dioceses, and food shows that invite me to speak.  I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to give presentations at conferences, retreats, parish missions, and even secular events around the country.

(A recent event in Northern California)

(A recent event in Northern California)

Unfortunately, I don’t always have a chance to enjoy the sites or taste test the local food culture.  But this past summer, I had the opportunity to visit a great food city for some of my seminary work as the priest/faculty representative at an ordination.

This trip combined work, inspiration, history, life lessons, and great southern food!

(Museum display of where former slaves lived on plantations. In one-room homes, families celebrated their blessings, even when they were enslaved. Thank God we have a Savior that liberates us from the power that enslaves us most – sin!)

(Museum display of where former slaves lived on plantations. In one-room homes, families celebrated their blessings, even when they were enslaved. Thank God we have a Savior that liberates us from the power that enslaves us most – sin!)

By the way, thank you, Mount St. Mary’s, for being a sponsor and supporter of our movement – this great university, so close to Baltimore, D.C., Gettysburg, Maryland, and the heart of Rome!  If you have college age students in your family, consider “The Mount” as a place to grow in intellectual development, leadership qualities, and spiritual renewal.

(Mount St. Mary's University hosts more than 1,700 high school teens for a weekend of spiritual renewal. See Mount2000.com.)

(Mount St. Mary’s University hosts more than 1,700 high school teens for a weekend of spiritual renewal. See Mount2000.com.)

Back to the Blast:  One of my spiritual directees, Matthew Gray, now Father Gray, was ordained in the Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 2, 2011.

(St. John the Baptist Cathedral.)

(St. John the Baptist Cathedral.)

These days in Charleston were warm, in fact sticky and sweaty hot!  But I did my job as a faithful foodie and sought out great restaurants that feed the body.  Of course, I visited these restaurants only after a little stop at some inspired religious sites that nourished the soul.

Right around the corner from the Cathedral is a two story restaurant with top floor porch dining that boasts the impressive title of “Top Restaurant of 2011,” according to Bon Appetite’s foodist, Andrew KnowltonHusk, a high-end southern comfort restaurant serves up delicious country-fried foods with gourmet flare.  The restaurant’s bustling activity is muted by the husk-colored furniture and fixtures, accentuated by beautifully elegant wall coverings and window treatments.  The feeling you get from the restaurant’s décor resembles the food:  earthy, natural, and spiked with flavor!  The wait staff kept a friendly, professional, and food-centric approach to serving.

This is a higher end restaurant, so if you’re willing to splurge, but not break the bank, I recommend going there for lunch.  Lunch menus offer smaller plates (something I prefer), providing diners with diversity and the chance to save enough room for dessert.  In this case, however, I forgot just how filling southern food can be!  Even the appetizer plates were substantial!

Characteristic of low country foods, the chef is unabashedly all about flavor and not necessarily healthy eating.  Their offerings of crispy chicken skins, pork rinds, pork rillettes, and fried bologna sandwiches prove the restaurant’s purpose:  to respect southern comfort food and celebrate it with precision.

(Fried bologna sandwiches and port rillettes.)

(Fried bologna sandwiches and port rillettes.)

Even though all my dishes had high fat content (after all, fried chicken skins and pork rinds aren’t exactly health food), the chefs accompanied these dishes with pickled greens or sweet acid infused jams.  Side dishes like peach chutney, sour beans, and wet coleslaw helped cut through some of the fat.  The meals offered a proper balance that made eating fat-nestled nuggets “guilt-free.”

Ironically, while I was at the restaurant, Bon Appetite representatives were also there writing an article and taking photos of the acclaimed chef and the culinary creations, a.k.a., “food beauty shots.”  One of the Bon Appetite “people” even said the signature Husk Burger, which combined beef, pork, and homemade pickles, was one of the best he’d put in his mouth!

(Me with Nick, a Baltimore seminarian, dining on fast food burgers – definitely not the best burgers we've eaten, but we prayed in Thanksgiving anyway!)

(Me with Nick, a Baltimore seminarian, dining on fast food burgers – definitely not the best burgers we’ve eaten, but we prayed in Thanksgiving anyway!)

I had to order it after overhearing that praise.  And while I thought it was good, I was ready to offer the Bon Appetite critic a sample of my Asian Burgers in a veritable “Throwdown!”

