Posted December 26th, 2012 | Dinner Discussion, Holiday, Merry Christmas

Holy (Not Perfect) Family

As the year comes to a quick close, I often times reflect on all the ways God has blessed me. One of the greatest blessings is, no doubt, my family.  That’s one of the primary reasons why our Grace Before Meals team works so hard – to help strengthen family life through the family dinner.

My “sous chefs” Randall and Jacob – two trained chefs who helped me on the new series of Savoring Our Faith beginning in January on EWTN.


Everywhere I go, I meet different families with the same “problem” – they aren’t “perfect.” But after each Grace Before Meals presentation I offer around the country (and the world), families learn how to celebrate togetherness, love, and each other, despite their common problem of being imperfect.


Check out this 1972 Christmas family picture! Definitely not perfect, but we were happy!

Thanks be to God the Sunday after Christmas our Catholic Faith celebrates the Feast of the Holy (not perfect) family.  While St. Joseph was a chaste and upright man, and Mary was conceived Immaculately, and Jesus Himself was the perfectly pure Son of God – their lives were wrought with difficulty and far from perfect. They had less than ideal living conditions, situations, jobs, and income.  In other words, while they were perfectly faithful the Holy Family was not exempt from struggle, toil, and challenge.  In fact, they had quite a lot of struggles in life.

Image of the Holy Family leaving Bethlehem, from the parish of the Holy Family in New York City.

Recently, I had the opportunity to mediate further on family and perfection when I stayed at the Rectory of the Holy Family Catholic Church in New York City, almost immediately across the street from the United Nations. There I had a great opportunity to meditate on family life – my own family, the parish family, the Church family, and the human family.  In every account, I was able to find great imperfections – in each family and in myself.  From the smell of the homeless man sitting in the pew behind me to the big UN protest brewing across the street, I was finding imperfection was all around me!

United Nations in New York City.

It was only by divine Grace that I was able to manage a small meditation, which I will share with you now in hopes you share it with others. Sitting there, in a very imperfect prayer experience, I realized that our perfection will only be attained in Heaven.  However, between now and then, we get glimpses of perfection when we allow ourselves to imitate the virtues that made the Holy Family perfectly faithful in an imperfect world.  We can also have small victories towards perfection by inviting Jesus more deeply into our imperfections and asking Him to help us and heal us.

Some other ways to heal include praying a sincere grace before each meal, making time for mealtime conversations, practicing Christian virtue, and frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, aka the sacrament of saying, “I’m Sorry!”  After all, none of us are perfect.

I made a BIG mistake in 2010, setting off the fire alarm during a cooking demonstration by having a flambé right underneath fire and smoke detector!

Despite the imperfections of our loved ones, institutions, and the nations of the world (our human family), we have to show a faith that seeks perfection through patience, charity, and serious prayer.  The upcoming feast and new year, offer our Grace Before Meals family an opportunity to do better.  And while we are certain to make mistakes, our faithful – though imperfect – family, will seek to make each day of 2013 a blessing!


From my imperfect family to yours. Happy New Year! Taken in January 2012.


Let us pray:

“O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of Your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (From the opening prayer of the Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family.)

The imperfect but faithful family picture from 1976.


Fr. Leo appeared on NPR on Christmas Eve. Listen to it!

Fr. Leo appeared on National Public Radio’s show “Tell Me More” ans shared with the nation information on his book and the Grace Before Meals apostolate. While he stresses the importance of a romantic meal as instructed in his book, he tells host Celeste Headlee, “If the food stinks at the end of it all, call carry-out. You can still celebrate each other.” Read about it here!

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Posted December 19th, 2012 | Audio, Holiday, Merry Christmas, Prayers, Recipe, Recipe- Dessert, Video

Advent Prayer & Christmas Blessing

by: Fr. Leo E. Patalinghug, December 2012

Let your Spirit come down upon us like the dewfall.

Behold, the incarnation of God’s saving Grace.

For the babe born at the stable feeding stall,

Revealed God’s love, witnessed face-to-face.

In a time when darkness covers the mind and heart of man,

A Savior, truly God, makes real the hope from above.

His cry, anointed and blessed, expels fear from the land,

And He shows us mercy, faith, hope and God’s just love.

Our restless hearts remain restless until You, Jesus, enter in.

A banquet You bring to starving, empty souls;

Thirst is quenched by the covenant chalice to those who drink,

And for us prodigal ones, His mantle of mercy enfolds.

