Posted October 29th, 2014 | All Souls Day, Holiday, In Memory, What's On the Table

 Keeping the Dead Alive 

Occasionally I try to send updates with our growing Grace Before Meals Family.  As you know, I have been traveling here, there, and everywhere spreading the importance of family meals and a “Theology of Food!”  If you want to be part of our events schedule next year, CLICK HERE TO BOOK EVENT. These are life-changing events, sure to bring so many people together for faithful foodie fun!
Fr. Leo’s missions pack the churches with families!
During some downtime, I try and stay in touch with the rest of the world by searching for interesting Grace Before Meals connections on the internet.  I came across this unique cookbook that combines food and faith, but with a particular spin, as it involves the Popes!  This book was written by one of the Swiss Guards who shares some favorite Pontifical Recipes. This book, along with my own cookbooks, may be great Christmas gifts for faithful foodies!

You’ll notice the title of this blog seems somewhat morbid, right in line with the Halloween season as it has come to be known. But as October comes to an end, we enter into several sacred celebrations:  All Hallows’ Eve, All Souls Day and All Saints Day! These Feast Days give us opportunities to reflect on family and friends who have gone before us and we pray have experienced God’s mercy in heaven. While it’s easy to put on a Halloween costume, these feast days remind us to ‘put on the virtues’ that make our deceased family and friends so missed.  That means, keeping the faith of our loved ones alive in our hearts, mind and actions!
Click to watch Joe’s tribute video for his Dad, and share your comments about your own loved ones.


Here’s a special video that speaks of “putting on virtue.”  It comes from Joe Hansbrough, the Grace Before Meals project manager. He has a busy schedule too as a young husband and father of 2.  Since I’ve known him, he and his family have shared many personal challenges, including family health problems, the death of a two siblings, and recently the death of his father.  Yet, Joe and his faithful family continue to move on with life because of their Faith in God.
Faith is the stuff that makes family life such a blessing.  Despite the struggles of life, a family has each other to console, encourage and strengthen one another.  I’m so grateful to Joe and his family for the sacrifices made for our Grace Before Meals mission.  I wanted to share with you this beautiful tribute that Joe made to honor is dad.
I hope this video inspires you to see how each member of your family is a gift from God. We’re all called to be this “super hero” to one another.  When we do that, we put on more than a costume for Halloween.  We become who we are supposed to be.
Joe’s son Joshua at 6 weeks old, named for his late uncle. He’s got some family to look over him from above!

Let us pray:

Father in heaven, as our church celebrates All Hallows’ Eve, All Souls Day and All Saints Day, we pray that see the spiritual significance of our prayers by remembering the souls of the faithful departed and by living lives of sanctity so that we will one day share in the eternal victory celebration in heaven.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Please post your comments and answers below as a way to say in touch and to help keep our message focused on faith, family and food!
 (1)  What’s your favorite Halloween Costume?
(2)  How will you remember your faithful departed on this upcoming feast day?
(3)  What saint inspires you the most?





Corpus Christi, TX 



Royal Oak, MI




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Posted in All Souls Day, Holiday, In Memory, What's On the Table | 3 Comments »

Posted October 22nd, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Recipes



Seafood, Sex, the Synod and the Pearl of Great Price

Connecting food and faith is what I do. And if I were to characterize my faith the past few weeks as a food it would easily be that particular shellfish: the crab! Admittedly, hectic travel, news of spreading Ebola, terrorist threats, political mudslinging commercials, rude people in restaurants and airports can make anyone “crabby.”

Sometimes, it is easy to feel crabby, right?


For me, the greatest frustration came when I read church chatter about the recently concluded Extraordinary Synod on the Family. What was supposed to be an honest dialogue about difficult pastoral issues turned into a media circus that distorted Church teachings and made Church leadership look like out-of-touch-mean-spirited-shepherds. According to pop-culture news, sabotage, dissension and mistrust characterized the conversation.  Unfortunately, the labels “conservative” and “liberal” seemingly replaced “faithful” and “compassionate.”


