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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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 July 30th, 2014 | Faithful Foodie, Pilgrimages

 A Sneak Peek at the 2015 Italy Pilgrimage

The summer is more than half-way done, and there is still a chance to sign up for Napa Valley and for the Holy Land pilgrimages, so check them out soon, as they are truly wonderful and fulfilling experiences, both in terms of your faith and your belly.
I wanted to offer a sneak peek at the “Taste of Italy” Pilgrimage coming June 21- 25, 2015, with more information coming next month. Joining me on the pilgrimage is Gus Lloyd, Host of “Seize The Day” Radio program on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. Take a look:
The trip will be 12 days of culinary and faith-filled adventures, truly qualifying all those who go to be Faithful Foodies. But this is truly a once in a lifetime journey as we will be traveling to The EXPO Milano 2015 in Milan, the largest worldwide event ever organized on the theme of food!
After Milan, we go to visit The Shroud of Turin and see the Tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati while in Turin, among other great cathedrals and landmarks. Then, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. John Bosco, we will spend time at the Basilica in Modena before having a special dinner with authentic Modena cuisine. Following that, we make a trip to the vineyards of Tuscany and remember St. Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio, seeing his tomb and confessional at the Capuchin Monastery. The final days of the trip will be spent in Rome, with opportunities to see the ruins of Pompeii, along with the Vatican Museum, all ending with the Papal Audience with Pope Francis. An incredible journey for anybody, especially those with devotions to these saints and to the Catholic Faith.
As mentioned, more information will come soon, and you will have your chance to register, but I hope that this incredible opportunity whets your appetite for adventure, spiritual growth and some fine Italian Cuisine.

Quotes from each of the saints to be featured on the trip:

 

In order to be Christian, our lives must be a continual renunciation and sacrifice. However, we know that the difficulties of this world are nothing compared to the eternal happiness that awaits us, where there will be no limit to our joy, no end to our happiness, and we shall enjoy unimaginable peace. And so, young people, learn from our Lord Jesus Christ the meaning of sacrifice.”
 

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

 

“[In a moment of delirium, as he was dying] Pray! Pray, but with faith – with living faith! Courage! Onward, ever onward!”

St. John Bosco

 

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”  

Padre Pio

 

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Posted June 4th, 2014 | Epic Food Fight, Faithful Foodie, Video

Triumphant Travels

Now that I’m back from Italy following a great Couples Retreat that I co-led with Teresa Tomeo and her husband Dcn. Dom Pastore, plus a reunion with my priest friends from seminary, it is nice to look back at my travels. Many people think I am very lucky to travel as much as I do, but I sometimes, I am reluctant to agree. Let’s just say that driving non-stop, flight delays, and little sleep don’t always make me a happy traveler.

Yet as easy as it is for me to get frustrated when I’m stuck in a terminal for hours on end or when I travel between 5 events in 4 states in 7 days, I must say that I am thankful for the great opportunity to be spreading the Good News and sharing our family movement with people around the country and world. Knowing it is a unique part of my priesthood, even the most grueling of travel schedules offers the hope of knowing that I have the chance to meet many wonderful people and to feed them with food for the body & the soul. Plus, I hope that my toughest times in airports can serve as penance and reduce my time in Purgatory (I kid).

Knowing that travel is necessary for me and many others to carry out God’s will, I want to invite you and your friends to join me for some of my adventures. I know it is not always easy or even affordable, but I would very much encourage you to look into these trips and other ones that are coming soon, as they not only serve as great adventures that will provide memories for a lifetime, but faith-filled journeys that I think will impact you even after this lifetime.


Napa Valley Pilgrimage 2014

Click to see the video on Youtube and share with friends!

 

I highly recommend this trip to Napa Valley, CA this November 9-14, 2014, as it is right here in the USA, practically your backyard. As you can see in the trailer above, there are so many beautiful vineyards, wineries, locales and even castles to see, but what is more striking is the history and the amazing ties between the Catholic faith and wine. You can download the PDF form and fill it out by going to http://gracebeforemeals.com/assets/uploads/old_blog/Napa_Valley_Fruit_of_the_Vine.pdf. Cheers!

The Holy Land Pilgrimage 2015
 
Click the picture to download the registration form, and I’ll hope to see you in the Holy Land in 2015!

 

I will be returning to the Holy Land in conjunction with Select International and Chefs for Peace again this February 1-12, 2015, following a tremendous trip this past January.

Take a look at some of the wonderful tastes and travels in store for you in the Holy Land.

As mentioned, there are many pains when it comes to traveling, but it is when you take a look around and see the glory of God’s creation that you can at least appreciate how amazing He really is, and just how much He loves us to provide us with such beauty. I pray that you can join me and others on these wonderful faith-filled and inspiring journeys, for that is what they are meant to do: inspire your faith. What better way than to enjoy God’s splendor with others in faith, food, and across the world.

 

Let us Pray for those going on vacation:

 

Father in Heaven, guide all travelers in their destinations. Give them patience, joy, perseverance and love as they travel in these coming summer months.  Provide them safety and peace, now and until they reach their final destination in heaven, through your mercy and goodness, in the name of Jesus The Lord. 

Amen 

6/6/14

SISTERS OF CHARITY OF SAINT ELIZABETH LUNCHEON

Spring Lake, NJ

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Ordinary Acts with Great Love

Finally! And just in time, I was able to finish a little video I made in memory of my trip to Kolkata (formerly, Calcutta), where the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the saintly foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, began her work serving the poorest of the poor.

The Tomb of Mother Teresa

I say just in time because May is dedicated to the Blessed Mother, and the gift of motherhood for all God’s children. That means we honor both our biological mothers and our spiritual mothers.  (Hopefully, they are one in the same!) 

Another Spiritual Mother, Dolores Hart, the Prioress of her convent, and also the famous actress who co-stared with Elvis Presley in his first movie. She is famous for being the first woman to kiss the King of Rock and Roll in a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

This little video uses a modern Christian singer and songwriter, Toby Mac.  He sings of Christianity as a form of extraordinary love.  It reminded me of a quote from Mother Teresa –  one of my favorite quotes.  She says, “Do small acts with great love!”

 

I hope this little video I made on my iPad (i.e., not perfect quality), shows that God can do great things even with simple ingredients, like wheat, water, oil, and wine. These are the things that make up our Sacramental life in Church! You can learn more about this “theology of food” from my newest book, ‘Epic Food Fight: A Bitesized History of Salvation.” To learn more about the book, check out a Seminarian’s review.

Hopefully seeing this video will inspire you to do your daily chores, tasks and responsibilities with Christ’s extraordinary love!

Let us Pray:

Father in Heaven, You have called us to greatness. But that doesn’t mean simply being in positions of power or riches. You call us to do great things with our lives by simply being as faithful as possible in the smaller things in life. Help us to have the courage to see everything in our day as opportunities to know, love and serve You.  Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

  

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

 

  • What’s the most extraordinary act of love you committed or received?
  • What’s the most “meaningless” thing you do all day, and how can you make it more meaningful with Christ?
  • Will you help us spread this video message by sending it to family, friends, and your parishioners?

 

Your responses and posts to these questions, along with any other comments, are very helpful in keeping our movement strong.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions.

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Posted February 26th, 2014 | CRS Rice Bowl, Epic Food Fight, Events, Faithful Foodie, Video

 

Dining Diversity

Spice Market celebrating local and fusion flavors

Food has a powerful way of triggering memories.  If we learn how to make foods that bring us to happy places or evoke happier memories, I firmly believe we would be happier people.  The connection between food and memory makes perfect sense when we celebrate the commemorative meal, the time Jesus said, “Eat and drink this in memory of me.”

Celebrating Mass in the tomb of Jesus, Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem.

In this E-mail Blast I’d like to encourage our recent pilgrims and you – our future pilgrims – to consider how the diverse foods can evoke different memories.  In our recent trip, we literally tasted the “bitter herbs” to evoke the passion of Christ.  We sampled different applications of milk and honey that flowed from the Holy Land.  We incorporated the local and imported spices, prepared the fresh picked produce, and learned how to use local foods like dates and sesame seed to create sweet and savory applications.  We improved our palates and learned more about enology while seeing how our faith is very much like a grape seed, which bears fruit, is transformed into wine, and eventually transubstantiated through Grace.

Different flavors – sweet and savory – open market Jerusalem.

At the same time, we fed our souls with different experiences of church styles, architecture, and of course different places that marked the life of Jesus.

The Mount of Temptation – where Jesus conquered the temptations of the devil.

Unfortunately, people may say church is “boring” because it’s “always the same.”  While the tradition has changed very little over the past 2000 years, we can say that we change, and therefore each experience of church ought to be reflective of our lived experience every day. So if people say church and Mass are boring, it’s only because the people in the pews are boring.  And that is not to say that they are boring people, but that they are not engaging the Mass.  They are not bringing anything new to that experience.  They are not evolving in their own prayer life, and therefore, they are “bored” because they are not engaging their senses, i.e., they are “boring” themselves.  People with a true zest for life are never bored. They see each day – no matter how routine or monotonous it may be – to be an opportunity to experience something anew.