May this rhyme, prayer, blessing and verse,

Remind us of the divine gift wrapped in Christ’s humanity.

For Mary’s yes brought the gift of God’s birth,

And Christmas brings to souls God’s holy and complete serenity.



In these final days of Advent preparation, the celebration of Christmas joy, and hopeful expectations of a prosperous New Year, I pray you and your family experience the intercessory love of Holy Mary, St. Joseph, and your saintly patrons, so that you may be filled with God’s abundant love. 


I look forward to keeping in touch with you over the coming year, through visits, letters, emails and various appearances. Be sure to stay connected by subscribing to our website, following us on Facebook and Twitter, and telling your friends, families and parishioners to do the same. Also, remember to watch the new season of Savoring our Faith on EWTN and please pray for us as we continue our apostolate of family, food, and faith in 2013.  Have a Blessed Christmas and New Year!

Fr. Leo recently had the opportunity to sing a popular (and prayerful) Christmas Song, “O Holy Night,” accompanied by Mr. Paul Shaffer, the world famous musician who plays for
The Late Shownbsp;with David Letterman.  A link to the performance is below for your “listening pleasure.”


Click here to listen to “O Holy Night” by Fr. Leo and Paul Shaffer (The Late Show with David Letterman)


Fr. Leo also hosted, “A Very Entertaining Christmas” special for the Catholic Channel, with Tom Leopold. The show will air Christmas Day on SiriusXM 129.  


And, because it’s a season of Christmas sweets and Joyful giving, I’d like to share two more special sweet treats!
First, a Christmas cookie recipe that my younger cousin Riza Empeno made for the family.  I asked her where she came up with the idea, and she “admitted” it came straight from Giada DeLaurentis from the Food Network.  And, since I’m not much of a baker, I share this Food Network recipe with all of you – definitely approved by my family.
Click Here for the recipe.
Nephew Emmanuel and Cousin Riza sharing a little sweet treat for a Christmas Party

 Finally, to put us all in the mood, here’s a sweet rendition of a Christmas song.  It’s sung by the great nephew of a priest friend.  Little Benjamin (2 years old) tries his best to sing it for his mother (and for all of you).  But, when he forgets the words, he just makes it up.  Thanks to mom who helps him find the cutest and sweetest ending!

Benjamin's Jingle Bells 2012
Benjamin’s Jingle Bells 2012
AND, be sure to listen to a special NPR interview with Fr. Leo on the show Tell Me More, slated to air on Christmas Eve* at 2pm in the Washington DC area. For broadcast times in your area and to listen to the recording after it airs, you can check out their website here.
*Subject to change.
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Posted December 12th, 2012 | Dinner Discussion, Media

We wish you a Mary’s Christmas!

We have only a few weeks until the birth of Christ.  All focus is on Jesus’ Birthday.  But in this month of December, the Catholic Church celebrates has two major celebrations that focus on his Mother – Mary.  December 8th, we had the Holy Day of Obligation to celebrate the Immaculate Conception.  Today – December 12, we celebrate one of the most popular devotions, especially for Spanish Speaking countries, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

While some may question, why such a focus on Mary instead of Jesus, the Church teaches that Jesus’ mother helps to prepare for the coming of Christ.  Her presence in Scripture offers profound theological reflection for Christians.  But, without turning this E-Blast into a Mariology class, it’s important to remember that a pregnant woman prepares for the birth of her baby unlike any other member of the family.  Since Mary is the mother of Jesus, she knew Him intimately for nine months in her womb.  She would feed Him with her very body. She would be there at the first miracle (a food miracle) when Jesus turned water into wine.  She would be the first Christian invited to the banquet of the Lamb of God in the feast of the Assumption.

While many prepare for the Birth of Christ by getting gifts for family members, Mary seeks to prepare room in our hearts to love Him. And she invites us to clean our hands and our souls (through the sacrament of Confession) so that we can eventually hold Him. In other words, Mary wants to give US a gift:  the gift of the  Life that is in her womb.

Mary feeds Jesus.


This message is perfectly captured in today’s feast day, Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This devotion has a very special place in my heart, because I had the incredible opportunity to actually visit the vault that holds this ancient tilma that bears the image of Jesus’ mother.  The history, the facts and the inspiration of this incredible image are purely miraculous.  The story of this image is so powerful that it should be told, not just in words or in a book, but on the big screen!

Big Screen? Driving to an event in Delaware I came across this billboard, featuring a big picture of me! How humbling, funny, and almost “dangerous” as even I was shocked by it!


That’s why I want to invite you to a special screening of The Blood & The Rose from award- winning producer, Tim Watkins.  He is also the Executive Producer of Grace Before Meals.  This film is more than a movie or docudrama.  It’s a history lesson, homily, meditation, and work of art.  The screening will be held in Washington D.C., the night before the March for Life.  I will also be there to give a talk to help introduce this incredible movie.  Please come and celebrate life that came from the Virgin Mother’s womb and placed it in our hearts, minds, and souls – as food – to save us and bring us to Heaven.


  • Have you ever been to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe?
  • Do you know how much scientific research was done on this unique piece of miraculous art?  
  • How do you think Mary prepares us for Christmas?  
  • Do you think mothers have a unique bond to their children?  If yes, how?  


Your messages, comments, questions, and critiques help us engage with our subscribers, and they inspire us to keep our movement alive and strong.

Fr. Leo presents the new Grace Before Meals book, Spicing Up Married Life, to couples across the country, as a way to strengthen their marriage and family life!

 Do you want to give the Grace Before Meals movement a “gift?” 

Then give a gift to family, friends, and fellow parishioners.  Helps us grow our movement by

1) Giving our GBM products as Christmas gifts;

2) Encouraging family, friends, and church parish members to sign up for the free weekly E-mail Blasts;

3) Consider “sponsoring” a month worth of e-mail blasts by donating money to advertise your company, movement, or website to our thousands of subscribers;

4) Ask your pastor or church leadership to host an event where Fr. Leo can perform a cooking demonstration, lead a retreat, and offer a book signing;

5) and most importantly, pray for us!

Read a testimony from a couple who used Spicing Up Married Life to strengthen their marriage:

Recently my husband and I were going through some difficult times. On one particular day, things were not going well for us and I decided I needed to spend some time in adoration. I spent about 30 minutes in the chapel asking God for help and guidance; I left the chapel at peace, but with no answers. My husband had called to see how adoration had gone and I told him it went well, but “no lightning bolts or great ideas to help us”. I headed home and realized I did not have anything for dinner, except the hamburger I had defrosted. I looked through a couple cookbooks and saw your new book – Spicing Up Married Life. After looking through the index, I found the recipe for Sweet potato shepherds pie and started to make it. After getting the dinner started, I sat down with the cookbook and wanted to see what chapter the Shepherd’s pie came from. What a shock I had when I saw the chapter title – The Honeymoon is over – good thing I was sitting down. I started reading and felt the lightning bolt I was looking for during adoration. I called my husband and told him about the book and instead of discussing our current situation, would he mind if we read the chapter together after he got home. He agreed and we sat down for about an hour- we read, talked and prayed. It was great and although there are always going to be issues and challenges, we started some great communication that was desperately needed. Just wanted to share a success story for your book and some divine intervention once again brought through breaking bread together –



Share this gift with the ones that you love and help bring them together in faith and love…and food.


Let Us Pray:

Father in Heaven, You gave us Mary to be our spiritual mother.  May her prayerful intercession, virtue, and holy example inspire us to love Jesus as she loves Him, and may our faith in Jesus help us also to learn to love Mary, His Mother, as He loves her.  Amen.



Mary, as our Spiritual Mother – if in fact, Jesus is truly our Spiritual Brother and Lord.



SUML and GBM both reviewed by Plan To Eat!

Plan to Eat, a popular blog that shares recipes and ideas for meal planning has shared their review of not only Spicing Up Married Life, but also Grace Before Meals, and even had a contest to give away a copy of SUML. Congratulations to Julie D of Wisconsin! Read the review here and also read about the reviewer’s time with Fr. Leo’s Creamy Vegetable Soup here. 



The USCCB recommends Spicing Up Married Life ‘For Your Marriage’ is an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to help save relationships and marriages by providing them with proper guidance and tips from a Catholic perspective. In other words, its the perfect fit to share Spicing Up Married Life! Check out their review by clicking here.  


The Frederick News-Post shares SUML review and recipes

Back in Fr. Leo’s old stomping grounds, the Frederick News-Post, Frederick county’s premiere local paper, had a chance to interview Fr. Leo and share information on his newest book. Additionally, they share two of the recipes from SUML, so check out their review on  


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Posted December 5th, 2012 | Dinner Discussion, Uncategorized

Santa IS Real!