In the midst of these struggles, I thankfully had an event in sunny Florida, giving me a day to walk along the beach and pray. Being close to the ocean reminded me of God’s ocean of mercy.  We all need it! There, I sensed God telling me to help people think of the Church, not as a crab, but as another type of shellfish: the oyster.

Pope Francis called this extraordinary synod to discuss how to pastorally serve the Church’s families, which includes separated, divorced, remarried and homosexual persons. When boiled down, the Church’s leadership was talking about sex and sexual practices that don’t fulfill God’s plan. Sex, as a topic, makes us a little defensive and nervous, like parents explaining “the birds and the bees” to inquisitive children. But it’s about time the Church got practical in its discussion because the spirit of the world talks about sex in ungodly ways! It’s been reported that some synod participants said the Church’s teachings are clear and that “pastoral discussions” are just watering down the Faith, creating even more divide between “progressive” and “traditional” Catholics.  So who’s right?


Enter my previous analogy of the Church as an oyster and how an oyster’s pearl is made. This shellfish, like the Church, always appears tightly closed to protect itself. But in order to survive, the Church’s protective walls are open, like the eye of the needle – big enough for a camel to enter, but difficult for the rich and righteous to enter (Matthew 19:24). A pearl is made when, for whatever reason, foreign substances penetrate even the most tightly-closed hardshell, implanting itself within, like an ‘intruder.’ To protect itself, the shellfish doesn’t discharge the intruder but instead secretes a protective substance, called nacre. Over time, the nacre builds up and it becomes a pearl. What started out as something negative and unwanted within the shellfish, eventually becomes something miraculous and beautiful to behold.

Caught up in the waves.

As I walked the shore, I sensed God telling me that nacre is Grace.  The “intruder” is the sinner who, like a child crying and fussing to be heard, is the future pearl of great price. We all know that some of our greatest saints were the greatest sinners. St. Paul was even a former “enemy” of the Church! How difficult was it for St. Peter and other apostles to accept him in their fold? A sinner’s presence in the protective shell of the Church provides an opportunity for the merciful Lord to do His miraculous cure by covering that sinner with Grace.  In dealing with people, who through sins experience a separation from the Church, it’s tempting to just hunker down, tighten up the shell, or immediately throw out the sinner. Instead, the synod sought to better understand the reality of individual complex situations. It simply tried to surround that future pearl of great price with miraculous Grace. While excommunication remains a viable option for the Church to protect itself, Jesus seemed to reserved that action to only a few instances, such as money changers and the self-righteous at the end of time.


The pearl of great price is not some ideology of puritanical faith, but a result of a miraculous and grace-filled process. We have to trust that God is in charge of that process. God will not allow even confusing or conflicting news about the synod to destroy the Church.  The Fisher of Man is praying for Peter’s Successor, Pope Francis. (Luke 22)

Pope Francis blesses a child.

The challenging synod discussions simply recognized how divorced, remarried people, and any well-intentioned and sincere members of the homosexual community are already within the Church’s protective shell. What do we do with them? Are we trying to “get rid” of them or rather shower them with Grace and patiently wait for the Grace to build up despite our broken nature?


Walking along the beach, praying for more Grace to make sense of all of life’s difficulties reminded me to be faithful, patient and “less crabby” in the process. We’re called to never give up but be faithful and trust that God can use these difficult situations to strengthen our faith, even if we can’t easily see God’s plan. After all, despite the tumultuous history, the Church continues to produce great saints, pearls of great value, making this world a better place.


As I walked along the beach, I prayed for my heart to be a pearl-producing oyster.  Honestly, I still felt a little crabby knowing I had to get on another airplane, deal with security lines and read the news headlines.  But God’s Grace can transform even a tough-shelled crab into something delicious, satisfying and worth celebrating.  It just requires a recipe to boil the “hell” out of the crab, season it with the salt of the earth and earth’s bitter herbs like a blend of chicory, coriander and chives.


