Hallowed Eve and Holy Days


Good versus Evil at the Taste of Chicago 2012


Occasionally our team likes to send updates and reminders about upcoming events, opportunities, and news about the movement.  And there are so much exciting things happening!


In this E-mail Blast, we also want to wish that families have safe and enjoyable kid’s fun with dressing up for Halloween this year.  This day can be one that celebrates sweet candy fun.  Dressing up in different costumes can be a positive thing.  It doesn’t have to be scary or evil looking either.  Haunted houses can be fun to scare the “hell” out of your kids.  But parents can be there to help them understand evil is real, not to be “played” with, and that in moments of fear, we must seek heavenly consolation to “scare” the heaven back into them.


Holy Water and Faith in the Sacramentals is sure protection against evil.

Be sure you have a healthy and balanced conversation about the traditions, pastimes, and prayers that also accompany this religious holiday.  At the end of the Blast, you can even say the prayer before you go trick-or-treating.




We continue to spread the Grace Before Meals message through our website, social media, and of course the conferences to which we are invited.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to know where we’ll be next.  And encourage your family, friends, and fellow parishioners to sign up for the free weekly E-Mail Blasts.  (I mean, if you are reading this, you obviously enjoy them, so why not let your friends enjoy them too!) 

Twitter friends in Sioux City, Iowa, helped me find a great fried chicken place, and they were fun company for dinner as well!


Be sure to check our website for the next time Fr. Leo may be in your area – giving a talk, leading prayers, or even cooking for a group.  Consider talking with your pastor about bringing Fr. Leo to do a mission or a mini-mission for your parish!  To learn more, click here.

Speaking to Catholic University of America students.

In November, Fr. Leo will record the audio version of our newest book, coming in 2014:  Epic Food Fight: A Bite Sized History of Salvation, published by Servant Press.  Stay tuned to our Blast to find out how you can get an early pre-release copy!


One of the many book signing opportunities we offer at every Grace Before Meals event.


Finally, remember, in this upcoming month, there are some important Holy Days and celebrations.  All Saints on November 1. the Feast of All Souls on November 2, and of course how can you forget St. Leo the Great on November 10?


And it’s not too soon to plan for your Thanksgiving dinner.  There are even great modified Thanksgiving recipes in a particular book I’ve become quite fond of, Grace Before Meals!  In fact, you can order yours today! 


Let us pray: Dear Father, You give us civil celebrations, like Halloween, to have some fun, dress up, and be like a kid in a candy shop.  May we approach the upcoming festivities with the proper attitude – recognizing the balance of the important religious significance, while maintaining a respect for the fun we all used to have as kids on this day of dressing up.  As children travel from house to house, may they always be protected from evil.  May our fun be truly innocent, sincere, and heartfelt, so that we can have more treats from the Loving Father, rather than experience the trickery of the Evil One.  Finally, as we remember the souls of the faithful departed, may they experience God’s Mercy, Rest, and Eternal Peace.  Amen.  


Feast of All Souls prayers at the cemetery.

Food for Thought:


  • What is your favorite Halloween costume?  
  • How do you tell your children about the spiritual significance of these upcoming celebrations?  
  • Are there any particular names you’d like for us to remember in prayer in these Holy Days of remembering our faithful departed?

 Your comments and questions assist us in our mission. Please post your comments below. 

This Week’s Recipe is Perfect for Halloween!



Check out October’s Culinary Confession for 
The Catholic Review

November 2-5



Chandler, AZ
November 9
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Posted in Food for Thought, Halloween, Holiday, Prayers, Recipe- Dessert, Video, What's On the Table | 1 Comment »

Posted October 23rd, 2013 | From the Feedbag, Recipe


The Liturgical Act of Feeding the Flock 


Book signing at Women’s Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Cooking for your family is not easy.  There, I said it.  In fact, at the conferences where I speak, I remind families that cooking is actually a “liturgical” act.  The etymology of the word “liturgy” in Greek, means “work of the people.”  And, if you invite God into your experiences in the kitchen, even reheating leftovers can become a holy act of love.  In this way, taking time and lovingly preparing a meal for your family is a “liturgical” act that can bring your family closer to God and each other.

Part of the Grace Before Meals family.

In this week’s Blast, once again I respond to some of the questions I’ve received.  Both of these questions speak about the challenge of cooking for your families, as an important part of your life of faith.  After all, God wants to feed us.  And those who prepare meals for their families extend God’s plan to their homes – the domestic church.

Please keep sending me your questions, and I’ll try my best to organize a pastoral response for you.  If you have questions for me about Grace Before Meals, food, or faith, click HERE

I’ll speak to anyone willing to listen to me! At The Steubenville Rockies Conference – baby’s sound-proofed for the loud bands!


Hi Father, 


Can you give some advice on healthy meal planning to lose weight?  I have three children at home ages 16-21 and have asked them to help me plan and cook meals but would appreciate some resources.


Thank you and God Bless, Healthy Cooking Mom 


Dear Healthy Cooking Mom,


Let me be clear, I’m not a trained dietician or a food allergy specialist.  However, I do agree that for many losing weight is an important part of healthy living, no doubt.  And while the Grace Before Meals apostolate wants to encourage healthy eating, there will also be a need to celebrate with food that may not always be completely healthy, but certainly delicious.  So here’s a link to one of the many websites that can help ‘translate’ my recipes into something a little healthier for your family’s special needs.


Mom and Dad with the grandkids. Each one has a special need in life, but thank God, no special diets.


In my work with food, I’ve learned the best way to have a healthy diet is to learn the 

virtues of discipline and moderation.  These are important concepts, which make up the best diet and weight loss plans.  You’ve seen commercials on diet pills, extreme weight loss programs, and even advertising on surgical procedures.  These may be quick fixes, but may not always help keep off the weight. And some of these plans just aren’t good for you.  So, be careful with every diet plan.  And remember, it is important to consult your physician and determine how much weight you ought to lose, as sometimes weight loss becomes a form of a “religion,” to the point of extreme measures.  


And like you’ve already started, it’s important to have a dialogue with your children about eating healthy, living healthy, and being disciplined for a holistically healthy lifestyle.  Moderation can help.  It tells families that eating healthy doesn’t mean turning our nose away from an occasional sugary treat, salty snack, buttery bread, gooey pizza, or juicy burger.  It simply means that we eat smaller portions of these things, more green vegetables, and healthy fruits; and that we drink more water, drink less sugary sodas, and exercise frequently – body, mind, and soul.  

For me, discipline and moderation are the best diet plans out there. 


At a presentation at a nursing care facility in Baltimore, Maryland. Cooking special diets for the residents.


Hi Fr. Leo– 


Love your movement.  You inspired me to cook more.  Actually I would cook more, especially for my family, but as you know, in the Philippines, some families frown on their sons to cook, especially when there is a cook to do that.  How can I convince them that I have come to serve and not be served?


Sincerely, Cooking Son


Dear Cooking Son:


Although I was born in the Philippines, I came to America with my family when I was only 2 years old. That means, I’m not as accustomed to having people cook for me as I know they have in the Philippine culture.  My parents did much of the cooking, and from them, I learned how to cook myself.  


Two young Filipino chefs at a cooking demo in Manila Philippines, 2012.


I realize and respect that there are cultural differences that may frown on having cooks as a profession.  I’m very sorry your family doesn’t fully appreciate your passion for the craft of cooking.  It must be hard to feel like your love for food is not as welcome, and it can perhaps be confusing when you want to get into the kitchen while others are supposed to take care of that for you.  


My encouragement would be to (1) have a good and honest conversation with your family about your love for cooking, (2) take some cooking classes – formal or informal courses – to help you explore new cuisine, and (3) tell your family that you’re going to make a unique or special meal for a  special occasion.  This easy process, though it may take more patience and time, will slowly ease your family into accepting your want to serve.  The only other recommendation would be to make really good food!  If they like it enough, they’ll ask for you to make it again, and again.  Then, in a certain sense, your problem is solved! 

Cook well and they will come! Bobby Flay signing my Throwdown! cook book.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, You give us food and drink as signs of Your love for us.  Help us, with Your Grace, to prepare only the best of foods that help us to celebrate Your love and generosity.  At the same time, teach us Lord to cook and eat more healthily, as our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit.  Give us patience with those who don’t’ understand our passion for food, and give us Grace to provide the best to feed a hungry soul.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cooking up a storm with Msgr. Nalty at a New Orleans cooking event.

Food for Thought:

  • Do you have any cooking questions or faith questions that need some spiritual responses?
  • Do you have any diet plans or menu suggestions for making healthy and delicious meals?
  • Do you have any advice for these members of our Grace Before Meals family?  Please share, because you may have some really good ideas on how to deal with the issues they ask about.

Please leave your comments and questions below.

This Week’s Recipe



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Posted October 23rd, 2013 | Faithful Foodie



Homemade Birthday Pizza!

One of the best parts of my itinerant preaching apostolate is exploring different cuisine in your area. Granted, these foodie spots are old news to you, but definitely new to me.

Finding a good spot for food in a new place requires some guidance from above! Like the “force” in Star Wars


It also gives me a chance to spend some pastoral and family time with different people who organize these events where I’m presenting.  The folks, many of whom serve as volunteers, organize parish missions, diocesan conferences, or food and faith venues.

Sean from Sioux City Iowa Diocese who organized the Youth Day Celebrations, along with some of the college seminarians who volunteered their time to help with the events


They’re just great people who I enjoy meeting and spending time with.  While  not always the case, (as they also keep my schedule very, VERY busy), there may be a few moments to build friendship and faith around food.

Mr. & Mrs. Marcus Grodi, host of “The Journey Home” on EWTN

Recently, the family food lover in me had a chance to catch up with and meet some of the Grace Before Meals family in Columbus, Ohio.

The Diocese of Columbus, Ohio invited me to be the retreat leader for their Marriage Enrichment Day, as part of the mission from my new book, Spicing Up Married Life.