This week, December 6, we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas.  So lay aside any fears about how to talk with your children about Santa not being “real.”  He is 100% real and quite alive as a saint in Heaven.

Obviously, this is a mannequin of St. Nicholas.


But parents, your job is still not done until you can successfully translate the more popular notion of St. Nicholas to the more accurate description of the Man who lives so far North he’s now in Heaven.  You can’t get anymore “North” than that!

Inside the store dedicated to Santa Claus in North Pole, Alaska. If you’re ever in Alaska and are interested in going to the “North Pole,” save yourself the hassle. There’s nothing there except a store to sell you North Pole stuff!

I’ll admit to getting more impatient with the more worldly approach to Christmas that we see with each passing year, especially with regard to Santa Claus.  I think Saint Nick would be a bit annoyed, too, with the caricature we’ve all come to know him as.

My impatience arises from angry secularists who work to diminish the religious significance of Christmas, because they find celebrating the birthday of Jesus to be “offensive.”  If we can celebrate Presidents’ Birthdays and get a “day off” for a courageous civil rights leader, what’s the big deal about giving Christians a chance to celebrate the birthday of our God?  However, I also get impatient with ill-informed Christians who simply think of the Christmas season season as a storybook representation to the point that St. Nicholas obscures Christ on His birthday!   Obviously I need to have more patience, just as St. Nicholas did.

Dear Santa Claus,

For Christmas, please intercede for me and grant me the gift of patience!


Fr. Leo

How can we best deal with this Christmas confusion?  My short answer is to give Saint Nicholas a chance to explain himself.  Give Saint Nick an opportunity to talk with your children about Jesus’ birthday!  Allow the real St. Nick to please stand up!

So true – a little pillow from the Santa Claus Store in North Pole, Alaska.


Parents have an awesome responsibility to translate the “magic” of Christmas into a celebration of faith.  Faith and magic are two completely different things.  We need to know that and, more importantly, to explain it to our children.

“Santa” giving some gifts to the children of the seminary professors at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary – 2011.


By teaching children about the real St. Nicholas, we help them avoid the trauma when they realize the fat-jolly-chimney-crawling image of St. Nicholas is more fictional (thank God) than factual. Yet, the “spirit” of St. Nicholas should be fostered and discussed regularly.  Yes, it is always fun for children to have imaginative fairytale characters as part of their growing experience. But it’s also important to help children see that the popular stories of St. Nicholas help them develop virtue and morals, such as intercession, being nice rather than naughty, and the “gift” of gift-giving!


By concentrating on the positive qualities of important childhood characters, you let children use their imaginations but also inform their consciences.  The technique and conversation you use to explain that SpongeBob, Cinderella, and Superman are “not real” can easily be applied to Santa.  Concentrate on the “virtue” of the character as real – 100% truthful – even if the saccharine stories about Santa are incredulous.

I offer this “Dinner Discussion” E-Blast as something for parents to think about, pray about, and eventually discuss as a family.  Don’t be afraid to approach your children with the truth about Christmas. The Saints, especially Santa, will intercede so that your efforts to dispel myths and strengthen faith in your children will be fruitful and even fun.

This t-Shirt explains it perfectly!


  • How do you explain the meaning of Christmas to your children, especially when it comes to Saint Nicholas? 
  • Do you think I’m being a kill-joy by not encouraging families to perpetuate the fairytale version of St. Nicholas?  
  • And do you remember how you heard the news?  How did you feel?  How did you get over it?  

Your responses, questions, and comments help us develop topics for future E-Blasts. So please help us out and post your comments below.


Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Let Us Pray:

Father in Heaven, You give us St. Nicholas as a way to prepare us, especially children, for the great feast of Christmas.  May our great and holy intercessors in Heaven help us to find the real meaning of this holy season, and may the saints help us to love Jesus as they did!  And may we always know of Jesus’ love for us, as the Saints experienced.  Through Christ or Lord. Amen.


Holy Hour Presentation at Columbia University

Columbia University 405 West 114th St. New York, NY 10025 

CONTACT: Fr. Dan O’Reilly | 212-866-1500 | daniel.o’

  • Every Thursday, Columbia University’s Catholic Ministry has a Holy Hour, adoration, and feature a speaker once a month for the students to see. In December, Fr. Leo will be the featured speaker who will have a chance to speak about Grace Before Meals, share in the Benediction following the Holy Hour, and then mingle with students complete with a cooking demo. 
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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »