With the Pope in the Philippines, I was tied up with filming new episodes of my show, filming news segments for EWTN, and also doing some radio interviews for Sirius XM 129 – the Catholic Channel. However, the Pope’s words reminded me that reflection on our past is very important. Therefore, it’s a fun and faithful opportunity for me to review how wonderful of a year 2014 was for me and the Grace Before Meals movement.
The Pope speaks to TONS of people in the Philippines (tough to quantify with this image, but you get the picture.)
Here’s my top 10 list of food, faith and family experiences of 2014.
# 10) Filming across the country with EWTN for Season IV of Savoring our Faith.
Me with the EWTN crew at Liberty Market out in AZ
Each episode will showcase a church, restaurant and a recipe that families can cook at home to remember their faith-filled and fun travels!
# 9 Cooking for children can be tough.
Hanging out with these kids up in Boston area in November this past year. They seem to like the pasta and books!
But, I’m always so happy to hear from parents and from children themselves that they like my food, even new foods. Part of the trick is to involve them in the cooking process, have some fun and listen to what they hunger for. It’s our job to feed them. If we don’t, someone else or the devil will! Don’t be scared. But be strengthened to feed your kids!
# 8 Cooking a meal with a good cause with Celebrity Chef Jeff Henderson of “Flip My Food.”
I had fun meeting Chef Jeff (left) and other chefs at the KISRA event in West Virginia in September.
Chef Jeff became an instant friend. I had heard of him from TV shows like Oprah, when he shared his story about how his time in prison helped him to learn important life lessons, like how to cook, how to serve and how to walk the straight path through faith and family! He has a great message and I’m happy to have experienced it myself.
# 7 Celebrity Chef, John Besh invited me, almost like a family chaplain, for his family trip to the Holy Land.
The Besh family pray together at a Church in the Holy Land.
Despite all of the negative news about the place, it’s actually more safe to go there than some street corners in the USA. His family embarked on a family vacation, and now I feel like Chef John, his lovely wife Jenifer, their 4 boys and the in-laws are like my own family. If you’re ever in New Orleans, you have to try a meal at one of Chef John Besh’s restaurants.
As a general rule of thumb, I always make trips into opportunities to retreat, vacation, have fun and be fed. So keep up on gracebeforemeals.com for news about my upcoming pilgrimages.
# 6 My Voluntas Dei Retreat in Quebec, Canada.
This icon shows part of the miraculous stories associated with the Basilica Shrine, Notre Dame du Cap.
I did a retreat at the Shrine in Trois Rivieres Quebec Canada and to also get more in touch with my new priestly mission with Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite. Nearby the founder, Fr. Louis Marie Parent was buried. But this picture shows a unique food perspective and a miracle. When the new priest of this small church community rang the bell for Mass, the only creature to show up was a pig – somehow with a rosary in its mouth. It was a “sign” for the priest to realize that we are all creatures until we take on the Blessed Mother as our own mother. So, he dedicated the building up of this church community to the Blessed Mother!
# 5 Families and Food!
A nice family I met while in Texas.
That’s what we do and that’s who we are! I’m proud to say, that of all of the ministries out there, Grace Before Meals is the ONLY ministry that actively, practically, and dynamically reaches out to families. We don’t need another “program,” “talk,” “event,” or even a “synod.” We need to practice common sense – faithfully, theologically, and tastefully. Please consider helping us spread this message with our movement The Table Foundation.
# 4 Good food is often associated with the young and hip crowd.
Hipsters and food = great combination.
Unfortunately, many faithful Catholics can be somewhat closed minded about the younger, tattooed, pierced, and hipster crowd. But, these young and creative chefs are some of the hardest working people I know. Recently I cooked two simple dishes with Chef Jeff Krause of Crepe Bar in Tempe, Arizona. While he’s not a Catholic, he’s so kind and open to discussing faith. He takes his food seriously and runs his small but awesome crepe restaurant like a church should operate: clean, beautiful, great service and substantial food – not too much, but just enough to keep people coming back for more!
# 3 Evangelization is the reason for why I do what I do.
Steubenville crew, pumped to evangelize.
It’s so great to work with other evangelists, and many of them are secular lay people who are seeking to live a consecrated life. That’s the case with groups such as the Augustine Institute, and this speaking team for Franciscan University of Steubenville, which hosts conferences around the country. The dynamism of groups, such as this one in Halifax Canada, feeds hungry hearts and souls! I’m so proud to be part of this team!
# 2 My family!
Me with my siblings and parents, together for my mom’s birthday.