There’s good news! The Church IS a pearl-producing oyster. We’re not all crabby!  But, there’s even hope for crabby folks!  Melted butter for dipping and a cold beer.


Click for the recipe for Seafood Stew with crab and a coconut curry cream sauce


Let us pray:

Father, turn us into the pearl of great price by surrounding us with Grace. We know our sins should be an automatic “eject” button for us, but you allow us to remain inside the Church’s family. Transform us into pearls of great price. Help us to be patient and more trusting of the process, especially as the synod deliberates the difficult topics of the day. May faithful people desire to act union with the Pope. May honest disagreement be spoken in charity. Lord, silence our arrogance. Holy Spirit, continue to convert the heart of each synod participant to become like the Good Shepherd – not just in intellectual orthodoxy but also in the practical compassion that welcomed the prodigal son to the feast. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.  


  • Who’s your favorite saint, who just happened to be a former sinner?  Mine is St. Paul.
  • Have you ever found pearls in your shellfish?  What did you do with it?
  • What’s your favorite shellfish?
  • Do you have any good oyster recipes to share with our Grace Before Meals family?


Help us to spread the message by sending this email to your family, friends, parishioners and even your pastor, and post your comments below.


Mesa, AZ


10/25/14 – 10/28/14




Fargo, ND




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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.


Posted in Dinner Discussion, Recipes | 7 Comments »

Posted October 15th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion


  Taste of Travel – Bitter Sweet

I travel a lot.  That’s actually an understatement.

Being an itinerant preacher, a missionary of the new evangelization, and a “roaming restaurant” that seeks to truly feed people brings “bitter sweet” to a whole new level of meaning.  There are times when I ask God a question, even though I already know the answer. But I ask so that I can better understand,  “Why is doing Your (God’s) will so bitter sweet?” Why can’t life just be sweet?
Passion fruit dessert with bitter sweet chocolate mousse
We can learn a spiritual lesson from the culinary world.  The “bitter” is a necessary flavor profile to counteract the overabundance of the other flavors.  Bitter things, such as bitters in drinks or an herb or vegetable, opens up the rest of the tastebuds so we can appreciate sweet, salty and sour.  Bitter foods also have medicinally beneficial qualities.  Bitter greens, for example, break down fats, stimulate the immune system, recharge the body’s metabolism and even cleanse the body. Spiritually, accepting some of the bitter-sweet has that same effect.  Jesus requires his saints to not be afraid of bitter herbs and spices. Truth can sometimes be “bitter” – a hard, but necessary, pill to swallow.
Averna Amaro, an Italian bitter sweet after dinner drink to help digest your meal. Amaro means “bitter”.
For me, despite the bitterness of travel in today’s not-so-sweet-travel experiences, I’ve learned to take the bad with the good.  The tough schedule I have keeps me humble – a hard thing for me to be!  The bitter times help me to more sincerely appreciate the simple consolations of life, like prayer, a walk through the park, a cup of cocoa, and time with my family. The tough travel days also help to toughen my spirit, helping me remember that my faith doesn’t depend on my feelings.  Becoming a “disciple” requires “discipline.”
We are called to carry our crosses in life, through which we prove our faith and prepare ourselves for heaven.


I raise this food and faith topic because I have to ask myself the question, “Do the bitter experiences in my hectic travel life turn me into a bitter person?”  That’s not God’s plan.  Nor should it be our experience.  Faith can help us see the usefulness of bitter moments while not becoming bitter ourselves.
Happy Christians, eh?
Thankfully, I know that bitter sweet challenges provide a realistic understanding of what my apostolate requires.  It reminds me that Christianity isn’t for wimps!  If all I want from faith is sweetness, then I better watch out for the cavities!



Your responses and comments remind me and our Grace Before Meals team of the importance of these email blasts.  Help encourage our efforts to spread good news by sharing this email with family, friends and parishioners.  Post your comments and questions below.

