Messenger Meals and Messenger Eagles

 

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It celebrates how God sends messengers to us, and reminds us that God answers our prayers. The history of Our Lady of Guadalupe also speaks of a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary that (to this day) defies science and awakens our understanding of the Virgin Mary’s role in salvation history.
The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Guadalupe Shrine

In this especially festive time of the year, we will see Christmas cards and nativity scenes showing Mary’s essential role in our faith.  She has been sent by God to remind us how that our Father hears all of our prayers – for ourselves and for others!

A new movie called “The Blood and the Rose,” a type of docudrama produced by award-winning documentarian and producer, Tim Watkins – who just happens to be the executive producer of Grace Before Meals – shows how God continues to send messengers, including St. Juan Diego. In this fantastic movie, we see St. Juan Diego as a normal man with an “ordinary faith” whose obedience helps him to become a “messenger eagle,” sent to the world to share good news. 

Juan Diego

For those in Baltimore, MD, there is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Catholic Business Network of Baltimore is hosting a Film Screening and evening of Spiritual reflection tomorrow at 6pm at The Erinn McCarthy Humanities Hall at Maryvale (11300 Falls Rd.  Brooklandville, MD 21022). The tickets range from $25 – $50 and food & drinks will be served. Enjoy this film that gives an amazing account of the miracle and the call to be Messenger Eagles, and also get an opportunity to network with other local Catholics. Click the link below for the details.

Sharing a meal with someone gives them a message of hope.  We ought to consider this and share our blessings of food with others. But, at the same time, we ought to consider how we can give a direct message of good news to feed hungry souls.  We ought to become a messenger and give a gift of hope, a message of peace, and inspiration to hearts, minds (and bellies).

Couples at a recent marriage presentation in Michigan.

With Christmas around the corner, our movement offers great gift ideas to help you become a messenger eagle through meaningful meals! We also have the movie about Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as our Grace Before Meals products. Get free shipping on orders over $30*. Click the link below for more information. 

 

Today be a messenger of hope, like St. Juan Diego – a true messenger eagle – and serve meals with a message that will feed body, mind and soul.

 

Food for Thought:

  • What “spiritual” or “religious” type of gifts do you give to family and friends?
  • Have you ever given a Grace Before Meals book to someone, and did they like it?
  • How do you try to be a messenger of hope in your life and in this season of advent?

Please let us know your thoughts, comments and responses to these questions. It’s your way of communicating with us what’s most important to you so that we can be good “messenger eagles” for you! LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!

Culinary college students took some of the leftover meals from their culinary classes to the poor in San Francisco.

Let us pray:

 

Saint Juan Diego, you are our first American indigenous saint. Please pray that God the Father would protect all migrants through His Son, Jesus Christ. Ask the Father to pour out the love of the Holy Spirit upon all who are isolated, alone and separated by choice or necessity from their native lands. May those torn away from their families and forced to leave their country to find work elsewhere be reunited: husbands with wives and parents with children. We ask especially for migrant women and children who are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of human trafficking. Give them Your protection and shield them from evil. May we as a Church receive the Grace to welcome with love migrants who enter into our country, seeking a home in our parishes and communities. We ask for Your prayers and intercession for all immigrants who are desperate, alone and in need of God’s loving support. And we ask Our Lady, who appeared to you as your Mother and Mother of all in our land, to wrap her mantle of protection around all migrant people. We beg for her love, compassion, help and protection on all immigrants who today experience great sufferings, sorrows, necessities and misfortunes.

Amen.

 

(Prayer from www.USCCB.org

for the feast day of St. Juan Diego)

Blessed Mother of the Nations

 

 

This Week’s Featured Recipe:
LISTEN: Fr. Leo As Featured on NPR
READ: Fr. Leo featured in OSV.com
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Posted in Events, From the Feedbag, Prayers, Recipe, Special Religious Theme | 1 Comment »

On a Faithful Foodie Mission

Before getting into our Dinner Discussion for this week, we at Grace Before Meals want to extend our heartfelt joy for our new Holy Father, Pope Francis I!

Pope Francis I, on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica during his first address as our Holy Father.

 

Pope Francis I, We promise to remember you every time we gather around the Lord’s Table, and to keep your intentions in our prayers.