Of course this has to be one of the top 10 experiences of food and faith. My family is FAR from perfect. We have all of the same problems that the rest of the world goes through. There are strained relationships, different life choices, and of course, strong personalities. But in all of this, we are called to be faithful. While the Scriptures say “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus does not mean we are never to make mistakes. Instead, Jesus is saying, “let your faithfulness be perfect.” Practically, “when we mess up (and we will), let’s learn how to get up from our falls, ask forgiveness and keep walking to heaven.” Our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in love will always be faithful in forgiving us. That’s what it means to be perfect! Our family is FAR from perfect. But we’re all trying to be faithful!
AND the number one Food, faith and family moment for me in 2015 is:
# 1 Being Fed by the Poor in Kolkata.
The work I do seeks to feed those who hunger, but I was truly fed by my experience in Kolkata with wonderful people like this boy.
I was in Kolkata, India, the original place where Bl. Teresa of Calcutta began her international apostolate to serve the poorest of the poor. Originally I was brought over by the sisters to teach a course in Mariology (or study of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of Christ). However, these nuns, their service and the people they served actually fed me. I left there so inspired. Along with the words of our Holy Father Francis, this year I’m going to make an extra effort to seek opportunities to serve the poor!
Let us Pray:
God, you feed in us so many ways. It just takes us the time to reflect, perhaps at the end of each of our days, to consider how your hands were feeding our hungry bodies, hearts and minds. Help us to hunger for your truth through the experiences and good choices of our lives. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Want to be fed in Spain? Spaces are filling up. Call now and reserve your spot for this incredible opportunity!
Please leave your comment HERE and be part of the conversation.
First, allow me to do some bragging as a proud uncle! As some of you may know, my nieces and nephews have have a pop singing group. They’ve grown up, and so has their talents and sound. They have been recently picked up by a popular music agent from London, and their collaboration seems to be very promising for a successful music career. I’d like to share with you a video from their group: JAGMAC (the Letters of their first names in order from youngest to oldest). I think you may enjoy this upbeat song, and perhaps even share it with the teenagers in your life. Our world needs more musicians like my nieces and nephews who seek to put out a popular sound with a positive message. So, allow me to brag and allow yourself to enjoy the music. And please, share this link with the young music lovers in your life!
Watch the awesome video by my nieces and nephews, JAGMAC.
As you know the Holy Father is making his way to the Philippines, my home country! Yes, I was born there and moved to America with my family when I was 2 years old. But, keeping the traditions of the Philippines has given me a healthy sense of what it means to be an American Filipino. You can watch all about the visit, hear me on the radio, and watch me on TV as I’ll be doing some interviews with Sirius XM 129 and some feature pieces and interviews for EWTN.
(Yes, that’s my picture with the EWTN Banner)
Originally, I was going to send you a blast with my Top 10 favorite travels and food experiences of 2014. I’m still going to do that. I promise! But, this week’s busyness, travels, jet-lag, multiple news segments and filming for my own TV show has kept me from writing that special commemorative 2014 Blast. But, it’s coming soon.
(Me with some of my guests for the Savoring our Faith TV show from the Philippines. Chef Matthew and Chef “Dimples” and I cooked all of that deliciousness for just one episode!)
But, for now I’d like to just offer the reminder of a few things that are happening with Grace Before Meals:
(1) The trip to Spain has opened its registration. Spaces are limited so call 800.842.4842 and ask for Susan to reserve your spot.
(2) Savoring our Faith is filming season 4, and we’re traveling across the country and around the world highlighting how faith, food and culture make for a great show. Please keep us in prayer.
The Culinary Assistants from my filming in Arizona.
(3) Here’s a list of places where I’ll soon be traveling. Hope to see you there.
Father, as the Pope makes his way to the Philippines, grant to him good health and safe travels. May he be an ambassador of peace and justice to the world, as he reaches out particularly to the poor and needy. Keep our family of faith together through communion, and help us to bring others to Your Table. Amen.
(1) What do you think of my nieces and nephews’ music group? Please share the music video with the young music lover in your life.
(2) What exciting news do you have coming up in your life?
(3) What was the best thing you ate in 2014 that you still remember even today?
(Of course, I’d have to do a “falsie” – fake selfie! But praying to have a chance to see him up close. Stay tuned!)
Please leave a comment below and be part of the conversation.
Do something new and join me in Spain! Official registration has begun and spaces are limited. It’s the 500th anniversary celebration of the birth of Doctor and Saint, Teresa of Avila and we will be there to experience it. Call 800.842.4842 today to reserve your spot.
It’s early in 2015. New Year’s resolutions may already be broken. At least in my case, some of mine were already put on the back burner. But, every day is a new day of grace, opportunity, and blessings. We just have to recall how God has blessed us in the past, and therefore confidently look to the future.
