Tag Archives: Fr. Leo Patalinghug

Genuine, receptive listening opens people’s hearts

The month of February is dedicated to love, no matter how dreary the weather may be in some places. Annually honoring Saint Valentine’s Day reminds couples to take their relationships seriously. A romantic dinner, kind gestures, love letters, and gifts express one’s love for another. But what couples really crave, in my opinion, is someone who will listen. Not just sit there and say, “yes dear,” but truly listen — with all one’s heart, mind, and soul.

Listening is loving. It’s a lost art today. Even with the most advanced communications technology, we don’t know how to listen as people made in God’s image and likeness.

This month we might take note and give loved ones what they want most: a sense of being heard and loved.

People know me as the “cooking priest,” and may ask, what does listening have to do with food and cooking? Quite a lot, actually. It relates to the ability to discern what another is hungering for and trying to communicate. It’s like the unconditional love parents instinctively have in listening, hearing, and understanding what a crying child is trying to indicate. It’s the love that God has for His children when the scriptures say, “What father, if his son asks for a fish, will instead give him a serpent?” (Luke 11:11).

Let’s consider some simple lessons about listening with the heart:

We sometimes hunger for things that aren’t good for us. Our Good God, a loving listener, will sometimes respond to our requests with a revolting taste, bitter herbs of truth, or a “time out” in order to heal disordered appetites. Do we know how to communicate what we really desire?

Listening to a person isn’t just understanding words, but grasping the totality of the person’s experience. Are we courageous enough to listen without judgment?

When it comes to loving disagreeable spouses or challenging family members, it might require us to ask ourselves, “What is God trying to say to me when I speak to this person who is tough to tolerate?” Do we know the “lesson” God is teaching in such difficult encounters?

Listening isn’t easy. Yet, God listens to us – and truly hears how our hearts, bodies, and souls grumble. Our job is to listen as God does, which requires discernment, faith, and every Christian virtue. This month, give the great gift that God gives – learn to listen to each other, and in so doing, love one another.

LEO PATALINGHUG IV DEI, priest, author, speaker, TV and radio host, founder of Plating Grace and The Table Foundation. Learn more at FatherLeoFeeds.com


Coconut Curry Mussels • Serves 2-3

Fresh, edible mussels will ‘open up’ when properly cooked. Providing the right ingredients and atmosphere can likewise help people open up in healthy conversation.

1 1/2 pound of mussels, cleaned
1 Tbsp butter
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup white wine
2-3 Tbsp yellow curry powder
1 can coconut milk
1 -2 tsp of “fish sauce” (found in the international section of market)
1-2 tsp of soy sauce
2 limes (1 juiced, other cut into wedges)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili pepper (or favorite hot sauce)
2 tsp honey
1-2 Tbsp of Cilantro leaves (or parsley)

Serve with 4-6 pieces of crusty bread, or 1/4 lb. cooked angel hair pasta.

In a large pot, melt butter and sauté onions and garlic. Add wine; cook for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add yellow curry powder and mix together before adding the coconut milk, fish sauce, the juice of one lime, salt, pepper, and honey. Stir together. Carefully add mussels to pot; mix together, then cover for 2-3 minutes, or until mussels have opened. Stir all together so mussels are coated with the sauce. Plate with extra lime wedges, top with cilantro leaves, and serve with crusty bread or pasta.

Love like Christ’s warms guests at the table

I’ll admit, the popular image of The Sacred Heart of Jesus didn’t always inspire me. My grandmother had it pinned on her wall. Jesus was shown with His hair parted in the middle, head slightly tilted, looking very concerned like an “active listening” counselor. He also had an exposed heart crowned with thorns, pierced, with a little flame on top. It was puzzling to me at the time.

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

I appreciate how the Sacred Heart image focuses on Jesus’ heart, because it shows His passion and desire for people to know His love in order to share in it. And I can easily see in my mind’s eye that Jesus frequently sat at a table eating with sinners. Not only is the Feast of the Sacred Heart celebrated this year on June 8, but it is commemorated on the first Friday of each month. In asking Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in His apparitions to her in the late 1600s to help institute the Feast as well as the first-Friday devotions to His Sacred Heart, Christ is really revealing the great “fire” in His heart representing his ever-burning unquenchable love for us, and His desire to be loved in return. In the Gospels, He likewise revealed this love when He met people at the table.


The table is the place where Jesus shared His Sacred Heart in exchange for the heart of the tax collector, prostitute, foreigner, and the hard-hearted. His heart was utterly visible and understandable with His disciples in the Upper Room, and at the Sea of Galilee when he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” “Feed my sheep!”

Jesus’ sacred, shepherding heart is the reason why I started www.PlatingGrace.com, www. TheTableFoundation.com, and especially my new effort, a podcast called, “Shoot the Shiitake with Father Leo.” As an “audio cast,” I do more listening to my guests – people of all different backgrounds – including the type of people Jesus would meet at His table (i.e., sinners and those far from God’s love).

Because of the Sacred Heart, I endeavor to engage this divided world, creating true dialogue and opportunities for conversation and hopefully conversion. While I can’t give everyone the Eucharist, I can represent the Presence of Jesus with my own heart, as I try to unite through listening, sharing, and feeding people who are hungering for the love of Jesus in their lives.

The pious image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one that may not be readily understood by everyone, but if we receive the Eucharist, then we are called to become the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart to others. What does that look like for you? I hope the image becomes more clear to you at your next dinner gathering — with family, friends, your “enemies,” strangers, and foreigners, sinners and saints alike.

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG, Catholic priest, chef, TV & radio host, best-selling author, renowned conference speaker & corporate presenter, founder of GraceBeforeMeals.com.


Shiitake Mushroom Cream Pasta

1 pound of linguine or spaghetti, boiled al dente
1/2 pound of shiitake mushrooms, brushed clean and
sliced thinly
1 anchovy filet
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
2-3 Tbsp. of fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup of white wine
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp. of black pepper
1-2 tsp. of grated parmesan cheese per serving
2 tsp. of salt

Cook pasta al dente, reserving 1 cup of starchy pasta water. In large sauce pan, melt butter and add anchovy filet, mashing with fork into smaller flecks. Add shallot, garlic, parsley and sauté until shallots soften and are translucent. Add mushrooms and sauce for 1 minute. Add white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add whipping cream and cook over low heat. Add sauce to pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Add the starchy water, a few tablespoons at a time, and mix the pasta into sauce until desired consistency. Serve with more minced parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

Decorous disciples transcend food Pharisees

Dieters often ask, “With all the cooking shows and eating excursions, how do you stay healthy?” I jokingly respond, ”As a priest, I wear black clothes. It’s very slimming!”

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

Though I could stand to lose a few pounds, I don’t give in to diet fads, whether a pill or plan to get skinny quick. Getting healthy, like developing faith, has no quick fixes – it’s a daily determination, a lifetime of disciplined choices.

Secondly, while I’m happy for those who’ve experienced dramatic weight loss, I recognize certain methods guilt people into unhealthy attitudes.

When it comes to food choices, guilt should never be the motivating factor because it can preclude a person from authentic enjoyment of what God has provided. Rather, the Catholic answer is discipline and moderation.

Discipline, rooted in the Greek word “discipulos,” means “student.” The more we become food disciples — in learning about food — the healthier our diets become without resorting to “going on a diet.” I’m not talking about scrupulous calorie-counting, but a better understanding of how foods are prepared, the effect they have on genetic makeup, moderating eating, understanding portion control, and learning how to boost flavor.