1) What, in your experience, is the most bitter thing you’ve eaten?
2) How do you deal with bitterness in life?
3) How can we avoid becoming bitter?


Let us pray:

Father, you allow us to experience challenging and even bitter moments in our lives. Teach us how to approach difficulties without leaving a bitter taste in our mouths. Keep us humble so that we can accept our crosses, carry them well, and learn from our personal crosses in life.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Palm Beach, FL






San Diego, CA 



10/18/14 – 10/21/14




San Diego, CA


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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.


Posted in Dinner Discussion | 2 Comments »

Posted October 9th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Prayers


Meals, Manners and Moms

During a recent work trip I visited a school run by the Dominican Sisters in Ann Arbor Michigan. This vibrant group of women made headlines when they welcomed into their convent a reporter from Oprah who sought an in-depth look and experience of consecrated religious life.
Novices at the event in Ann Arbor MI.
In the presence of good, holy and Godly women, I can’t help feeling like a child again.  Though I’m a priest, in their presence, I am reminded that I am still a child seeking to be a man of God by becoming a real brother of the Lord.  Yes, they humble me!
Me with the wonderful sisters and some students at the Academy I spoke at.
Religious sisters provide a unique and necessary maternal presence that nurtures, disciplines and loves like a spiritual mother.  We need more of these type of vocations, especially in a world where the role of women and motherhood faces confusing messages from unfeminine-feminists and anti-child-pro-abortion groups.  But God continues to call women to serve as sisters and spiritual moms.  A new reality TV show called “Sisterhood” on Lifetime will chronicle the experience of 5 young women seeking to discern religious life in a convent.

No doubt, children raised by loving moms and dads grow up more mature and healthy.  This doesn’t need scientific studies, but common sense cooperating with God’s grace.  This is the subject of the Extraordinary Synod on families occurring in Rome. 

I probably shouldn’t be taking selfies at school. Now all the kids will thinks it’s ok.
I saw the same positive power of women over children when I recently offered Mass for the Missionaries of Charity, a group of women dedicated to working with the poorest of the poor.  In America, poverty isn’t limited to a lack of income but a definition extending to those who do not have the richness of parents, faith, and family.  These Missionaries of Charity provide spiritual motherhood for men dying of AIDS.  These men were in gangs, tough guys, thugs, and drug abusers who lacked the needed discipline from mom and dad.  The streets raised them, not parents.
The residents returning to their rooms after Mass
At Mass, I found it humbling and slightly humorous to see how the Sisters were not afraid to discipline these grown men.  Despite their rough edges from a life of hard knocks, they now behave like well trained altar servers.  Sit up straight.  Pay attention.  Be reverent.  Be still and know that God is with us.  These are the lessons that come from mom and dad, and in this case, spiritual moms we call nuns.
Sisters praying at Mass.
In this month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, we meditate more intentionally on the life of Christ through the eyes of the woman who knew Him best, His Mother!  We realize that Mary’s role is not “important” but “necessary.”  It may be hard to believe, but Mary taught Jesus the basics of living life well in this world. As a mother, she fed him, taught him how to feed himself, reminded him to share his toys, helped him learn his prayers, and taught Jesus table manners.  In His humility, Jesus was obedient to her even though He was the Master.

Unfortunately, modernity can lack refinement, social graces and basic manners.  Without being overly reactionary by raising scrupulous rigid robotic prudes for kids, parents ought to have a healthy discussion with their children about the basics in life, including manners at our dinner table and the Lord’s Table.

Thankfully, God continues to call women to be more than consecrated “Miss Manners.” Instead, they are called to be our spiritual moms.

Her husband was at men’s retreat, and this mother was “practically” helping their 6 boys to become men of God by bringing them to one of my events.


