Posted March 27th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Each Friday, I plan on posting the itinerary of the seminarian’s pilgrimage to Rome. I finally had some time to record each day’s activities.  I’ll also include some fun photos!  So, even though it’s a couple weeks after the fact, we’re all still on a pilgrimage of faith. I hope you enjoy the first installation of my written accounts of our trip, as well as the  pictures.  Above all, trust that we were praying for all the intentions that were sent to me throughout our days in the Eternal City.

Day One: Friday-Saturday



Departure from Dulles Airport was uneventful enough. While waiting for everyone to meet at the parking garage, a few the guys played hacky sack.  It was an intense enough game that one of them went diving into the a little sewer area just to save the game!

After an 8-hour flight, we arrived in Paris only to be completely unimpressed with their airport security screening system.  Matt Gray became the token “security screening” guru – getting stopped at each security site for extensive bag checks!


At the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, we met our airport transfer agent (Leandro) who helped us get our bags, get to the correct tour bus, and to our first stop.  St. Paul’s outside the walls.


The magnificent basilica, which was built during the times of the Christian Persecution, was a great place to begin the pilgrimage.  Especially since the Pope declared this as the year dedicated to the memory of St. Paul. There we saw the porticos of the piazza, the mosaic of Christ blessing the pilgrims, the images of the Popes in succession and of course – the tomb of Saint Paul himself. 



Praying is such an important focus for the pilgrimage that many of us found it difficult to lave. We all wanted to just stay a little bit longer at each of these shrines. But, so much was still to come – including our hotel and a walk through St. Peters!

We boarded the bus as I explained some of the highlights to the city.  We made a very dramatic turn to see St. Peter’s, and then made our way to the hotel “Torre Rosa Park”.  Because we were transition, we didn’t have a chance to celebrate Mass until we arrived at our hotel, which just happens to have its own chapel.


Since I had to break the sleep cycle and help the men fight off jet lag, I kept my homily as short as possible (a major miracle for any priest).  Especially since our  next step was a quick walk through the piazza San Pietro!



Since we arrived on a Saturday, I had to get these guys ready for the Papal Blessing that occurs each Sunday for the noon time Angelus.  In other words, I had to get these guys shopping for souvenirs that they would have blessed by the Pope and to give as gifts to people back home. Usually, when I take groups, I have to “limit” the opportunity for shopping. With this group of seminarians, (that is, all guys), I had to push them to get out in the stores and buy some special souvenirs for family and friends!  That was a first for me… trying to force the pilgrims to go shopping!

On the street directly in front of the Porta Angelica that leads to Vatican City State, a bunch of local shops and restaurants conveniently welcome guests and pilgrims.  We had just enough time to get money from the bank machines (which are as slow as molasses,and as fickle as humanity), go shopping, and then reserve a place for dinner at a local place called, “La Romanella.”  Thanks to a generous sponsor, these pilgrims were given a festive meal to welcome them to the Eternal City!


The walk back to the hotel, about 2 miles away, was a pleasant way to end the long day.  Although we couldn’t find a good gelato stand open (it was kinda’ late by then), we thank God found a McDonald’s, which was just a littler more open to giving permission for bathroom use!  But, I promise, we didn’t eat anything at that McDonald’s.  We saved that “special Roman moment” for the tour at the Spanish Steps!


You’ll just have to log on each Friday to read more about this crazy-faithful-awesome trip!

For now, let’s just say our first day there was worth a toast, not only in Thanksgiving to God for the opportunity, but also a prayer invoking that the graces of this pilgrimage will last!

img_0926 img_0903



Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Posted March 25th, 2009 | Food for the Soul, Grace Before Meals, Recipes


Haitian Red Beans & Rice

NOTE: This recipe is one of the many recipes from the Operation Rice Bowl website.

  1. 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  2. 3 green onions, chopped
  3. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  5. 2 tsp salt
  6. 3 Tbsp olive oil
  7. 1 cup rice
  8. 2 cups canned (or cooked) kidney beans
  9. 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth*
  10. 1 cup water
  11. 1/2 can cream of celery soup

*1 cup of water from the kidney beans may be substituted for vegetable broth.

In a large saucepan, add parsley, green onions, garlic, dried thyme and salt into 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Heat through and add rice. Slightly brown the mixture for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

This recipe serves 4 people.  


Posted in Food for the Soul, Grace Before Meals, Recipes | 2 Comments »

Posted March 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized

As part of an annual tradition, I cooked for several priests on March 19, 2009 to commemorate the Solemn Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus.  With a solemn blessing of the “St. Joseph Altar” Archbishop O’Brien, assisted by the host pastor, Msgr. Luca, also offered words of encouragement to the priests to continue to foster a love for Jesus and Mary as St. Joseph had.


It also gave all of the guests a chance to toast our Pope – “JOSEPH” Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI.  Since my name is “Jose Leo” (my family actually calls me “Joe”), and the Pastor of the Parish is also named Msgr. JOSEPH Luca, we definitely had to celebrate our namesake.  See parents, that’s one reason why you should name your kids after saints.  They can celebrate their birthdays and their Saint Name Day too!

On the menu was assorted antipastas, such as grilled shrimp with a caper mustard sauce, buffalo styled chicken wings, and assortments of dips and cheeses.  The first course was Rigatoni alla Norcina.  I was so honored when people asked for seconds! After all it IS a Solemn FEAST Day!

For the main course we had individual portions of Ratatouille, a bed of mixed field greens with a light vinaigrette, baguette bruschetta, topped with a mini filet mignon, with a fennel seed cream sauce.


Overall, it as rather tasty.   I wouldn’t say the meal was “great,” simply because I think I overcooked some of the steaks.   Beef temperatures can sometimes be difficult to cook when you’re serving 18 people!  But, then again, there are better techniques that I’m still practicing and perfecting. If you have any tips on how to get the meat perfectly cooked for such a large number so that it comes off sizzling hot on the plate, please let me know. 

But, when cooking an individual portion, I hit it out of the park!  Even though I set off the smoke detector in the kitchen, the steak turned out perfectly.  I cooked one portion for the German Television Network Crew (ARD1) as they were filming a brief segment of Grace Before Meals for the German audience.  It was a fun interview, and I was most impressed to hear the camera man, Chris (center of the picture), completely agree with the Grace Before Meals mission.  As we walked to a different location for the shoot he told me that spending time with his wife and family around the dinner table is one of the most important blessings of his day!  After the filming, Chris went back and finished up the rest of the meal. You can almost hear him thinking in the picture, “I sure hope the sound guy (Mark) or the interviewer (Bianca) don’t have too big of a taste test!”


Such a great saint, as St. Joseph, deserves the solemn celebration!  We definitely can use his example of humble obedience to God’s will.  It is often noted, and always good to remember, he doesn’t have any recorded words attributed to him in the Scriptures.  In other words, he did more listening than talking.  Taking his hint, I’ll just stop typing now.  Enjoy the silence.  It is then, we can hear God speak to us – loudly and clearly. St. Joseph, Pray for us!


Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Posted March 18th, 2009 | Food for the Soul, Grace Before Meals, Recipes


Ghanian Groundnut Stew

3 cups water

1 zucchini, chopped

¾ cup okra, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, chopped

1 onion, diced

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp ginger

½ cup peanut butter

½ tsp red pepper flakes

2 tomatoes, diced

1 cup tomato paste

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped


Simmer zucchini, okra, sweet potatoes, onion, salt, black pepper and ginger in water in a large pot until tender (about 10-15 minutes). Add peanut butter, red pepper flakes, tomatoes and tomato paste to mixture. Stir well and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes.

Serve over white rice and top with the chopped hard boiled eggs.

This recipe serves 4 people.


Ghanian Groundnut Stew

Posted in Food for the Soul, Grace Before Meals, Recipes | No Comments »

Posted March 16th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Friday, I arrived Detroit in time to visit with Brian, a friend from College. He announced his engagement to a lovely, articulate and faithful young woman, Becky… who likes to eat!  So, she’s a good pick for Brian in my book!


I was in Detroit for the Holy Trinity Apostolate Conference where I gave two presentations to youth as well as to the General Audience.  What a great crowd, as well as other great speakers such as Mother Dolores (the former Holywood Actress, female lead to Elvis Presley), as well as Msgr. Nalty (my classmate from New Orleans).  Here Mother Dolores shows her picture with “The King of Rock and Roll.”  



After the presentations, I had the opportunity to do a Grace Before Meals presentation and cooking demonstration at the home of Mary Giannetti, who welcomed 85 guests for a feast!  What a lovely evening! What a lovely home!  What a lovely family!


Then from there, I made my way to New York (yes, that same evening), just in time to get some sleep for the Fox and Friends taping at the NY Studios.  I made Monte Cristo, inspired by one of the scripture readings that I meditated upon a few days ago.  It was about Moses going up the mountain of the Lord. In Lent, we’re all supposed to follow Christ on his mountain top experience, not just to see the transfigured Jesus in His Glory, but also to witness the scandal of the cross on the Hill on Calvary.  The Monte Cristo (Christ’s Mountain) sandwich, was pretty tasty.  They ate it all up!


And, still, after coming back to the seminary for some prayer time, I played the role of assistant chef / sous chef to the Rector who taught a cooking class to some of the seminarians.  What a great meal, and what a wonderful way to end the busy weekend.  A meal around the table with family and friends!


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Posted March 13th, 2009 | Uncategorized

NOW YOU CAN CATCH FR. LEO EVEN EARLIER ON SUNDAY- The Fox & Friends segment will now run around 8:50 am EST on the Fox News Channel. So scramble some eggs, grab a glass of OJ and get a daily dose of Grace!

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »