Originally Posted 8/31/11

NOTE: Every so often, we offer “Blasts from the Past”, which are older posts that still provide a great message and often times, food. With the Napa Valley trip coming up November 9-14 (click the link above to register), check out this letter from one of the Vineyard owners who felt blessed following Fr. Leo’s last “Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands” pilgrimage in 2011. 

Yes, this is SPAM, but in French it’s called “KAM!” Why not just call it Spamé?

This week, I offer two unique e-mails.  One came from a vineyard I visited during the “Fruit of the Vine Retreat” I offered in Napa Valley last June [2011].

Some of the pilgrims from the tower of Castello di Amorosa Vineyard in Napa Valley.

This trip was a highlight of the summer.  The pilgrims who came along experienced incredible faith opportunities, complemented with food and wine, exquisite views, and fantastic people.  I can’t say enough about it!  I’ll just have to leave up to you take advantage and truly understand for yourself when we offer this trip again next year.  So many people are already calling/e-mailing me about when we’ll go to next year.  Let’s just say the plans are in the works.  So stay tuned! [Note: You can still register for the November 2014 trip by clicking HERE.]

A top of the mountain view of Napa Valley from Hall Winery.

One of our stops took us to the beautiful home of the Taylor Family, with a vineyard of the same name.  While we never discussed the specifics of faith in detail, the family definitely had plenty of it as they embarked on this new venture to produce high quality wine with a personalized, family touch.  While I was there, I blessed the vineyard (at their request).  So after getting drenched I prayed for God’s protection on this land, with the hopes that the land, like our souls, will be fruitful, productive, and yield a harvest to be shared with a hungering and thirsting world.

Getting a hands-on lesson about growing grapes.

Here’s a pleasant and surprising e-mail from the owner.  You’ll read how blessings DO work!  You better believe that the next time I lead a group there, we will go back and visit this family and celebrate God’s blessings around our table and in the Lord’s vineyard!

Fr. Leo,

It was such a pleasure hosting and meeting you and your entire group during your recent Napa visit.  Thank you for taking the time to visit us and for the vineyard/estate blessing.  Several weeks ago while our fruit was in bloom we had a very strong storm come through Napa that caused a lot of damage in the vineyards.  I am convinced that your blessing protected our vineyard from damage as miraculously we escaped major “shatter” from the 1 1/2″ downpour. Many of our neighbors had considerable loss in their vineyards. Thank you so very much.

 

I hope that you decide to return to Napa.  I would love the opportunity to cook alongside you in our new wood fired oven.

 

Warm regards,

Sandy

Sandra Taylor Carlson

Taylor Family Vineyards

sandy@taylorfamilyvineyards.com

 

 

Our Lady’s Fruit, Jesus, blessing the vineyard of Meritage Winery and Resort – our hotel with a chapel!

And now for a completely unrelated question/topic about the martial arts, and its connection to my faith and my spirituality that also promotes peace.  It’s a question I receive regularly. Most recently I reflected on it as I participated in my sister’s 4th Degree Black Belt test.  There, I had a reunion with my former instructor and my students.  I even had a chance to “spar” against a few of the testers.  Yes, it brought back memories and reminded me of how God worked even in the midst of my martial arts training.

Hello Fr. Leo,

I had a quick question about the Catholic faith and learning martial arts.  If man is ordained a Catholic priest, could he still learn/practice a martial art?  If not, why can lay Catholics engage in the martial arts but not Catholic priests?

Thank you,

NICK

Dear Nick,

A Catholic Priest IS permitted to practice martial arts.  I still do, to some degree.  As a former instructor, I taught my students – no matter what religion they professed – the need to practice natural virtue while engaging in martial arts training.  To be a good and effective practitioner of martial arts, you have to be humble, obedient, and disciplined.  That doesn’t sound bad, does it?

Me and my former instructor, Mr. Fred Ocampo.

The popularized/Hollywood impression of martial artists is that they’re all tough guys who go around bullying people.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Most of the traditional practitioners were monks, who were willing to defend their country and culture if necessary.

For most modern practitioners, martial arts is a sport.  It gives training to the body and mind.  Some people make it a “religion,” which, at my school, we heartily rejected.  While we could be considered “masters” of the art, we all preferred to just be called “teachers,” as humble martial artists recognize there is only one trust Master:  God of the Universe!

As a sport, you can approach it with humility or pride.  I’ve seen more violent basketball, baseball, and football players than martial artists.

“Great in the Lord Conference” – The “Bread Breaker” now “Board Breaking.”

My suggestion:  take martial art training for all the right reasons.  Do it for exercise, for toning, strengthening muscles, and gaining flexibility.  Study and respect the antiquity of the Asian culture, which has produced incredible inventions and unique techniques that still work today!  Practice this skill with the intent to be humble.

If you have the opportunity to use it to defend yourself or your family, then thank God you know how to.  The fact is, God gives us strength, wisdom, and a right mind to avoid situations where we will have to use it.  In other words, martial artists don’t frequent rough and tough places.  Our skills teach us to avoid problems and to only use the skills as a last resort.

To help you formulate a better understanding of the art, I offer you the “creed” students said before every class:

The Martial Arts is:  A peaceful life secret, only to be used in defense.  It is a commitment to develop and succeed for the good of society.  It’s a way of life, following our positive natural virtues, of courtesy, perseverance, and self-control and indomitable spirit.

Using martial arts techniques for a popular youth conference talk called “Spiritual Combat,” for about 5,000 teenagers at the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, 2010.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  

  • Did you ever have something blessed and then afterwards truly feel that the blessing worked, like the Taylor Vineyard blessing?
  • Do you practice a martial art, and how would you reconcile your spiritual commitments with this potentially deadly skill?  
  • Do you have any questions for which Fr. Leo can offer a perspective – a “food for thought?” 

Your communication encourages our efforts.  Please post your comments and questions below.

 

 

Let us pray:

Father in Heaven, teach us humility so that we, like vineyard workers will depend on You; and, as soldiers, we will hear the command and be willing to fight – not with weapons but with faith – against forces that want to harm our souls.  Give us Grace, Lord, to put all things in Your hands – our food, our sports, our hobbies, so as to transform these into gifts, rather than weapons!  Amen.

 

 

READ: Fr. Leo Interviewed on BeautyInBelief.com

 

Click to read the interview on BeautyInBelief.com

READ: Fr. Leo’s Eggplant Caponata Recipe featured on CatholicMom.org

Click to check out CatholicMom.org

 

9/8/14

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Posted in Blast from the Past, From the Feedbag, Pilgrimages, Prayers | No Comments »

Posted August 20th, 2014 | Epic Food Fight, Events, Faithful Foodie

 

 
 
When it is Right to Retreat
Currently, I am up in Montreal for a personal priestly retreat, and it is truly a wonderful place to reflect and pray. When you consider there is so much history and even some nice eateries nearby, I think a great pilgrimage is in the making (possibly Fall 2016). It has been great to take the time for a retreat, which, thankfully, is actually something I have to do. It is essential for clergy, religious and lay people alike to take time out of their busy schedule and spend it with God. Much like you make time to eat (assuming you are so fortunate), let us make the time to pray. You can combine the two by saying Grace Before Meals….dot com. (hehe)

The Notre Dame du Cap Basilica Shrine near Montreal is an impressive place of prayer and history. It’s also a place where the founder of my community, Fr. Louise Marie Parent (Voluntas Dei) prayed and ministered.

This past weekend, I was able to minister to hundreds of Filipino youth from Canada and the USA at the

Bukas-Loob Sa Diyos (BLD) Covenant Community. It was held in Kearny NJ at the Archdiocese of Newark Retreat Center, just 10 minutes away from the impressive Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark. The event was aimed at the Filipino community to grow stronger in their Catholic Faith by showing them the Sacred and how it affects our lives. We also addressed how the Secular world should not be seen as separate from our church life, but part of God’s creation, and one in need of genuine witness. Finally, there was a strong emphasis for these people to be a strong part of the New Evangelization, as our actions can speak louder than words often times. And let me say, this group was loud and full of spirit!

Youth from the BLD Conference. They have inspiring faith at such a young age!

The faith, reverence and joy that the attendees to the event had is exactly what we are all called to have in our everyday lives. I know very well how tough it is to make time, but if there is an opportunity for a retreat or day of reflection at your local parish or within your Diocese, you should take it. We are much more likely to grow in our faith when we are focused on it, and retreats are a fantastic place to start as you can truly immerse yourself in it. When we are spiritually fed, we are more nourished and able to be a force for the good in this world. Similarly, it is then when we are most able to make a difference in the lives of those around us. In a world rife with Christian persecution and people in great need, may God grant you the virtues of courage, faith, hope and love to serve Him through actions of kindness and selflessness.

The events I speak at are great opportunities to be fed spiritually and sometimes with actual food! We strive to show people not only the importance of making time for family and one another, be it at the dinner table or in family life situations, but to give thanks to God for giving us these gifts. So check out the calendar in the coming months and find out if I am near you, and I will hope to connect with you there. May you find the time to be nourished, because that’s what God wants for you. And don’t be afraid to retreat and surrender to God’s love and mercy.

Leave comments below and if you would like to find a time to create an event, go to the “Book Fr. Leo” to bring me out to your parish or community.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  

  • When was the last retreat you went on?
  • Where are your favorite places to reflect, pray or just ‘get away’?
  • Are there any events coming up that you would like to attend?

Please post your comments HERE, as these help our movement learn and grow. 

 

Let us pray:

 

Father, we take the time to praise you for your love and providence. We thank you for the many blessings we have, be it food to eat, family and friends to cherish, a home to live in, or a job to help provide for those we love. May we make more time for you in our daily lives, and we pray for those who are persecuted for their faith, who go hungry everyday or don’t have a shelter to call home. Have mercy on them and may we be true disciples, providing our help however possible to those in need. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

READ: Fr. Leo Interviewed on BeautyInBelief.com

 

Click to read the interview on BeautyInBelief.com

READ: Fr. Leo’s Eggplant Caponata Recipe featured on CatholicMom.org

Click to check out CatholicMom.org

8/23/14 – 8/26/14

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Posted in Epic Food Fight, Events, Faithful Foodie | No Comments »

 Seeking “The Good News” in the News

 

Watching the news

 

If you turn on a TV, check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, or read a newspaper, it is hard to get good news. For every nice story, such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge social media sensation that has brought much awareness and raised much money to help in the fight against ALS, we are overwhelmed with a million and one stories about celebrities who are cheating on their spouses or in rehab for the umpteenth time or even worse, the fashion faux-pas they made with what they wore to a public outing. Meanwhile, thousands of Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East everyday, and there is less of an outrage over that than there is when someone’s favorite TV Show gets cancelled or athlete gets traded to another team.

And on one hand, it is understandable. As humans, we don’t desire conflict and we’d rather feel safe and sound than face the evils outside our door in the world around us. If you can avoid persecution, than why not avoid it? Life is stressful for most everybody, whether it comes to having to deal with finances, worry about job security, face issues within your family life, staying on top of endless tasks and duties, and much more. So it makes sense why we would avoid the news that adds to that stress given its seeming hopelessness, and instead, settle for non-journalistic approaches to the news that point out the issues that others face, often amplified due to the spotlight.

Robin Williams, famous for many movies and TV shows, took his life at age 63.

One such case is Robin Williams, a certified comic legend who has been in show business for over 36 years. He was truly hilarious and off-the-wall, and always found ways to make people laugh. Yet, despite his big personality and his huge smile, he was a man that battled many demons throughout his life, from drug addiction to alcoholism to divorces and depression. In the news of his apparent suicide, millions of people have poured out their love for a man they did not even know but who made them smile, laugh and feel better about themselves, like in this case. It has also been an opportunity to look back and see the signs that were there all along with him. We pray for him and his family in these tough times.

Chris Farley in the classic martial arts epic, “Beverly Hills Ninja”

You see, it is unfortunate to say, but it is not untypical for someone known for being so fun and outgoing to be so hurt and lonely. One of my favorite Saturday Night Live actors, Chris Farley, is another example of a popular comedian who went down a bad path of drugs and vices, dying young and alone. But many don’t know that he went to Church often and apparently, he died with a rosary in his hand. I mention this not to make a point about his being Catholic or to speculate where he was in his faith life, but rather to make the point that he was no different from you or me in his desire to be loved. Clearly, he was seeking hope in a (seemingly) hopeless situation.

Whether we are talking about the celebrities all over the tabloids that we can’t seem to get away from, or the quiet kid from elementary school that didn’t have many friends, we are talking about people who not only desire to be loved, but deserve to be. God made us to love, and it is in loving that we come to see Him more clearly. It is in seeking to serve the other, not yourself, that we can come to know what Christ intended for us when he gave his life for us in the most selfless act in history. For unlike us, he didn’t do anything to deserve harm and yet he took it all on just so that we had the hope for eternal salvation.

The Crucifixion, the greatest act of love in History.

Christ loves us more than we can ever comprehend, and yet, many become blind to it, only seeing how others see them or never finding that truest form of love they were looking for. In a society that feeds off of bad news or the faults of others, let us be among those that stands up for the “Good News”. May we have courage to seek justice and fight for those in need.

Let us be the light that shines for those in the darkness. Let us be present for our kids in their times of turmoil and in their times of joy; let us show the ones we love a reason to smile; let us serve the hungry some good food (just check out my recipes on www.gracebeforemeals.com/recipes. J/K); let us tell people about the love of God for it is everything we yearn for and so much more.

Please say a prayer for all of those who are hurting right now, for all of those who are so deeply wounded, for all of those who are lost and say they don’t want to found, for all those being persecuted and who are suffering. Say a prayer for those in the darkness, that they may see the shining light of God’s face. And may we show people that there is hope in the hopeless, that there is courage to face the evils out there, and that there is love to be shared.

If you are among those in need of help, please be in touch with your local priest, doctor or check out this page (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) to find the help that you need.

REMINDER: My pilgrimages to Napa Valley and to the Holy Land still have some available spots, so register today and join in on the amazing spiritual and culinary journeys that lay ahead. [UPDATE: No longer available, but see other pilgrimages that are by visiting http://gracebeforemeals.com/news/browse/category/pilgrimages]

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Posted in Food for the Soul, Food for Thought, In Memory, What's On the Table | 6 Comments »

Safe Travels & Feast Day Foods

As Fr. Leo continues his retreats and travels, our team at GBM wanted to share a prayer for travelers as the summer vacations roll on and the school year approaches. With special intentions, we pray for those who are away from loved ones that they may return safely.

Dear God, we ask you for your blessings and protection on all those who are traveling, whether for business, for vacation, or for other personal reasons. We trust in your will, and hope that our loved ones may return to us safely and in good spirits. For those who have lost loved ones, we pray for their consolation and that they may find their hope and joy in you. Finally, may they be fed in body, mind and spirit on their journeys, so that they may be nourished and able to do good in this world. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr. Leo during his travels in the Southwest during a retreat. For more pictures, videos, updates, check out Fr. Leo on Facebook, Twitter and on Gracebeforemeals.com!

Interestingly enough, there is a book on EWTN’s website called “Feast Day Cookbook” by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, published in 1951. Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the recipes they share for today’s feast include Pilaff and a Spiced Grape Jelly. Be sure to check out the link for more recipes and neat information on Feast Days and meals, as feasting is an important part of the Catholic faith, the Grace Before Meals movement and cookbook.

Click to read this classic Catholic cookbook, courtesy of EWTN.

[Excerpt from Feast Day Cookbook]

August 6: Feast of the Transfiguration

The origin of this Christian festival has been attributed to Saint Gregory the Illuminator who flourished in Lower Armenia during the fourth century. He is said to have substituted it for a pagan feast of Aphrodite called “Vartavarh” (the flaming of the rose) and the old name was retained, in that region at least, to designate the Transfiguration, because “Christ opened his glory like a rose on Mount Thabor.”

In Armenian villages the day is still celebrated with unusual ceremonies in the course of which peasants lead to the church a sheep with decorated horns, on each tip of which is placed a lighted candle. Flowers, fruit, and sheaves are also brought and laid before the altar.

Following this ceremony a fair usually takes place; there are races and games, and a crown of roses is the customary prize. During the feasting that follows is likely to appear.

Pilaff
3 cups cracked wheat
6 cups stock
4 cups minced cooked lamb
1/2 cup melted butter
pepper
salt
cinnamon

Soak the cracked wheat (cracked barley may be substituted) overnight. Drain the wheat, mix with the meat, and salt to taste. Place in a large kettle, add about half the stock (water and bouillon cubes may be used, allowing one cube for each cup of water), and heat slowly. Cook for about an hour, stirring almost constantly and adding stock as necessary. Serve in hot, deep plates, pour melted butter over each serving, and dust with pepper and cinnamon to taste.

The Feast of the Transfiguration was slower to be observed in the Western Church and is not mentioned until the ninth century. It was made universal by Rome on the day when Hunyady gained his victory over the Turks on August 6, 1456. It is now the titular feast of the Church of St. John Lateran, and on this day the Pope presses a bunch of ripe grapes into the chalice at Mass or uses new wine.

Also in Rome raisins are blessed on the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Greek and Russian Churches too conduct a special ceremony for blessing grapes and other fruits. Since the grape is given so much prominence on this feast, we may give the following recipe:

Spiced Grape Jelly
8 lbs. Concord grapes
2 sticks cinnamon
2 cups vinegar
1 tablespoon whole cloves
sugar

Wash, remove from stems, and drain the grapes. Put half of them in a preserving kettle, add the vinegar, cinnamon, and cloves and then the rest of the grapes. Cook gently for about fifteen minutes or until soft. Strain through a jelly bag without pressing so that the juice remains clear. Take 1 cup of sugar for each cup of juice, boil to the proper consistency for jelly, pour into hot glasses and cover with 1/2 inch of paraffin.

Do you have any recipes or adventures to share?
Are you or a loved one traveling, and if so, where to and for how long?
Any recipes that you like to make on feast days?

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Posted in Epic Food Fight, Faithful Foodie, Feast Days, Prayers, Recipe, Video | No Comments »