Fr. Leo’s Top 10 Experiences in 2014

With the Pope in the Philippines, I was tied up with filming new episodes of my show, filming news segments for EWTN, and also doing some radio interviews for Sirius XM 129 – the Catholic Channel.  However, the Pope’s words reminded me that reflection on our past is very important.  Therefore, it’s a fun and faithful opportunity for me to review how wonderful of a year 2014 was for me and the Grace Before Meals movement.
The Pope speaks to TONS of people in the Philippines (tough to quantify with this image, but you get the picture.)

Here’s my top 10 list of food, faith and family experiences of 2014.

# 10)  Filming across the country with EWTN for Season IV of Savoring our Faith.
Me with the EWTN crew at Liberty Market out in AZ
Each episode will showcase a church, restaurant and a recipe that families can cook at home to remember their faith-filled and fun travels!

# 9   Cooking for children can be tough.
Hanging out with these kids up in Boston area in November this past year. They seem to like the pasta and books!

But, I’m always so happy to hear from parents and from children themselves that they like my food, even new foods.  Part of the trick is to involve them in the cooking process, have some fun and listen to what they hunger for.  It’s our job to feed them. If we don’t, someone else or the devil will! Don’t be scared.  But be strengthened to feed your kids!

 

# 8  Cooking a meal with a good cause with Celebrity Chef Jeff Henderson of “Flip My Food.”
I had fun meeting Chef Jeff (left) and other chefs at the KISRA event in West Virginia in September.

 

Chef Jeff became an instant friend.  I had heard of him from TV shows like Oprah, when he shared his story about how his time in prison helped him to learn important life lessons, like how to cook, how to serve and how to walk the straight path through faith and family!  He has a great message and I’m happy to have experienced it myself.

# 7   Celebrity Chef, John Besh invited me, almost like a family chaplain, for his family trip to the Holy Land.
The Besh family pray together at a Church in the Holy Land.
Despite all of the negative news about the place, it’s actually more safe to go there than some street corners in the USA. His family embarked on a family vacation, and now I feel like Chef John, his lovely wife Jenifer, their 4 boys and the in-laws are like my own family.  If you’re ever in New Orleans, you have to try a meal at one of Chef John Besh’s restaurants.
As a general rule of thumb, I always make trips into opportunities to retreat, vacation, have fun and be fed.  So keep up on gracebeforemeals.com for news about my upcoming pilgrimages.
 
# 6  My Voluntas Dei Retreat in Quebec, Canada.
 

 

This icon shows part of the miraculous stories associated with the Basilica Shrine, Notre Dame du Cap.

I did a retreat at the Shrine in Trois Rivieres Quebec Canada and to also get more in touch with my new priestly mission with Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite. Nearby the founder, Fr. Louis Marie Parent was buried.  But this picture shows a unique food perspective and a miracle.  When the new priest of this small church community rang the bell for Mass, the only creature to show up was a pig – somehow with a rosary in its mouth.  It was a “sign” for the priest to realize that we are all creatures until we take on the Blessed Mother as our own mother.  So, he dedicated the building up of this church community to the Blessed Mother!

# 5  Families and Food!  
A nice family I met while in Texas.

That’s what we do and that’s who we are! I’m proud to say, that of all of the ministries out there, Grace Before Meals is the ONLY ministry that actively, practically, and dynamically reaches out to families.  We don’t need another “program,” “talk,” “event,” or even a “synod.”  We need to practice common sense – faithfully, theologically, and tastefully.  Please consider helping us spread this message with our movement The Table Foundation.

