BLAST FROM THE PAST: WALK THE TALK
The new semester has started at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, so Fr. Leo is up to his ears with lesson plans, reading and even upcoming events (Check out our events calendar to find out where he will be). So with the March For Life coming up this Monday, check out this old eBlast from 2008 about the March for Life and how the Way of the Cross stands as the first March for Life!
The BIG news is that “Savoring Our Faith”, Fr. Leo’s cooking show on EWTN will premiere on Sunday March 4 at 8:30pm. Be sure to tune in and enjoy the weekly series!
Have a blessed week and be sure to spend time with your family. Thank you for choosing life!
Watch “Savoring Our Faith” Premiere on March 4, 2012 at 8:30pm on EWTN!
Keep Up With Us below:
Originally Sent: January 22, 2008
Walk the Talk
Every year, a staggering number of people converge on the streets of Washington – as well as on other main roads of cities across the United States – to proclaim Life is a Precious Gift! Yesterday, at the annual March for Life, hundreds and thousands of people walked the talk. With every step, they reminded the world life is worth living – from conception to natural death.
For the past 35 years, Pro-Lifers have been called “antichoice” by the media. Since the first March for Life, the media and proabortion advocates have underplayed the significance of this March, questioning the sanity and good will of the participants.
But I’m here to inform the media that the ploy to redirect the issue by playing word games (such as “pro-choice” versus “proabortion,” and “fetus” instead of “baby”) is not working. People are smarter than that! I also want to inform the politically motivated news agencies that not paying attention and not covering this incredible event as a true front-page headlining story will NOT make Pro-Life marchers go away! In fact, the number of Pro-Life marchers continues to grow!
OK, I’ve released some of my frustration! I feel better now.
But before I get accused of being too political in this Blast, I want to offer a spiritual reflection about the first march for life, which took place nearly 2000 years ago. It was when Jesus took up His Pro-Life sign (the Cross), and walked to a hill called Calvary outside another capital, Jerusalem. That Way of the Cross is the first and most perfect March for Life! We walk in His footsteps!
In meditating on this decisive Pro-Life March of Jesus, I offer some reflections for other Pro-Lifers to consider. Even though this Blast comes one day after the official marching date, who says advocacy for life issues is limited to just one day? The Pro-Life effort isn’t simply to host a big event, but to educate, inspire, and to help create a culture where life, even if it isn’t perfect, is still worth celebrating and rejoicing!
First: Jesus’ Pro-Life March was taken up out of love. That should always be our motivation! It’s easy for Pro-Lifers to get zealous, pumped up, and sometimes even angry about the state of affairs in our world, especially when it comes to the undeniable crime of abortion. But we cannot forget that we are called to love all people – especially those who consider the Pro-Life cause an enemy to their unfortunate “choices.” After all, Jesus’ Pro-Life March ended with Him imploring forgiveness for those who persecuted Him! He did not walk in anger, but in love.
Second: Jesus marched patiently! There are times when we may get discouraged – that despite our best efforts, things don’t seem to improve. That’s why I believe Jesus allowed Himself to fall – three times! To show us the courage and faith required to take the positions and the stands that are NOT supposed to be easy. We must be patient with our Pro-Life efforts, and be patient to walk the Pro-Life message not just one day a year, but every day of our lives.
Third: Jesus didn’t walk alone! Even though He bore the Cross alone, we know He was never completely abandoned. His family – the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Beloved Disciple, and the sanctified Mary Magdalene – was with Jesus every step of the way. There may be times when we feel isolated in our belief of the gift of life, especially when we constantly face people who tear lives apart! But this annual event reminds us we are not alone. Besides the fact Jesus promised His eternal presence with us, he also sends God’s family – the Church – to encourage us every step of the way, by walking with us every step of the way.
In my experiences of the annual March for Life, I’ve been truly edified to see so many people come together and be a witness for Life. It’s moving to see families bringing their children – the best “sign” they could display! I’ve witnessed counselors who have given out pamphlets for free services to anyone who needs help with their pregnancy, or how to cope with a bad “choice” they may have made in the past. The event brings together so many young people that one would think they were at a high school convention/party, with the exception that these teens aren’t partying, but praying. The participants also see a vast array of the different religious groups proudly carrying their Pro-Life banners, not on placards, but through the witness of their religious habits and clerical dress.
