From The Feedbag

Wow! What a Response!

Greetings fellow GBMers. Now that you have had time to share a grand meal with your families (we hope), we thought we would take the opportunity to share with you some news on here at Grace Before Meals.

First, we have received such an incredible and overwhelming response to last week’s request for taste testers for Fr. Leo’s new book, Spicing Up Married Life. Due to the number of people who want to try some of Fr. Leo’s cooking, we have to officially close the submission deadline a day early, as we must now sift through them all and decide who will get the chance to help us make sure Fr. Leo’s recipes are as good as can be. We have even decided to double the number of testers from 12 to 24! Once we make our decisions, our “chosen ones” shall receive an email notification by the beginning of next year, possibly sooner. There are just so many to choose from, so keep your eyes open and your stomach ready for some good cooking.

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.) 

(A similar expression of Fr. Leo’s joy at the number of people who want to try his recipes.)

For those who will be selected, you will receive an email with the recipe and chapter questions, which we ask you to look through and give feedback before cooking. And then when you cook, we will simply ask for you to let us know how everything went and your input. And if necessary, Fr. Leo can reimburse up to $25 for groceries per chosen couple. Remember, these recipes are intended for couples, whether dating, engaged or married, so this is one best saved for a romantic evening without the kids.

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.) 

(One of Fr. Leo’s Thanksgiving dishes. And just think of how lucky his family is, as they always gets to taste test his meals!)

But WAIT! We have been so impressed with the enthusiasm many of you have shown that even if you do not get chosen, all people who have submitted requests to be taste testers will receive a discount on Fr. Leo’s new book, Spicing Up Married Life. Once the release date is set and we open up pre-order sales, we will contact you with more information, so stay excited! Your chance to taste the new recipes will come soon enough!

Speaking of new items, in addition to the new book, we will be launching a number of new features on the website in the coming year, including a new shopping cart feature which will have an exclusive variety of new merchandise, so you’ll finally have more ways of sharing Grace Before Meals with your friends and family outside of wearing that slimming black apron. If there are certain types of apparel or kitchenware you would like to see, post your comment below and let us know what you want to see.

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.) 

(Well, that is a shopping cart, but not quite what we have in mind.)

Also in the works is an awesome, top-secret new YouTube project that goes outside of the kitchen and into the dorm room, so stay tuned! And with the new website features, we hope to start implementing some website changes, so don’t be alarmed if something seems different. These and more are planned heading into the new year, which is only a month away!

For us avid churchgoers, we have entered Advent, and for the Catholic Church, that has meant the New Mass! While it may be weird saying different prayers than we’re used to, it is such a great way to bring us closer to our roots and the how these prayers were intended to be prayed. Life Teen has a number of great videos to check out in case you would like a further explanation on the new Roman Missal and why the changes were made. Just go to http://ismasschanging.org/ and choose your video preference.

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.) 

(They have videos for parish leaders, parents, high school teens and even middle school teens. Click the picture to check them out!)

And one more video to check out is the new “Catholics Come Home” campaign. With the beginning of Advent, national ads were launched across network and prime time TV, with the chance to reach over 250 million viewers! This is the first time in history the Catholic faith has reached out on such a large media scale. So be sure to check out www.catholicscomehome.org/advent and support our faith as we seek to reach those in need.

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.) 

(What an appropriate scene for the Advent season. Click the picture to see the video for “Catholics Come Home”.)

As we head into our final month of 2011, we have a few more events coming up, including:

1) St. James Parish in Boonsboro, MD this Friday, December 2.

2) St. John Neumann’s Catholic Church in Reston VA on Sunday, December 4.

3) Back to back presentations on December 10 and 11, the first at St. John Neumann Church in Columbia, SC and the second at St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill, SC.

4) A trip to Malmstrom Airforce base for training exercises out in Great Falls, MT. (!)

Come out if you can and support us with your presence and prayers. And be sure to check out gracebeforemeals.com/events on a regular basis to see if Fr. Leo is coming out your way.

And with these bits of news, we thank God for the opportunities we have to share food, love and faith with one another. May we keep His love freely and share it with one another, especially as we look to celebrate the Advent season. If you have any questions or feedback, such as what types of items you would like to be made available to support the movement or ways to improve our website and newsletters, please leave a comment below and let us know ways to help grow our movement and strengthen families with food and faith.

Let us pray:

Dear God, we thank you for this holiday season and the chance to celebrate our Lord with family, friends, and food! Please bless our movement as we seek to strengthen families by bringing them together and to glorify you with the love that is shared. Please bless our upcoming year and the projects we take on, all for your glory. Guide us to you, O Lord, that you may be pleased. Amen.

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 Grace Before Meals, Mass, Prayers, Taste Tester, Video, What's On the Table | 1 Comment »

From The Feedbag

Wanted: Taste Testers for Fr. Leo’s New Book of Recipes

***NOTE: I realize this is not a normal “From the Feedbag” E-mail Blast, but I had to share some of our fun and exciting news.  I’ll get back to answering some of the great questions you all send to us at gracebeforemeals.com in future blasts.***

First, being the day before Thanksgiving, I want to thank each of you for supporting us and keeping up with our movement. I am so thankful for my family, friends and each of you, along with this great opportunity to help strengthen families and relationships through tasty food…that’s what Thanksgiving’s all about! As we spend time with our loved ones, we pray for safe travels and true thanks for the Lord our God for his many blessings in our lives, which includes the delicious food we eat, but more importantly, the people in our lives we have to share this meal with.

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.) 

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.)

And now, after so many months (OK, years actually), I finished writing Spicing Up Married Life – a book of recipes full of romantic dinners for couples.  Sounds intriguing, right?  If you’re dating, engaged, newlyweds, or celebrating golden-year anniversary marriages, this book is geared to help strengthen your relationship.

To summarize, it has 12 chapters so that a couple can celebrate a monthly (not annual) anniversary.  Each chapter contains a bite-sized theological essay about relationships and marriage vows.  Questions for dinner conversation, recipes, and a prayer round out each chapter, so couples can have meaningful meals that inspire them to love God and each other more faithfully.  Needless to say, I’m very excited about this book and what it can do to help couples find deeper love around the dinner table.

(Tom and Teresa Green of Westminster, Maryland. This is one of the parish's couples who helped me teach Marriage Preparation. You may also recognize them from the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay episode! They were the "test family" on the episode. I've had many meals with them and great conversations about strengthening marriage through faith.)

(Tom and Teresa Green of Westminster, Maryland. This is one of the parish’s couples who helped me teach Marriage Preparation. You may also recognize them from the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay episode! They were the “test family” on the episode. I’ve had many meals with them and great conversations about strengthening marriage through faith.)

Now that I’ve told you about the book, I also want to invite you to be a part of the process.  Here’s an invitation to be a Grace Before Meals recipe tester!

If interested, we need to hear from you by next Thursday, December 1, 2011. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Click here to email the Project Manager with “GBM Taste Tester” in the subject line.  In your email, let us know if you’re in a relationship (dating, engaged or married for any number of years).  Let us know that you want to try out one of the chapter’s recipes!
  2. (When I was in Guam, I did a presentation just for married couples and had a long-time engaged couple help make the meal.)

    (When I was in Guam, I did a presentation just for married couples and had a long-time engaged couple help make the meal.)

  3. Tell us about your cooking experience. What type of cook are you? Novice? Moderate? Experienced Chef?  Tell us if you have any food allergies, or if there’s a dish or food item you’re interested in testing.
  4. When our team receives all of the requests, we will select 12 recipe testers – one for each chapter.  We will then send you a recipe and ask you to prepare the meal by a certain date.  Cook the recipe exactly as it’s written.  However, if there is a typo or if you have questions about measurements or portion sizes, you can give our team a call to clarify how best to proceed.  Once you’ve made the entire meal, give us your HONEST feedback. In some cases, I will even help pay for your dinner date!  But, you have to be honest with your comments and experience.
  5. (Intimidating! Hearing the judges’ impressions of the two different plates of food – Bobby Flay's fajitas or mine? Well, you know how that turned out. Prayer pushed our fajita to victory!)

