Superstar Sisters

Last week we discussed the vocation of St. Joseph as a spiritual father to Jesus and as a Protector of the Church’s spiritually adopted children.  In my previous Blasts I devoted much attention to the priestly vocation, especially since at one point I used to work at a seminary.  But recently, perhaps by God’s providence, I have received such wonderful inspiration from the vocations of women, aka, nuns, sisters, and spiritual mothers.

Missionaries of Charity who raised this orphan girl to womanhood. She’s now married and pregnant with their first child, in Kolkata India.

The unfortunate cliché about angry nuns teaching in Catholic Schools with hand-slapping rulers just doesn’t work for me.  I never had that experience.  While I recognize that a nun can have had a bad day or that some may have been strong disciplinarians, that should never obfuscate the tremendous good and gentle presence nuns have given in the Church’s (and the world’s) history.  Nuns, as spiritual mothers, have to be strong, because mothers and women have to be strong.  That is what a nun is: a spiritual mother, a real woman, a gift from God.

Religious Sisters at 2013 Steubenville Conference in Rhode Island

The strong-loving-and-not-easily-fooled presence of a spiritual mother is sorely needed in our world.  Unfortunately, the idea of a “false feminism,” as needing to challenge (not compliment) masculinity, has confused and even diminished the role of religious sisters.  And evidence of this can be seen in the declining numbers of women wanting to become nuns in the world today.  But, in God’s providence, what may be missing in numbers is certainly made up for in quality.  And in some cases some religious groups for women continue to grow, bringing a positive influence on the world – a world that needs a mother’s guiding hand!

The tomb of Mother Teresa, The Blessed Saint of Kolkata.

Recently I taught a theology course to a group of Missionaries of Charity, the branch of religious sisters started by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (now spelled Kolkata).  The class was on Mariology – the role of Mary in the Bible and Salvation History.  It was a fitting course, as nuns aspire to imitate the virtues and loving influence Mary had on Jesus and the Catholic Church’s tradition.

One of the Missionaries of Charity making a pastoral visit to a resident in a community of people affected with leprosy.

Much like the Blessed Mother, these women are incredible witnesses – powerful, strong, disciplined, loving, and nurturing.  They showed me the incredible value of a feminine vocation well-lived.  While they are truly graceful, beautiful, and dignified, they are also very determined and powerful witnesses of the strength of the “feminine genius” – a term used by Blessed Pope John Paul II in a document dedicated to the role of women in the life of the Church.

These women, nicknamed “MC Sisters” (Missionaries of Charity Sisters), work in the poorest of the poor parts of the world.  They are leaders in the education, healthcare, and social reform of those parts of the world that desperately need a loving maternal presence.  And they do it with the simple basics: they feed God’s Children! 

These children were abandoned by their parents because of physical conditions. The Missionaries of Charity have taken them in their loving care and will continue to do so until they can be adopted into a loving home. If not, they will remain as well-loved children in the Missionaries of Charity family.

When I returned to the United States – and back to our world of technology – I received a twitter feed about a nun who shocked the Italian entertainment industry with a powerful musical performance on the Italian version of the hit show, The Voice.  As I watched this young woman, a very real nun (as she described herself), sing her heart out and stun both judges and the audience into a standing ovation, I had to laugh (with joyful tears in my eyes).  

Why would people be surprised about a nun that can sing and mesmerize God’s family with talents?  Has the world become so blind that they forget talent is not just reserved for the entertainment industry?  Is it because nuns wear religious habits that makes people think they can’t have fun and be inspiring through their God-given talents?

This nun has become a great heroine for me, especially because she espouses much of the Grace Before Meals and evangelization philosophy: God gave us talents so we could use them, not just “in the church” but for the evangelization of the world!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this video clip, just to see some of the biggest Italian stars weep in joy and actually ask for “God’s Grace” from this spiritual SUPER SISTER! 

Be sure to click on the English translation of the conversation after her jaw-dropping performance.)

For me, these recent experiences coincide with a spiritual exercise I’ve taken up during the Lenten Season.  I’ve been meditating on the 14 Stations of the Cross each day.  In the 4th, 6th, 8th, 13th, and 14th Stations of the Cross we reflect on the very powerful images of women who intimately participated in Jesus’ most powerful saving act of suffering for the sins of the world.  These meditations – along with the experiences of serving the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata and the  recent clip of a mega-talented-singing-sister – have reinforced what I have already known but sometimes take for granted: Women, whether they are biological or adoptive, moms or sisters, in blood or in spirit, reveal God’s love in singularly powerful way.  Without them, we wouldn’t have life! 

This couple from Switzerland adopted this beautiful child, “Hiya,” from the missionaries of charity. To learn more about adopting a child from the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage, click here – and call the Missionaries of Charity Group.