God our Father, Shepherd and Guide, look with love on Pope Francis I Your servant, the pastor of Your Church.
May his word and example inspire and guide the Church, and may he, and all those entrusted to his care, come to the joy of everlasting life.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen. 

________________________

Now, for this week’s Dinner Discussion I would like to share some of my Lenten experiences.  It’s been a pretty good Lent for me so far.  I’ve been keeping up with most of my Lenten observance, but at the same time, keeping quite busy giving missions and spiritual retreats.

Realistic Crucifix from St. Daniel’s Church in Phoenix, AZ, commissioned by the pastor there and good friend of mine, Fr. Thaddeus McGuire. Notice the sign on the cross doesn’t say “INRI,” but “Jesus Christ King of the Jews” written out in different languages.

 

This season has been a fantastic opportunity to share our Grace Before Meals message of faith, food, and family, in different parts of the country through the itinerant preaching of “Parish Missions.”  I’m grateful that we are “packing the house,” so to speak, with record crowds from all parts, seeking the message of faith.

Missions are a necessary way to communicate the good news to all parts of the world.  While the traditional understanding has been to go to different countries and evangelize people of different religions, many priests are finding it necessary to proactively spread the Christian message to people in our own countries – even in our own parishes or local communities.

One of the many young folks that came to the mission at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa.

While most people in America have heard of Jesus Christ many people do not know him well, evidenced by many surveys that speak about a great misunderstanding of the Church’s role.  Church, for many people, is not always a good experience.  People are bored, upset about various news stories of their priests or community, or confused about some Church doctrine.  They may not feel at home in a certain community or may be at a point of even questioning God.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

 

That’s why parish missions are so important. They provide unique perspectives, different voices, and deeper experiences of prayer, teaching, and community.  We are proud to say this happens when people from our parish go out on missions!  We give parishes an opportunity to celebrate, pray, laugh, learn, and in some cases even eat some gourmet goodness together!

I wasn’t serving food, but feeding souls at the Women’s Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

 

Giving missions is hard work.  Committees have to plan in advance, and preparations must be made in order to make sure that people in parishes are not only aware of the mission, but that they are going to come.  At my missions, I tell people to bring family, friends, and even non-Catholics.  I don’t want the mission to be me preaching to the “choir” but to people from all walks of life. After all, a “missionary” is someone who is “sent” to all parts to give an invitation to the banquet of the King (Matthew 22:2).

We still have a few weeks of Lent.  If you have never been to a parish mission, or if you are in a parish that needs some revival, renewal, and an experience to deepen your faith, I encourage you to speak with your pastor about bringing in a mission preacher.  While many people ask for missions during the Lenten or Advent Season, I also encourage it during the Easter and Christmas seasons, or during “ordinary time.”  During less festive seasons, mission work gives parishes something to do that is often times lacking:  CELEBRATE!

Minor Seminarians from Lincoln Nebraska that came to an event in McCool Junction.

 

Sure, we need to pray together, endure the Lenten pilgrimage together, but I certainly believe that the best way to respond to all of the “bad news” is to celebrate our faith, enjoy each other’s company, and feast as a family.  That may be one of the more unique approaches to my parish missions.  I encourage people to laugh, express their joy, and use this to combat all of the negativity in the world.  I’m certainly no stand-up comedian, but we do have some rip roaring laughs.  The cliché is worth repeating, “there’s nothing more funny than the truth!”

The Smile of Baby Grace Hansbrough, my project manager’s beautiful daughter at an event in DC.

As God looks at our Lenten experience, the unique time of our church’s history with the conclave, and hears the cries of the poor; I pray that we will be able to experience God’s Good News sent to all parts of the world – most importantly, sent to your heart and soul.

To learn more about the Grace Before Meals missions, the combined cooking demonstration and inspirational theological message, and to join the fun of our movement, simply contact us.

 

Click the picture for recipes from the first season!
A new season of Savoring Our Faith has arrived and now airs Sundays at 5pm EDT. We are excited for this season and hope that you can watch it each week on EWTN. Check out their schedule HERE.
Click for the show’s schedule

 

Also, if you subscribe to Sirius XM Radio, you should tune into The Catholic Channel every Thursday at 1pm to catch Fr. Leo’s weekly radio show, “Entertaining Truth” with Tom Leopold, former writer for “Seinfeld” and “Cheers”. And if you don’t subscribe, then you may want to consider it, because these guys are funny!
  • How is your Lent going?
  • Have you ever had the chance to hear Fr. Leo or another mission preacher? 
  • Was it helpful to you?
  • How are you going to be part of the mission and spread the good news?
  • Is there a place in the world or in your own community that may need God’s Good News?
  • Why do you think our new Holy Father chose the name “Francis”?
  • If you could cook Pope Francis I any meal, what would it be?

