Posted April 24th, 2013 | Dinner Discussion, In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Video

 A Tribute to the Heroes, the Helpers and the Hurting

This week America experienced tremendous challenges and pain.  These difficult times can either melt us into more compassionate people or mold us into people full of anger.

Blessed Pope John Paul II was shot in an act of terror.  However, this horrible act did not harden his heart, but softened it into a more compassionate one. He even went to the prison to give forgiveness to the man who tried to kill him.

In the midst of the pain, suffering, confusion and sadness, I’ve heard many different people giving some very good advice to help us get through it all.  One piece of advice I heard was to look for the heroes, the helpers and the hurting.   In other words, we can sometimes be trapped by our own fear, pain, confusion and sadness.  And while we have to pay attention to our own feelings – especially negative ones – we can’t dwell on them.  We also need to pay attention to the big picture.

Angel pointing to the “Stations of the Cross” in Lourdes France.

Looking at the big picture helps us to see the inspiring efforts of heroic people and gain encouragement from their selflessness.  These examples can warm our hearts, melting away rough edges and brokenness.

This is the procession of the sick which is held each night to ask for special blessings. Every evening, thousands of selfless volunteers help the sick and other people who have very difficult and challenging conditions.

By looking at the bigger picture, we also see how these challenges can either mold us into better people with softer and more loving hearts, or hardened hearted people who seek revenge and destruction – like these terrorists.  The environments in which we live have that molding effect.  We therefore have to make sure we put ourselves in good places and with good people who can mold our hearts into something good.

In the artist’s hands, seemingly useless sand can be formed and molded into beautiful and hopeful works of art.

What better way to describe this reality than through food! Take, for example, a hard cheese like parmesan as an analogy of our own hearts.   When heated, it becomes soft, and less prone to being broken.  The melted cheese can also be made into something useful, beautiful and of course, delicious to feed the hungry when put over something curbed.

Parmesan cheese melting in a non-stick pan over medium heat, until the cheese begins to bubble and melt.

Like this cheese, our own hearts are vulnerable to being broken.  But the heat of challenging times, like hearing these tragic events, can actually create an opportunity to “soften” our hearts, melting away the edges, and making us more moldable.  These tragic events can either help us to experience more compassion or more hate – depending on who, or what, it is that molds our hearts.

Carefully place the softened and melted – not broken – cheese over a clean and not absorbing mold.

Hopefully you can see how challenging times melt us, but also shape us.  It may be a “cheesy” analogy, but it makes sense.   The scriptures tell us that we are like clay in God’s hands.  In faithful foodie language, it may be more like melted and molded goodness!

Once the cheese is molded and hardens, it can be used as an edible and decorative part of your meal.
In this case, the molded cheese cup is used to hold sweet onion and balsamic marinated cherry tomatoes.

Let us pray:  

Father in Heaven, we pray for peace in our world, consolation for those who mourn the death of loved ones, courage for those who now face physical and emotional struggles, and thanksgiving for the heroic actions that are trying to bring about a calm and peaceful resolution to the problems in our world.  Keep our families safe, and may these moments fill our hearts with the warmth of compassion in order to mold it into the heart of Your Son, Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.


  • What advice would you give to people who are hurting in these difficult times? 
  • How can we better mold the hearts of our children, especially when it comes to our faith? 
  • Are there any other examples or analogies of melding and molding that can be used to describe the fragility of our lives? 

Your comments and questions are so important to our movement.  Please post your comments below.  And, if you have other questions, post them here or contact our project manager 

Click to read about and watch this student’s impressive video “Isolation to Identity” which raises awareness about depression-related suicides and ways to prevent them. You’ll even glimpse Fr. Leo as he offers a Christian perspective.
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Posted in Dinner Discussion, In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Video | 2 Comments »

Posted April 17th, 2013 | In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe

 Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Prayers In Light of the Boston Marathon Tragedy

After Monday’s tragedy in Boston, MA at the Boston Marathon, where 3 people were killed and over 31 were taken to the hospital with injuries, the entire team at Grace Before Meals wishes to prayerfully extend our deepest condolences and support to the victims’ of this terrible tragedy and their families, especially as Fr. Leo travels to Massachusetts this weekend for the Diocese of Springfield Women’s Conference. As Cardinal O’Malley urged, ” In the midst of the darkness of this tragedy we turn to the light of Jesus Christ, the light that was evident in the lives of people who immediately turned to help those in need.  We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.”