    (Intimidating! Hearing the judges’ impressions of the two different plates of food – Bobby Flay’s fajitas or mine? Well, you know how that turned out. Prayer pushed our fajita to victory!)

  6. Once we receive your feedback and process all of the comments, we’ll keep your name and contact information on file in order to include your name in the acknowledgements of the new book.  Just let us know how you want your name to appear. We may even use some of your written comments in the book as well!
  7. When the new book is printed, you’ll be the first to receive an official signed copy as our way of saying thanks for participating in our movement’s efforts to strengthen relationships..

(Participating couples at a Grace Before Meals event at St. Patrick's Church, Bellefontaine, Ohio, January 2011.) 

(Participating couples at a Grace Before Meals event at St. Patrick’s Church, Bellefontaine, Ohio, January 2011.)

Now, I know many people will ask, “When can we expect the book to be in stores?”  That depends on how fast we get the recipe testers’ feedback, the publisher contracts signed, and the book layout finalized.  We want to make this a special gift book for couples, so it may take a few months.  But, don’t worry; those who participated in the test kitchen will certainly be sent the first books, hot off the press!  And those who subscribe to our website will be the first to know about pre-orders through our E-mail Blasts.

Consider this “From the Feedbag” a little invitation letter to all of you – especially those interested in being a recipe tester for one of my unique recipes specifically designed for couples.

(You could be taste-testing one of these romantic dinner creations from me, but made especially for your spouse!)

(You could be taste-testing one of these romantic dinner creations from me, but made especially for your spouse!)

Let us pray:

God, grant our movement the grace to persevere in spreading the Good News to all families, and especially to encourage loving relationships for couples.  May our efforts bear great fruits that feed hungry souls, and also inspire servants to feed those who need God’s love through a blessed meal.  Keep us focused on feasting on Your goodness that You share with us at every Mass.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Happy Newlyweds – they know if they find God, they find love!)

(Happy Newlyweds – they know if they find God, they find love!)

DON’T FORGET to tune in to the new show, Mass Confusion on CTV, set to air this Thanksgiving at 8:30pm. The show stars my good friends, Greg and Jennifer Willits of the popular radio show, “The Catholics Next Door,” on SiriusXM 129.

If you have any questions or comments, and want Fr. Leo’s perspectives, feel free and let us know.  Fr. Leo is happy to try and answer as many questions as possible in future emails.  We will always keep you anonymous.  But, your questions help us better understand how our movement can be of service to you.  We consider your questions and comments important dinner conversation, so please 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!

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

Posted in Food for the Body, From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals, Holiday, Prayers, Recipe, Special Religious Theme, Spicing Up Married Life, Taste Tester, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments »

Menu Inspiration

Preparing Thanksgiving Leftovers

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In America, the Thanksgiving holiday captures the essence of our Grace Before Meals movement.  It celebrates the goodness and importance of the family around a dinner table, with people calling or traveling long distances to be with family. Even non-religious people sense a sacred moment when, right before they carve the turkey, they take a moment and recognize their blessings in life.

(There are always leftovers at my house with a spread like this!)

(There are always leftovers at my house with a spread like this!)

It’s interesting that for this upcoming holiday, people become a bit more spiritual and religious:
1) doing corporal works of mercy by collecting and distributing donated foods to the poor,
2) inviting the homeless to eat with them at a charitable organization, or
3) yes, even saying a prayer before they chow down a.k.a. grace before meals. All of these gestures help us recognize that appreciating a loving family is just another part of living a good life.

(I know my parents just love having the grandkids – around – even though they can really eat ALOT!)

(I know my parents just love having the grandkids – around – even though they can really eat ALOT!)

I will spend Thanksgiving at my parents’ home, which is always so crowded with family, friends, and whoever happens to be there.  We don’t do the traditional early suppertime meal, but instead, we eat around 7 p.m.  Because there are so many of us, there isn’t a table (or a room for that matter) in my parents’ home big enough to accommodate everyone so we don’t do a formal, sit-down dinner.  Instead, we usually just plate all our foods buffet-style.  And you know what that means: lots of lovely leftovers!

This week’s Menu Inspiration will celebrate two ways to make Thanksgiving leftovers worthy of another celebration: Mashed Potato Cakes & Creamy Carrot and Ginger Soup.

If you would like these recipes, make sure to Create An Account on www.gracebeforemeals.com and you can have access to these and plenty of other great recipes! If you would like to contribute a recipe to be added to our Recipes section of our website, then email us at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com!


Mashed Potato Cakes

(As you can see from this picture, even though they’re leftovers, these potato cakes make for great stackable food for fancier presentations.)

(As you can see from this picture, even though they’re leftovers, these potato cakes make for great stackable food for fancier presentations.)

Creamy Carrot and Ginger Soup

(Adding more or less stock or other liquids will either tighten or loosen the soup to your preference. Just make sure you accordingly add LESS salt at the beginning of the process.)

(Adding more or less stock or other liquids will either tighten or loosen the soup to your preference. Just make sure you accordingly add LESS salt at the beginning of the process.)

Let Us Pray:

Heavenly Father, You showed Your eternal generosity through Your Son’s miracle.  You made water into the best wine at Cana, and had 12 baskets of leftovers from the miracle that fed more than 5,000.  Almighty God, help us to be grateful – even for these “leftovers,” so that by Your example of generosity, we may be inspired to be just as generous in feeding those who hunger for food, faith, family, and Your compassion.  You ultimately proved Your generosity by giving us Your only Son on the Cross.  Fill our lives with this goodness, so that we in turn share that gift with others.  Amen.

(I turned some leftover turkey into a gourmet panini by adding a little basil pesto mayo, and sautéing the turkey in some hot sauce. And don't forget to grill the bread!) 

(I turned some leftover turkey into a gourmet panini by adding a little basil pesto mayo, and sautéing the turkey in some hot sauce. And don’t forget to grill the bread!)

What do you do with your leftovers?  Do you have any tips or ideas on how to transform the Thanksgiving Dinner into a whole new meal?  Did you have a chance to express your thanks-giving by spending time, treasure or talent with those less fortunate?  Let us know about something inspiring from your Thanksgiving experience.  Your comments help inspire our members to share the blessings!  Post your comments and questions below.

(Turkey carving – talk about the need for "grace" before the meal!)

(Turkey carving – talk about the need for “grace” before the meal!)

And between now and Thanksgiving, I certainly pray your travel plans and your holiday preparations go smoothly and gracefully!

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 Food for the Body, Food for the Soul, Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, Recipe-Side Dishes, Recipes, Vegetables | No Comments »

Posted November 9th, 2011 | Events, Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Prayers

Faithful Foodie Adventure

Gourmet Goodness

October gave our Grace Before Meals movement an opportunity to share our message to so many different people in so many places around the country, including Hershey, Pa.; Las Vegas, Nv.; Newtown, Pa.; Los Angeles, Ca.; York, Pa.; New Ulm, Mn.; Baton Rouge, La.; Syracuse, NY and—thank God—a local event in Frederick, Md.  All in just one month!  I have to admit, it was a bit of a crazy travel schedule, but it was worth it!

(On the Hollywood Strip, me with one of the L.A. YouTubers as we came upon a young man desperate for money, but more importantly, friendship. We offered him both, plus a little prayer and blessing.)

(On the Hollywood Strip, me with one of the L.A. YouTubers as we came upon a young man desperate for money, but more importantly, friendship. We offered him both, plus a little prayer and blessing.)