(1)  What positive lessons do you remember if you were taught by nuns?
(2)  What manners are missing the most in today’s culture?
(3)  Which of the formal manners did you like least as a child?
Post your comments or questions below. Your messages help keep us focused on our message and mission.
Let us pray:
Father, we thank you for the gift of moms and spiritual moms.  As we celebrate a month dedicated to the Our Lady of the Rosary, give us the grace, courage and discipline to pray this prayer more frequently on our own and with our family.  May the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the family be an opportunity for the entire church to remember that we are God’s children, still learning and needing constant reminders of how to live, act and love like His children.  We ask this with Mary’s prayers through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Did you know that Fr. Leo has an advanced degree in Mariology – the study of Mary in the Life of Christ.  If you want to learn more about the Blessed Mother, consider working with our team to host Fr. Leo for an event to grow in our knowledge and love of Mary.  Simply click here for details.

Upcoming Events:


Albuquerque, NM





Rapid City, SD




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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.


Posted in Dinner Discussion, Prayers | 4 Comments »


  Fall into Grace

Fall is my favorite season.  The chillier “sweater-weather” brings some seriously savory foods.  October also brings with it some fantastic opportunities to grow in our knowledge of food and faith.  Since we can get so busy with all of events and travels, I wanted to highlight some upcoming events and news notes for our faithful foodies – that means you!
Fall is a great time to use some extra spice, thanks to the good folks at Tabasco for a great gift of spicy sauces.
Traveling with Fr. Leo and the Grace Before Meals Family:  It’s our objective to make connections between food, faith and culture. The best way to do that is through our culinary and Catholic-infused pilgrimages. These trips have become real opportunities for conversion because it opens people up to new ideas and sensory experiences of the universal faith.
Please be sure to reserve for any of the coming trips and bring a friend:
1) November 9-14, 2014 – Napa Valley Pilgrimage(SOLD OUT)
2) December 1-5,  2014 – NYC with Fr. Leo and Tom Leopold (EXCLUSIVELY for Sirius XM members)
3) June 18-28, 2015 – Shroud of Turin and World Food Fair in Italy with Fr. Leo and Gus Lloyd (SOLD OUT)
4) August 23-September 3, 2015 – Taste of Spain’s Mystical Meals (call now to pre-reserve your spot @ 800.848.4842).
5) October 25-November 6, 2015 – Faith and Food Tours of the Holy Land (Rescheduled from February. Call now to reserve your spot @ 800.848.4842)
Exclusively for Sirius XM Subscribers.
Booking Fr. Leo for Events:
We will soon be opening up our dates for new events in the fall of 2015 and beyond. Consider hosting a Grace Before Meals event at your parish.  If you have a team of people who want to spread this fantastic message, be in touch with our project manager Joe Hansbrough ( who can help you develop one of the most dynamic events your parish, diocese or organization has ever seen!  It’s true!  These events change lives, while having food-tastic fun at the same time.  To book an event, click here.


Entire families come out for Fr. Leo’s events. A great way to bring the family together!
What’s on the Table?  The Table Foundation:
We will soon announce the official Table Foundation Initiative to all of our subscribed members.  So many of our Grace Before Meals members have wanted to contribute and share some of their blessings with our organization in order to help spread the love and to make room at the table for even more members.  Now, you can be part of our non-profit charitable outreach which will do some rather incredible things.  Stay tuned for more information very soon!
We’re excited to launch The Table Foundation and do more good for those most in need.

Let us pray:

Father in Heaven, as we arrive to October, help us to be mindful of the many needs we have in our family and in our communities.  Keep us open to being generous in serving you by serving one another.  Remind us to take time to pray, and teach us how to be ever aware of your abiding presence.  Grant us the courage to be like your saints!  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


(1) Have you ever heard or experienced one of Fr. Leo’s presentations?  If so, what did you think of it?
(2) Do you have any recommendations for chilly weather foods?
(3) What would you like the newly coming “Table Foundation” to do, and how do you think you can get involved?
Your comments, questions and responses are helpful to our organization. Please let us know your thoughts by commenting below.




Troy, MI



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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.


Posted in Events, Pilgrimages, The Table Foundation, What's On the Table | 3 Comments »