Whenever I speak at different venues, I try and encourage parents to make sure veggies are treated with respect.  After all, the main reason most children don’t enjoy eating their veggies is because we don’t prepare them well. And, similarly to “nasty veggies,” children can also resist faith – thinking it’s boring or difficult to swallow.  We need to learn how to plate, present and most importantly prepare both vegetables and faith in a way that will get our kids to digest the truth (and the food) that is served at every family dinner. 


To help you get started here’s a quick recipe for Bacon Brussels sprouts – because nothing keeps spring veggies savory like adding some bacon!  This recipe celebrates the “springy” taste of Brussels sprouts – which you can actually get year round – while making it appealing to more finicky eaters. Bacon’s cured saltiness helps to balance some of Brussels sprouts’ pungent flavor.  Parboiling and then stir frying the sprouts in a high heat creates a char that can help to eliminate some of the obnoxious smells that come when boiling these mini-cabbages. This process also elevates the dish’s taste while retaining a bit more textural variety.

Bacon Brussels sprouts as a side dish with roasted potato chips and filet mignon, pepe verde (with green pepper corns).


Bacon Brussels Sprouts:

Serves 2 for side dishes


I used left over sprouts and added it to some linguine, sautéed it in olive oil, garlic and dusted with parmesan cheese – which made for a fresh, healthy and delicious spring pasta.

Let us Pray: 

Inspire us Lord with desire to feed our children – whether they are our own biological children, or our “spiritual children” – with the good things in life.  Give us creative ways to make the “bitter truth” of our faith more palatable, not masking the truth, but to help them digest it more easily.  Keep our Grace Before Movement strong by encouraging our members to share their ideas, questions and comments so that we can continue to dialogue about the things that matter most to them.  And, finally Lord, bless each member of our movement with Your Grace – before, during and after each meal.  Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Easter Flowers and the Glory of the Resurrection!


  • Do you have unique recipe to help get your kids to eat their veggies? If so, please send our way!

  • How do you get your kids to eat their veggies?

Please keep us encouraged by posting your comments below!  And, if you have other questions, post them here or contact our project manager.  

Click to Watch Fr. Leo speak with the Diocese of Springfield, Mass. in anticipation for the evening’s event
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Posted in In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe | 5 Comments »

Posted April 10th, 2013 | Dinner Discussion, Easter


April Showers, May Flowers & God’s Care for the Earth

With the Easter season well underway and signs of new life emerging, it can be easy for me to “rush” past the spring season and jump ahead to summer – warmer weather, a slower pace, and even a vacation or two!

Resurrection of the Lord

But spring’s showers, while not the exciting weather I long for, have an important purpose.  They allow farmers to plant seeds and rivers to be replenished.  Spring gives balance to the natural progression of what the world needs.  Like every season, spring shows us that God knows what the world needs in order to sustain human life.  It represents a harmony, even when the weather is at times turbulent.

When we look at nature, we can reflect on how God’s care for the earth is wonderful, but doesn’t compare to God’s providence and care for us, His children.

For us faithful foodies, we need to see the spring and Easter seasons as times to offer praise to God for providing for us throughout the winter and Lenten season. We also need to offer petition, asking for good weather so that we can reap a fruitful harvest to feed hungry souls.

Missionaries of Charity at the Easter Vigil in 2010, serving the poor and celebrating their faith.

If I sound like a real “nature lover,” it’s because I’ve been considering the words of our new Pope Francis and the inspiration of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Both of these prophetic voices speak about the power of nature, whose beauty reflects the genius of the Creator, and how we are responsible to care for it.  However, even while we protect the earth and its resources as God’s creation, we cannot deify it as some sort of “divine mother.”   It is important to remember the difference between caring for the earth and worshiping it.

In a modern society that often times doesn’t take time to smell the roses, we have this beautiful liturgical season to slow down, consider the beauty of this world, acknowledge the power of the One who created it, and try to live so that we are showing the beauty of our own lives – as God also created us!
A young couple with two small children were able to come to a two day recollection that I offered at St. Callistus and St. Barbara Churches in Orange County. Even though they were busy, they felt it was well worth it to take the time and pause for their faith!
Let us Pray:  Father, help us to better understand the power of this liturgical season. May the new life, springing up around us, remind us of your Providential Care.  Show us how we can be signs of beauty and new life, and protect and aid those farmers who work with Mother Nature to provide food for the world.  May we be blessed with food for our table and food for our souls, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • What is your favorite season?
  • What do you like or dislike about spring?
  • How do you and your family care for the earth?
  • What’s the difference between protecting nature and worshiping it?
  • How do you explain these differences to your children?

    Your comments help us to keep up our momentum in sharing these messages with you.  Please post your comment below.
Click the picture to hear the introduction to Fr. Leo’s Bite-Sized Theology, a GBM exclusive!
Click to Watch Fr. Leo speak with the Diocese of Springfield, Mass. in anticipation for the evening’s event
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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Easter | 3 Comments »

Posted April 4th, 2013 | Blast from the Past, Easter, Past Emails


Resurrected Food

Originally Published April 2, 2008
By now you have already found all the Easter Eggs, indulged in every food you gave up for Lent, and are now preparing for spring!  First, I hope you all experienced the joy of Easter and will continue to celebrate this joy throughout the Easter Season – which lasts longer than just one day a year!
My little cousin in search of more Easter Eggs! (circa 2011)


But how do we keep the Easter Season alive and well in our hearts?  One thing we can do is to be more attentive to the Scriptures, especially during the next set of Sunday Masses.  You’ll realize something very impressive that relates to our Grace Before Meals mission.  If you stay attentive, you’ll hear how Jesus, even after His Resurrection, is a BIG FOODIE!  In fact, he seeks “Resurrected Food!”

Now, what could that possibly mean?  Well, I’m just making up a term that describes how food is given a whole new meaning (i.e., a new life) when we consider the purpose of the food.

For example, this Sunday you’ll hear about how the disciples, on the Road to Emmaus, came to recognize the Lord in the breaking of the bread.   That line in the Gospel became such an important verse that people literally find Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration – the type of prayer where people meditate before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance.

This “Road to Emmaus” and the “Breaking of the Bread” are important concepts for many prayer groups – including priestly fraternity prayer groups.  I’m part of an Emmaus fraternity group, composed of a few priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  As part of our spiritual exercises, we gather with several other priests to feed BODY, MIND, and SOUL!

In other words, we gather about once a month to meditate on scripture passages in a type of prayer called Lexio Divina .  At other times, a smaller group of priests shares personal experiences, that is, we sometimes bare our souls to each other and speak from our hearts to encourage one another.   Finally, every meeting ends with a meal, of course!

The Reason for the Season

As priests, we need that Emmaus time to encounter God when we break open the Scriptures; when we break down the walls that keep the Truth from coming into our souls; when we break away from our busy schedules and break out the fancy plates (on occasion) and share a meal – with each other and with Our Lord.

As a family, do you consider yourselves as walking along the road of Emmaus together?  In other words, when you gather around your table, do you talk about things that make your hearts burn with excitement and love?  In this Grace Before Meals movement, I’d like families to consider not just the food they put on the table, but what they talk about at the dinner table.

For that reason, I’d like to highlight a fun feature on our website.  It’s basically a list of dinner questions and conversation starters. [Editor’s Note 2013: This latest version of the website does not have this list of questions and conversation starters but weekly suggestions are made in the “Talking Together” section of the eBlasts]  If you already purchased the book, Recipes for Family Life, you’ll see a section called “Let’s Talk,” which simply covers some fun and interesting topics to engage good and wholesome conversations in your family.  I know that’s the hard part of family meals, but if we can break through that barrier, we will experience food in a whole new light.  Our tag line for this movement sums it up: Stronger Family. Better Food.

That’s my hope and prayer for you and your family in this continuing Easter Season.  I pray that your food takes on a whole new meaning for your family, as it does for the priests in my Emmaus fraternity group. We must imitate the disciples who encountered Christ on that pilgrimage to the table – where He broke the bread and they recognized Him!

 Discovering Jesus and Sharing Your Discovery!  

Families sometimes forget they can also find Jesus at their dinner table if they “break bread together,” like the Emmaus disciples who recognized Jesus.   Family members can do that by doing what the disciples did.  They talked about Jesus, His life, His death, and the mystery of the Resurrection.  Go ahead and not only say Grace Before Meals, but feel free to ask your children some questions about their faith.  And don’t be afraid to share yours with them.

Let us pray: Lord, help our families to find You at this dinner table so that we, like the disciples, can spread the Good News and inspire a burning faith in the hearts of all believers.  We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen. 




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Posted in Blast from the Past, Easter, Past Emails | 2 Comments »