In this week’s blast, I’d like to give some shout-outs to several food products that can be ordered online and shipped to your home.  These great food products came to my attention when I presented at the PA Gourmet.  I offered two presentations: one talk about the movement and the other a full-blown cooking demo of the famous Fr. Leo’s Funky Fusion Fajitas.  Interestingly, the event hosts asked me to offer a sample to only a few people.  But, after the demo, the aromas of the grilling fajita meat with the savory-sweet marinade drew a very large crowd that lined up to get a sample.  Let’s just say that Jesus performed another little miracle by giving us the exact amount of samples for about 100+ people.  I scheduled an earlier presentation time—I had to make my way to St. Paul, Minneapolis that evening—but I suspect a later time could have meant even more people in attendance—and even more hungry mouths to feed!

(Doing an outro for the webisode we filmed on an iPad, with new GBM Team member Billy Phillips.)

(Doing an outro for the webisode we filmed on an iPad, with new GBM Team member Billy Phillips.)

These food shows are wonderful opportunities for people to learn cooking skills, be educated on new food products, and get free samples from local and international food vendors.  And since this event was a “Food and Lifestyle Expo,” they asked me to share our unique perspective about food and faith.  As you know, I’m very interested in food in general—how to cook it, what different culinary techniques to use and, of course, the many unique flavors to taste.  In other words, the “Who’, What, and How” of cooking. But I’m most interested in sharing the “WHY” of cooking.  My biggest passion is to share the power of food and the uniquely inspiring spirituality of it.

(Me with Celebrity Chef Mary Alice, from Ace of Cakes on the Food Network.)

(Me with Celebrity Chef Mary Alice, from Ace of Cakes on the Food Network.)

I think this theme resonated with many people.  We had some great feedback!  And the local vendors enjoyed sharing their family food products with me.  In turn, I want to share them with all of you!

Please support these local vendors, and treat yourself to some specialty family foods.  It’s easy to order some of these foods online, and please tell them Fr. Leo sent you!  If you like cheese—especially local, fresh cheese—I’d recommend getting a sample box from Leraysville Cheese Factory.  I also found great olive oil from Greek Super Foods, right here in Baltimore’s backyard, from a local Greek family factory.  When I tasted their oil, they also offered some marinated olives.  They have other tasty imported products as well – absolutely delicious and quality products!  And what’s a food fair without some sort of specialty barbecue?  The PA Gourmet didn’t disappoint with “Picky Vicky’s Barbecue Sauces.”

We put a little video together to show just how much fun it is to be a faithful foodie.  Click here to view this video.

(Leraysville Cheese Factory—family owned and operated—offers delicious cheeses!)

(Leraysville Cheese Factory—family owned and operated—offers delicious cheeses!)

October also gave me the chance to visit a great food destination of Southern Louisiana in Baton Rouge, where I offered a keynote presentation for Catholic Community Radio, WPYR (W – Pray Your Rosary). Kinda’ clever, huh?

(WPYR Morning Show Radio Hosts and their wives.)

(WPYR Morning Show Radio Hosts and their wives.)

There, I had the chance to meet world renowned Chef Folse, owner and operator of White Oak Plantation, and the only three-time World Record Holder for the largest pot of gumbo!  His big portions and big flavors match his big and very engaging personality.  What a great man and talented chef!  Those who know Chef Folse say that his heart is the biggest part of him!  His outstanding generosity extends to improving the community with the intention to spread the Gospel. What a chef and Christian mentor his is, and what an experience it was for me to meet him!

(Chef Folse in one of the many banquet rooms at his White Oak Plantation.)

(Chef Folse in one of the many banquet rooms at his White Oak Plantation.)

The dinner he served was so fantastic I ate it up before even taking a picture.  Sorry!  After the dinner and dessert, I was also treated to Chef Folse’s other unique talent:  he served as the event’s auctioneer.

(Just one of his dinners raised nearly $7,000.00! That's promising some good eating!)

(Just one of his dinners raised nearly $7,000.00! That’s promising some good eating!)

As you can see from our schedule, Grace Before Meals keeps me very busy, especially since my full-time devotion is to Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary.  By the way, if you (or someone you know) have high school students looking for a good liberal arts Catholic College, be sure to visit us here at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, MD.  Tell them Fr. Leo sent you!