Food for Thought

  • Who is your favorite nun (religious sister) and why?
  • What was your experience of nuns growing up?
  • Have you ever considered joining a convent or encouraged a young girl to consider it?  How would you help them discern a possible religious vocation?

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

 

 

 

Let Us Pray:  

 

Father in Heaven, You chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of Your Son, Jesus our Lord.  In imitation of her, You raise up women to be “Brides of Christ,” professing their lives to You in service to God’s children, desperately in need of a loving mother’s presence.  May You bless these women in all things.  Keep them ever in Your care. Protect them from destructive tendencies of a false feminism.  May they have the blessings of children, spiritually, adoptive, or by biological, who will always value their presence, respect their dignity, and be ever grateful for their lives.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

Statue of Mother Teresa of Calcutta taking in an abandoned child under her motherly care.
Click to watch Fr. Leo’s appearance on FOX45 for CRS Rice Bowl.
Tonight, tune into WMAR Channel 2 News in Baltimore for Fr. Leo’s appearance on “The List” at 7pm EDT.
 

This Week’s Lenten Recipe from CRS Rice Bowl:

 
 
Visit crsricebowl.org for more on Fr. Leo and 
CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen: For Lent, For Life
 
3/27/14
 
South Bend, IN
 
3/29/14
 
Jacksonville, FL
 
3/29/14-4/2/14
 
Lutz, FL
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Posted in CRS Rice Bowl, Dinner Discussion, Epic Food Fight, Lent, Prayers, Recipes, Vegetables, Video | 8 Comments »

Bread of Angels

 

Consoling families who have lost a loved one presents many challenges.  To give a hopeful perspective, some will say the beloved dead are now winged angels in Heaven.  Without trying to sound cynical, this description of the deceased person can actually cause spiritual confusion, rather than consolation.

Angel at the base of the Stations of the Cross, Lourdes, France. I would actually find it difficult – even a little funny to see my deceased relatives with wings.

The term “angel” comes from the Greek word angelos, which means “bearer of news.”  There are angels that bring good news and some that bring bad.  Angels, as celestial non-corporeal beings created by God, do not have a body.  Popular pictures show them as winged cherubs, which makes it a bit difficult to consider for some people who have died.  As angels, beings without a body, they have limitations.  One of the greatest “limits” of an angel is that an angel cannot receive the Eucharist.  They can’t actually participate in the Eternal banquet, simply because they can’t eat the Eucharist.  Remember, they don’t have a corporeal body.

Ironically, despite our sinful humanity, we can eat something that only the angels can adore: “The Bread of Angels.”

In order to clarify what happens to people who die, and who we hope are in Heaven, the better word to describe them is a “saint” in Heaven.  They aren’t angels.  They get a halo, not wings.  To become a saint, isn’t simply wishful thinking though.  Becoming a saint requires us to live saintly lives.  And, not to confuse the distinction I’m trying to make, to become a saint we must still act like angels.  That is, we must also bring God’s Good News.

The Angel Gabriel announces Good News to Mary – She will become the Mother of Jesus, who is Lord and God.

Recently, I listened to the homily of Fr. Wells, a former student at the seminary where I use to teach.  He led a packed church in prayers for his mother Judy’s funeral Mass.  During these sacred rights, Fr. Wells preached a magnificent homily about God’s merciful love.  His brother Kevin, who delivered the family’s prayerful eulogy, provided an equally inspiring perspective on their mother.

Fr. Wells preaching at Sacred Heart Church in Bowie, Maryland

According to the Wells’ family, Judy insisted that no one try to “canonize” her, i.e., say she was a “saint.”  Spiritual compliments, she declared, were “dangerous,” because we can start to believe that we’re actually better than we really are.  We aren’t saints until we get to Heaven!  Judy knew that.  In her humility, she wanted to be known as a “sinner” who simply tried to rely on God.  Her priest son, with a smile on his face, publicly preached that his mother was a “sinner!”

  

The funeral procession.

The irony caused the crowd to roar with laughter.  Her insistence on being known as a sinner is not due to her lack of virtue, but is in fact due to her humility. Through God’s mercy, Judy, with very little doubt, is participating in the heavenly banquet, because her life on Earth was very angelic.  She preached and lived God’s Good News.

She, along with her husband for 49 years, gave God’s Good News to her family, her neighbors, her friends, and her fellow parishioners.  Her life reminded me that if I want to be a Saint in Heaven, I need to start being more “angelic” on Earth!

Trying to be an “angel” as I preached a Eucharistic Holy Hour at Sts. Philip and James Catholic Church’s outreach to a young adult gathering.