If you’ve never been to a March for Life, be sure to come next year! It’s a great way to strengthen your faith and conviction for this important cause. If you are unable to come due to physical conditions, please know we proudly walk with you and for you! We know you’re there in spirit. If you are not sure what your position is on Pro-Life issues, come anyway; get the information the media won’t provide. And see for yourself that you can find strength in numbers, especially since Christ walks among us.
It’s true. Action is louder than words. This annual March for Life is not new. It is simply reminiscent of Jesus’ first walk for eternal life. This walk, His and ours, leads us to a crossroads in our lives. We are given a choice: Will I join our Lord, and, with His family, take the steps that lead to Life?
The TV News Segment Recipe!
This week, I had the opportunity to do a cooking segment on WBAL. Check here to see the news segment at WBAL-TV.com. [The video has since been removed. Check this one out instead.] I made a recipe that I used in other news segments, as well as for a recent dinner with my priest fraternity group. It’s a traditional Roman dish that uses the unique taste of smoked salmon, but in a pasta! It was a hit each time I made it, so I hope you get a chance to try this recipe for yourselves. It’s a great way to warm up, especially after a cold day of Marching for Life! For the recipe, [click here].
There are many times in prayer when we don’t know what to say. I recognize my inability to pray well – and quite regularly! It’s at that moment I sometimes think that God perhaps doesn’t want us to say anything. He just wants us to live! Perhaps, our very lives are a form of prayer, too. Can we consider how just “being” with God is better than words? At the March for Life I see many people praying – some saying rosaries, singing songs, reading the scriptures, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It’s all quite beautiful and inspiring. But I’ve also noticed people who are not as “healthy” as most. They may be in wheelchairs, carried by people who love them dearly! They don’t say much. But I’ve seen them smile. That smile is a beautiful prayer we can offer to God, and hopefully a detectable reaction on our faces when we think of how our lives are a gift from God, and how our lives are meant to be a gift for God and one another!
Food for Thought:
2011’s Top 10 Food Experience Countdown
Part II – Continuing the Countdown of Grace!
Last week I shared a philosophy of healthy spiritual living: look back at last year prayerfully to discern how God has blessed you – even in the midst of struggles. Also, look ahead with faith, hope, and love to see how God is calling you to live this year even better!
And now, without further adieu, we’ll countdown the Top 5 Faithful Foodie Experiences of 2011.
5. Mount St. Mary’s University Cafe
I worked the line at Mount St. Mary’s University Café for a dinner service, cooking up my fusion steak fajitas (perhaps you’ve heard of them) and coconut cream risotto with creamy adobo chicken stir fry. Check out the huge line of students waiting for meals! It made me all the more appreciative of the dedication of cafeteria workers.
My trip to Guam this past year was certainly a great highlight! I would have shown you pictures of the beautiful beaches, the crowds of people who came to our events, and of course the lovely families that made these events so special. But from a culinary point of view, this trip inspired me to turn SPAM into a gourmet meal! In fact, I cooked a “spam-onara” – sautéed spam carbonara, for several YouTube friends in L.A.!
(Me with some YouTube personalities. They encouraged me to start up a new YouTube channel. More information to come!)
3. Mediterranean Culinary Cruise with Canadian Chef Marc
This was most certainly a highlight, as it was the first trip we took as a Grace Before Meals “family.” On this trip we saw the world through the eyes of faith and through the religious experience of eating together. Our meals were exquisitely prepared. The scenarios were breathtaking. The fellowship was inspiring. And the experience would be unforgettable!
(A “bella vista” from France.)
(An open market in Spain.)
(A private wine testing on board.)
2. Fruit of the Vine – Napa Valley retreat and recreation!
A small group of us stopped by a family vineyard to sample their delicious varieties and to visit “Napa Valley Family” style. On this trip we connected faith to the process of wine making. While it sounds like a stretch, just consider why Jesus would use wine to reveal himself at both the first miracle and the Greatest Miracle at the Last Supper.