Overall this was a great restaurant, again, just a short walk from the Cathedral.  But between the Cathedral and Husk I counted at least 10 other restaurants that would have probably pleased the palate quite satisfactorily.  So while in the heart of this historic city definitely take your pick of gastronomic genres.  And with regards to Husk, I would rate this a top-notch restaurant too:  I give Husk a 1 Hail Mary out of 10 – which translates to – pretty darn good!  One Hail Mary is almost 5 out of 5 stars – the highest rating in my book (only because NOTHING is PERFECT on this side of Heaven).

(Southern fried "crackling," a.k.a., pork rinds; a.k.a, " chicharrón;" a.k.a., "guilt-ilicious.")

(Southern fried “crackling,” a.k.a., pork rinds; a.k.a, ” chicharrón;” a.k.a., “guilt-ilicious.”)

Another stop took me to historic Fort Sumter, a national fortress located on Sullivan’s Island, about a 20 minute drive from the city center.  It’s a nice day trip, especially if you’re into historic maritime battles.  Since Baltimoreans have a historical fort as well, Fort McHenry – where the Star Spangled Banner was written – I was actually more interested in the little Catholic Church nearby.  I found it rather interesting that the closest church to this major monument was a Catholic Church – especially in the heart of the Bible Belt!  I made a spiritual parallel to the Catholic Church, that, like the fortress, provided South Carolinians protection, safety, and even “victory” over their personal battles.

(Stella Maris Catholic Church, Sullivan's Island, South Carolina.)

(Stella Maris Catholic Church, Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.)

A Grace Before Meals member and faithful foodie gave me the great recommendation for a food stop after our visit to the Fort.  It’s called Poe’s Tavern – a thriving, high-vibed, eclectic burger shack about one mile away from the Stella Maris Church.  I definitely would recommend it, even though you may have to wait a bit during the summer lunch crowd.  The Edgar Allan Poe themed menu items were as eclectic as the crowd that filled the place:  young, old, preppy, punkers, and everyone in between – including a priest on vacation!

(Poe's Tavern’s unique burgers, fries, and delicious coleslaw.)

(Poe’s Tavern’s unique burgers, fries, and delicious coleslaw.)

The prices for this place were pretty good, and the wait staff did a good job managing the crowds.  My only knocks would be that they were slow and the place could’ve used a little spic and span, even for a relaxed “shack” look.

I’d give this place about 4 Hail Mary’s out of 10 (which translates to 3 out of 5 stars), with suggestions to improve the wait time for the food and to increase the number of staff to help manage the busy crowds.  The food, while good, needed a bit of seasoning as well, even though I greatly appreciated the unique menu motif.

South Carolina’s successful tourist industry can be attributed to the great food and typical friendly hospitality.  Equally impressive is the quality of the local Christian and Catholic communities I visited.  It seems that Catholics in that part of the world take their faith as seriously as their food, which always makes for a great visit and a reason to return!

(A typically pleasant side street in downtown Charleston)

(A typically pleasant side street in downtown Charleston)

A prayerful thought:  The South Carolina flag has two Christian symbols:  The palmetto tree (a small palm tree) and a half crescent moon.  The palm tree symbolizes life, as it’s rooted firmly near a water source (God) and can withstand the pressures of gusty winds – a sign of confidence.  The crescent moon actually symbolizes the Blessed Mother, who illuminates with a sliver of light during some of our darkest nights.  This flag, in a sense represents my sure confidence in the Diocese of Charleston, especially with the new priests and seminarians that I’m privileged to teach.  May God continue to bless all of our GBM community members with a firm faith, seeking the beacon of hope that comes from our Blessed Mother’s love for God.  Amen.

(Newly ordained, former spiritual directee, Rev. Matthew Gray, being interviewed after the momentous ordination.)

(Newly ordained, former spiritual directee, Rev. Matthew Gray, being interviewed after the momentous ordination.)

Do you have any restaurant recommendations or critiques you’d like to share with the Grace Before Meals community?  Have you eaten at husk?  If you wrote for Bon Appetite, what would you say is the best burger you’ve ever had?  Your comments and questions are valuable to our movement.  Please let us know your thoughts BELOW.

Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube! Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.


Posted in Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Prayers, Restaurants, Restauraunt Reviews | 1 Comment »

Dinner Discussion

“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.

