Table Talk 

Thanks to all for the many messages of encouragement regarding the BIG NEWS about my discernment transition as a priest into the Community of Consecrated Life, Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite.  In response to some of the Facebook and Twitter comments, I just wanted to use these early days of the beginning of the year to respond to some of your questions.

In case you didn’t see this informational video from last week’s blast, here it is again.


Question # 1:  Am I still going to be a priest?

Of course I will be a priest, but serving in a different capacity as a priest with consecrated vows! Please know my discernment has led me to an even deeper love for the priesthood, the Catholic Church, and the opportunities of the New Evangelization, as demonstrated by Popes of the recent past and, of course, our current Pope Francis.  In fact, Pope Francis has demonstrated great encouragement for such new movements of evangelization.

A picture with Blessed John Paul II and my fellow priest friends back in my seminary days.


Question # 2: What’s the difference between a Diocesan Priest, a Religious Community Priest, and a priest of a secular institute?

This is a much bigger question to try and answer in an E-mail Blast.  But here are some links to learn about the Diocesan priesthood, also known as “secular priests,” who primarily serve the local bishop, doing parish work or whatever needs ascribed to him by the bishop.  A Diocesan priest generally lives at a parish house and cares for the local community to which he is assigned.  A Diocesan priest makes promises, not vows, of obedience and celibate chastity – but does not promise to live in “poverty.”

On the other end of the spectrum, a religious priest who belongs to a religious community (such as Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, or many other groups) follows a particular charism of the founder (such as teaching, working with the poor, youth ministry, a life dedicated to contemplative prayer, or some specific apostolic work).  A religious priest lives in a community, generally wears a religious habit, and makes solemn vows of chastity, obedience and poverty.

As a priest living in a consecrated life, and in my particular case of a secular institute of pontifical rite, means that I will vow chaste celibacy, obedience to the superior of the community, and obedience to the local bishop, but also obedience to the Pope – and above all, to be obedient to the will of God through a deep process of discernment.  I will also vow “poverty,” which means that I’m responsible for my own finances (not relying on a paycheck from the Diocese) and that I must make an active donation to the poor and to support the Voluntas Dei community.

As a secular institute, our job is to permeate the secular world with a message of God’s love and to be “leaven” in society.  I am not required to wear a religious habit, but generally follow the local custom – and in my case – continue to wear the black clerical shirt during ministry.  I will participate in a community, meeting once per month locally and two to three times each year on a national community level.  And, of course, I’ll be connected to a local church community, as assigned by the Archbishop of Baltimore, to be a sacramental and pastoral minister for churches in the Baltimore area that need priestly assistance.  Finally, in my case of Voluntas Dei, we accept members who are priests, celibate laymen, and even consecrated married couples.  So this will truly be a unique group that reaches out to a universal level of participation and membership.

Me with a family at a recent parish mission.

Question # 3:  What are some of the new things that Grace Before Meals will be doing this year?

This is a great question, to which I’ll only reveal a little information at a time.  The first NEW thing is the NEW BOOK that’s coming out February 11, 2014, by Servant Books.  It’s called, Epic Food Fight: A Bite Sized History of Salvation.  In this new book I present a “Theology of Food,” highlighting how food is used in Scripture, Tradition, Magisterial Documents, and of course, how we can practically understand God and the Eucharist better if we have a more developed theology of food.  The publishers and the people who have reviewed this book are very excited for another outreach approach to further the theological content of our Grace Before Meals apostolate.

Click to preview and pre-order my newest book!


Another NEW opportunity will be a not-for-profit organization called “The Table Foundation: Seeking to Elevate Culture and Family Life One Meal at a Time.”  With this organization, we hope to work with different groups to provide unique food opportunities with spiritual inspiration – whether it be working with a local soup kitchen, providing classes for culinary students, giving workshops for at risk families, or even serving alongside different support groups in response to emergencies.  We are even considering an ongoing food service, like a restaurant group or food trucks!  So these are definitely exciting opportunities for investors and other groups to get involved and to spread the Grace Before Meals message!

It is always good to serve those in need.

As you can see, the application  process is a great opportunity to see how God may be using our movement in the New Year.  We know there are never any guarantees, but with hard work and relying on God’s Grace, we believe our efforts will bear much fruit and feed a hungry world. 


Next week’s Menu Inspiration: Coconut Curry Seafood Bouilabase



  • What new plans do you have for yourself or for your family this year?
  • If you could get involved more with our Grace Before Meals movement, what would you suggest you could offer?
  • Is there anything you would like for our Grace Before Meals movement to consider offering in the upcoming year?  In other words, what do you think we should be doing to expand our mission?

Your comments and questions will help keep our focus and energies on bringing more people to the Table!  Post your comments HERE.


Let us pray:


Father, You call us to a new life in Christ.  May we never be afraid of Your call, but be strengthened by Grace, meeting each new day with joyful hope and expectation, trying to follow Your will, and being consoled and protected by Your love.  Help us grow our Grace Before Meals movement, inviting all to Your banquet of love. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


 This Week’s Recipe:


Click for the Recipe!
This month’s Catholic Culinary Confession:


Click to read the review on



Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView our videos on YouTube
Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.


Posted in Culinary Confessions, From the Feedbag, Prayers, Recipe, Recipe- Dessert, Video | 5 Comments

5 Responses to “From the Feedbag: Table Talk”

  • So very excited about your new book, Fr. Leo! May God richly bless you in the new direction you are taking at this point in your life.
    Thanks, always, for your inspiration.

    Posted by Martha Orlando on January 8th, 2014 at 10:11 pm.
  • You are in my daily prayers Father. I specifically abstain from meat and fast every Thursday of the week to pray for priests and vocations, so you are set there. I love the picture with Bl. JPJ II. Man, no wonder priests of JPJ II’s generation are so holy now because we have one in our parish. Thanks be to God.

    Posted by Loren Tran on January 9th, 2014 at 7:26 am.
  • Dear Fr. Leo:
    I just want to thank you sincerely for all the holistic work that you do.
    You are so inspiring.
    I will add you to my prayers that you continue on the path you were born to take.
    May you be abundantly blessed on your new road.

    Posted by Fr. Leo on January 9th, 2014 at 11:19 am.
  • I truly hope your mission of Grace Before Meals doesn’t stop. I got re-interested in religion (Catholicism specifically) and have been working on deepening a relationship with God and Christ outside of a church (not religious minded) because I saw you on Food Network. But I do one hundred percent support you in your mission, God has plans for us all. And sometimes he makes people like you, as beacons to those of us who are trying to find our way back to the light. God keep you safe and in his care.


    Posted by Fr. Leo on January 9th, 2014 at 11:20 am.
  • Fr. Leo,

    We love your show on EWTN and are happy that your new status will not shut that down.

    Thanks for the Q & A, although it provoked another question for me that I hope you won’t mind answering. In the pre-VII Church we had a good priest friend who was a Redemptorist (sp?) and had taken the vow of poverty. One time, he explained it to us as not being allowed to own anything! He said that everything he had including his personal effects such as clothing, watch, even his toothbrush, etc., were owned by the Religious Order in common and could be taken away by the Superior at any time. Of course, they never were. But whenever he wanted to go somewhere he had to ask for a car and although he usually got the same car, sometimes someone else was using it and he had to use a different car. Another time, we gave him a religious statue for a gift and he explained that he would have to ask his Superior for permission to keep it in his possession rather than out in the common area. The Superior said “yes”, but he had to ask.

    Has this definition of “poverty” changed since VII, is my memory deficient or is it different in a secular institute than in a Religious Order?

    I am just curious how this new vow of poverty will affect your day to day ministry and who will be your Superior? The local Bishop of your Diocese or someone in the Institute?

    My wife and I wish you well and will continue to watch your show every week as long as it is being broadcast.

    Jim & Phyllis

    Posted by Fr. Leo on January 9th, 2014 at 11:21 am.

Leave a Reply