I couldn’t help but recognize the Grace Before Meals message during the funeral homily and eulogies.  Fr. Wells mentioned that over her lifetime she packed more than 20,000 lunches, which would rival Jesus’ record of feeding more than 5,000!  Again, more laughs.

Unfortunately, in her last few months, her sickness and the medical treatments made food tasteless – and worse – made all food taste like rusty metal.  How humbling to remember that earthly food, even prepared by Iron Chefs, cannot satisfy a hurting soul.  The only food she craved was the Eucharist – the Bread of Angels!

Jesus, in the Breaking of the Bread.

A solemn and joyful funeral celebration of a lovely and faithful person like Judy Wells reminds me to call upon the assistance and protection of the angels.  One day, when we will be called to the loving judgment of Our Father in Heaven, we may hopefully have the Grace to participate in the banquet that angels can only adore.  Remember, they can’t eat it, simply because they don’t have bodies.  But we can.  And in God’s mercy, for the repentant “sinners,” people like Judy Wells (and all the holy souls who we know lived good and holy lives), are now fully feasting – not as angels – but as saints!

During an “altar call” for men considering priesthood, at the Steubenville Conference in Denver, Colorado. Fr. Chrisman and Archbishop Aquilla giving them a blessing.

 

 

Let us pray:  Father, when people we love die, we seek heavenly blessings to help console us.  Yet, in the time of our grief, please clarify our words so that the emotional pain we feel doesn’t confuse our Faith.  Give us strength to express our sorrows well, but also to express thanks for the lives You have given to us through our beloved dead.  Keep us in Your care, protected by our Guardian Angels, and prepare in us a hunger for the Eternal Feast of the Lord of Hosts – the Bread of Angels – the banquet of Heaven.  Amen.

 

Pray with the angels and like an angel.

 

 

More Food for Thought

  • How do you try and console someone who just lost a loved one? 
  • Is there a Scripture passage or prayer that helps you get through some of your mourning for someone you love?
  • Do you have any good angel stories you’d like to share?
Your comments and responses tell us that our Grace Before Movement is helping make a positive difference in the world.  Please leave your comments here and encourage the conversation of faith around the dinner table.  

 This Week’s Recipe:

 

 

October 4

Fargo, ND
 
October 12
 
 
Peachtree City, GA
 
October 13
 
 
Pennsburg, PA 
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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Food for Thought, Prayers, Recipe, Savoring Our Faith, Vegetables | 1 Comment »

Blast From The Past

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!

NEW VIDEO:

Grand Opening: St. James Coffee Shop!

(Me with Amanda from St. Matthew’s Church, and some of her teens who helped me during a demo of “Board Breaking.”)

Take a look at this blessed an unique coffee shop in Rochester MN. Yes, there is a Eucharistic Chapel and yes, they are cheaper than Starbucks!

Having just returned from another Steubenville Conference in Rochester MN (truly fantastic once again!), I thought this would be a great time to promote the opening of a great new Catholic coffee shop called St. James Coffee, complete with a Eucharistic Chapel and good coffee to boot…and it officially opens today! Check out my tour of the place and if you are up in Rochester MN, be sure to stop in for more than just a good cup of Joe, but the Grace of God. The perfect place to share Grace Before Meals!

Want an Odd Job Assisting Fr. Leo?

Don’t worry, it is not that odd! Fr. Leo and the GBM team are looking for young adults with a culinary background and missionary-hearts living in the Baltimore area to potentially assist with the cooking at events in the future. As we seek to create the best presentations and demonstrations possible, there is much work that needs to be done at each event, so your help could make a big difference. The position is not regular, but does offer payment. If you are interested in this opportunity to help Fr. Leo with food preparation at different events, please send your resume and information to assistant@gracebeforemeals.com. Think of it as a cool and helpful way to gain culinary and spiritual training!

Food for the Body

Coming Home 20 Years Later!

Originally posted November 12, 2008

A few weeks ago, about 50 “ young” men returned to their alma mater for their high school reunion.  I wanted to stress “ young” because I was one of them!

We celebrated our 20 year Mount St. Joseph high school reunion.  It was strange to walk through halls where I once wandered aimlessly as a lost freshman, where friends played practical jokes on each other, and where I was yelled at a few times by teachers. We celebrated on the grounds of the newly constructed sports stadium with homecoming victories over our rivals in football.

For a few hours, several of my classmates shared life updates, visited old classrooms, marveled at the new structural additions, and most importantly, remembered moments that made high school more than just a building.  In that brief reunion with my former classmates, I must say that it was good to be home.

Students at Mount St. Joe are referred to as “Mount Men.”  Our patrons are St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, and St. Francis Xavier, the founder of the Xavarian Brothers, the order of religious brothers that staffs this school and many others around the world.  The Mount “Tower,” part of the original building, still remains a focal point for the modern campus.  It is a symbol of what each Mount St. Joe student is to exemplify – a strong, enduring, visionary beacon for the community and world.  Even though none of us former students would have admitted it 20 years ago, we were all very proud to be a part of the Mount family.