(Our Lady of the Grapes at Meritage Spa, Resort and Vineyard.)
And my top food experience of 2011 is:
1. Malmstrom Airforce Base as one of the judges for the Warrior Chef Competition.
I want to do all I can to serve the brave men and women of our military. They deserve it. These missile base chefs have talent, discipline, and gusto! The secret ingredient for the competition was: apples. Four teams consisting of two chefs composed and prepared dishes highlighting any variety of apple. After 1.5 hours, they presented their creations with ceremony.
During the visit it was well noted that the mood and morale of the personnel on these bases were greatly affected by the chefs. These chefs served more than food for the body. I certainly experienced the level of attention to their craft. Even though they had limited ingredients and supplies, they had one mission: to serve great food to those who work to keep our country safe. Besides having great affection for our military, I had the chance to cook in one of the Top Secret missile base kitchens. Sorry, I have no pictures of that Top Secret installation. But it’s no secret that our military deserves our thanks, prayers, and a delicious home cooked meal with extra servings of family and friends.
Let us pray: Father in Heaven, may our early days of this New Year be filled with great anticipation of faith, hope, and love. Bless our family and friends, those near and far. Keep us safe in Your care, and bless our tables with meals that make memories that will last a life time. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
What was your favorite meal from last year? What are some of the new dishes you hope to try and experiment with this year? Your questions, comments, and even critiques will help us serve you in this coming year. Stay tuned, and spread the word about Grace Before Meals to your family, friends, and parishioners.
Food for Thought:
2011’s Top 10 Food Experience Countdown
In these early days of the New Year, people feel compelled to “turn over a new leaf,” make resolutions, or try to start off on the “right foot.” We look ahead for good reasons. With faith in God, we can hope for good things to come. But authentic faith also requires that believers look back with a discerning eye. In fact, the memory of God’s saving power is what makes up the Psalms.
The Eucharistic Liturgy incorporates an anamnesis – a remembrance of the Paschal Mystery. Each night, as part of a healthy spiritual practice, a person can benefit by looking back on the day to recall the sin that needs forgiveness, and also to reflect on the ways God revealed Himself in the good times and bad times. Motivated by the great ways God has blessed our Grace Before Meals movement in 2011, I begin 2012’s e-mail Blasts by looking back at the past.
Currently, my family and I are in the Philippines celebrating a family vacation, so I hope to update everyone on my Facebook and Twitter pages. Click here to join the fun! Also, during the month of January we will send some reflections from previous years, and our team will include exciting updates for up-and-coming projects and events this year, too.
For now, I offer you some of my top 10 favorite foodie experiences of last year. In this reflection, I definitely saw God’s wonderful and generous hand in every experience. Every Grace Before Meals presentation, visit, or cooking demonstration was a great blessing. I hope these top 10 picks help you celebrate with us. And, hopefully, you’ll remember to keep our movement in your prayers in this new year!
10. Family “tailgating” – a great opportunity for food and discussing important values, such as sportsmanship.
9. Serving up “inspiration” with a Grace Before Meals’ feature of my mom’s pancit recipe on Guideposts magazine.
8. Teaching my young cousin Bernadette how to cook a meal for my family in Canada, assisted by her friend (and now mine), Michael.
7. My first meal cooked in my new residence – which actually has its own kitchen! This first meal was definitely a special moment for me. Bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin, oven roasted root veggies, and grilled lime and chili shrimp.
7. A TIE!
I realize these are loose rules, so please forgive me. But home-cooked meals are even more fun when the nieces and the nephews go spatula-to-spatula in a cooking competition. Each group had to compose a main course and a dessert. While the girls won overall, the guys had bold flavors – and left a lot of mess!
6. Young students from St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Bismark, North Dakota. These young students embraced the Grace Before Meals message and cooked with me in preparation of serving a couple hundred people for an event to celebrate Catholic School’s week. It snowed several inches during my visit, and I wondered if the event would be cancelled. I obviously forgot where I was. In North Dakota, they don’t stop school unless the air is so thick with snow that you can’t see your hand in front of your face! They all came, some even wearing shorts!