One Pound and Four Meaty Meals

Recently, I posted a Facebook video letting people know I’ll be creating four separate meals out of less than one pound of top round beef!  It was a fun and creative exercise that provided me with some great tasting meals for an entire week, but it also gave me a bit more compassion for people who cook alone.

(Me with my cousin Bernadette and her friend, Chef Mike – a friend of GBM.  We taught Bernadette some cooking techniques to prepare her for a move to a new apartment.)

(Me with my cousin Bernadette and her friend, Chef Mike – a friend of GBM. We taught Bernadette some cooking techniques to prepare her for a move to a new apartment.)

While I’m giving recipes for singles, I always encourage people to find company to share the blessings and a “domestic” communion around the dining room table.  I know it’s not always easy for people to do that.  I understand – you get home from work, you turn on the TV just for some background noise, take out some stuff from the fridge, microwave it, eat it quickly, fall asleep, and start over again the next day.  And I don’t forget that you also have to clean those dishes up at some point in the day!

What’s a single person to do for inexpensive, healthy, but delicious meals?

(Food service employee at "Eataly" of New York City.  His shirt translates as "Life is too short to eat badly."  I would also add "da solo" – to eat badly “and alone.”)

(Food service employee at “Eataly” of New York City. His shirt translates as “Life is too short to eat badly.” I would also add “da solo” – to eat badly “and alone.”)

Therefore, I am writing this menu specifically for singles.  But remember, don’t get used to eating alone!  Maybe you can “multiply” some of these meal ideas and invite some friends over for a supper club.  It just takes some pre-planning, creativity, and initiative.

(Different types of cauliflower on sale in French-speaking Quebec.  Variety is the spice of life!)

(Different types of cauliflower on sale in French-speaking Quebec. Variety is the spice of life!)

Hopefully these recipes can give single people some inspiration, some ideas, and some tips to make sure one pound of meat doesn’t become one pound of monotony!

(One pound of of top round beef, butchered four ways for four separate meals)

(One pound of of top round beef, butchered four ways for four separate meals)

Recipe Disclaimer: With all GBM Recipes, I rely on the taste buds of home cooks/chefs like you all to manage the exact ingredients.

Recipe # 1:  Beef and Veggie Stir Fry

(A perfectly sized portion bursting with flavors and textures.)

(A perfectly sized portion bursting with flavors and textures.)

Recipe # 2:  Philly-pino Cheese Steak

(Philly Cheese Steak Muffin with some chips and fresh guacamole, a recipe found in my book.)

(Philly Cheese Steak Muffin with some chips and fresh guacamole, a recipe found in my book.)

Recipe # 3:  Steak Salad

(Healthy eating: a small portion of lean beef, fresh greens, and a savory dressing!)

(Healthy eating: a small portion of lean beef, fresh greens, and a savory dressing!)

Recipe # 4: Beef Braciole

Beef Braciole

Let us pray:

Dear Father in Heaven, You made an abundant meal out of a few pieces of bread and fish.  Give us inspiration and grace to make the most out of the little things in life!  Give us courage, never to fear, and to try and cooperate with Your creative love!  In a special way, I pray for people who regularly eat alone.  May they experience the loving community of faithful people and share the blessings around the table!  Amen.

Food for Thought: 

  • Tell us what you do to multiply meals.
  • If you eat alone, what do you do for meals?
  • And how do you encourage others to join you at your dinner table?
  • If you have a family, what do you do to make room at your table for single people who eat alone?

Your comments and ideas definitely help our growing community.  And your comments encourage us to keep doing what we do – share food, faith, family, and fun!  Post your comments BELOW.

Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube! Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!

Posted in Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe-Meats, Recipes, Single, Video | 7 Comments »

Posted September 10th, 2011 | Uncategorized

Besides working as a professor at Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD., I also have the great fortune to sharing God’s message with the flock of different pastures!  This weekend, I completely enjoyed my time giving two keynote talks in Lake Charles, LA for the Diocese’s “Called to Be Catholic” Festival!

Me with the tons of teens after the "Spiritual Combat" talk!
Me with the tons of teens after the “Spiritual Combat” talk!

Coming down South, especially to the great State of Louisiana, always puts a smile on my face.  It’s a State where food is really a contact sport!

Volunteers cooking up some delicious Jambalaya - feeding the flock.
Volunteers cooking up some delicious Jambalaya – feeding the flock.