# 4 Good food is often associated with the young and hip crowd.
Hipsters and food = great combination.
Unfortunately, many faithful Catholics can be somewhat closed minded about the younger, tattooed, pierced, and hipster crowd.  But, these young and creative chefs are some of the hardest working people I know.  Recently I cooked two simple dishes with Chef Jeff Krause of Crepe Bar in Tempe, Arizona.  While he’s not a Catholic, he’s so kind and open to discussing faith.  He takes his food seriously and runs his small but awesome crepe restaurant like a church should operate:  clean, beautiful, great service and substantial food – not too much, but just enough to keep people coming back for more!
# 3  Evangelization is the reason for why I do what I do.
Steubenville crew, pumped to evangelize.

 

It’s so great to work with other evangelists, and many of them are secular lay people who are seeking to live a consecrated life.  That’s the case with groups such as the Augustine Institute, and this speaking team for Franciscan University of Steubenville, which hosts conferences around the country.  The dynamism of groups, such as this one in Halifax Canada, feeds hungry hearts and souls!  I’m so proud to be part of this team!

# 2  My family!

Me with my siblings and parents, together for my mom’s birthday.
Of course this has to be one of the top 10 experiences of food and faith.  My family is FAR from perfect.  We have all of the same problems that the rest of the world goes through.  There are strained relationships, different life choices, and of course, strong personalities.  But in all of this, we are called to be faithful.  While the Scriptures say “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus does not mean we are never to make mistakes. Instead, Jesus is saying, “let your faithfulness be perfect.”  Practically, “when we mess up (and we will), let’s learn how to get up from our falls, ask forgiveness and keep walking to heaven.”  Our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in love will always be faithful in forgiving us.  That’s what it means to be perfect!  Our family is FAR from perfect. But we’re all trying to be faithful!
AND the number one Food, faith and family moment for me in 2015 is:
# 1  Being Fed by the Poor in Kolkata.
 
The work I do seeks to feed those who hunger, but I was truly fed by my experience in Kolkata with wonderful people like this boy.
I was in Kolkata, India, the original place where Bl. Teresa of Calcutta began her international apostolate to serve the poorest of the poor.  Originally I was brought over by the sisters to teach a course in Mariology (or study of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of Christ).  However, these nuns, their service and the people they served actually fed me.  I left there so inspired.  Along with the words of our Holy Father Francis, this year I’m going to make an extra effort to seek opportunities to serve the poor!

Let us Pray:

God, you feed in us so many ways. It just takes us the time to reflect, perhaps at the end of each of our days, to consider how your hands were feeding our hungry bodies, hearts and minds.  Help us to hunger for your truth through the experiences and good choices of our lives.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Want to be fed in Spain?  Spaces are filling up.  Call now and reserve your spot for this incredible opportunity!

Please leave your comment HERE and be part of the conversation.

  

1/29/15

 

1/30/15

 

        

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Posted January 14th, 2015 | New Year, Pilgrimages, Video, What's On the Table

 What’s On the Table for the New Year

 

First, allow me to do some bragging as a proud uncle!  As some of you may know, my nieces and nephews have have a pop singing group. They’ve grown up, and so has their talents and sound.  They have been recently picked up by a popular music agent from London, and their collaboration seems to be very promising for a successful music career.  I’d like to share with you a video from their group:  JAGMAC (the Letters of their first names in order from youngest to oldest).  I think you may enjoy this upbeat song, and perhaps even share it with the teenagers in your life.  Our world needs more musicians like my nieces and nephews who seek to put out a popular sound with a positive message.  So, allow me to brag and allow yourself to enjoy the music.  And please, share this link with the young music lovers in your life!
Watch the awesome video by my nieces and nephews, JAGMAC.
As you know the Holy Father is making his way to the Philippines, my home country!  Yes, I was born there and moved to America with my family when I was 2 years old. But, keeping the traditions of the Philippines has given me a healthy sense of what it means to be an American Filipino.  You can watch all about the visit, hear me on the radio, and watch me on TV as I’ll be doing some interviews with Sirius XM 129 and some feature pieces and interviews for EWTN.
(Yes, that’s my picture with the EWTN Banner)

 

