Posted September 4th, 2013 | Blast from the Past, Chicken, Past Emails, Recipe



Fr. Leo’s summer is coming to a close, and will be back next week to share some new adventures. We have one more Blast from the Past published at the beginning of 2009. You’ll notice references to things that are no longer the case, such as teaching at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary or drafting Spicing Up Married Life, which came out last year (Get your copy HERE). But the lesson of making time to focus on God and reconfirm your faith is a timeless one indeed. 
Additionally, you should check your plans for next January and May in case you are able to make one of Fr. Leo’s pilgrimages before they sell out!
First, Fr. Leo’s January 19-29, 2014 trip to the Holy Land is almost sold out, so you should act fast to sign up before it is too late. It will be a wonderful adventure with food, faith and an opportunity to walk the same places that Jesus did. Click on the banner to find out more:
Second, Fr. Leo is joining popular radio host Teresa Tomeo Pastore (“The Catholic Connection”) and her husband, Deacon Dom Pastore on a Rome-antic Pilgrimage from May 18-27, 2014, visiting Italy and leading a special retreat for couples. Click on the Banner below to get more information:

And finally, it has been long overdue for another Bite-Sized Theology lesson. This week’s Bite-Size Theology Lesson is about Jesus as a Foodie! Click the picture to hear Fr. Leo’s bite-sized tip, only on 


AUDIO: Click to hear Fr. Leo’s Bite Size Theology for the week.



Retreating to Take My Own Medicine

Originally published January 14, 2009


Each year Catholic priests make a personal retreat.  It’s a time to bring their hopes, fears, and prayers to Jesus.


The retreat is not a helpful suggestion; it’s a mandate enforced by canon law.  Making a retreat is serious stuff.  The reason is simple: we can become so busy that we forget the most important thing we can do in life is pray.

Families tell me how difficult it is to make time for family prayers, weekly Mass, and even to remember to say grace before meals.  If you followed along last year, you will remember how busy it was for us with travels for speaking engagements, taping new web shows, meetings, writing a weekly column, and most important, my day job doing formation work for seminarians.  Believe me; I had all kinds of excuses for pushing my retreat to the last minute.But, with the grace of God I finally fulfilled my 2008 annual retreat obligation.  The last day of my retreat was December 30th, 2008. Talk about pushing the limits!

When the seminarians returned from their Christmas break, they began this year with their retreat, led by Fr. Raneiro Cantalmessa, who is the Apostolic Preacher to the Papal Household.  That means Fr. Cantalamessa preaches to the Pope and all the Bishops who live in Vatican. My retreat and the seminarians’ retreat offered similar themes for reflection, which I’d like to share with the Grace Before Meals family.

One theme was focus on Jesus.  It may seem simple, but it’s quite a lofty challenge. My retreat afforded me the quiet to remember Jesus for who He is: God, the Lord of my life.  That can be a very difficult thing to fully live.  We love to take charge of everything, sometimes forgetting the first commandment. God is God, not me.  Fr. Cantalamessa observed that worldly discussions, whether political, sociological, scientific, or even ecumenical can downplay Jesus Christ. Somehow Jesus remains a very challenging figure for us.  Just consider Christmas; Is it really about the person of Jesus or more about celebrating a happy holiday?  Wouldn’t it be difficult for people today to sincerely say, “I hope you have a blessed Christmas.”  Fr. Cantalmessa’s point accurately describes our “God-lessening” society.  Our busy lives, bad company, expensive or time consuming hobbies, and our own sins can easily distract our focus on the person of Jesus Christ.   That’s why retreats and taking time for substantial prayer is very helpful to regain our focus on the most important person in our faith life.

A second theme was the idea of eating.  On my retreat, I had a small kitchenette to cook all of my meals because the retreat center’s food service was closed.  I actually preferred that because I created some fun, rustic, and soul satisfying food, such as a pan-roasted rib eye with root veggies and fresh romaine salad.