The response was great.  Over 150 couples came for a day long retreat to hear about the theology of marriage, the gift and responsibility of married conjugal love, and then a discourse on the Blessed Mother as Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

One of the many opportunities to do a theological presentation for ongoing Sacramental Marriage Formation. To learn more about booking events for Marriage Support Groups, make your request at www.GraceBeforeMeals.com

While this was a great day to nourish the hearts and souls of married couples, I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit with some of the organizers the night before. We celebrated the birthday for Michele Faehnle, the person responsible for suggesting my name as the retreat leader and presenter.

The Faehnle’s and their great outdoor pizza oven!

To celebrate her birthday, she invited me and a bunch of her friends for a homemade pizza party! Many of her guests were graduates from the Franciscan University at Steubenville, and so I knew I would have a good and Godly time with them!

There, I had a chance to get my hands in some hot mess – pizza dough, all the toppings, and working the pizza palate for some homemade brick oven pizza!  It reminded me of some of the pizza making classes I had while in Italy.  How fun was that for me?

Great fun, especially since the food was great. But even better than the food was the company.

Enjoy the little video I put together.


If you want to learn some awesome pizza making skills, visit my friends in NYC, Mark & Jenny Bello from Pizza-a-Casa.

Mark Bello, Pizza-a-Casa, when he taught a pizza making class for seminarians in 2009

Let us Pray:  Father, you bring family and faith together around food. May your kingdom be recognized in ever act of feeding our family, feeding the poor, and feeding hungry souls with faith, hope and love.  Bless all of those involved in conference organization, and give us all grace to persevere in the work of evangelization. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Big Pizza on Jersey Shore Boardwalk Pizza Shop


  • What’s your favorite pizza flavors?
  • Have you ever been to a marriage conference?
  • Do you work in organizing events and presentations, or know people who do?  Perhaps you can put in Fr. Leo and the Grace Before Meals message as one of the speakers and presenters.

Please leave your comments and questions here. It really does strengthen our resolve to keep spreading this good news!

October 17

Baltimore, MD
October 18
Livonia, MI 
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Posted October 9th, 2013 | Menu Inspiration, Prayers, Recipe

Blessed and Broiled Fruits


As you know I’ll be going to the Holy Land for a culinary adventure of a life time!  On this unique pilgrimage, we will discuss and dine on the God’s goodness.  As you know, Chefs for Peace (Christian, Jewish and Muslim chefs) will be cooking for us, giving us opportunities to learn about biblical foods and explore ways on how we can bring peace to our world – one meal at a time. You have ONE more week to sign up – so act now! Click here for the registration form and contact information. 

A cooking demonstration of traditional foods is always a great way to experience a new culture.

One idea about biblical foods that comes up quite a bit is determining what exactly is the forbidden fruit?  While we have to see that a literal fruit was forbidden, we also have to recognize that the fruit symbolized sin – especially disobedience.  Sin, disobedience to God’s command, is a forbidden fruit. And yes, disobeying God’s commands can harm us. In some cases, kill us!

Saints who prayed before the Crucifix, begging only to do God’s will. St. Francis Church in San Francisco.

The Scriptural concept of “fruit” is not limited to the edible, generally sweet, and juicy produce from plants, vines or trees.  For God, it’s more about what we do – it’s the product of our lives that can feed a hungry soul.

A few years ago, a few of us priests went on a bike tour and had a chance to pick fresh blueberries along the way.

Our Grace Before Meals team works very hard to encourage people to bear good fruit in their lives.  As such, they can feed the soul, which yearns for the Blessed Fruit that hangs from the Tree of Life.  It’s the only remedy we have to combat the destructive poison that comes, even when we nibble, on the forbidden fruits that grow like weeds all around us. 

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Theological College, in Washington DC. Image of Trinity in background show the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sharing a meal from one dish.

To complement our discussion on fruits, I have a great recipe idea for you, which can be used for many different types of fruits.  In this case, I’m using fresh figs, compliments from parishioner’s fig tree. 

Broiled figs stuffed with blue cheese, prosciutto, and a glaze of balsamic and olive oil.



Let us pray:  Father in Heaven, You provide us with the best of foods for the soul.  Help us to avoid the temptation of eating and digesting the forbidden fruits of our lives.  Keep us always hungry to receive the Blessed Fruit of Mary’s womb, and to approach the Supreme Meal of Grace with humbled and contrite hearts.  Through the name of Jesus, our Savior and God. Amen. 

A picture of Jesus praying Grace with his Holy Parents, Joseph and Mary.


  • What’s a unique way that you prepare fruits?
  • How do you explain what is a forbidden fruit to your family?
  • What “blessed fruits” do you or someone you know produce?

Your comments help motivate us to keep doing what we do. Please leave your comments and questions HERE, and know that we appreciate you being a part of our growing Grace Before Meals family.


October 12

Peachtree City, GA
October 13
Pennsburg, PA 
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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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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.


Posted in Dinner Discussion, Food for Thought, Prayers, Recipe, Savoring Our Faith, Vegetables | 1 Comment »