Originally, I was going to send you a blast with my Top 10 favorite travels and food experiences of 2014.  I’m still going to do that. I promise!  But, this week’s busyness, travels, jet-lag, multiple news segments and filming for my own TV show has kept me from writing that special commemorative 2014 Blast.  But, it’s coming soon.
(Me with some of my guests for the Savoring our Faith TV show from the Philippines. Chef Matthew and Chef “Dimples” and I cooked all of that deliciousness for just one episode!)
But, for now I’d like to just offer the reminder of a few things that are happening with Grace Before Meals:
(1)  The trip to Spain has opened its registration. Spaces are limited so call 800.842.4842 and ask for Susan to reserve your spot.



(2)  Savoring our Faith is filming season 4, and we’re traveling across the country and around the world highlighting how faith, food and culture make for a great show. Please keep us in prayer.
The Culinary Assistants from my filming in Arizona.
(3)  Here’s a list of places where I’ll soon be traveling. Hope to see you there.
January 29- Pittsburgh, PA (Legatus presentation)
January 30 – Pittsburgh, PA (Catholic Schools week presentation & Spicing Up Married Life)
January 31-February 4 – Appleton, WI (Parish Mission and Super Bowl cookout)
February 6-16- Trip to Rome to visit North American College & Vatican Embassy
February 19- Naples, FL (Faith and Ale & Faith and Wine Presentation)
February 20- Tyler, TX (Why the Cross? Conference)
February 21-24 – Cary, NC (Parish Mission and school presentation)

Let us Pray:

 

Father, as the Pope makes his way to the Philippines, grant to him good health and safe travels. May he be an ambassador of peace and justice to the world, as he reaches out particularly to the poor and needy.  Keep our family of faith together through communion, and help us to bring others to Your Table.  Amen.
(1)  What do you think of my nieces and nephews’ music group? Please share the music video with the young music lover in your life.
(2)  What exciting news do you have coming up in your life?
(3)  What was the best thing you ate in 2014 that you still remember even today?
(Of course, I’d have to do a “falsie” – fake selfie! But praying to have a chance to see him up close. Stay tuned!)

Please leave a comment below and be part of the conversation.

 

 

1/9/15 – 1/19/15

 

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Posted January 8th, 2015 | New Year, Pilgrimages, Prayers, Savoring Our Faith

A New Year and New Opportunities

Do something new and join me in Spain!  Official registration has begun and spaces are limited.  It’s the 500th anniversary celebration of the birth of Doctor and Saint, Teresa of Avila and we will be there to experience it.  Call 800.842.4842 today to reserve your spot.

 

 

It’s early in 2015.  New Year’s resolutions may already be broken.  At least in my case, some of mine were already put on the back burner.  But, every day is a new day of grace, opportunity, and blessings. We just have to recall how God has blessed us in the past, and therefore confidently look to the future.
The Nativity Scene at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Springfield IL
That’s what I hope to do in the coming blasts of this month.  I want to do my “best of” experiences in 2014.  While my approach may be considered “behind the times” since most groups do this at the end of December, it was just too busy of a time for me to be sincere in my reflection.
So, next week I’m going to do my favorite “Faithful Foodie Travels” – places where I’ve traveled in this ‘record breaking’ year of itinerant preaching.

 