I honestly sensed God’s encouragement to take this Grace Before Meals movement seriously.  I realize that many people may think what I’m doing is just for fun.  I’ve even heard people call it a “priest shtick.”  But, people are truly hungry in body, mind, and spirit, and we have a responsibility to feed them with faith, hope, and love.  This retreat made me refocus my efforts to make sure that we continue to promote this movement, which is now worldwide.  I even used the retreat to finish the first draft of my newest book, Spicing Up Married Life, which contains a combination of essays, questions, and recipes to strengthen a couple’s love for each other. [Editor’s Note: SUML was released in September 2012 and is available here].  So, eating was an important part of my own retreat.

Fr. Cantalamessa also used this theme when he challenged the men to make sure that seminarians are “eating the scroll,” a reference to Ezekiel 3:3.  It’s not enough to just study theology; we must digest it and take it into ourselves as nutrients from food adhere to our very bodies.  He encouraged seminarians not only live in God’s Word, but by eating the scroll we allow His Word to live in us.

When I heard him preach like that I wanted to stand up and cheer. Retreats give individuals and families an opportunity to reconfirm faith.  In retreats, we receive clarity in our concerns.  The quiet of the retreat brings us closer to knowing, loving, and serving Jesus Christ.  I’ll be leading a few retreats and conferences this year. Check out the Events page of the website for details on joining us for these extended moments of prayer.  If you want to make a spiritual pilgrimage with me, please know I have a few spots available for the trip.  We begin in Lourdes, France and make our way to Rome, Italy.  Come and join us. Click here for the information. [Editors note: These trips are no longer available, but you can check out the links above to go to Fr. Leo’s trip to the Holy Land in January and trip to Italy in May].

In these first few weeks of the New Year, there’s still time to look ahead and plan for some retreat opportunities this year (including my trip to Europe).

When I write these weekly blasts, I’m always encouraging families to make sure they have a balanced diet of activities, including time for prayer.  I took my own advice and made the time to go on my retreat last year.  Even though it’s tough to break away from the hectic pace of the modern world, I’m so glad I did.  This retreat left me very satisfied and even hungrier to seek God’s love in my life and to share it with all of you.

Spirit of the Living God


Fr. Cantalamessa shared some of his spiritual renewal experience through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in America during the 1970s.  This much needed life and breath of Catholic spirituality helped many people focus on the Holy Spirit to truly know the enthusiastic power of God in our lives.   During his last homily, he led us in singing a song that asks for the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on us.  At the end of the retreat, the Rector spoke about the privilege it was for all of us, especially seminarians, to listen to the Pope’s preacher.  Both the Rector (left) and our house spiritual director (right), agreed that this retreat was like sitting at the foot of a spiritual master.

Let us Pray:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.  
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. 
Melt me. Mold me.  Fill me. Use me. 

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.

 Rustic Retreat Cuisine


As mentioned before, I had the chance to cook on my retreat.  Don’t worry, I didn’t eat all of this myself.  I was cooking for me and another priest friend, Fr. Tim, who occupied the cabin next door.  He remembered eating my cooking when I was a student in Rome, but hasn’t had the chance to sample my cuisine lately.  Here are some of my menu items: pan-roasted bone-in rib eye steaks with roasted root vegetables and romaine lettuce vinaigrette.  Another evening I made penne with norcina sauce (creamy white wine, sage, and sausage) with a side of sautéed spinach and red onions.

Click here for the Stuffed Chicken with Tomato Sauce.

I also made a stuffed chicken cutlet over spicy tomato rice and steamed broccoli and carrots with a paprika aoli.  The rest of the time, I ate leftovers. Click here for the stuffed chicken recipe. If you have any recipes, pictures, or stories to share, please pass them along to

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView our videos on YouTube
Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Posted in Blast from the Past, Chicken, Past Emails, Recipe | 1 Comment