Looking back, I realize the high school years can be some of the most challenging for young people.  It’s a time of internal conflicts: bodies (and hormones) develop at an unbelievable pace, but limited psychological and life experiences prevent teens from fully understanding these inevitable changes.  As high school students, we wanted to be treated as adults, yet we tended to act like unruly kids.   Change occurs so quickly that some teachers hardly recognize students after a summer of growth spurts.  Parents marvel at how clothes sizes change as dramatically as voices drop from tenor to squeaky baritone.  The amount of transformation that occurs in a young person during this time requires the watchful eyes of faithful teachers.  Change can be good, if we change into something good .  Therefore, teachers must see that their objective isn’t simply to educate students so they can graduate.  Teachers must see their vocation as vital assistance to parents in the formation of these children through academics, virtue- based development, and by sharing the gift of service with others.

Thank God for good high schools like Mount St. Joe, a place where the Brothers, Priests, and lay teachers watch, guide, and care for students as they would a brother or son.  As parents entrust children to these institutions for about 8 hours daily, school should be an extension of the family. At the Mount, we are a large family of brothers.  Granted, it isn’t perfect, but what is perfect this side of Heaven?

During the reunion, I was so proud to learn that from a class of about 200 men, three of us became Catholic priests and one non-Catholic student was ordained as a Protestant Minister.  Many of my classmates are now working in secular industries. Some serve in the military, in manual labor, as doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, and a handful are fire fighters.  Classmates spoke lovingly about their wives and how proud they were to be fathers.   It did my heart good to see how one guy who arrived after the opening speech and prayer bowed his head to offer Grace before he ate his meal.  I was even more honored to celebrate the Mass for several of my classmates, many of whom expressed their congratulations and prayerful encouragement of my work as a priest and as host for the Grace Before Meals movement.  Some were surprised to learn that I entered the seminary only six years after graduating high school.

The homecoming reunion weekend at Mount St. Joseph made me reflect on the importance of religious orders that focus on the education of young people. We need more teachers who see that educating young people is more than a job, it’s a calling from God. We need more high schools that challenge young people to grow, not just in body, but in mind and spirit. We need families to ensure that what young people are learning in high school are life lessons and not just useless facts. Too often we hear stories of teachers who use the classroom to indoctrinate students in relativistic tendencies, to question authority (especially legitimate religious authority), and who try to convince children that opinion is fact

These problems in high schools are very real.   What is necessary to make certain high school becomes a good foundational experience for young people?  The parent, the primary educator of the child, who talks with sons and daughters about what’s being taught in school.  And after all, the best place for home schooling is the kitchen table.

After 20 years, it was wonderful to see a good number of us Mount Men, some prodigal sons, return for this special homecoming.   We may not have had a fattened calf prepared for us, but we did feast on four years of memories.  And at Mass, the greatest learning institution in world history, we celebrated the fact that we were more than classmates; we were students of truth, children of God, and brothers in the Lord .

Food for the Body

A Mature Palate!  Vitello ai Funghi – Veal and Mushrooms.

20 years ago, I never thought that I would become a priest, and I had no idea that food would become such an important part of my life.  20 years ago, I don’t even think that I could grasp a concept that combines priesthood and food .

Recently, I had an opportunity to be a guest on the show Franciscan University Presents where we discussed that very unique combination of theology, food, faith, and family.

In the discussion with Fr. Michael Scanlon and Dr. Regis Martin, the concept of maturity in regards to faith and food was presented analogously.  We can’t appreciate certain theological concepts or even certain foods as children, because we have not yet grown up.  20 years ago, I would have never thought that I could ever enjoy a pan-seared slice of veal with a wild mushroom sauté.  For me, pizza and nuggets were all I needed.  On occasion, I eat foods that young people enjoy, but I definitely changed in that I would much rather have something fresh, with more veggies, and bold flavors that doesn’t require ketchup .  Perhaps, moms and dads can make this very mature meal for their young high school students as a way to test the maturity of their palate.  I can tell you, we didn’t get this in our high school cafeteria.  At that age, I don’t think we’d even know what to do with it .

https://gracebeforemeals.com/soul/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/img_0865.jpg

Please click here for the recipe.

Food for the Soul

Homecoming!

Being back at my old high school forced me to examine how much I’ve grown up.  I did some pretty stupid things as a youngster , from which I have learned many lessons , especially through the act of confession.  I’m still learning some of those lessons.  One thing I’ve learned for sure, even after 20 years, Mount St. Joseph is still like a home.   The priests, brothers, and teachers of my alma mater made sure the students were raised to be men who would continue to be true gentlemen and lifelong students – always learning, always growing!

