This week’s blast is a combination of old and new: New Inspirations with an Old Recipe. As we approach the end of the Lenten season, it is more important now than before to prepare our hearts and in doing so, we can sometimes use new inspirations for our old approaches. So keep the faith (and the appetite) for the upcoming Easter season. Contact us at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com with any of your own stories, inspirations and recipes.

The Holiest Week of the Year

 

This week’s blast is a combination of old and new: New Inspirations with an Old Recipe. Each year, we have the opportunity to grow in our spiritual lives through a unique celebration called Holy Week.  This solemn week has special meaning for our Grace Before Meals movement.  It was on a particular Holy Week a few years ago that I had the opportunity to share the Grace Before Meals message on national TV – ABC World News.  You can see the video link below.

(Interviewed while making a special Palm Sunday Pasta.)

(Interviewed while making a special Palm Sunday Pasta.)

Since then our movement has grown in very special ways.  The ups and downs of our movement have been perfectly blessed by Jesus’ life – a life of many ups and downs.  But, in the end, we know there is only one way for Christians who know, love, and serve God:  UP!

(I baptized this young man in 1997. He definitely grew UP! He was one of the first "babies" that I baptized as a newly ordained Deacon. His mother introduced me at a conference I gave in Florida.)

(I baptized this young man in 1997.  He definitely grew UP!  He was one of the first “babies” that I baptized as a newly ordained Deacon.  His mother introduced me at a conference I gave in Florida.)

During this week, we have an opportunity to climb the mountain with God.  If you haven’t had the chance to make it to Confession (which helps us get rid of the spiritual baggage that drags us down), go for it!  If you haven’t had time to really pray, give to the poor, or take on a Lenten discipline, then now is the time.

(St. Veronica's charity helped lighten Jesus' heavy burden.) 

(St. Veronica’s charity helped lighten Jesus’ heavy burden.)

Of course, one way that you can encourage your family and friends to make this upcoming week a real blessing is around your dinner table.  Here’s a Blast from a past Palm Sunday recipe for you and your family.

(Penne della "palma" – creamy heart of palm pasta.)

(Penne della “palma” – creamy heart of palm pasta.)

Let us pray:  Father, as the Church prepares to celebrate the Passion of Our Lord, may we enter faithfully into these mysteries of redemption and so celebrate with You at the victory.  In a special way, we pray for those preparing to enter into the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and reception of the Eucharist.  May they experience the full joy of being part of the Christian family.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(Some of the youth "posing" before my talk at the Anaheim Convention Center.) 

(Some of the youth “posing” before my talk at the Anaheim Convention Center.) 

Click here to watch the video from the ABC World News.

How will you celebrate and the coming Holy Week?  Does your church have opportunities in which you can participate?  What’s your favorite part of next week?  Have you ever attended the Chrism Mass for your (Arch) Diocese?  Do you have a special prayer intention with which we can encourage and pray for you too?  Post your comments, questions, and ideas here.

(Stations of the Cross – Lourdes, France.)

(Stations of the Cross – Lourdes, France.)

ALSO – be sure to sign up for the Napa Valley virtuous vacation for a special summer retreat-vacation-culinary extravaganza!

(Get ready for some delicious wine pairings!)

(Get ready for some delicious wine pairings!)

Also, don’t miss my show, “Savoring the Faith” on EWTN this Sunday at 8:30pm EST. I know, last week’s episode did not happen make due to the Holy Father’s message, but we should be back again this week. Be sure to tune in!

PLUS: A NEW GBM VIDEO

Check out Fr. Leo's latest: Foodie Express!

Check out Fr. Leo’s latest: Foodie Express!

I, Fr. Leo, actually edited this video all by myself despite my lack of technological comprehension. Give it up for me! Just kidding. Don’t do that. But check it out and be sure to leave comments! How’d I do?

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Posted in Blast from the Past, Holiday, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe, Recipe-Pasta, Recipes, Video | 1 Comment »

Catholic Culinary Confessions

As you may know, I’ve been doing a monthly column for the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Catholic Newspaper, called “Culinary Confessions.”  You may remember some of these posting exclusively for Grace Before Meals subscribers.  This has been an exciting opportunity to share  food and faith correlations from my own Archdiocese with all of you.

(The Basilica Shrine of Baltimore: last year's Easter decorations.)

(The Basilica Shrine of Baltimore: last year’s Easter decorations.)

At the end of this blast, you can read about my experience critiquing a hospital cafeteria.  You’ll find out why I would even choose to eat there in the first place!  You’ll also read about the spiritual lessons God provided for me after that experience.

(Mercy Hospital's Cafe: Chicken Marsala with potatoes and beans – all for about $6.00!)

(Mercy Hospital’s Cafe: Chicken Marsala with potatoes and beans – all for about $6.00!)

These Culinary Confessions give our movement the chance to make faith connections to culture, which show the world the relevancy of faith.  Faith, if practiced only in the confines of a church, synagogue, or mosque, demonstrates weakness, fear, or a lack of conviction.  As such, it renders faith mediocre and lukewarm.

In our modern world where people of faith are constantly being challenged to keep their mouths shut or their opinions to themselves, we need to realize that could weaken our convictions and beliefs.  Screaming, arguing, and proselytizing are not the answer, especially about controversial and challenging topics, but it is certainly important to make sure both sides are heard in a civil way.

(March for Life: Speaking Up for the Unborn Children.)

(March for Life: Speaking Up for the Unborn Children.)

Perhaps this week’s E-mail Blast will give everyone a gentle reminder to make sure each person at the table has a chance to speak up and share what they think honestly and respectfully.

(Students at the Bishop Verot High School after a School Assembly. I also spoke at Cardinal Moody HS. Both are GREAT places of learning and faith!)

(Students at the Bishop Verot High School after a School Assembly. I also spoke at Cardinal Moody HS.  Both are GREAT places of learning and faith!)

That’s what I hope people get out of these culinary confessions.  My objective is not to complain, which is destructive, but to critique in a constructive manner and share experiences from which we can draw possible lessons to the practice of our own faith.

Life certainly gives opportunities to make our faith real.  We need to talk about it without fear.  We need to be able to use our faith to help us make decisions and judgments in our lives.  This week, make your faith real!

(After a faithful and successful parish mission at Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal, Illinois, with great people who are making their faith real!)

(After a faithful and successful parish mission at Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal, Illinois, with great people who are making their faith real!)

Let us pray: Help us Lord never to be afraid to speak out against injustice, while speaking words of compassion to those who need it.  Help us to practice our faith in such a joyful and sincere way that others will be drawn to follow our example.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen!

Is there a restaurant review you’d like to share?  Let us know, and we’ll post it on our site!  Is there a topic you’d like to discuss for future E-Mail Blasts or for possible webisodes on YouTube?  Please post your comments, questions, and concerns.  We need to hear from you to keep our movement strong!

Click here for the Culinary Confessions for Mercy Medical Center’s Eatery.

A few other reminders:

Watch our show each week on EWTN’s Savoring our Faith.  It airs every Sunday at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Also, spaces are limited for the upcoming Virtuous Vacation and Culinary Retreat to Napa Valley.  Be sure to call and reserve your space today!

This week, I am at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheuim CA Thursday and Friday, speaking on how “Food Is Love” for teens and families. Afterwards, I have a Lenten parish mission at St. Mary’s Church in Hudson, OH until next Tuesday. For more information, go to our Events page on the website. Please pray for me and all attending that our hearts, minds and sould are open to all of God’s Graces, especially in this season of sacrifice.

(Join us at the table for one of the sumptuous wine-pairing experiences!)

(Join us at the table for one of the sumptuous wine-pairing experiences!)

