LENT is here, and my video, as part of the #ShareJesus campaign, kicks off this forty-day journey! Redeemed Online is seeking to bring brief videos and guidance from a number of speakers, including Mark Hart, Leah Darrow, Fr. Mike Schmitz, and more straight to your inbox each day in Lent. CLICK HERE to read more. You can sign up for #ShareJesus here!
#ShareJesus Video 1: Ash Wednesday- the shocking good news
It would be silly to think that we can get all the religion and holiness we need in just 40 days of Lent. But it’s a good start. A good and holy life requires just that: an entire LIFE! These 40 focused days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are reminders of Christ’s suffering and the suffering of Christians and innocent people around world. In the midst of the economical challenges, weather-related problems, promotion of dysfunctional relationships in movies and music, and of course, the Muslim extreme terrorist groups who are making new Christian Saint martyrs by their hate-filled religious ideas, it’s helpful to take this focused time of compassion to better understand and follow the heart of the True God – who feeds, comforts, and heals. The ‘god’ who creates fear, division, and war reveals how Satan, the anti-Christ, is alive and well. In these 40 days, we enter into the desert with Jesus and do battle with the devil. But, our weapon of choice is restraint of our passions and unleashing the Holy Spirit that gives us Joy!
Winning over souls requires joyful people who are joyfully in love with Jesus
So, today and for the next 40 days CELEBRATE your faith. That means, live it joyfully! An authentic practice of our faith doesn’t indoctrinate or force a conversion of people. That’s what the Muslim terrorist groups are doing. Instead, truly celebrate your faith in Jesus joyfully. In this way, as Pope Francis reminds us, we will win many hearts for the Lord – the true God and giver of Life!
Recently, the US Ambassador to the Holy See invited me to his home, with a few seminarians from the Pontifical North American College, after a day of cooking for a religious home that cared for women and their children involved in human trafficking.
To help you celebrate in this Lenten Season, consider these internationally inspired recipes from the CRS Rice Bowls. The food is tasty and the recipes are easy enough to follow. You can even switch it up a bit for your family’s mealtime needs. During dinner, be sure to have conversations about the country and the people who inspire these CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen recipes. When we dialogue and have healthy conversations with people, we experience conversions. Yes, conversations lead to conversions. In this 40 days of Lent, begin an authentic conversation with God (called prayer) and see who the Lord will bring to your table and next mealtime celebration.
Click to watch how to make Ugali with Bean Soup from Tanzania, courtesy of CRS Rice Bowl’s Global Kitchen and Fr. Leo.
Food for Thought:
(1) Have you ever made a CRS Rice Bowl Recipe? Which is your favorite?
(2) What’s your favorite go-to-Lenten-Friday recipe?
Please offer your comments below as they help us and our community continue the Grace Before Meals conversation. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Consider bringing Fr. Leo and the Grace Before Meals message or some of his other fantastic presentations to your parish, clergy convocation, or keynote event. Click here for booking information.
Let Us Pray:
(Prayer from the Ash Wednesday Liturgy from the Roman Missal)
“Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”
You all know what next week is, right? Yes, it’s Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent – that most wonderful time of the year! It’s that time to more intently and proactively connect with God through the disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. This Lent, we reconnected with our human family and the CRS Rice Bowl Global Kitchen to share with you some good news and good recipes, perfect for the Lenten Friday Fasts. So, stay tuned for weekly recipes!
However, in preparation for Lent, we have a tradition of “Mardi Gras” – which simply means “Fat Tuesday” prior to the Lenten fasts. For the fun of it, I’m sending out a very meaty blast, perfect for Fat Tuesday. I made this dish while I was in Rome, visiting a few friends. While it’s somewhat decadent, it was a reminder that God’s generosity fills every hunger – especially the hungers of the soul. And while this recipe definitely hit the spot for our hungry stomachs, it was our time of fraternity and friendship around the table that nourished some longing in the soul. Thank God for good food and faithfully good friends!
Click the image to get the recipe for Mushroom and Sausage Stuffed Pork Cutlet.
Food for Thought:
(1) What’s your favorite Mardi Gras Menu?
(2) How can you prepare for Lent as Lent would prepare you for Easter?
(3) What’s your favorite way to prepare pork cutlets.
Let us pray:
In this last week prior to the Lenten Season we pray O Lord, that you sustain us with the grace to know you, love you and serve you. Help us to remember that as we soon prepare to enter into the Lenten Season that you are the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, who satisfies every hunger and every need. Yet, remind us that we, who are called to receive you in the Eucharist, may be transformed into you loving presence and help those in need – body, mind and spirit. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
By definition, “passion” comes from the Latin verb, “Pati.” It doesn’t mean passion exclusively in a sexual sense. It actually means “to suffer.” True passion means love worth suffering for. It’s the kind of love that made Valentine, the martyr for Christ, the inspiration for St. Valentine’s Day. It’s no coincidence that Cupid’s arrow painfully piercing the heart is a popular symbol of love. Love and passion don’t always feel good.
St. Valentine. Not quite as cutesy as a little angel with a heart-shaped arrow (Picture courtesy of www.history.com)
In light of the controversial highly female-erotic movie based on the popular book to be released on St. Valentine’s Day, I wanted to offer a reflection that can hopefully respect the many different opinions about this film and the topic of love. Since everyone else is talking about 50 Shades of Grey, I instead want to talk about “50 Shades of Grace”!
The classical philosophers note that love has many dimensions, generally characterized as “shades” or ways of understanding love. Philosopher and Theologian, CS Lewis describes the Greek understanding of storge (affection), philia (friendship), agape (a Godly love of charity), and eros (erotic or romantic love) in his book “The Four Loves.” While the commercially popularized fiction novel-turned-movie 50 Shades of Grey may not be the best context for discussion, all the talk about this movie shows a real need to discuss the topic of eros for the modern world.
People of faith cannot be afraid of the topic of human sexuality. There just needs to be a better place to discuss the inner secrets, longings and our human need for physical love in a world that is so broken and inhabited by people equally broken. While the commercialization of this topic is shameful, we have to overcome the shame that people have when discussing this topic.
Young Couples from the Manila Philippines, some of whom are connected to the movement, “Couples for Christ.”
Where is the best place to discuss this topic? Our faith teaches us that we ought to talk about these topics in a few different places – and the movie theatre is not the best place! Instead of talking about this topic so publicly, it is best to start a conversation with God in prayer. Yes, God won’t blush if you’re honest with Him in prayer.
Another place to discuss this topic, especially if we let the brokenness get the best of us, is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession isn’t a “counseling” session per se. The priest – especially an experienced confessor who has heard a lot of confessions – can tell you that private sins, if brought to the light of grace in the Sacrament can be a real opportunity for true and humble love. Confession really provides education about this sensitive topic – which is much more than a novel or movie can offer.
Finally, another place to discuss this very private topic is with your spouse. What should be obvious is not. Admittedly, many couples do not know how or have the courage to share their concerns about physical intimacy or sexual needs with their spouses. Despite the age of information, many couples are uninformed or misunderstand the church’s very positive outlook on human sexuality. Certainly, the Church’s teachings approach the topic of sexuality with sensitivity but not out of embarrassment. It is always out of respect for the power eros possesses. Eros has power to do great-saint-making-good, but also great destruction. It requires a sensitive, honest, and faithful discussion!
One of the many couples who attended the Marriage Enrichment Night near Pittsburgh.
A priest can’t stop a person from watching the movie or reading this book or other books and movies like it. It is interesting that even many secular observers have deemed this movie raunchy, seedy, or inappropriate for public consumption. That should be prevention enough! Perhaps in prayer you may realize that God offers you a better experience of love – all shades of it – if we allow Him into the inner, most intimate recesses of our hearts. While the content of the book and film will raise eyebrows, and in some regards, bolster the efforts of a misguided sexual revolution, it remains a legitimate topic that ought to be discussed. My questions and challenges for you are where, how and with whom ought this discussion take place?
The title of this email blast “50 Shades of Grace” came from my meditation on the 50 beads of the Holy Rosary. Yes, Mary was a passionate woman. She can really help women understand the deeper meaning of love. On St. Valentines Day, do something romantic and passionate with your spouse: pray the rosary together. It’s truly more than 50 shades of Grace!
As you prepare for St. Valentine’s Day, use this opportunity to learn more about what the Church teaches about marriage, sexuality, intimacy and couple’s conversation through my book, Spicing Up Married Life. This book has been used by marriage preparation programs, couple enrichment nights, and couples across America. Counselors use the book to help heal and strengthen those relationships that need God’s grace. Couples who have used this book develop an understanding of the theological language of marriage. They begin to appreciate, not fear, the Catholic Church’s very positive teaching on human intimacy, sexuality, and the need for all types of love – including romance! Consider this book a gift for you and your spouse, fiancé, or a couple preparing for marriage.
Click to order the book online in time for Valentine’s Day!
In our world where love and sex can become mutually exclusive or confused, it’s always helpful to know that there is someone you can talk to about your deepest desires of love and intimacy – the true doctor, the Divine Physician. Let God pull you out of the grey areas of this topic and bring you into the light of true love. The Doctor will see you now!
Let us Pray: Lord, teach us how to love. It’s so easy to get caught up in the confusion of emotions that we get lost on our way as we seek the Love that fulfills. We pray for those who are hurting because of unbridled and abusive power of the eros. We pray for those caught up in the industry that confuses sex for love. We pray that none of us become destructively critical, but humbly aware that these sins – no matter how embarrassing they may be – are ultimately forgivable by God’s loving mercy. Help us to love dear God as Jesus taught us by his Passion! Amen.
Food For Thought:
(1) Do you have a book title to help you understand the church’s teaching of human, physical love and intimacy?
(2) What special meal do you have planned to celebrate St. Valentines Day?
(3) How can you make God a more intimate part of your relationship with your spouse?
Do something romantic for Valentine’s Day and consider giving a trip of a life time! Join me and Patrick Coffin to Spain, and learn about the “Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila” and the mystic Spanish Doctors who help us to know God as the Beloved!
It’s always nice to read from our email subscribers. Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads these things, and if anyone cares. Sure, people like recipes, looking at pictures and getting up-to-date info, but what matters most to our Grace Before Meals team is when Grace actually makes a difference in someone’s life. Well, God certainly answered my question with this email that I’d like to share with you.
The Cathedral of Manila where Pope Francis Celebrated Mass
Dear Father Leo,
My husband and I met you when you visited the our church last year and I wanted to thank you for your inspiring talk on marriage and your genuine interest in all of us that were present. The food was excellent, too! I can’t tell you the impact you had on me and my husband. He is still talking about that night and your teachings.
The owner and family of “Mary Grace Cafe” hosted a special Grace Before Meals event in the Philippines. To book your special event, click the picture.
My brother’s family has been splintering over this past year that communication completely broke down between the children and parents. I have been praying for healing and for a prayer that would help protect his family from evil. When I read the prayer you sent out, my heart leaped! This was the prayer I was asking for. My brother left the Catholic Church many years ago for other Christian denominations, so I was a little hesitant to send the prayer to him. But I did anyway. My brother loved the prayer and began praying it. Two days later my nephew called his father and as I have been told, healing has begun for the family. This truly is a miracle! There is a long way to go, but with Christ’s help, it will happen. My brother has sent the prayer to his daughters to pray and other friends and family.
One of the families’ restaurants that will be part of the upcoming episodes of Savoring our Faith, Season 4.
I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit guided you to send out this prayer.
Thank you for your vocation. May God continue to strengthen you and guide you.
May God Be With You,
So good to know that a little act like passing on an email can bring about a little miracle. It takes courage to share good news. It takes faith to believe that prayer works. When I send out these email blasts, I say a little prayer that our little gesture opens your heart, mind and soul to receive God’s generous love!
The Little Sisters of the Poor are taking good care of Cardinal Keeler, retired Archbishop of Baltimore, who ordained me. I had a chance to pray with him at the Sister’s prayerful nursing home.
FYI: Our trip to Spain with Patrick Coffin continues to fill up, so please call as soon as possible to register yourself and be part of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. We’re going to celebrate the 500th anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila’s birth. It’s a real taste of Spain’s faith, food, wine and culture. Call 800.842.4842 today!
Let us Pray:
Father in heaven, you generously provide us the grace to know love and serve you. In this desire to do your will, we sometimes do not know if we’re on the right path or not. Please give us the necessary grace and even your confirmation through the support of the people you love and the people we are called to serve. Thank you for the encouragement of our Grace Before Meals family and bless them always, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
– How has the Grace Before Meals movement helped you?
– How can we be of better service to you?
Please leave your comment below and be part of the conversation.
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.