To be continued…
Next week I’ll share with you my top 5 picks! I gotta keep people in suspense. That’s how God has kept things for me – always waiting and wondering!
Let us pray: Father, in Heaven, as we begin this new year of Grace with our families and before our meals, we pray that You will help us to prayerfully look back in this past year through the lens of Your mercy, and to help us look forward with joyful expectation of how You bless those who put their trust in You. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
What was your favorite celebration last year?
What was your favorite meal that you ate or your favorite dining experience from 2011?
Share your story, especially if you have any recipes that will be worth repeating in 2012!
Your comments, questions, and even expressed concerns help our movement grow. Please encourage your family, friends, and parishioners to sign up for our free weekly E-blasts!
AND WITH FURTHER NEWS ABOUT 2012, WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW!
Nothing Is Wasted!
A few weeks ago I wrote an email blast about the sin of waste – waste of food and the waste of a person’s mind by a lack of conscience formation. I presented this simple moral message to a group of people with different backgrounds. It’s not just a sin for Catholics, Christians, Jews or Muslims. It’s a problem humanity faces worldwide.
(Warehouse of foods donated to Three Square by different vendors, hotels and restaurants. If not donated, it would go to waste! Consider if all were more conscious of this generosity—we could alleviate hunger!)
I recently went to Las Vegas, unfortunately known as “Sin City,” to do a talk at a feeding center called Three Square. While Vegas may be known for sinning in other immoral ways, I can proudly and faithfully say that wasting food is one sin Las Vegas is trying NOT to commit. This brainchild of Conrad Hilton of the Hilton Family of Hotels accepts donations from all the hotels and different food services in the Vegas area, serving as a “hub” for food products that are used to feed low-income families, support other area food kitchens, and even provide low-priced catering services.
(Executive Chef, showing some of the in-house food products that will go to local, low-income families. Healthy, fresh and delicious.)
Special thanks to Executive Chef John Hilton (no relation to Conrad) for the tour of this amazing facility that inspired my faith. This feeding center is one special concept happening in Vegas, that I pray doesn’t stay in Vegas!
(Gourmet sandwiches that will feed about 3,000 young children in one day. Pretty impressive—but Jesus still holds the record of feeding the multitudes!)
I was invited by the Las Vegas Legatus Chapter to share the Grace Before Meals message at their monthly meeting, held at the Three Square facility. While I’ve presented Grace Before Meals in many wonderful places, from formal and fancy to humble and cozy, I must admit this had to be one of the BEST cooking demonstration areas I’ve ever used. A twelve burner oven, double-thick marble counter top and every professional cooking gadget you can think of made this a very efficient set-up to share our common message! I was also provided with the helping hands of Chef Ryan, who recently graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, and Chef Ava from France, who directed the event that evening.
(Sous Chef Ryan and Director of Special Events, Chef Ava)
The kitchen was spotless, even though they feed about 3,000 people each day. The actual facility was constructed by a faithful Catholic construction company, but the organization itself is multi-faithful. The general manager (a former Baptist seminarian) and I shared a brief conversation at the end of the night, discussing how food, and the loving act of feeding each other, can help heal some of our world’s problems, especially those caused by religious tensions. I found it impressive that there were only a few “hired” employees at Three Square; the rest of the crew is a mix of volunteers who serve food and recently graduated culinary students offering their internship time to learn more than just the practical matters of food service. In the Three Square concept, they are learning how to share the blessings—with generosity!
(Every meal is truly a special event, especially when we feed the poor!)
This week’s “From the Feedbag” gives us pause to consider the nuances of the moral message about the sin of waste, and how a better understanding of managing and reducing waste can help all be fed!
I am not a Catholic, but I very much appreciate and learn from your writings and ministry. When I read your recent mailing regarding blessings, I was prompted to write to you. For some time now, I have been thinking that I would like to pray a blessing of some sort over my young son each morning and evening. Are there any formal prayers or blessings that might be appropriate? If so, where might I find them?
Thank you very much,
I appreciate that you are a part of our movement, and that you realize the message isn’t just for Catholics. In fact, it’s a message for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Regarding your question, I’m equally impressed that you were willing to ask me about this special blessing. Not praying for your children becomes a “waste of faith,” so to speak, and the Catholic tradition offers a ton of resources—a treasury of faithful prayers, if you will–to help you become a good spiritual parent for your family. Visit any Christian or Catholic bookstore and you may find (1) devotional prayers, and (2) good biographies of people who demonstrate faith. It’s one thing to pray over your children; it’s another thing to provide them with good examples of faith, by the witness of the lives of Saints. Depending on how young they are, you may even want to read to them a bedtime story about the Saints, and say their prayers, along with yours, to bless your children!
Thank you so much for being a part of our movement and for spreading the message!
(Special “ecumenical” and “inter-religious” quote from Ghandi. How true!)
Dear Fr .Leo,
I watched your show this morning on EWTN, in which you cooked your leek soup. I am German, and leek goes into every soup I ever make. However, it upset me very much to watch you cut the green part of the leek off and throw it in the garbage!! That’s a terrible waste, and in my book, waste is a sin. Leek costs $2.99 a pound, and throwing away half of it really hurts me.
So please, next time use all of the precious vegetable; the green is as good (it might take a little bit longer to cook) as the white part and even stronger in taste.
(July 2011- Film crew for EWTN’s new series, “Savoring our Faith,” due for release in the spring of 2012)
Thanks for writing about the recipe that you saw on one my cooking shows on EWTN. You are absolutely correct that I probably should have used the whole leek. Without trying to make excuses, I can say for sure that the sin of waste was not my intention. I was simply following the ingredients and instructions I was taught. And honestly, I don’t know how to take away the strong onion taste from the green part of the stem to maintain the flavor of the dish. So, along with your suggestion not to waste, I would also like to ask you to send me the recipe or cooking technique you would use. By sharing your tips and techniques, you can help us all avoid wasting!
(The newly renovated St. James Church, where we had mass prior to the Una Fides (One Faith) Luncheon)
I met you in Orlando at St.James for an Una Fides luncheon. I bought your cookbook and have made almost everything! Everything has been fantastic, but the lasagna beats them all! I made it for my family and friends including five huge young men and it was a big hit. Thank you so much!!!!!!!!
I’m so glad that you and your family enjoyed the recipes from my book. The Una Fides luncheon inspired me in that so many people came out to develop and form their conscience with ongoing faith formation and good reading materials. Keep it up. As a unique side note, the hearty layered lasagna in my book was created because I was using leftovers, so that nothing went to waste. Our movement is called Grace Before Meals and I can tell you I prayed that this recipe would work out. God blessed the meal of leftovers remade, with deliciousness that obviously brought the real blessings to your table!
Thanks for the recipe review, and please send me any other recipes reviews, even if they are critiques or suggestions for improving any of the multiple recipes that I’ve posted on my website!
(Students from City College Culinary Program distributing some food to the homeless)
Let us pray: Father in Heaven, teach us how to wisely use the things of the earth so that we can share them with others, as a sign of our Faith in You. Give us grace and strength to make a difference in our homes and our local communities by getting involved in food centers like Three Square, other agencies like Our Daily Bread, and different outreaches, such as St. Vincent de Paul or Catholic Charities. May our work together, despite our different religions, bring us to a common understanding of what humanity really hungers for: Faith, hope and love! Amen.
(Warehouse at Three Square with donated food. There is enough to feed the world’s belly, but only Christ can feed the world’s soul!)
If you have questions, comments, recipe suggestions, or even “complaints” about our menu ideas, please let us know. Your honest feedback shows how our relationship is one built on trust, humble communication and faithfulness. Post your comments below and be a blessing to us, just as we hope our movement is to you!
Tender Inside and Out! Savory and Sweet Pork Tenderloin
Tenderness describes many things – emotions, food, a romantic feeling, or a recovering wound. The word opens our minds to something delicate, and something very much needed in a world that can be so harsh and hard, dry, and lifeless!
(The tender image of the Sedes Sapientiae – Seat of Wisdom – and how Mary serves as a “chair,” i.e., someone who tenderly cares for Jesus, who is Wisdom Incarnate.)
This week’s Blast will celebrate a great fall recipe that can bring some tenderness to your table, on your table, and around your table. I cooked this pork tenderloin for some of our Baltimore seminarians studying here Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. In the midst of a busy semester, they needed a little fraternity and food. While they would never admit it, these moments of friendship and brotherhood are compassionate moments of goodness and even tenderness. The food helped bring out the gentle side of these Christian gentlemen.
(At the recent Baltimore Book Festival, fellow Mount St. Joseph High School alumnus, Glen, class of ’88, came out to watch and support me, a fellow Mountie. High School is an important and tender time of development in the life of teenagers. Be sure to encourage friendships that endure – even if the friends don’t always see eye to eye!)
I hope you enjoy this pork recipe that is tender inside and out.
Kale and Apple Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
(Kale and apple stuffed pork tenderloin.)
This week’s recipe has a couple different parts to it: first, preparing the filling, composed of sautéed kale and diced apples; second, wrapping the tenderloins in good quality bacon to keep the outside texture crispy and tender at the same time!
(Filling in the sautéed kale and apple in the butterflied tenderloin.)
(After rolling the pork tenderloins, top off with a few rosemary leaves, not just for garnish but for an extra savory taste.)
This meal can help heal tender wounds and provide the tender consolation of table communion with family and friends.
Father, help us to remain open to the tenderness of charity, the kindness that comes from authentic faith, and the consolation that hope gives to believers. May we always remember those who go without family, faith, and food. Keep us generous in our desire to feed those who hunger for the great gifts You generously give to Your people. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Another tender image of St. Joseph comforting the Lord Baby Jesus as he was crying, maybe fussing as Joseph tried to put Him to bed. Can you imagine the tender love that Mary and Joseph had for Jesus?)
Give this recipe a try, and tell us your thoughts. Do you have a recipe or cooking technique that helps keep meat tender and delicious? Your culinary comments help our members connect food, faith, and family. When you ask questions and share your stories you remind our Grace Before Meals team of the positive influence our work has in the world. Post your comments below.
Dinner Discussions from the Grace Before Meals movement gives “food for thought” for your family meals, by combining some aspects of faith, food, and family fun. Hopefully this little article will give you something to talk about with your family at the kitchen table – a blessed place that enhances family communion. If you have a comment, a question, or a topic you would like to discuss, be sure to contact us at www.gracebeforemeals.com.
The Sin of Waste
At the recent Baltimore Book Festival, I gave a presentation and cooking demonstration. I offered a few suggestions on how to make the most out of foods, from meats to herbs. My goal was to make sure nothing goes to waste. My parents often told me about the plight of poor and hungry children around the world who would be quite happy to eat what I so casually wasted. In my smart aleck fashion, I suggested to my parents that they package my uneaten brussels sprouts and send those hungry people my unwanted veggies. My flippant attitude alone constituted a sin. But the primary sin fell under the category of disregarding God’s blessings, i.e., waste.
(At the press conference with the Mayor of Baltimore and a few favorite story book characters.)
We can fulfill our moral responsibility in making sure we don’t waste food by putting a few cooking tips into practice. Prepping food a few days in advance, being creative with leftovers, and simply being organized when shopping can all help alleviate waste while at the same time recognizing the blessing of food.
Coming from a poor country, my parents were very “faithful” when it came to food. Leftovers filled our refrigerator. But my mother’s creative culinary skills let her reuse food, but not repeat meals. A little inspiration and creative technique can certainly help avoid waste and sin!
(Mom making sure I cook it the “right” way, i.e., “her” way!)
Food, however, is not the only thing that’s wasted in our world. Our Grace Before Meals movement doesn’t just focus on the food for the body, but the food for the soul as well. As such, I want to draw your attention to something else that can be wasted: our minds. Our conscience!
Events like the Baltimore book festival give me an opportunity to consider how not to waste our minds. The Grace Before Meals presentation gave spectators – not just Catholics and Christians by the way – an opportunity to feed the mind with some bite-sized theology. But I was also inspired to see how so many people came out to dive more deeply into the real potential of books.