The complementary mission of Grace Before Meals gives great joy to my priesthood!  I’m honored that the requests for my visits and presentations continues to come from all corners of the world.  I’m humbled by people’s interest to hear about our message, to taste the food and, most importantly, to share the Faith that makes us God’s children. This month of November hasn’t slowed down much. After all, this is a big food month, with the American celebration of Thanksgiving right around the corner.  Speaking of Thanksgiving, stay tuned for leftover makeovers in next week’s email blast!

Next month, I’ll experience a whole new set of busy travels as I make my way to the Philippines for a big family reunion!  Be on the lookout for some travel blogs, tweets and Facebook posts.  Maybe if there are some GBM members in Cebu or Manila, we can organize a small gathering, prayer and even a meal.  If there’s any interest, send our project manager an email and we’ll see if my schedule permits a little gathering.

(Yes, all of us, and a few other family friends will be converging on the Philippine Islands this Christmas and into the New Year. Let us know if you want to plan a Grace Before Meals event in Manila or Cebu!)

(Yes, all of us, and a few other family friends will be converging on the Philippine Islands this Christmas and into the New Year. Let us know if you want to plan a Grace Before Meals event in Manila or Cebu!)

For now, however, consider how this Faithful Foodie Adventure post hopes to encourage you to have your own food adventures.  Start by supporting some of the local family food products like the ones I’ve had the opportunity to try at the PA Gourmet and other events.

We pray: God give us the strength to see how our earthly pilgrimage leads us to developing good and wholesome relationships with others, especially those good people who share similar interests and passions.  Make us available to the promptings of the Spirit so that we can build up Your kingdom one dinner table at a time, beginning, of course, with the Supper of the Lamb!  Amen.

(Me with the Executive Chef of Hershey Park, Pa.—yes, the same place that makes those tempting little Hershey's Kisses!)

(Me with the Executive Chef of Hershey Park, Pa.—yes, the same place that makes those tempting little Hershey’s Kisses!)

Tell me about your recent food adventures.  Do you have a recommendation for a family friendly food product or event?  Go ahead and order some of the food products suggested here, and tell me what you think.  Remember, I’m always interested in our subscribers’ feedback about suggested restaurants and other food products.  Your comments help spread the message and give our subscribers a chance to celebrate your food findings!

AND, one more thing:  stay tuned for the new show on Catholic TV (CTV), Mass Confusion, with Greg and Jennifer Willits of Sirius XM’s popular radio show, “The Catholics Next Door.” The show is set to air THIS THANKSIGIVING at 8:30pm!

(Greg and Jennifer, who traveled with me on my recent Catholic Culinary Cruise. Here we're at a high-energy port tour of Tunisia with heavy traffic. Talk about "mass confusion!")

(Greg and Jennifer, who traveled with me on my recent Catholic Culinary Cruise. Here we’re at a high-energy port tour of Tunisia with heavy traffic. Talk about “mass confusion!”)

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 Events, Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Prayers | 3 Comments »

Dinner Discussion

All Soul’s Food

Two days ago many children celebrating Halloween dressed in costumes, approached a stranger’s home, knocked on the door and insisted for candy.  Or else, suffer the tricky consequences!

(Typical of seminarians, always playing tricks – even on food.)

(Typical of seminarians, always playing tricks – even on food.)

It’s redundant, but so worth repeating:  Halloween is just another example of a secularized holiday, rooted in the Christian celebrations, that brings the community together through FOOD. Namely CANDY!

(Granted, it’s not candy, but these sweet desserts prepared by the seminarians of Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, are definitely my kinds of sweet “treats!”)

(Granted, it’s not candy, but these sweet desserts prepared by the seminarians of Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, are definitely my kinds of sweet “treats!”)

Now that Halloween is over and children are still on a sugar rush, parents have a responsibility to properly integrate the social fun with the solemnity of the holiday.  If not, the silliness of costume dress up combined with the demand of for treats could stunt the spiritual maturation and psychological growth of our children.  If kids don’t see a deeper meaning to the lighthearted expression of this holiday, little kids can turn into “big kids” – not necessarily mature adults.

“Big kids” still “dress up,” but in a different way, i.e., they prefer fantasy to reality, and they put on titles and attitudes rather than discover their true identity.  Big kids seek adult “treats,” –  expensive technology, fashion, luxury, or high dollar socializing.  And if they don’t get it, big kids may play tricks that come in the form of vandalism, or theft.  They may even organize themselves and demand the sweet things in life through obnoxious bullying or “protesting.”  Unless as kids we grow up seeing a more meaningful side to Halloween, those childish tendencies can stick with us for a very long time.

Today’s solemn Feast Day of All Souls offers gentle reminders and a helpful perspective to young children about how the Halloween fun has a deeper meaning.  All Souls Day celebrates life in a spiritually healthy way.  It reminds us of the humility with which we must approach life, knowing that life ultimately isn’t about costumes and candy, but the salvation of our soul.

(An ironic picture: we’re like “walking dead” until we get that cup of coffee in the morning.)

(An ironic picture: we’re like “walking dead” until we get that cup of coffee in the morning.)

Now please don’t think I’m a fuddy-duddy when it comes to the Halloween fun!  I sincerely hope the young children had fun dressing up, parading around the neighborhood, and just being children who love candy.  At the same time, I hope parents can help their children see a more prayerful and serious approach to Halloween – an approach that’s connected to today’s feast of praying for all the souls of the dead, minus that feeling of just entering a haunted house.  Go ahead parents, and take your children to church today, or even visit a cemetery to pray for the beloved dead.

Today’s celebration and the prayers and prayerful remembrances of the faithful departed remind us that life will eventually lead to God’s door.  We will knock and He will answer.  We won’t be dressed up, but in fact it will be the exact opposite – our real identity will be completely exposed. No tricks can be played, and the only “treat” offered is the banquet of eternal life to those who did not mask their Christian identity.  Yes, this Feast Day, connected to Halloween, reminds us that only the souls of the just receive that sweet reward of eternal life.

(Seminarians in procession at Mount St. Mary’s Emmitsburg Cemetery, located at the National Shrine of the Lourdes Grotto.)

(Seminarians in procession at Mount St. Mary’s Emmitsburg Cemetery, located at the National Shrine of the Lourdes Grotto.)

That’s what we pray for today.

The modern world approaches the afterlife, death, and the subject of spirits and souls with a creepy hesitation and subconsciously imbedded fear.  The Church, though, offers children of all ages an opportunity to mature in their understanding of this mystery through study and prayer.

You can certainly see that Halloween doesn’t bother my Christian sensibilities.  I think parents that let their kids have a little neighborhood fun are healthy people.  At the same time, I encourage families to make sure they share the real “treat,” if you will, the Eucharist – true food for our soul.

(Enjoying a sweet treat with my project manager, Joe, and some YouTube artists in Hollywood, California! Stay tuned to hear more about our upcoming YouTube channel.)

(Enjoying a sweet treat with my project manager, Joe, and some YouTube artists in Hollywood, California! Stay tuned to hear more about our upcoming YouTube channel.)

Let us pray:

Father, we ask Your mercy on all of those who have died, especially in this past year.  May they experience Your purifying Grace, be welcomed into the eternal communion and participate in the feast that gives eternal life to our body and soul.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Did you let your children go trick or treating?  What costume did they wear?  Do you remember your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?  What was your favorite candy?  And what type of candy did you give to your neighbors?  How will you celebrate All Soul’s Day and talk about it with your children?

By the way:  My favorite Halloween costume was “Casper the Friendly Ghost.”  And my favorite candy was chocolate covered malt-balls!  Just loved that sweet chocolaty crunch!

(Instead of turning pumpkins into scary faces, turn that jack-o'-lantern into something beautiful – or even a pie!)

(Instead of turning pumpkins into scary faces, turn that jack-o’-lantern into something beautiful – or even a pie!)

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Posted in All Souls Day, Dinner Discussion, Halloween, Holiday, In Memory, Mass, Past Emails, Prayers, Seminarians | 8 Comments »