My most recent trip – a unique “pilgrimage” to NYC with Cardinal Dolan. On my trips, participants experience the unique aspects of the faith, culture and incredible food for body, mind and spirit.
The following week, I’m going to give you my favorite dishes and some recipe highlights from 2014.
Baby Indian Eggplant Parmesan from New Year’s Eve Dinner 2014.
This week however, I want us all to think and plan on how we will grow in our faith this year.  Gratefully my new community of consecrated life, “Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite” helps me with a daily dose of realistic and practical spirituality.  Please look into this community and consider joining (or creating) a local team based on a consecrated spirituality.  Pope Francis has dedicated 2015 to the year of consecrated life. I feel blessed to be part of it all in a more intimate way.
Praying at the tomb of Fr. Louise Marie Parent, founder of Voluntas Dei Institute.
Besides daily prayer – like daily bread – we ought to consider stepping outside of our comfort zones and go on a pilgrimage. This year, I am scheduled to lead a fantastic opportunity to Spain to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila.  I’ll be joined by Patrick Coffin of Catholic Answers Live.  Together we will lead the group to some of the most renown spiritual and cultural sites which will certainly help you grow in your faith.  I even have non-Catholics go on these trips and experience renewal and conversion.  Plus, with me on board, you’ll experience the best of Spain’s cuisine – the majestic and meaningful food culture!

St. Teresa of Avila

Spaces are limited and you’re getting the opportunity to sign up before we start actively promoting this trip in the coming month.  So, give a call to Susan Prendergast at 800.842.4842 and see the itinerary HERE.
While 2014 has come and gone, we will remember it’s blessings and learn from our past.  And with 2015 already underway, the Grace Before Meals family is excited with all of the new opportunities to connect, food, faith, family and fun!

Let us Pray:

In preparation for the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, let’s recall how God’s grace through the Sacrament of Baptism requires food:  Water!  May the waters of the Baptism Font and the Holy Water fonts of our church, renew our desire to be God’s children, to be loving brothers and sisters, and to be saints – citizens in the heavenly kingdom.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(1)  How did you spend your New Year’s Celebration?
(2)  What’s your favorite New Year’s Resolution for 2015?
(3)  What’s your favorite food from Spain?
(4)  Do you have any ideas or suggestions for our Grace Before Meals Family for 2015?
Please leave your comment below and be part of the conversation.

 

1/9/15 – 1/19/15

 

 

 

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Posted December 31st, 2014 | Audio, Entertaining Truth, Feast Days, Holiday, New Year

 

Happy New Year to you & your loved ones

May your celebration of this New Year, and the Holy Feast Day of Mary, Mother of God, be a time of grace and joy!

For the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, I once again share my rendition of “Ave Maria” that I sang for the 2015 Entertaining Truth Christmas Radio Show on Sirius XM 129, the Catholic Channel. The Ave Maria is my prayer that each of you discover her motherly love and that we become more like her Child, Jesus our Lord!

Let us Pray:

God, thank you for a new year. May everyone in our family be willing to begin anew with a clean slate. We know that you are always ready to forgive us. Help us to be willing to forgive ourselves and to forgive one another.

As we begin a new year, remind us of our truest values and our deepest desires. Help us to live in the goodness that comes from doing what you want us to do. Help us to put aside anxiety about the future and the past, so that we might live in peace with you now, one day at a time.

(Source: www.loyolapress.com)

Spaces are running out! Click the link to register for an incredible trip to Spain: 

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Posted January 1st, 2014 | Grace Before Meals, New Year
Time for Transition!
 

Happy New Year to you and your families!

At the beginning of this year, our Grace Before Meals team has a very special announcement. We put together a video to describe a transition that I’ll be making in my priestly assignment.

 Click to watch the video and learn about the exciting things that are happening this year!

As of January 1, 2014, I’ve received permission from the Archbishop of Baltimore to pursue an application to join a Community of Consecrated Life, called Voluntas Dei (A Latin Phrase that means, “The Will of God”).  This is a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite.  This is a unique group of priests, celibate laymen, and consecrated married couples.  I have been discerning this group for the past seven years!

The charism of this community is to be like the Virgin Mary at the annunciation, saying “yes” to God’s will!  Voluntas Dei per Mariam Immaculatam.

For me, that practically means that if accepted into Voluntas Dei, I will continue my priestly work but with a special consecration.  The Archbishop has given me the assignment to be a supplemental sacramental and pastoral minister, basically on a part time level, helping out parishes within the Archdiocese of Baltimore as needed. At the same time, this will allow me to focus on the work of Evangelization in the modern world, and particularly direct my energies towards the Grace Before Meals apostolate.