(The IKEA stage cooking demo staff and volunteers.)
Reading a book, particularly classical books with enduring truthful themes, can be a remedy to the relativism and lackluster creativity that plagues our world. The lack of imagination has certainly infected younger people, who have become technological geniuses, but relatively inarticulate drones with regards to normal human conversation, morality, and even common sense. Take away the computer game joystick and put something in the hands of young people that give true joy: a good book!
(At a book signing for Bobby Flay’s Book – Fall 2010.)
For me it doesn’t matter if the book is read on bounded paper or from modern mini-monitors like the Kindle or iPad – as long as the reader’s mind absorbs information from the great and creative literary works of art. Don’t let our minds go to waste! Remember, waste is a sin. Waste of the mind by not challenging its potential, filling it with “bad things” to the point of corruption or spoil, or starving it from flavors of higher education constitutes an offense to God. God, who gave humans the unique gift of a rational soul, unlike any other created being in this world.
(Quebec street performers. Perhaps not the most rational stunt, but certainly very exciting!)
Many people ask me what books I would suggest to avoid wasting a mind? In my opinion, it all depends on a person’s interest. But I think people ought to contribute some time reading from catechetical texts, stories about the lives of saints, inspirational novels, and listening to engaging audio lectures and faithful sermons. While I can offer these suggestions, I admit I’m not as well read as I would like to be. However, I certainly enjoy reading – especially if I don’t have to be tested on the materials later!
In this week’s Blast I want suggest two books – both that deal with waste and sin. The first is the classic novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables. The story chronicles the story of Jean Valjean, who at the outset is convicted and severely punished for petty theft. After years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread, he is paroled. Out of desperation and the fact that he knew very little other than prison cruelty, he continued to live a rogue life. Then the example set by a charitable Bishop opened Valjean’s mind to a spiritual conversion and a life of grace. Valjean showed the possibility of moving away from sin towards sanctity – even in the midst of the turmoil and drama of the French Revolution.
(More French-influenced street performers in Quebec City.)
I watched different film versions of Les Miserables along with theatrical productions – more than once! But nothing compared to reading the novel. The words opened my mind and my soul to God’s Grace. At my own pace, the book let me read, reflect, and see how nothing (and no one) in God’s sight is a waste. Even sinners and the inexperience of miserable injustice can become moments for grace.
Another book to recommend recently topped the charts of Catholic books. It was written by SiriusXM radio host Lino Rulli, aka, The Catholic Guy. His book, Sinner, offers personal reflections on the crazy antics of a talented young man, who despite the foibles and falls of humanity, continues to follows God’s will – even as a sinner. This book offers down-to-earth stories of fallen humanity on the way to sanctity. Lino’s humor shines through, and his stories touch a chord shared by young people – especially young men who can admit how the pressures of stereotypical masculinity can impede a life of sanctity. His book has done quite well, receiving the support of Archbishop Dolan of New York and even Howard Stern – at the same time! It shows nothing is wasted with God, and even a sinner’s life is worthy to God.
(Lino Rulli and I had a chance to hang out in D.C. this past summer. Here you can see him goofing off – which he does so well!)
If you haven’t picked up a good book in a while, give these titles a try. Consider how our minds are like empty plates, which we can fill up with junk food or a healthy, delicious, satisfying feast for the body, mind, and soul!
God, Wisdom beyond compare, help us to learn, live, and use all of the gifts You give to us. May we never let our minds go to waste. May we tap into our deeper conscience in order to see the great sin of waste. Give us the strength to also do what we can to help those who hunger in our world. May we share all the blessings we have received with them – food from our table and faith from our hearts. Amen.
(The entrance to the John Paul II Expo in Vatican City, decorated with a large book to symbolize the late Pope’s extensive reading and writing.)
What was the last book you read and would recommend? Have you experienced Les Miserable or read Lino’s new book, Sinner? What do you think of it? Your comments encourage our movement and give new insight to our subscribers. Post your comments below.
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