Posted February 26th, 2014 | CRS Rice Bowl, Epic Food Fight, Events, Faithful Foodie, Video


Dining Diversity

Spice Market celebrating local and fusion flavors

Food has a powerful way of triggering memories.  If we learn how to make foods that bring us to happy places or evoke happier memories, I firmly believe we would be happier people.  The connection between food and memory makes perfect sense when we celebrate the commemorative meal, the time Jesus said, “Eat and drink this in memory of me.”

Celebrating Mass in the tomb of Jesus, Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem.

In this E-mail Blast I’d like to encourage our recent pilgrims and you – our future pilgrims – to consider how the diverse foods can evoke different memories.  In our recent trip, we literally tasted the “bitter herbs” to evoke the passion of Christ.  We sampled different applications of milk and honey that flowed from the Holy Land.  We incorporated the local and imported spices, prepared the fresh picked produce, and learned how to use local foods like dates and sesame seed to create sweet and savory applications.  We improved our palates and learned more about enology while seeing how our faith is very much like a grape seed, which bears fruit, is transformed into wine, and eventually transubstantiated through Grace.

Different flavors – sweet and savory – open market Jerusalem.

At the same time, we fed our souls with different experiences of church styles, architecture, and of course different places that marked the life of Jesus.

The Mount of Temptation – where Jesus conquered the temptations of the devil.

Unfortunately, people may say church is “boring” because it’s “always the same.”  While the tradition has changed very little over the past 2000 years, we can say that we change, and therefore each experience of church ought to be reflective of our lived experience every day. So if people say church and Mass are boring, it’s only because the people in the pews are boring.  And that is not to say that they are boring people, but that they are not engaging the Mass.  They are not bringing anything new to that experience.  They are not evolving in their own prayer life, and therefore, they are “bored” because they are not engaging their senses, i.e., they are “boring” themselves.  People with a true zest for life are never bored. They see each day – no matter how routine or monotonous it may be – to be an opportunity to experience something anew.

One thing we can do is learn how to pray the Our Father in a different language.

On another level, I’ve also heard from people on other tours complain how the food in the Holy Land was “all the same.”  That monotony is certainly a possibility as some trips are “cookie cut” and take pilgrims only to touristic styled eateries.  However, I insisted that should NEVER happen on my trips, simply because our experience of faith is so diverse. God is never monotonous, nor should be our experience of food.  So, I insisted that our foods during this trip reflect the different spiritual experiences we had at the different churches where we had the Feast at Mass.

Pilgrims in the jail where Jesus was “held” on the night he was betrayed.

Creating a forum for diversity worked!  Each day excitement grew with every meal, with every church visit, and with every prayer experience.  While there were certainly some traditional aspects that can never be replaced for the sake of innovation, everyone experienced unique aspects of each church and restaurant.  Diversity in dining, just like the experience of the Divine, is a good thing – as long as it roots us back to the truth of who we are as God’s children. 

Renewing our Baptismal Promises at the more accurate location along the Jordan River.

To help us experience the diversity of the faith experiences as well as the culinary experiences, I listed all the churches where we celebrated Mass along with the different restaurants where we experienced the extension of our fellowship around the dinner table. 

The Church of the Annunciation.

List of Churches:

(1)  Stella Maris Church in Jaifa – where Elijah experienced God in the whisper of the wind, and the center of the devotion of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

(2)  The Basilica of the Nativity – where Mary said yes to the Angel Gabriel and conceived Emanuel – God is with us.

(3)  Cana – where couples renewed their wedding vows.

(4)  Mount of Beatitudes – the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus gave us the Beatitudes.

(5)  Good Shepherd Parish – where the Franciscans run a local parish in Jericho, the oldest city in the world.

(6)  The Grotto – in Bethlehem, near to the place where Jesus our Lord was born.

(7)  The Holy Sepulcher – the actual tomb where Jesus was buried and where he Resurrected.

(8)  The Basilica of the Agony – on the rock near the Mount of Olives.

(9)   Notre Dame – the Romanesque chapel in our hotel.

(10) St. John the Baptist Church – in Ein Karem, where John the Baptist was born.

Flan with sweetened carrots served at the Armenian Restaurant, Old City in Jerusalem.

List of Restaurants:

(1) Amara Brothers – in Cana, where we had local shawarma.

(2) Magdelena – in Migdal, where Chef Yousef prepared the St. Peter’s Fish.

(3) Green Valley Restaurant – in Jericho, where we picked local produce and had a cooking demonstration of a sauté leafy green warm salad.

(4) Grotto Restaurant – overlooking Shepherds’ Field, where we sampled a Bedouin recipe of lamb prepared in a clay pot.

(5)  Eucalyptus Restaurant – where Chefs for Peace provided a feast of local flavors.

(6)  Pasha Restaurant – in Jerusalem, where we ate the traditional chicken dish covered with slow-roasted onions and sumac.

(7)  Notre Dame – wine and cheese on the rooftop restaurant for a private reception.

(8)  The Armenian Restaurant – in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, where Chefs for Peace prepared bulgar wheat inspired dishes.

(9)  A special luncheon prepared by our guides – overlooking the city of Jerusalem; we at local breads, humus, dips; and salads

(10) Rama’s Kitchen – the gourmet restaurant overlooking a mountain pass before our trip back to the U.S.A.

Each day could be just like every other day.  Or each day could be a time to reflect and experience things anew, and see how each day gives us entirely new experiences.  Of course, that is only if we are willing to realize that life is a gift – IT IS NOT BORING!  These 10 days of pilgrimage have forever changed the lives of those who participated.  We all need to do the same.

Selfie at the Wailing Wall, where we were required to cover our heads in humble prayer.




Check out starting next week for Fr. Leo’s weekly recipe from different countries around the world. And be sure to fill your CRS Rice Bowl with change to help those in need this Lent and beyond. 
3 days left to enter contest for a free copy of Epic Food Fight!
Don’t miss out!


  • How do you avoid being “bored” with life?
  • What’s the most exciting trip or life-changing experience you had that convinced you to better each day?
  • What’s the most exotic food you’ve experienced that has expanded your culinary horizons?

Post your comments BELOW and help us spread the Grace Before Meals message.

Let us pray:

Good and gracious God, thank You for giving us a new day and a chance to be renewed each day.  Help us never to fall into the rut of monotony, but to be open to new experiences that will help us be the best versions of ourselves.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sugar Land, TX
Annapolis, MD


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

Posted in CRS Rice Bowl, Epic Food Fight, Events, Faithful Foodie, Video | 2 Comments