It’s also a place where family and friends come together in prayer!

Blessings on these young people.  They are great gifts from God!
Blessings on these young people. They are great gifts from God!

These events (and I’m so fortunate to speak at many rallies across the country and the world), gives me opportunities to meet new friends who share in the same mission of evangelization.

One of the other speakers/musicians:  Michael Chiasson from "All Access Ministries."
One of the other speakers/musicians: Michael Chiasson from “All Access Ministries.”

While it’s sometimes hard to get young people to be excited about their faith, these events have a great way of bringing out their joy and their childlike excitement.

Just hanging out with some new friends!
Just hanging out with some new friends!

People always ask, “what do I do t these events?”  Well, I do just about everything and anything.  Today was a two-topic day. First, I did a cooking demonstration and shared the Grace Before Meals message.  It’s a home-style-catechesis about the Eucharist and the Domestic Church.  The second talk I did utilized my Martial Arts background and taught the teens a way to approach the temptations in life, and to “fight back” with God’s grace.  That talk is called “Spiritual Combat”, where I show how some of the martial arts moves can be “reinterpreted” in a spiritually beneficial way.  Yes, I even break some boards!

Some of the tough guys who held the board which I broke, using a flying side kick.  Yes, kinda' cool, especially for "not-so-young" Fr. Leo
Some of the tough guys who held the board which I broke, using a flying side kick. Yes, kinda’ cool, especially for “not-so-young” Fr. Leo

But what strikes me most is the depth of faith, that goes beyond the t-shirt slogans. Although, I admit some of those t-shirts are pretty cool!

Talk about Faithful Fashion!
Talk about Faithful Fashion!

And by the way, did I mention that the families who showed up for this event definitely had lots and lots of  FUN!

So, be sure to talk with your Pastor, your Bishop, or your group of dedicated faithful foodies to get a “family style” event going on in your part of the world.  Create a venue for God to work in your hearts and minds, and be sure to invite Grace Before Meals to share the message of love and the blessings from the table for the blessings of the people around the table!

Check out the "blurred" dude reaching out to invite you to join this faithful, foodie, family FUN!
Check out the “blurred” dude reaching out to invite you to join this faithful, foodie, family FUN!

And now for some cajun cooking for dinner!

Were you or someone you know at this event?  What did you/they think of it? Was it fun!  Remember to join us on Facebook and Twitter, and post your comments to tell us what you love about this event or events like this!  Post your comments below and sign up to receive the FREE inspiring weekly messages that will feed you Body, Mind and Soul!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

THANK YOU MOUNT ST. MARY’S:

Our connections with Mount St. Mary’s University run very deep. Fr. Leo has been a professor at the Seminary since 2007, and had his famous “Throwdown! With Bobby Flay” filmed on campus. Even our Project Manager, Joe Hansbrough and his wife Erica, are alumni (Class of ’05)! So we take great pride in welcoming them as one of our new sponsors to help us spread our movement.

____________________________________________________

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.

Decorating a Difficult Decade

This Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in America.  Ironically, the numbers to dial for an emergency – 9-1-1 – share a name with one of the most tragic days in human history – particularly for those in America’s Pentagon, a plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and those in the two towers in New York City.  This upcoming 9.11.11 reminds me to dial God directly in prayer to help us all get through difficult times, difficult anniversaries, and this particular decade of memories.

(Site of the former Twin Towers two years ago in the midst of building the memorial park.)

(Site of the former Twin Towers two years ago in the midst of building the memorial park.)

I remember that day quite clearly, even 10 years later.  As I type this E-Blast, I can still feel the brokenness, pain, and sadness.  As a recently ordained priest in his first priestly assignment, I remember feeling rather helpless – in fact powerless.

As a priest, I know I received great God-given “power” to absolve people’s sins, to confect the Eucharist, and to give people hope, even in the midst of great despair.  My brother priests and I used every ounce of God’s Grace to try to help people still believe in a loving God, to have hope, and to encourage faithful prayer on September 12, September 13, and every day after!

(Shrine in a Catholic Church in New York City, built out of the broken structure of the Twin Towers.)

(Shrine in a Catholic Church in New York City, built out of the broken structure of the Twin Towers.)