Your responses, comments and questions are so helpful to our cause.  Please post your comments below.

Let us Pray:

Father in Heaven, in this holy season, we ask for the grace to hear Your word as it really is – GOOD NEWS!  May all of our family, friends and fellow parishioners know that You walk with our Church in Her pilgrim way, but also – and most importantly – You walk with us each day, providing us the nourishment through the Eucharist and in Your Holy Word to guide us safely to the banquet of Heaven.  We pray for missionaries and the “mission” of Grace Before Meals and all of those served by this apostolate.  Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr. O’Keefe, Pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Zionsville, Indianapolis, with Kimberly, the parish’s Director of Faith Formation.

 

 

 

 

MARCH 14
DIOCESE OF SPRINGFIELD YOUTH RALLY
CARLINVILLE, IL
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.
MARCH 21
ST. BRIDGET’S: PARISH MISSION
RICHMOND, VA
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.

 

 

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Lent, Prayers, Special Religious Theme | 2 Comments »

On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come!  We will also take this opportunity to review some of our upcoming events and opportunities to join the movement!

What's New

New look for “Grace Before Meals” Website!

Savoring Our Faith

God has blessed us with much growth and direction in recent years, so be with us as we seek to grow our movement further and reach more families with great recipes, events and inspirations. Come July, you will notice a new look for gracebeforemeals.com which we think you will like. So stay tuned and get ready for this exciting new direction.

Savoring Our Faith

Tell us what you think about “Savoring Our Faith”!

The first season of our TV Show is almost over and we want to know what you thought about it. Your reviews and feedback will not only be appreciated, but taken very seriously as we consider ways to improve the show for next season.

So tell us your ideas for making our show even more entertaining and engaging. Do you think we should have more guests? Is there a recipe you would love for Fr. Leo to make? Let us know by leaving a comment and be sure to reach out to EWTN at viewer@ewtn.com and let them know that you want to bring Fr. Leo back in “Savoring Our Faith”.

New Foundation and New Book On The Way!

We are working hard to build a new foundation (literally) which will help us to make a bigger difference in this world by giving back to the community and showing them the importance of the family meal. It will be Grace Before Meals…but on a grander scale! So please keep us in your prayers as we seek to do more good in this world for those who hunger for it most.

And of course, our new book, Spicing Up Married Life is shaping up nicely and has some delicious recipes and fantastic lessons for any couple to learn, as we aim for a September release (we mean it this time!). Take a look at one of the recipe previews here:

What's New

Fr. Leo will be the featured speaker at a number of upcoming events, including:

June 3: The Copper Ridge Institute Fundraiser @

Black Ankle Winery in Mt. Airy, MD


June 8-9: 2012 Eucharistic Congress for the Archdiocese of Atlanta @

Georgia International Convention Center 2000 Convention Center Concourse College Park, GA 30337

2012 Atlanta Eucharistic Congress

——————————————-

Blast From The Past: Swan Song

Originally sent May 6, 2009

 

Food for the Body

Check out these beautiful pastries, and especially the little swan-shaped pastry made by Luke Suarez, a seminarian from the Diocese of Bridgeport.

These were part of the dessert selections offered after the seminary’s closing banquet, which we celebrated last Friday.  This final celebration, known as “Deacon Night,” is an opportunity for the Deacons to offer their “swan song.”

(On the last day of class, instead of wearing the normal uniform of the black shirt and Roman collar, these guys wore the Pre-Theology uniform of a white shirt and black tie.)

(On the last day of class, instead of wearing the normal uniform of the black shirt and Roman collar, these guys wore the Pre-Theology uniform of a white shirt and black tie.)

And what a swan song it was!

The appetizers made by the current third-year class, the dinner, the desserts, as well as the toasts and speeches were all just beautiful.  I only wish all of the GBM subscribers could experience the joy and enthusiasm of these men called to serve as priests.  But at the same time, there is also a sober reality of sadness to say goodbye. The reality is we unfortunately won’t see many of those men again.  Even though there is always hope that that our ministries will cross paths, our busy lives will make it very difficult to spend time together.  How they say goodbye is obviously an important part of this closing banquet.