The Nativity Scene at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Springfield IL
That’s what I hope to do in the coming blasts of this month. I want to do my “best of” experiences in 2014. While my approach may be considered “behind the times” since most groups do this at the end of December, it was just too busy of a time for me to be sincere in my reflection.
So, next week I’m going to do my favorite “Faithful Foodie Travels” – places where I’ve traveled in this ‘record breaking’ year of itinerant preaching.
My most recent trip – a unique “pilgrimage” to NYC with Cardinal Dolan. On my trips, participants experience the unique aspects of the faith, culture and incredible food for body, mind and spirit.
The following week, I’m going to give you my favorite dishes and some recipe highlights from 2014.
Baby Indian Eggplant Parmesan from New Year’s Eve Dinner 2014.
This week however, I want us all to think and plan on how we will grow in our faith this year. Gratefully my new community of consecrated life, “Voluntas Dei, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Rite” helps me with a daily dose of realistic and practical spirituality. Please look into this community and consider joining (or creating) a local team based on a consecrated spirituality. Pope Francis has dedicated 2015 to the year of consecrated life. I feel blessed to be part of it all in a more intimate way.
Praying at the tomb of Fr. Louise Marie Parent, founder of Voluntas Dei Institute.
Besides daily prayer – like daily bread – we ought to consider stepping outside of our comfort zones and go on a pilgrimage. This year, I am scheduled to lead a fantastic opportunity to Spain to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila. I’ll be joined by Patrick Coffin of Catholic Answers Live. Together we will lead the group to some of the most renown spiritual and cultural sites which will certainly help you grow in your faith. I even have non-Catholics go on these trips and experience renewal and conversion. Plus, with me on board, you’ll experience the best of Spain’s cuisine – the majestic and meaningful food culture!
St. Teresa of Avila
Spaces are limited and you’re getting the opportunity to sign up before we start actively promoting this trip in the coming month. So, give a call to Susan Prendergast at 800.842.4842 and see the itinerary HERE.
While 2014 has come and gone, we will remember it’s blessings and learn from our past. And with 2015 already underway, the Grace Before Meals family is excited with all of the new opportunities to connect, food, faith, family and fun!
Let us Pray:
In preparation for the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, let’s recall how God’s grace through the Sacrament of Baptism requires food: Water! May the waters of the Baptism Font and the Holy Water fonts of our church, renew our desire to be God’s children, to be loving brothers and sisters, and to be saints – citizens in the heavenly kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(1) How did you spend your New Year’s Celebration?
(2) What’s your favorite New Year’s Resolution for 2015?
(3) What’s your favorite food from Spain?
(4) Do you have any ideas or suggestions for our Grace Before Meals Family for 2015?
Please leave your comment below and be part of the conversation.
On this most Holy Night, may God’s blessings be upon you and your family. May God look kindly on all of humanity, especially on those who are far from God’s grace, those who do not yet acknowledge Jesus the Christ as our Savior, those who are lacking in the basic necessities of life, those who are hurting in body, mind or spirit.
I invite you to unite all of your prayers, focused on the Child, born for us!
Enjoy my rendition of “Ave Maria” that I offer as a Christmas Gift to you. It’s a clip from the recent “Entertaining Truth” Christmas Special, which you can listen to in its entirety over the next few days on the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM 129. Click Here to listen.
Also, you can CLICK HERE for last year’s rendition of “O Holy Night”, as played with Paul Shaffer on “Entertaining Truth” on Sirius XM.
Catholics traditionally leave the Child out of their Nativity scenes until after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. This prayer, in which we humble ourselves before the Savior of the World, born as a Child in a stable, is the perfect prayer to accompany the placement of the Child in the manger.
The entire family can recite the prayer together in front of the Nativity scene. It’s also a good idea to print a copy to keep near the manger until you take it down, so that you can pray it frequently throughout the Christmas season.
Let Us Pray (A Prayer Before the Manger Scene):
“O Divine Redeemer Jesus Christ, prostrate before Thy crib, I believe Thou art the God of infinite Majesty, even though I do see Thee here as a helpless babe. I humbly adore and thank Thee for having so humbled Thyself for my salvation as to will to be born in a stable. I thank Thee for all Thou didst wish to suffer for me in Bethlehem, for Thy poverty and humility, for Thy nakedness, tears, cold and sufferings.
Would that I could show Thee that tenderness which Thy Virgin Mother had toward Thee, and love Thee as she did. Would that I could praise Thee with the joy of the angels, that I could kneel before Thee with the faith of St. Joseph, the simplicity of the shepherds. Uniting myself with these first adorers at the crib, I offer Thee the homage of my heart, and I beg that Thou wouldst be born spiritually in my soul. Make me reflect in some degree the virtues of Thy admirable nativity. Fill me with that spirit of renunciation, of poverty, of humility, which prompted Thee to assume the weakness of our nature, and to be born amid destitution and suffering. Grant that from this day forward, I may in all things seek Thy greater glory, and may enjoy that peace promised to men of good will.” (Source: www.catholicism.about.com)
Spaces are running out! Click the link to register for an incredible trip to Spain:
I just returned from leading a retreat, pilgrimage, and a ‘taste-and-see-the-goodness-of-the-Lord-tour’ in Napa Valley.
The hills of Napa Valley.
Yes, you heard it! It was a real “retreat” “pilgrimage” with daily rosary, daily Mass, daily meditations, and a daily search to find God!
But you may ask, “Isn’t Napa Valley famous for wine rather than God?” Well, actually, if you go on my tours you will see that Napa Valley is famous for both. Our Catholic Theology requires both to understand the other. “Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands” and “Take, eat and drink in memory of me.” Sound familiar?
Jesus turned water into wine….and lots of it.
Sharing delicious dinners was just another way God blessed us on this trip!
A closer (and humbler) look with a Catholic perspective on the Napa culture, the beautiful countryside, and meeting authentic and genuine hard-working folks helped our pilgrims experience God’s powerful presence. Now, each pilgrim can celebrate and better understand wine, not for itself, but as the instrument through which God reveals Himself in the Eucharist.
The Taylor family and I take a picture on one of the many beautiful spots in Napa.
That’s what I do in my food and faith pilgrimages. I’ve been doing these type of culinary trips to Italy, Israel, Spain, on Mediterranean Catholic Culinary Cruises, and all parts of the United States since 1999. I’ve always led pilgrimages because that’s one way I discovered my own vocation. What I received, I therefore try and share. But my tours have always been a little unique, because I use my passion for food as the vehicle for pilgrims to experience God. Taste and see the goodness of The Lord! Food is the most powerful unifier!
At a tasting in the “Great Hall” at Castello di Amaroso”
Recently Loyola Press wrote an article about Tasty Travelers, and it highlighted how others have recently joined the faithful foodie bandwagon. That’s great news to me! I’ve consecrated our original Grace Before Meals message by putting it in God’s hands. And God has a penchant for multiplying food! I’m so glad to read that others are now taking more seriously a “theology of food” which I describe in my recent book, “Epic Food Fight: A Bite Sized History of Salvation.”
This book will help readers understand why the Food Network is so popular; why restaurants can be more effective than churches in “serving” God’s people; it describes a balanced diet for the body, mind and soul. The book explains how both God and the devil use food as the “weapons” to either save and protect or destroy lives. Epic Food Fight also helps people understand (and hunger) for the Eucharist. Perhaps you can read this to prepare for Thanksgiving – an American “feast of feasts.” It offers a great meditation for the Season of Advent as we await Jesus, in the manger – a word that is closely associated to the Italian word, “mangiare,” which means “to eat.”
At Bottega Restaurant for a special welcome dinner
Please help spread the Grace Before Meals message by learning more about the Theology of Food. Feed your children with good food, enriched with spiritual conversations around the dinner table. I have other books for that too! Click HERE to learn more about our products to help strengthen family life through food! Learn more about our faith and culture by joining me on my tasty travels.
This year’s Napa Valley Pilgrims!We had a great time together and pray for more adventures.
I’m proud to offer a “preview” of the next trip I have planned to Spain! I’ve teamed up with Patrick Coffin, Host of Catholic Answers Live. As your hosts, we invite you to enter into a spiritually deep, divine and delicious experience of our faith in Spain – a land of mysticism and meaningful meals! Spaces are limited, and the past few trips were sold out very quickly. So, don’t delay. These tasty travels will certainly give you so many graces, one bite at a time!
Let us pray:
Father, help us to expand our understanding of faith – not just in our personal prayer, but also in our active search as a pilgrim in this world. Give us a better understanding of why you give us bread and wine as your divine presence at the Last Supper. May a “theology of food” give us inspiration to see food as a sign of love – especially when we share it with those who hunger for You! We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A shot of a vineyard.
(1) Have you ever been to Spain? If so, what was your favorite church and cuisine?
(2) Do you think it would be “easy” or “hard” to experience God in a place like Napa Valley?
(3) Are you a wine-lover? If so, what’s your favorite wine pairing with a traditional Thanksgiving meal?
(4) Want to join our pilgrimage group to Spain? If so, call 800-842-4842 to learn more and reserve your spot!
Leave your responses by clicking below and posting on our blog, or by posting on Facebook or Twitter!
At Chateau Montelena with Judy Barrett, owner of the award-winning wine, and her staff who helped me prepare a mid-day feast!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
(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.