There is so much more exciting news to tell you about this community, its wonderfully practical spirituality, and the good work that they do in the name of the Catholic Church. But, more will come in upcoming emails, newsletters, video posts and email blasts.

For now, I want to offer you this important news, to ask for your prayers, trust in mine for you, and to wish you all a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Questions and Considerations
(1)  What do you discern as God’s will for you this year?
(2)  Send Fr. Leo and the Grace Before Meals team a prayer or request?
(3)  In this year, consider bringing the Grace Before Meals message and Fr. Leo as a speaker or presenter at your next event.
Your comments and questions will help keep our focus and energies on bringing more people to the Table!  Post your comments below.

Let us pray:

We bless your name, O Lord, for sending your own incarnate Son to become part of a family, so that, as he lived its life, he would experience its worries and its joys.  We ask you Lord, to protect and watch over this family, so that in the strength of your grace, its members may enjoy prosperity, possess the priceless gift of your peace, and, as the Church alive in the home, bear witness in this world to your glory. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Prayer for Families from the Book of Blessings, the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN 1989)
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Posted January 2nd, 2013 | Blast from the Past, Dinner Discussion, New Year

Blast from “the Recent Past”


This week’s Blast takes a look at some of the Faithful Foodie highlights of 2012.  It’s a review of the past, which was truly “a blast!”

Please know I’ve had so many wonderful experiences this year that when I look back at the calendar and pictures, I realize God has truly blessed this Grace Before Meals apostolate and movement.  While many consider this work a “ministry,” I want to tell people they don’t have to be priests or nuns to bring families back around the dinner table.  I consider this work an “apostolate,” because it strengthens family life, and improves culture – one meal at a time! To be part of it, all you have to do is be hungry for good food and loving relationships.

Below for your enjoyment is a Top 10 Countdown for Grace Before Meals in 2012. I wish you all a happy New Year, with the hopes of an even more fruitful 2013!

#10

Cooking with our Friends at the 700 Club with Gordon Roberts

Yes, the Christian communities and the Catholic Church have something in common – a love for the Lord Jesus.  While there are certain doctrinal differences, we can at least celebrate a “common meal” (even if it’s not the  Sacrament of Holy Communion – the ultimate sign of spiritual communion with each other).  These opportunities to share recipe ideas with other Christian leaders is a great blessing to me!

 

#9

Maryland’s Black Ankle Winery and Cooking for Good Causes with Good People 

 

It’s a powerful sign when our Grace Before Meals movement is invited to present at non-religious events, especially when you meet local legends like long time radio and TV personality Ron Riley and his wife.  The invitation to speak to different audiences shows us our message is truly “universal.”  After all, the word “catholic” means “universal.”

#8

Grace Before Meals on the “Big Screen” 

 

Talk about effective advertising!  There I am driving to an event in Delaware when I see a big picture of me advertising a health fair.  It was even funny and humbling to see such a big picture of my “mug.”  Thank God I didn’t swerve my car when I saw it!

#7

Another “Blast from the Past”

 

 

At an event in Florida a mom showed me a picture of me baptizing her son 15 years ago! She came because she had seen an ad for the event and recognized me. I am always running into people who have some mutual friend, experience, or family tie.  These experiences at events across the country and around the world are very humbling opportunities to see just how big, and yet how closely knit the Catholic Church family is.

 

#6

Grace Before Meals is Deepening the Message of Family Meals by Focusing on Married Couples 

 

I always knew our message of family meals would eventually take a closer look at where families begin – the love of a mom and dad.  My presentation for Spicing Up Married Life at an event sponsored by the Pro-Life Group for the Archdiocese of Baltimore brought an unexpectedly large crowd of couples.  (To order, CLICK HERE!) This turnout showed me our work truly responds to the parish communities’ need for better marriage preparation – not to mention more opportunities for couples to go on a date night!  One husband confessed he attended my event very unwillingly, but after tasting the prepared recipe and hearing the message, he really “ate it up!”