One thing we can do is learn how to pray the Our Father in a different language.

On another level, I’ve also heard from people on other tours complain how the food in the Holy Land was “all the same.”  That monotony is certainly a possibility as some trips are “cookie cut” and take pilgrims only to touristic styled eateries.  However, I insisted that should NEVER happen on my trips, simply because our experience of faith is so diverse. God is never monotonous, nor should be our experience of food.  So, I insisted that our foods during this trip reflect the different spiritual experiences we had at the different churches where we had the Feast at Mass.

Pilgrims in the jail where Jesus was “held” on the night he was betrayed.

Creating a forum for diversity worked!  Each day excitement grew with every meal, with every church visit, and with every prayer experience.  While there were certainly some traditional aspects that can never be replaced for the sake of innovation, everyone experienced unique aspects of each church and restaurant.  Diversity in dining, just like the experience of the Divine, is a good thing – as long as it roots us back to the truth of who we are as God’s children. 

Renewing our Baptismal Promises at the more accurate location along the Jordan River.

To help us experience the diversity of the faith experiences as well as the culinary experiences, I listed all the churches where we celebrated Mass along with the different restaurants where we experienced the extension of our fellowship around the dinner table. 

The Church of the Annunciation.

List of Churches:

(1)  Stella Maris Church in Jaifa – where Elijah experienced God in the whisper of the wind, and the center of the devotion of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

(2)  The Basilica of the Nativity – where Mary said yes to the Angel Gabriel and conceived Emanuel – God is with us.

(3)  Cana – where couples renewed their wedding vows.

(4)  Mount of Beatitudes – the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus gave us the Beatitudes.

(5)  Good Shepherd Parish – where the Franciscans run a local parish in Jericho, the oldest city in the world.

(6)  The Grotto – in Bethlehem, near to the place where Jesus our Lord was born.

(7)  The Holy Sepulcher – the actual tomb where Jesus was buried and where he Resurrected.

(8)  The Basilica of the Agony – on the rock near the Mount of Olives.

(9)   Notre Dame – the Romanesque chapel in our hotel.

(10) St. John the Baptist Church – in Ein Karem, where John the Baptist was born.

Flan with sweetened carrots served at the Armenian Restaurant, Old City in Jerusalem.

List of Restaurants:

(1) Amara Brothers – in Cana, where we had local shawarma.

(2) Magdelena – in Migdal, where Chef Yousef prepared the St. Peter’s Fish.

(3) Green Valley Restaurant – in Jericho, where we picked local produce and had a cooking demonstration of a sauté leafy green warm salad.

(4) Grotto Restaurant – overlooking Shepherds’ Field, where we sampled a Bedouin recipe of lamb prepared in a clay pot.

(5)  Eucalyptus Restaurant – where Chefs for Peace provided a feast of local flavors.

(6)  Pasha Restaurant – in Jerusalem, where we ate the traditional chicken dish covered with slow-roasted onions and sumac.

(7)  Notre Dame – wine and cheese on the rooftop restaurant for a private reception.

(8)  The Armenian Restaurant – in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, where Chefs for Peace prepared bulgar wheat inspired dishes.

(9)  A special luncheon prepared by our guides – overlooking the city of Jerusalem; we at local breads, humus, dips; and salads

(10) Rama’s Kitchen – the gourmet restaurant overlooking a mountain pass before our trip back to the U.S.A.

Each day could be just like every other day.  Or each day could be a time to reflect and experience things anew, and see how each day gives us entirely new experiences.  Of course, that is only if we are willing to realize that life is a gift – IT IS NOT BORING!  These 10 days of pilgrimage have forever changed the lives of those who participated.  We all need to do the same.

Selfie at the Wailing Wall, where we were required to cover our heads in humble prayer.

 

   

 

 
Check out crsricebowls.org starting next week for Fr. Leo’s weekly recipe from different countries around the world. And be sure to fill your CRS Rice Bowl with change to help those in need this Lent and beyond. 
 
3 days left to enter contest for a free copy of Epic Food Fight!
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • How do you avoid being “bored” with life?
  • What’s the most exciting trip or life-changing experience you had that convinced you to better each day?
  • What’s the most exotic food you’ve experienced that has expanded your culinary horizons?

Post your comments BELOW and help us spread the Grace Before Meals message.

Let us pray:

Good and gracious God, thank You for giving us a new day and a chance to be renewed each day.  Help us never to fall into the rut of monotony, but to be open to new experiences that will help us be the best versions of ourselves.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 
3/1/14
 
Sugar Land, TX
 
3/4/14
 
Annapolis, MD

 

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