Let us Pray:

Father, high school can be a tough time for young people. We pray that all involved in educating high school students can do so with patience and familial care.  Give to the students a desire to learn and the motivation to grow.  Protect them from harmful things that can destroy a young person’s future, even his or her life .  Give to parents the grace to be patient with young people especially by helping them to remember, they, too, were young once . Let’s not forget to pray for the entire staff – the lunchroom crew, the janitorial staff, the coaches who urge us to victory, and even the bullies who hopefully grow up in life.  And Father in Heaven, during the month of November when we remember the faithful departed, grant to all our teachers who have died eternal rest .  Amen.

This was Brother Donald, the MSJ Librarian.  In all four years of HS, this man was the only one who gave me detention for talking too much in the library. We miss you!

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Posted in Blast from the Past, Food for the Body, Food for the Soul, Food for Thought, In Memory, Past Emails, Recipe, Recipe-Meats, Recipes, Vegetables, Video | 4 Comments »

Menu Inspiration

Preparing Thanksgiving Leftovers

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In America, the Thanksgiving holiday captures the essence of our Grace Before Meals movement.  It celebrates the goodness and importance of the family around a dinner table, with people calling or traveling long distances to be with family. Even non-religious people sense a sacred moment when, right before they carve the turkey, they take a moment and recognize their blessings in life.

(There are always leftovers at my house with a spread like this!)

(There are always leftovers at my house with a spread like this!)

It’s interesting that for this upcoming holiday, people become a bit more spiritual and religious:
1) doing corporal works of mercy by collecting and distributing donated foods to the poor,
2) inviting the homeless to eat with them at a charitable organization, or
3) yes, even saying a prayer before they chow down a.k.a. grace before meals. All of these gestures help us recognize that appreciating a loving family is just another part of living a good life.

(I know my parents just love having the grandkids – around – even though they can really eat ALOT!)

(I know my parents just love having the grandkids – around – even though they can really eat ALOT!)

I will spend Thanksgiving at my parents’ home, which is always so crowded with family, friends, and whoever happens to be there.  We don’t do the traditional early suppertime meal, but instead, we eat around 7 p.m.  Because there are so many of us, there isn’t a table (or a room for that matter) in my parents’ home big enough to accommodate everyone so we don’t do a formal, sit-down dinner.  Instead, we usually just plate all our foods buffet-style.  And you know what that means: lots of lovely leftovers!

This week’s Menu Inspiration will celebrate two ways to make Thanksgiving leftovers worthy of another celebration: Mashed Potato Cakes & Creamy Carrot and Ginger Soup.

If you would like these recipes, make sure to Create An Account on www.gracebeforemeals.com and you can have access to these and plenty of other great recipes! If you would like to contribute a recipe to be added to our Recipes section of our website, then email us at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com!


Mashed Potato Cakes

(As you can see from this picture, even though they’re leftovers, these potato cakes make for great stackable food for fancier presentations.)

(As you can see from this picture, even though they’re leftovers, these potato cakes make for great stackable food for fancier presentations.)

Creamy Carrot and Ginger Soup

(Adding more or less stock or other liquids will either tighten or loosen the soup to your preference. Just make sure you accordingly add LESS salt at the beginning of the process.)

(Adding more or less stock or other liquids will either tighten or loosen the soup to your preference. Just make sure you accordingly add LESS salt at the beginning of the process.)

Let Us Pray:

Heavenly Father, You showed Your eternal generosity through Your Son’s miracle.  You made water into the best wine at Cana, and had 12 baskets of leftovers from the miracle that fed more than 5,000.  Almighty God, help us to be grateful – even for these “leftovers,” so that by Your example of generosity, we may be inspired to be just as generous in feeding those who hunger for food, faith, family, and Your compassion.  You ultimately proved Your generosity by giving us Your only Son on the Cross.  Fill our lives with this goodness, so that we in turn share that gift with others.  Amen.

(I turned some leftover turkey into a gourmet panini by adding a little basil pesto mayo, and sautéing the turkey in some hot sauce. And don't forget to grill the bread!) 

(I turned some leftover turkey into a gourmet panini by adding a little basil pesto mayo, and sautéing the turkey in some hot sauce. And don’t forget to grill the bread!)

What do you do with your leftovers?  Do you have any tips or ideas on how to transform the Thanksgiving Dinner into a whole new meal?  Did you have a chance to express your thanks-giving by spending time, treasure or talent with those less fortunate?  Let us know about something inspiring from your Thanksgiving experience.  Your comments help inspire our members to share the blessings!  Post your comments and questions below.

(Turkey carving – talk about the need for "grace" before the meal!)

(Turkey carving – talk about the need for “grace” before the meal!)

And between now and Thanksgiving, I certainly pray your travel plans and your holiday preparations go smoothly and gracefully!

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Posted in Food for the Body, Food for the Soul, Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, Recipe-Side Dishes, Recipes, Vegetables | No Comments »

Menu Inspiration gives subscribers exclusive access to original and inspired recipes from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, host of the movement Grace Before Meals.  If you try this recipe, let us know what you think.  If you have a special recipe that inspires the family to come together more regularly, please share it with us and our faithful foodie community.  Pictures of your food surrounded by your family and friends are always welcome!  Post your comments HERE..

“See” Food Diet Lenten Special


It’s a corny joke, but true:  I see food, I want to eat it.  That’s my diet! But on this Ash Wednesday, “Sea” food is the primary protein for our menus.

Last week’s E-Blast provided me a chance to share some insights about humility through the lens of food.  I know people who love food, like myself, have to approach food with a great sense of humility – especially since today’s Ash Wednesday “feast” begins a period of fasting and abstinence.  In fact, the entire 40-day season, leading up to the celebration of Easter, is filled with opportunities to grow in humility – through prayers, fasting, and abstinence.

(Some people give up caffeine for Lent. They complain that it almost feels like a spiritual death!)

(Some people give up caffeine for Lent. They complain that it almost feels like a spiritual "death"!)

On Fridays in particular, the day of the week that we recall the suffering Jesus endured on Good Friday, we commemorate our compassion with Him by making little sacrifices, such as not eating meat (abstaining) and fasting (i.e., having less food than normal).  There are several links to help develop a better understanding of the importance of this discipline that not only helps the body, but more importantly the spirit.

(Lenten décor at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Hot Springs, Ar.)

(Lenten décor at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Hot Springs, Ar.)

So this month’s dinner inspiration is all about Lent-friendly meals.  Now today (Ash Wednesday) and Fridays of Lent are days of fasting and abstinence.  But that doesn’t mean family’s can’t “celebrate” a family meal together.  And even though you’re technically fasting and abstaining, nowhere does it say you also must endure a flavorless meal.You just shouldn’t eat it in abundance as you would any other day.

Consider these recipes as part of your own Lenten “See” food diet.  When you see your dish, you will automatically think of God’s goodness!  These recipes are Lent Kosher, but so delicious to the eyes and palate that you may wonder if it’s okay to eat this during Lent.  Admittedly, these recipes are quite delicious, but you’re also not going out of your way to make them. And I’m glad to say these recipes follow the letter of the law (and the spirit of the law if as long as you don’t overeat) of our Lenten season.

To see the recipes and ingredients to the WONDERFUL dishes below, CREATE AN ACCOUNT for FREE on the Grace Before Meals website to have ACCESS TO ALL RECIPES and other exclusive information. And be sure to subscribe to Fr. Leo’s “Food for the Body, Food for the Soul” weekly email blastGo here and register now.

First menu:  Seafood Stew

(Beautifully steamed mussels.)

(Beautifully steamed mussels.)

Ingredients:  Serves 4
1 “bag” of mussels, debearded and cleaned
½ pound salmon fillet, cut into ¼ inch cubes
¼ pound scallops, cut into ¼ inch cubes (if large scallops)
12-15 medium-sized shrimp, deveined and shells removed
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups white wine
1 cup water
½ lime, cut into 2-3 rings
2 bay leaves
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs fresh parsley, minced
1 -2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp pepper

(Bouillabaisse.)

(Bouillabaisse.)

Instructions:  Boil pasta according to instructions.  When cooked al dente, drain water, drizzle some olive oil, divide among the different serving bowls, and set aside.  In a large pan or pot, heat olive oil and sauté pepper flakes and garlic.  Add the mussels (get ready for a little sizzle action), white wine, water, and tomato paste.  Stir together until the liquids begin to simmer.    Add the lime, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.  As soon as mussels begin to open up, add the rest of the seafood and gently stir all together, making sure the seafood is almost completely submerged in the broth.  When shrimp turns pinkish white, the dish is finished cooking.  To serve, ladle broth over the pasta.  Distribute the seafood into each bowl.

 (Seafood boil over some fresh pasta with a touch of cream added to the broth to create a nice richness and color.)

(Seafood boil over some fresh pasta with a touch of cream added to the broth to create a nice richness and color.)

During a recent gathering for priests I made this same dish, but I also shaved a little parmesan cheese on top.  I know I broke an Italian culinary “rule” by adding cheese to seafood.  But the salty and creamy cheese provided a nice complement to the briny flavors of the broth.  I also served sautéed, grilled broccoli rabe and some crusty bread.  It was a delicious Lent-approved meal.  It was easy to make, with very little stress, but still quite flavorful.  The penitential aspect of this dish is that you’ll want to eat more, but will need to exercise moderation!