But still, it wasn’t easy.  I still felt powerless and weak, seemingly overwhelmed by the amount of anger, hate, and evil that takes over the hearts, minds, and souls of terrorists who kill innocent people in God’s name?  Many decided that the only legitimate conclusion was that those wretchedly confused people – the terrorists – believed in a wrong, a false, or perhaps, an evil god.

But in order to get beyond a terrorist’s anger and hate, so as not to succumb to this powerful evil ourselves, we (especially as Americans) have to celebrate this upcoming 10-year anniversary with a great sense of faith and God’s Grace.

Enter, Grace Before Meals and grace before this difficult decade of remembrance.

(Grace Before Meals presentation at St. Paul's Church on the Upper West Side.)

(Grace Before Meals presentation at St. Paul’s Church on the Upper West Side.)

It’s worth reminding our growing family, that our international GBM movement to strengthen families around the dinner table “began” because of September 11, 2001.  The first chapter of our book describes the ironic – providential – twists and turns that started it all.  In fact, that chapter is accompanied with the recipe that bested Bobby Flay – the Fusion Steak Fajitas!

(Have I seen you before somewhere, maybe?)

(Have I seen you before somewhere, maybe?)

As I prepare to remember this 10-year anniversary of 9/11, I realize now how God has taken one of the uglier days of humanity and has used it to teach us lessons on how to live better, more holy lives – beginning with a Supper Jesus had with His disciples.  Similar to our experience of 9/11, Christians see how Jesus’ terribly tragic day – Good Friday – also initiated a lifetime of blessings for those who practice their faith in the True God of Love.  God’s power can bring about good things – His blessings – even out of tragedy!

(Thank God for the bravery of the New York City Fire Fighters and all emergency responders.)

(Thank God for the bravery of the New York City Fire Fighters and all emergency responders.)

The reality of hope in the midst of tragedy and difficult memories is worth discussing with your family and friends, perhaps around a special anniversary September 11 meal.

Ten years after that tragic day, I marvel at how God has decorated the lives of believers and seekers of truth – infusing people who have suffered the death of a loved one in one of those attacks – giving them enduring faith, abiding hope, and unconditional love.  Personally, I’ve experienced how a realistic decade of prayer doesn’t absolve the pain and sadness, but timely anniversaries, celebrated well, can help us manage, understand, and learn to become better members of the human family.  These tragedies can simply be a reason to continue the hate or a lifelong lesson on how to live better.

(If New York City's Macy's can encourage people to believe, then Grace Before Meals gives us a true reason to believe.)

(If New York City’s Macy’s can encourage people to believe, then Grace Before Meals gives us a true reason to believe.)

Over these past 10 years of 9/11 anniversaries, I’ve tried to continue using the priestly powers of God’s Church to reconcile people to God and one another.  It’s working, a little at a time.  And now, with Grace Before Meals, I also use a very powerful tool – a simple meal – to remind people that if God is part of that celebration, we can truly remember this Sunday’s anniversary family dinner with growing faith, hope, and love.

(These two children were adopted from a Philippine orphanage, and now they have a home to celebrate their lives, their family, and every special birthday and memory – around a table filled with grace!)

(These two children were adopted from a Philippine orphanage, and now they have a home to celebrate their lives, their family, and every special birthday and memory – around a table filled with grace!)

Let us pray:

Father in Heaven, give us grace to grow in the virtues that help us get through life’s difficult anniversaries – such as someone’s death, a breakup, a war, or a tragedy.  We know that people continue to struggle, and that terrorism remains a constant threat in our global family.  Teach us to not be afraid, to be strong, and to see how Your goodness triumphs over all evil!  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Chicken and Waffles!

(People praying before lighted candles at a Shrine in Lourdes, France, where many have experienced great miracles and healings.)

Do you remember what you were doing 10 years ago on September 11?  How has your faith grown since then?  What will you do to commemorate this event?  As a special day for all of us at Grace Before Meals, please continue to pray for us; support our movement by sharing our e-mails or purchasing a copy of our book for yourself or your friends; and most importantly, spend more time with people you love around the dinner table.  Your comments encourage us to keep up our efforts in this fight against the forces that want to tear families apart.  Post your comments below!

Check out Fr. Leo's videos! Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!Like Fr. Leo and the GBM Movement on Facebook!

Posted in Dinner Discussion, Grace Before Meals, In Memory, Prayers, Special Religious Theme | 3 Comments »