I was recently asked to cook and present a thesis on “theology of food” and our “Grace Before Meals” movement before a group of diners. Preceding the dinner event, the host contacted my organization to inform us someone was on a strict low-carb-no-sugar-no-red-meatno-fat-diet. I appreciated the information because I want to prepare something everyone can enjoy, and I relish culinary challenges. What I later discovered annoyed me. The person had no food allergies, no religious restrictions, and no medical reason to avoid certain foods. This person was healthy, quite thin, and perfectly able to tolerate all the foods I would prepare. The reason for the “strict diet” was partially for eating healthy, but more of vanity and pride – to look good for a family member’s wedding in a few months. Seriously?! Sigh

Diets have become a debilitating cult for some. Jesus gives us a humble approach when he says, “Eat what is set before you” (Luke 10:8). It’s Jesus’ way of making his disciples more approachable and effective. If the disciples judged people because of diet, they would have limited their ability to develop authentic relationships with those they were called to serve, either as dinner guests or spiritual shepherds.

Food disciples are also food missionaries, willing to venture beyond their comfort zones. Food disciples are NOT diet nazis. Instead, they possess diet knowledge and social decorum. They know an occasional, modest piece of chocolate cake, a little wine, two strips of crispy bacon at Sunday brunch, and even a mouthful of natural carbs are not mortal sins!

Relax, celebrate delicious foods on occasion, practice moderation, and avoid being a food Pharisee.

As Catholics, we must maintain healthy bodies as temples for the Holy Spirit, by becoming disciples about everything we put into our mouths and disciplined about what comes out of it. In Matthew 15:11 Jesus says, “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”

A sincere food disciple puts Jesus’ culinaryinfluenced-teaching into practice, especially in today’s diet-demoting world that now shuns the daily carbs of The Daily Bread.

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG, Catholic priest, chef, TV & radio host, best-selling author, renowned conference speaker & corporate presenter, founder of GraceBeforeMeals.com.


Tantalizing Sweet Potatoes — A Healthy Side

1 sweet potato or yam, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch thick discs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. paprika 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Combine in a large bowl the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon and paprika and whisk together. Add the sweet potatoes and mix ingredients to cover all sides of the potato. Layer potato discs onto sheet pan, spacing apart evenly. Place sheet pan in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender & slightly charred. Serve as healthy starchy side dish.

A tool of the New Evangelization: An olive branch at dinner

A priest, atheist, anarchist and satanist walk into a restaurant. Sounds like the start of a bad joke? But it was real. I was the priest.

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

On a recent food and faith pilgrimage, as I was leading a tour of a basilica, three men from Sweden started following along. At the end of the tour, they politely asked me questions about the Catholic faith. Since time was limited and I’m always interested in evangelization, I simply invited them to dinner. Fortunately, food and drink lubricated our conversation as I learned about their very diverse and controversial backgrounds.

This dinner gave me another opportunity to extend an olive branch — not as a sign of agreement, but as a way to make peace. Jesus ate with sinners and encouraged us to dine with our enemies and those who can’t pay us back.

Effective evangelizers know that mealtime is the perfect opportunity, par excellence. This situation was no different. Dinners communicate desire for communion, and they form us as servants. Dinners demonstrate love. Therefore, I go out of my way to eat with people who wouldn’t be considered good Catholics — or even believers. I let them know that God loves them enough that he wants to eat with them through his sacred ministers. At dinner, we become better “disciples” — a Greek word meaning “student.” Dinners help us to become disciplined listeners.

In this unique dinner, in between bites of porcini pasta, I learned how these men had been fed a healthy dose of confusion and bold-faced lies. I was hopeful that their questions implied they were still seeking the truth. Their self-imposed titles of “atheist,” “anarchist,” or even a “satanist” were definitely subject to interpretation. I chose to see each as a “child of God” with potential for great conversion and sanctity! I don’t claim to be smarter than them, but I realized that all of my prayer and study paid off. I sparred with their flawed logic, posed questions making them rethink their own positions, and even convinced them that Jesus was a man worth following — even if they questioned His Lordship.

It turned out to be a great dinner. No joke! There was no immediate “conversion,” except in me. I realized that I needed more practice to imitate Jesus who won over many by his dinner conversation skills. He did it by extending an olive branch to those who feel far from God’s love. He tells us to bear good fruit, especially in our love for one another. We’re called to evangelize. If you don’t know where to start, consider extending an olive branch and serving really good food!