Lemon Pepper Crusted Sea Bass

(Pan-roasted potatoes boiling in a combination of water, oil, butter, herbs, and seasoning. Once water is cooked, the potato simply needs to caramelize.)

Clearly named properly. Look at that lemon!

Serves 2
Oven-safe frying pan/skillet
2 Sea Bass, scaled, gutted and fins removed
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 Tbs black pepper
4 lemon wedges
1 Tbs rosemary

Imagine how good it tastes!

Instructions:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Score the fish 2-3 times on both sides.  Season with salt and pepper inside the cavity and on the fish.  In the cavity of the fish, place lemons, garlic, and rosemary.  Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the fish.  Heat oven-safe pan over high heat.  Be sure to heat the pan until sufficiently hot.  You can test by sprinkling some water on it so that the water beads, dances, and quickly evaporates.  When sufficiently heated, carefully place the fish, searing one side for about 1-2 minutes.  Then carefully flip the fish to the other side, and transfer the entire pan to the oven for 10-12 minutes.  To test if the fish is cooked, try pulling one of the fins off the fish.  If the fin comes out completely without resistance, the fish is perfectly cooked.  Use HEAT-RESISTANT potholders and remove the pan from the oven.  Let the pan cool before transferring to your plate.  Obviously you’ll want to learn how to fillet a fish, which is why I’ve included a link to help you make a simple fish dish into deliciously beautiful art!

(Pan-seared and oven-finished lemon pepper sea bass.)

I’d serve this with a simple risotto or some of the potatoes I suggested last month.  A few greens of your choice will make this a great dish for your Lenten Friday meal.

Dish # 3:  Bruschetta topped with caramelized onions, apples and blue cheese

(Seminarians serving up pizzas each Monday night.)

(Seminarians serving up pizzas each Monday night.)

Finally, here’s a Lenten-friendly dish vegans may think is a bit decadent.  But again, it’s perfectly acceptable for Lent.  So move over cheese pizza, this veggie-inspired recipe can transform our minds and remind us that non-meat recipes can be more than a side dish.

This simple plate is definitely healthy and surprisingly simple to prepare.

Healthy and simple= good choice

Healthy and simple= good choice

Serves 4
8 pieces of ciabatta bread, lightly brushed with olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, diced into 1/8-inch cubes
2 Tbs olive oil (one Tbs for the bread and 1 Tbs for sauté)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Blue cheese crumbles

(Prepping the entire meal.  The Asparagus is simply dressed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.)

(Prepping the entire meal. The Asparagus is simply dressed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.)

Instructions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly brush bread with olive oil.  Place bread in oven for only 2-4 minutes until golden brown.  Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté onions until translucent.  Add the apples and gently fold into the onions.  When bread is golden brown, place two pieces on each plate.  Top off with some of the onion and apple combination.  Spoon on some fresh blue cheese crumbles.  Serve with a side of oven-grilled asparagus and viola, a vegetarian’s delight!

Father in Heaven, food is Your gift.  During this season of Lent, we abstain from certain foods as a way to help us hunger for truth.  Even with delicious food eaten with moderation, help our families develop greater faith and trust.  Remind us at every meal that You feed us with the food of everlasting life!  Amen.

Do you have any Lenten Friendly recipes?  Give these recipes a try and let us know what you think!  Your critique and comments are so helpful to our movement, and they truly encourage families to do something different and bring inspiration to your family meal!  If you have a recipe that you’d like to share, please post your comments below.

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


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Posted in Grace Before Meals, Menu Inspiration, Recipe-Fish, Recipe-Italian, Recipes, Simply Blogging, Special Religious Theme, Vegetables | 3 Comments »

Posted December 17th, 2010 | Cauliflower, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Creamy Cauliflower Soups was a perfect start to last nights dinner – second only to some delicious wine!

Cold weather, a little snow, a ton of traffic, and a ridiculously busy schedule didn’t prevent some of Baltimore’s Food Bloggers from getting together for a great meal to celebrate the Holidays, friendship and of course, really good food!   It was followed by the Creamy Cauliflower Soup, a roasted veggies in pan seared pepper cup and Wendi’s chocolate, coffee and spice rubbed pork roast, accompanied with chipotle sweet potatoes.  I’d say it was a perfect meal for a cold Bal’more night.

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Wendi Mosteiko from Bon Appetite Hon, her husband Jay, Lan from Angry Asian Creations, and myself got together for a little “reunion of sorts.”  A little background:  a few of us food writing nerds met at the IFBC (International Food Bloggers Conference) in Seattle, WA a few months ago.  Realizing we were from the same part of the country, we just HAD to get together.  After all, that’s what I encourage people to do at Grace Before Meals.  While we are all very different, we definitely have one thing in common:  We will always make room for others at our dinner tables!  Primarily because we can’t eat it all!

I think I got my “making more food than we really need” from my mom.  Look at all that food we had at Thanksgiving. And that was only 1/2 of the table.  I couldn’t fit the side on which the Turkey was within my camera lens. I think my mom got that “more food than we really need” from Jesus, Himself!

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I don’t want to bore you with details about the night – although there was nothing boring about it.  As dinner conversations should be, our food blogging discussion enlivened our delicious dinner.  We discussed almost everything, from the weather, upcoming vacations, Wendi and Jay’s very, very fat cat,  to Lan’s flirting with Bobby Flay when she met him to get his book signed.  Angry Asian Creations:  this picture is for you. YES!  That is Bobby Flay hugging me.  But don’t be jealous Lan.  After all, my Fajitas “threw down” his on his show.

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FYI:  While many people think that Bobby has no real personality, he’s actually an incredibly nice guy – at least the little I know of him. It’s not like we’re “bro-friends” although he did give a major shout out to me on one of his news segments to intro his book. Check out this little news clip that shows Bobby Flay talking about the Steak Fajita Episode on National TV!

This picture was shot at Wegman’s in Hunt Valley. I was invited to come to a private luncheon with Bobby.  And then, I was asked to sign books next to him.  And then, I’ve been asked to come back to do a cooking demo on February 2nd, 2011!

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But, back to our Food Blog Dinner.  Let’s just say that our gathering – which I hope and pray will be regular as possible – was a perfect example of Grace Before Meals.  Food brought strangers to become better friends.  At dinner, we also laughed alot – something we need to do more, everyday.  And we had food that warmed us up in body, mind and spirit.

My contribution was a cream of cauliflower soup, with a hint of carrots, and topped with soy seared onions and apple dices. I know the color looks like a butter nut squash soup, but it’s the carrot that gives it the bright summer sun kissed hue – perfect for a snowy night.  This recipe will actually be featured in my next monthly recipe section called, “Inspiring Family Menu’s” (Or something like that – I’m still working on the changes I’m making to the website).

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I also made a grilled yellow pepper cup stuffed with roasted veggies.  If the topping of the veggies look a little too brulee’d, it’s because I didn’t realize just how powerful is Wendi’s broil feature on her fantastic oven.

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When I went to the Seattle Conference a few months back, I had no idea what to expect.  I should have known however that food has power to bring people together in celebration – even if we have our differences.  I don’t want to moralize, but I honestly think that if the leaders of nations, and at least our republican and democratic officials sat down, shut up, and opened their mouths to good food rather than debate, we would have a way (not ‘the way’, but ‘a’ way), to have more civil and productive conversations.  Maybe they could even say Grace Before Meals, too. I still think our nation is “one nation, under God.”

At one point before the meal, I sensed God’s goodness at work: I was very thankful for Wendi’s husband Jay, who asked if I would say some ‘something’ after the toast and before the meal.  And so I offered a brief prayer.  No one was offended as I kept it to a simple but sincere remark of gratitude and prayerful recognition of our good fortune and a reminder to keep in mind  those who go without.  I didn’t lead a litany of prayers and I didn’t need to “prove” I was a priest to them.  They know it, respect it, and even are happy that I’m happy to be one.  I have to remember that there aren’t many priests in our world, and we’re always so busy we may not take the time to eat with others, even our ‘non-parishioners’ who also need to be fed too.  Jesus did that too. I was grateful that they  gave me a chance to express myself at their table.  We need to do more of that at our table.

For that reason, tune into my last radio show for the Advent Season:  “Stirring the Pot with Fr. Leo” on Sirius 159/XM 117 this Sunday at 7-9:00pm EST.  It’s a show about bringing controversial issues to the dinner table, but not to pick up fight, but simply to have a conversation.  From a “conversation” we can experience a “conversion.”

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What gracious evening, with gracious hosts and guests.  While I was not sure, and still not sure, what spiritual practices are exercised before a Food Blogger Meals, I am perfectly confident that each person at the table knew that the only thing better than the food on the table was the blessing of the growing friendship around it, which I  “blessed” in Thanksgiving!

Thanks to Pham for the awesome pop-rock chocolate lolipop (inspired by Top Chef Runner Up Bryan Voltaggio at his private screening of the Top Chef 2009 Finale) – yet another picture to make Lan jealous!

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And special thanks to Jay and Wendi for hosting our event, the little take away treat, and the opportunity to celebrate what we food bloggers hold near and dear to our hearts: sharing the blessing of food!img_16871

Posted in Cauliflower, Uncategorized, Vegetables | 4 Comments »