Perhaps one of the things I’ve learned after 10 years of priesthood (which I know isn’t that long compared to many of my dedicated brother priests) is that our whole lives should be a preparation for that “swan song” we will all have to sing one day.  In other words, how do we say good-bye?  Whether it be to an institution like the seminary or the last memorable words of someone dying, like Jesus’ last seven words, depends on how we lived our lives!  Swan songs are more important than we think!  In fact, our lives could be so much better if we prayerfully considered our temporary existence.  We would be encouraged to make each day count – to make sure we live our lives enjoying God’s blessings, while seeing the trials not as devastations but as lessons and challenges (in some cases, serious challenges and very difficult lessons).

Some of the members of the first-year Pre-Theology Class – wearing the proper uniform.)

(Some of the members of the first-year Pre-Theology Class – wearing the proper uniform.)

I realize talking about saying good-bye may sound out of place, especially since we’re in the middle of the spring season when we’re supposed to say hello to new life.  But for the men here at Mount St. Mary’s, while they say hello to summer, they must say good-bye to their friends – men with whom they have studied, grown, and prayed with for four, sometimes six years (depending on their course of study).  How do we say good-bye to these people?

Because it’s hard to say good-bye so definitively, we say things like, “Let’s keep in touch”, or “We should plan on getting together,” or simply “See you later.”  That should be true for all swan songs!  There is an innate desire for good friendships and relationships to never end.  And, so in faith, we can legitimately ask, “Why should these good relationships end?”

(These are some of the seminarians who will leave Mount St. Mary’s and attend the North American College in Rome – my alma mater.)

(These are some of the seminarians who will leave Mount St. Mary’s and attend the North American College in Rome – my alma mater.)

Throughout this Deacon Night Banquet, a “last supper” of sorts for these departing seminarians, we heard many toasts and best wishes.  And because these men are seminarians (and they believe it), they also concluded with promises to pray for each other.  Assurance of prayer is the most honest way of saying “we’ll keep in touch!”  Praying for each other must be part of the swan song, because only in prayer can we have any hope that we will ever really see each other again . . . in heaven.

Grace Before Meals tries to encourage people to say a few little prayers together as a family before you eat.  That prayer brings us into a holy communion with God and each other.  And since God is eternal, so our relationships are called to be!  Granted, while these men will hardly spend as much quality time together as they did in their years of formation here at the seminary, these men are called to spend quality time united together in prayer, no matter where they are called to serve.

In prayer they can sense a unique “closeness” to their friends, family, and even deceased loved ones.  That’s what prayer does!  In other words, while everyone will sing a swan song, God has the last word.  And God’s last word is always an invitation to eternal life!  God’s word is never a definitive good-bye.  It is always, “Until we meet again in heaven,” God willing.

Please pray for these men.  Pray that their friendships formed here will continue to be a source of strength and encouragement for them in this difficult, but beautiful vocation.  Pray that they will never cease to pray.  Pray that their swan song will always end with, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen!”

Food for the Body

Swan-Shaped Pastry Puff!

I was so impressed with the seminarians who hosted the appetizers and post-banquet desserts.

(These are some of the seminarians who will leave Mount St. Mary’s and attend the North American College in Rome – my alma mater.)

(Luke from Bridgeport and Jason from Arlington.)

I was especially impressed with their ideas to make simple desserts into tasty treats with a beautiful presentation.  So instead of a new recipe this week, I’d like to share their idea on how to make cream puffs into a beautiful swan design.

(These are some of the seminarians who will leave Mount St. Mary’s and attend the North American College in Rome – my alma mater.)

Click Here for the Instructions for Swan Shaped Pastry Puffs with Cream

Food for the Soul

It’s easy to say we will try and connect with good friends and family.  I’ll admit, I’m not the best at calling my own family, and with my busy schedule it makes it difficult to drive the distance to visit them as often as I would like.  It takes great discipline and dedication to make sure we do stay in touch, as a way to encourage us along our pilgrimage way.  Even though I may not call home as much, I do pray for my family often.  As such, we do stay together, as the rhyme about praying together has proven.  As these men leave the seminary, please join me in praying that these friends, now brothers in Christ, will continue to encourage each other.  Although this past weekend they sang their swan song for the seminary, we really know that in prayer, faith, hope, and love, we’ll stay close to each other.

Let us pray: Jesus Our Savior, help us to rely on Your goodness and strength to help our relationships grow stronger in the bond of love.  Keep our family and friends ever close to Your care.  Bless these men, leaving the seminary, who will become priests in Your church, so that they will lead Your people as loving spiritual fathers.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

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Posted in Blast from the Past, Past Emails, Prayers, Savoring Our Faith, Special Religious Theme, Spicing Up Married Life, What's On the Table | 5 Comments »

From The Feedbag

Wanted: Taste Testers for Fr. Leo’s New Book of Recipes

***NOTE: I realize this is not a normal “From the Feedbag” E-mail Blast, but I had to share some of our fun and exciting news.  I’ll get back to answering some of the great questions you all send to us at gracebeforemeals.com in future blasts.***

First, being the day before Thanksgiving, I want to thank each of you for supporting us and keeping up with our movement. I am so thankful for my family, friends and each of you, along with this great opportunity to help strengthen families and relationships through tasty food…that’s what Thanksgiving’s all about! As we spend time with our loved ones, we pray for safe travels and true thanks for the Lord our God for his many blessings in our lives, which includes the delicious food we eat, but more importantly, the people in our lives we have to share this meal with.

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.) 

(Couples from Westminster, Maryland who won a dinner date night prepared by me.)

And now, after so many months (OK, years actually), I finished writing Spicing Up Married Life – a book of recipes full of romantic dinners for couples.  Sounds intriguing, right?  If you’re dating, engaged, newlyweds, or celebrating golden-year anniversary marriages, this book is geared to help strengthen your relationship.

To summarize, it has 12 chapters so that a couple can celebrate a monthly (not annual) anniversary.  Each chapter contains a bite-sized theological essay about relationships and marriage vows.  Questions for dinner conversation, recipes, and a prayer round out each chapter, so couples can have meaningful meals that inspire them to love God and each other more faithfully.  Needless to say, I’m very excited about this book and what it can do to help couples find deeper love around the dinner table.

(Tom and Teresa Green of Westminster, Maryland. This is one of the parish's couples who helped me teach Marriage Preparation. You may also recognize them from the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay episode! They were the "test family" on the episode. I've had many meals with them and great conversations about strengthening marriage through faith.)

(Tom and Teresa Green of Westminster, Maryland. This is one of the parish’s couples who helped me teach Marriage Preparation. You may also recognize them from the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay episode! They were the “test family” on the episode. I’ve had many meals with them and great conversations about strengthening marriage through faith.)

Now that I’ve told you about the book, I also want to invite you to be a part of the process.  Here’s an invitation to be a Grace Before Meals recipe tester!

If interested, we need to hear from you by next Thursday, December 1, 2011. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Click here to email the Project Manager with “GBM Taste Tester” in the subject line.  In your email, let us know if you’re in a relationship (dating, engaged or married for any number of years).  Let us know that you want to try out one of the chapter’s recipes!
  2. (When I was in Guam, I did a presentation just for married couples and had a long-time engaged couple help make the meal.)

    (When I was in Guam, I did a presentation just for married couples and had a long-time engaged couple help make the meal.)

  3. Tell us about your cooking experience. What type of cook are you? Novice? Moderate? Experienced Chef?  Tell us if you have any food allergies, or if there’s a dish or food item you’re interested in testing.
  4. When our team receives all of the requests, we will select 12 recipe testers – one for each chapter.  We will then send you a recipe and ask you to prepare the meal by a certain date.  Cook the recipe exactly as it’s written.  However, if there is a typo or if you have questions about measurements or portion sizes, you can give our team a call to clarify how best to proceed.  Once you’ve made the entire meal, give us your HONEST feedback. In some cases, I will even help pay for your dinner date!  But, you have to be honest with your comments and experience.
  5. (Intimidating! Hearing the judges’ impressions of the two different plates of food – Bobby Flay's fajitas or mine? Well, you know how that turned out. Prayer pushed our fajita to victory!)

    (Intimidating! Hearing the judges’ impressions of the two different plates of food – Bobby Flay’s fajitas or mine? Well, you know how that turned out. Prayer pushed our fajita to victory!)

  6. Once we receive your feedback and process all of the comments, we’ll keep your name and contact information on file in order to include your name in the acknowledgements of the new book.  Just let us know how you want your name to appear. We may even use some of your written comments in the book as well!
  7. When the new book is printed, you’ll be the first to receive an official signed copy as our way of saying thanks for participating in our movement’s efforts to strengthen relationships..

(Participating couples at a Grace Before Meals event at St. Patrick's Church, Bellefontaine, Ohio, January 2011.) 

(Participating couples at a Grace Before Meals event at St. Patrick’s Church, Bellefontaine, Ohio, January 2011.)

Now, I know many people will ask, “When can we expect the book to be in stores?”  That depends on how fast we get the recipe testers’ feedback, the publisher contracts signed, and the book layout finalized.  We want to make this a special gift book for couples, so it may take a few months.  But, don’t worry; those who participated in the test kitchen will certainly be sent the first books, hot off the press!  And those who subscribe to our website will be the first to know about pre-orders through our E-mail Blasts.

Consider this “From the Feedbag” a little invitation letter to all of you – especially those interested in being a recipe tester for one of my unique recipes specifically designed for couples.

(You could be taste-testing one of these romantic dinner creations from me, but made especially for your spouse!)

(You could be taste-testing one of these romantic dinner creations from me, but made especially for your spouse!)

Let us pray:

God, grant our movement the grace to persevere in spreading the Good News to all families, and especially to encourage loving relationships for couples.  May our efforts bear great fruits that feed hungry souls, and also inspire servants to feed those who need God’s love through a blessed meal.  Keep us focused on feasting on Your goodness that You share with us at every Mass.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Happy Newlyweds – they know if they find God, they find love!)

(Happy Newlyweds – they know if they find God, they find love!)

DON’T FORGET to tune in to the new show, Mass Confusion on CTV, set to air this Thanksgiving at 8:30pm. The show stars my good friends, Greg and Jennifer Willits of the popular radio show, “The Catholics Next Door,” on SiriusXM 129.

If you have any questions or comments, and want Fr. Leo’s perspectives, feel free and let us know.  Fr. Leo is happy to try and answer as many questions as possible in future emails.  We will always keep you anonymous.  But, your questions help us better understand how our movement can be of service to you.  We consider your questions and comments important dinner conversation, so please post your comments below.

Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube! Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

Posted in Food for the Body, From the Feedbag, Grace Before Meals, Holiday, Prayers, Recipe, Special Religious Theme, Spicing Up Married Life, Taste Tester, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments »

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

THANK YOU MOUNT ST. MARY’S:

Our connections with Mount St. Mary’s University run very deep. Fr. Leo has been a professor at the Seminary since 2007, and had his famous “Throwdown! With Bobby Flay” filmed on campus. Even our Project Manager, Joe Hansbrough and his wife Erica, are alumni (Class of ’05)! So we take great pride in welcoming them as one of our new sponsors to help us spread our movement.

____________________________________________________

Dinner Discussion

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 that you would like to discuss, be sure to contact us at www.gracebeforemeals.com.

Decorating a Difficult Decade

This Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in America.  Ironically, the numbers to dial for an emergency – 9-1-1 – share a name with one of the most tragic days in human history – particularly for those in America’s Pentagon, a plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and those in the two towers in New York City.  This upcoming 9.11.11 reminds me to dial God directly in prayer to help us all get through difficult times, difficult anniversaries, and this particular decade of memories.

(Site of the former Twin Towers two years ago in the midst of building the memorial park.)

(Site of the former Twin Towers two years ago in the midst of building the memorial park.)

I remember that day quite clearly, even 10 years later.  As I type this E-Blast, I can still feel the brokenness, pain, and sadness.  As a recently ordained priest in his first priestly assignment, I remember feeling rather helpless – in fact powerless.

As a priest, I know I received great God-given “power” to absolve people’s sins, to confect the Eucharist, and to give people hope, even in the midst of great despair.  My brother priests and I used every ounce of God’s Grace to try to help people still believe in a loving God, to have hope, and to encourage faithful prayer on September 12, September 13, and every day after!

(Shrine in a Catholic Church in New York City, built out of the broken structure of the Twin Towers.)

(Shrine in a Catholic Church in New York City, built out of the broken structure of the Twin Towers.)

But still, it wasn’t easy.  I still felt powerless and weak, seemingly overwhelmed by the amount of anger, hate, and evil that takes over the hearts, minds, and souls of terrorists who kill innocent people in God’s name?  Many decided that the only legitimate conclusion was that those wretchedly confused people – the terrorists – believed in a wrong, a false, or perhaps, an evil god.

But in order to get beyond a terrorist’s anger and hate, so as not to succumb to this powerful evil ourselves, we (especially as Americans) have to celebrate this upcoming 10-year anniversary with a great sense of faith and God’s Grace.

Enter, Grace Before Meals and grace before this difficult decade of remembrance.

(Grace Before Meals presentation at St. Paul's Church on the Upper West Side.)

(Grace Before Meals presentation at St. Paul’s Church on the Upper West Side.)

It’s worth reminding our growing family, that our international GBM movement to strengthen families around the dinner table “began” because of September 11, 2001.  The first chapter of our book describes the ironic – providential – twists and turns that started it all.  In fact, that chapter is accompanied with the recipe that bested Bobby Flay – the Fusion Steak Fajitas!

(Have I seen you before somewhere, maybe?)

(Have I seen you before somewhere, maybe?)

As I prepare to remember this 10-year anniversary of 9/11, I realize now how God has taken one of the uglier days of humanity and has used it to teach us lessons on how to live better, more holy lives – beginning with a Supper Jesus had with His disciples.  Similar to our experience of 9/11, Christians see how Jesus’ terribly tragic day – Good Friday – also initiated a lifetime of blessings for those who practice their faith in the True God of Love.  God’s power can bring about good things – His blessings – even out of tragedy!

(Thank God for the bravery of the New York City Fire Fighters and all emergency responders.)

(Thank God for the bravery of the New York City Fire Fighters and all emergency responders.)

The reality of hope in the midst of tragedy and difficult memories is worth discussing with your family and friends, perhaps around a special anniversary September 11 meal.

Ten years after that tragic day, I marvel at how God has decorated the lives of believers and seekers of truth – infusing people who have suffered the death of a loved one in one of those attacks – giving them enduring faith, abiding hope, and unconditional love.  Personally, I’ve experienced how a realistic decade of prayer doesn’t absolve the pain and sadness, but timely anniversaries, celebrated well, can help us manage, understand, and learn to become better members of the human family.  These tragedies can simply be a reason to continue the hate or a lifelong lesson on how to live better.

(If New York City's Macy's can encourage people to believe, then Grace Before Meals gives us a true reason to believe.)

(If New York City’s Macy’s can encourage people to believe, then Grace Before Meals gives us a true reason to believe.)

Over these past 10 years of 9/11 anniversaries, I’ve tried to continue using the priestly powers of God’s Church to reconcile people to God and one another.  It’s working, a little at a time.  And now, with Grace Before Meals, I also use a very powerful tool – a simple meal – to remind people that if God is part of that celebration, we can truly remember this Sunday’s anniversary family dinner with growing faith, hope, and love.

(These two children were adopted from a Philippine orphanage, and now they have a home to celebrate their lives, their family, and every special birthday and memory – around a table filled with grace!)

(These two children were adopted from a Philippine orphanage, and now they have a home to celebrate their lives, their family, and every special birthday and memory – around a table filled with grace!)

Let us pray:

Father in Heaven, give us grace to grow in the virtues that help us get through life’s difficult anniversaries – such as someone’s death, a breakup, a war, or a tragedy.  We know that people continue to struggle, and that terrorism remains a constant threat in our global family.  Teach us to not be afraid, to be strong, and to see how Your goodness triumphs over all evil!  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Chicken and Waffles!

(People praying before lighted candles at a Shrine in Lourdes, France, where many have experienced great miracles and healings.)

Do you remember what you were doing 10 years ago on September 11?  How has your faith grown since then?  What will you do to commemorate this event?  As a special day for all of us at Grace Before Meals, please continue to pray for us; support our movement by sharing our e-mails or purchasing a copy of our book for yourself or your friends; and most importantly, spend more time with people you love around the dinner table.  Your comments encourage us to keep up our efforts in this fight against the forces that want to tear families apart.  Post your comments below!

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Grace Before Meals, In Memory, Prayers, Special Religious Theme | 3 Comments »

Faithful Foodie Adventures is all about exciting opportunities that await us at various tables and food destinations across God’s beautiful world. Some weeks I may offer a cooking class tip, a
restaurant critique, or even some food ideas that hopefully expand faith and satisfy our culinary sensibilities. If you have any food adventure ideas, please be sure to let us know. E-mail me your ideas at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com.

Wining, Dining and Praying!

Grapes from the vine.

Grapes from the vine.

As you may already know, I’m leading a few culinary excursions this year. We’re already set to sail for a Mediterranean Culinary Cruise on May 15-21. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for some of our Grace Before Meals members to just sit back and take in spectacular oceanic views and scenic port stops for day trip adventures. Yes, Grace Before Meals is going on a vacation. It’s a vacation that includes prayer, time for fellowship, and even a few cooking lessons provided by yours truly. At this point, I believe we may be all booked, but I’m sure if you call we will certainly pray that the cruise ship can find room for a few more passengers.

(Cooking for a photo shoot for Guide Posts magazine story, to come out in May 2011.)

(Cooking for a photo shoot for Guide Posts magazine story, to come out in May 2011.)

If you aren’t able to join us for this cruise opportunity, you can certainly join us for an incredibly unique retreat opportunity to be held at Napa Valley from June 5-10. We’re going to have a retreat based on a very important subject: WINE!

(St. Clement would be very proud at how we celebrated his namesake. Doesnt this spread look so naturally delicious!)

(St. Clement would be very proud at how we celebrated his namesake. Doesn't this spread look so naturally delicious!)

I realize many people may find a “retreat” from Napa Valley slightly suspicious. Can we really find God in a city known more for its high-end wine culture than for its religious shrines. However, the sites and views of the Napa Valley region are very similar to some of the Italian
monasteries where I did my retreats as a seminarian. We will be surrounded by beauty, and, yes, we will also be surrounded by holiness.

(Castello di Amorosa with a chapel where we will celebrate Mass.)

(Castello di Amorosa with a chapel where we will celebrate Mass.)

People will be surprised to find the Catholic culture’s penetration in this region. Chapels and shrines will be part of our destination, reclaiming how that area was originally founded by people of faith.

The topic of our retreat, based on the liturgical prayer at Mass, unfolds deep theology regarding the use of wine in Scripture and in our Liturgy. We will have a very thorough class on Transubstantiation (i.e., the Sacramental Grace that changes wine into the Blood of Christ). We
will uncover some of the deeper theological references about wine in the bible. We will better understand more about wine making, the distinctions of particular varietals, and we will develop a more sophisticated understanding of why wine is so important to culture, to celebration, and to faith!

(It may look like 14th century Tuscany, but it is actually 21st century Napa Valley!)

(It may look like 14th century Tuscany, but it is actually 21st century Napa Valley!)

I’ve been to Napa Valley once before. On that trip I experienced this mountainous region’s beauty that reminded me of the monastic settings in Europe. I wanted to make this same opportunity available for all of you!

We will feast on great food prepared especially for our group by celebrity chefs, including Emmy Award-wining Food Network personality, Michael Chiarello. We will also drink deeply of the fountain of truth as we approach this beautiful area with a pilgrim’s sense of a search for God. After all, when two or three are gathered in His name, He is with us – even in the midst of world class accommodations surrounded by breathtaking views and creative culinary destinations!

Wining, Dining, and Praying! That’s what sums up this unique vacation and retreat opportunity. Join us!

(Me teaching some culinary students.)

(Me teaching some culinary students.)

We have been given an extra opportunity, for a limited time, to invite a few more participants on this once in a lifetime experience. If you are interested, please call 1-800-727-1999, ex. 180 immediately, as spaces are now very limited.

Let us Pray: “Blessed are You Lord God of all creation, through Your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands, let it become for us our spiritual drink. Blessed be God forever!”

Have you ever been to Napa Valley or the wine country? What’s your favorite wine to recommend for our subscribed members? Have you ever considered why wine is so important to our liturgical prayers? What do you think about taking a retreat in Napa Valley? Do you know of any good restaurants in that area? Do you have other faithful foodie adventure ideas for us to explore and share? Check out my travel schedule and let me know if you recommend places for me to visit while I’m in that part of the world. Your comments are important to us. Please post your comments below.

Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.
Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Posted in Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Special Religious Theme | 4 Comments »