#5

Celebrating with Friends and True “Spiritual Brothers” in the City of “Brotherly Love”

 

 

Along with my good friend Fr. Erik Pohlmeier from the Diocese of Little Rock Arkansas, I planned a dinner with our former spiritual director from Rome, Bishop Daniel Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  At dinner we shared our many joys, as well as the normal struggles of trying to be a faithful priest in the modern world – a world sometimes hostile to the Christian message.  Honestly, while I know the food was great I can’t remember exactly what I prepared.  Nevertheless, the message and meaningful meal shared with brothers will never be lost in my heart, mind, or soul.

#4

America’s Largest State and Tackling Enormous Food!

 

 

During a trip to Alaska I had many, many incredible food experiences.  One stop took me to the town of Talkeetna – a village really – that had great food finds.  Their burger was even featured in the popular show Man v. Food!  Tasty?  Yes.  Leftovers? Definitely!

Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat
Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat

 

#3

Taking the Grace Before Meals Message Back “Home” to the Philippines 

 

While on a family vacation in the Philippines at the beginning of 2012, I was asked to do hurricane relief support/promotional work with the metro Manila Philippines BergHoff cooking store. (BergHoff is actually a German based company with locations around the world.) There I had the chance to meet and cook with two recent graduates from the culinary school. They prepared an appetizer, while I cooked the famous fusion steak fajitas for a group of reporters and representatives who came to support the disaster relief efforts for the recent hurricane.

#2

Filming the Series Savoring our Faith in Rome, Italy

 

 

We filmed four Savoring our Faith episodes in foodie hotspots in and around Rome, including Scarpone’s Restaurant – not only famous for its food but for cooking for Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict!  We also cooked with internationally known guests and revealed some “secret” recipes, including the famous Scrigno Pasta from Ristorante Cecelia Metella outside of Rome.  You can catch Savoring our Faith every Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. EST on EWTN.

#1

Celebrating with My Family for My Parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary

&

The Epic Cooking Battle Between My Nieces and Nephews

 

Mom and Dad were totally in their element, dancing and even singing songs for the 300 plus guests who came to their 50th wedding anniversary extravaganza!  Baltimore Sheraton Hotel Chef, and former high school classmate, Sam Anderson prepared a great feast! But the greatest part of the evening was just watching my mom and dad enjoy the company of family and friends as they celebrated 50 years of committed love.  It was because of them I was inspired to write our newest book, Spicing Up Married Life.

 

And how can I forget when my nieces and nephews went spoon to spoon in our family’s second annual cooking battle.  The girls won last year’s battle, but the boys took home the prize this year. It was a nail-biter! A victory by one point in the creativity category!

Cooking Competition 2012
Cooking Competition 2012

 

I hope you enjoyed the review of 2012’s favorite faithful foodie experiences.

To help couples and families experience more inspired meals in 2013, be sure to pick up your copy of the books SUML and GBM!

Next week, we’ll be doing a rundown of my top 10 favorite restaurants and recipes!  So, stay tuned for another “Blast from the Recent Past,” full of tasty memories!

  •  What was your favorite food experience of 2012 and why?  

Your comments let us know that our message is reaching hearts and minds, and we hope they let you know you have a place at our table to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions. So, please post your comments below.

Let Us Pray:

Father in Heaven, you gave us 2012 with all of its joys, sorrows, challenges and Grace.  Help us to look forward with great faith, hope, and love in the year 2013.  Continue to bless our movement, the families who share in our message, and those who we will meet in the coming year.  Give us always a Grace to live each day to the fullest, through Christ our Lord. Amen.  

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Posted in Blast from the Past, Dinner Discussion, New Year | 1 Comment »