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Posted in Culinary Confessions, Grace Before Meals, Prayers, Restaurants, Restauraunt Reviews, Reviews, Savoring Our Faith | 2 Comments »

Posted March 14th, 2012 | Lent, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe, vacation, Video

Lenten Meals

A few people have asked me to share some Lenten Meals.  I’ll admit, Lenten Meals are difficult for me to make.  I think of them as bland, boring, small, unsatisfying meals.  That’s hard for me to do.  But before I become a neo-pelagianist, I thank God that the Catholic Church gives us clear guidelines about fasting and abstinence.  That means our Lenten mortifications don’t have to make us miserable!

(Chef Carlo gives me a fabulous Lenten Meal – that still makes me celebrate. My "penance" was to only order ONE portion! It was a challenge to not indulge!)

(Chef Carlo gives me a fabulous Lenten Meal – that still makes me celebrate.  My “penance” was to only order ONE portion!  It was a challenge to not indulge!)

So here’s my suggestion:  If you’re going to make something for a Friday meal, just make less of it; use less seasoning that would normally give it the extra boost in flavor – less salt, pepper, garlic, spice, and, of course, less cream or butter.

Another idea would be to learn new ways of making vegetables even better and making that your main meal.

(Honestly, asparagus and herb crusted grilled bread with olive oil is completely satisfying. But if you top it off with caramelized onions, apples, and blue cheese, there you have a feast! See below for a link to the recipe!)

(Honestly, asparagus and herb crusted grilled bread with olive oil is completely satisfying.  But if you top it off with caramelized onions, apples, and blue cheese, there you have a feast!  See below for a link to the recipe!)

Certainly Lent should never be considered a time to “simply” engage in a more healthy diet.  That would be confusing the means with the end.  However, even medical studies agree that a little bit of fasting and abstinence will bring benefits to the body.  So when we offer these Lenten disciplines as a way to make our relationship with Jesus more healthy (and not just make our body more health) we know these disciplines will truly benefit our souls.  Let’s admit, our souls need a little exercise as well!

(A Seafood Stew: a great Lenten meal for the family. One bowl of food to be shared by one family!)

(A Seafood Stew:  a great Lenten meal for the family.  One bowl of food to be shared by one family!)

Let us pray:

Jesus, help us to overcome our weaknesses through the discipline of Lent.  May our sacrifices this holy season bring us to a healthiness in body, mind, and spirit.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Poached shrimp and creamy caper pasta. It’s Lent friendly, but use smaller portions to be penitential.)

(Poached shrimp and creamy caper pasta.  It’s Lent friendly, but use smaller portions to be penitential.)

Do you have a favorite Lenten meal you prepare for your family?  If you forget to fast on a Friday, what do you do personally to keep to the spirit of the law – even if it’s hard to follow the letter of the law?  Is there a way that you tell your children or a non-Catholic that helps them understand why we fast and abstain?  Your posts, comments, and questions motivate us.  They remind us people are reading and listening to our message and help us understand how we can better serve you!  Post your comments here.

(Lourdes, France. The 2nd Station of the Cross: Jesus willingly embraces the Cross. We adore You Christ and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world!)

(Lourdes, France.  The 2nd Station of the Cross: Jesus willingly embraces the Cross.  We adore You Christ and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world!)

For more Lenten inspired recipes click here.

 

(Pilgrims in prayer.)

(Pilgrims in prayer.)

Finally, do something good for yourself at the end of Lent and join me and other faithful foodies on the Napa Valley Pilgrimage and Tour.  It’s a Virtuous Vacation that will teach, inform, and inspire faith – while celebrating great food, choice wines, and God’s goodness in this beautiful part of the world!

(Join me for a tour of a real medieval-style castle in Napa Valley, and taste exquisite foods with perfectly paired wines.)

(Join me for a tour of a real medieval-style castle in Napa Valley, and taste exquisite foods with perfectly paired wines.)

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A NEW VIDEO THIS FRIDAY:

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Posted in Lent, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe, vacation, Video | 6 Comments »

Perpetual Happiness

NOTE: Some of you may have noticed that our website was hacked over this past weekend. Our programmers did a great job cleaning things up and we are in fact back up and running. We apologize for the inconvenience and we hope you join us in praying for those responsible. Through all of this, we see this as an opportunity to improve and be better than ever, so expect some exciting website changes and new ways to interact and keep up with Fr. Leo and the Grace Before Meals community like never before in the near future. Thank you for subscribing and may God bless you!

It’s easy to forget that the Lenten Season is actually a “season of joy.”  There are the challenges of acknowledging our weaknesses and our failures.  There’s also the need to pray, give, and sacrifice more.  But Lent is really a time of hope.  Our Lenten practices will lead to a better celebration of Easter – and eventually the happiest ending of all:  Eternal Life!

Grandkids at the tomb of great grandparents – Cebu, Philippines. They would have been so proud of these great grandchildren. May their souls rest in peace.

(Grandkids at the tomb of great grandparents – Cebu, Philippines.  They would have been so proud of these great grandchildren.  May their souls rest in peace.)

Today, March 7, the Church also celebrates the Feast of Perpetua and Felicity.  These two early Christian Martyrs were sisters who faced a brutal persecution – being eaten alive by wild animals.  The accounts of their martyrdom is horrific, but at the same time impressive.  While facing the tortures, they encouraged the other Christians who would also die that day in that very same arena.  How fitting that they would smile in the face of adversity, as their names suggest: “perpetual felicity” or “happiness.”

St. Perpetua & St. Felicity.

(St. Perpetua & St. Felicity.)

It’s important that parents, families, and friends talk about eternal happiness versus the passing joys that seem to take over our decision-making processes.  We sometimes forget the character-building role of sacrifice.  Hard work, sacrifice, and even this Lenten season may scare us into a form of denial.  We can learn to deny (or not admit) that Heaven requires that we “Pick up our cross and follow Him,” i.e., make the temporal sacrifice now that leads to eternal joy!

(Statue of Christ after being scourged at the pillar.)

(Statue of Christ after being scourged at the pillar.)

Be encouraged that every time you slave over the stove, provide a hot meal for the family, struggle to engage in conversation with resistant teens, and face the challenges to pray before you eat, even in public places, it will pay off in the end.

(One smiling face is worth all the sacrifices – especially if they eat all their food. In this case, penne alla vodka from a presentation in Minnesota.) 

(One smiling face is worth all the sacrifices – especially if they eat all their food.  In this case, penne alla vodka from a presentation in Minnesota.)

I certainly hope your Lenten season is going well, and please trust in my ongoing prayers for all of you.

Let us pray: 

Father, on this feast of Perpetua and Felicity, we may come to know their love for You, which motivated their fearlessness to suffer and die for the Kingdom.  May they who “fed” the lions be also encouraging food for our faith, our souls, and our example in life.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

What has been your greatest challenge in this Lenten season?  Can you share a story of sacrifice that paid off in the end?  Have you read about other martyrs like Perpetua and Felicity?  Who is the saint that inspires you most?  Your questions, comments, and suggestions help motivate us to keep doing what we’re doing.  Also be sure to spread this message around to others, encouraging family, friends, and parishioners to subscribe to our free weekly E-mail Blasts! 

(Behind the scenes of Savoring Our Faith.)

(Behind the scenes of Savoring Our Faith.)

Don’t forget to tell us what you thought about the international premier of our new broadcast television show, Savoring our Faith.  Remember to tune in every Sunday at 8:30 p.m. EDT.

AND finally, be sure to reserve your spot for the upcoming Napa Valley Retreat and Virtuous Vacation!  This year we’ll be paying devotion to Vineyards honored with the names of Saints!  Click here for details!

(A trio of penne pastas for a five-course dinner – an auction prize for Catholic Charities!)

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MINIFLIPPING...nuff said.Become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube!

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Grace Before Meals, Miniflipping, Prayers | 2 Comments »