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG, priest member of Voluntas Dei Secular Institute, is a best-selling author, speaker, radio and TV host, awardwinning cook, director of the Grace Before Meals movement, and founding chairman of The Table Foundation.



Porcini Pasta

1 lb tagliatelle (or other noodle pasta), cooked al dente
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup dried mixed (or dried porcini) mushrooms soaked in 2 cups of hot water
1 cup fresh porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2-3 tsp fresh parsley, finely minced
2-3 tbs white wine
1 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to instructions and set aside. Remove hydrated mushrooms from hot water. Reserve mushroom water. Chop mushrooms into small pieces. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil. Add dried mushrooms and fresh sliced mushrooms to hot oil. Add garlic, 1 cup mushroom water and white wine. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta, remaining mushroom water and butter. Add fresh parsley. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and pasta is fully heated. Serve immediately. Add parmesan cheese, if desired.

The theology of food: Something to chew on

Let’s discuss mastication.

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

Now that got your attention! But now you realize that I wasn’t talking about lust-related sins. Instead, I’m referring to something more profound: the act of “chewing” deliberately and slowly. Mastication processes food’s essentially healthy properties making it easier for the body to digest. It’s what good dieticians say we must do: Chew your food well!

Unfortunately, the fast-food mentality inspires the tongue-in-cheek pre-meal blessing: “Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Whoever is fastest gets the most. Amen. Let’s eat!” Similarly, we no longer take time to digest well the essentials of our faith. It becomes like “fast food.” If you don’t believe me, watch the number of people who leave Mass immediately after Communion. Ask yourself: “How often do I rush personal prayer?”

To help us digest our faith, Legatus magazine now offers this food-centric column. As the “Cooking Priest,” I’m happy to be part of it. My work has developed a “theology of food,” connecting faith to the culinary world, family life and modern culture. These articles are not about recipes in the kitchen, but a recipe for faithful living.

At Legatus chapter meetings — and even secular and corporate events around the world — my keynotes include a cooking demonstration filled with lessons for life. Participants are enticed with the aroma of sautéed onions and garlic because the sense of smell is more powerful than hearing words. I show how sacred scripture — sharper than a “double edge sword” (Heb 4:12) — requires daily practice lest we turn it into a spear, rather than a plowshare (Isa 2:4). We discuss how feast day foods have power to make us all a little more religious, even on non-religious holidays like Thanksgiving. Faithful foodies better understand why God — who could become anything to demonstrate his power, authority and love — chose to become food: a sip of wine and a piece of bread.

We know it’s substantially much more than “bread and wine,” but do we digest (comprehend and incarnate) why God chose to manifest his authority, power and love through humble bite-sized elements? Perhaps one way God demonstrates love is by satisfying what we hunger for the most: We hunger for God.

In his Confessions, St. Augustine said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” A culinary perspective would add: “Our grumbling stomachs, hearts, minds and souls will never be satisfied unless God nourishes us with himself!” In humility, the eternally uncontainable God became something small and digestible because it’s the only way he can fit into our small minds, shrinking hearts, and our diminished spirit. God knows we have all taken a bite of the forbidden fruit, and so he sends the one-bite remedy of The Blessed Fruit! He becomes food to save us.

There’s so much more we can say about food and faith — and this column will. But it requires us first to be hungry. Taste and see His goodness (Ps 34)! Chew slowly.

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG, priest member of Voluntas Dei Secular Institute, is a best-selling author, speaker, radio and TV host, awardwinning cook, director of the Grace Before Meals movement, and founding chairman of The Table Foundation.

LEARN MORE: gracebeforemeals.com


Pan Seared Filet Mignon

2 filet mignon (4-6 oz)food-2
2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh chives

Use a paper towel to pat dry the room-temperature steaks. Heat olive oil in an oven-safe sauté pan over medium high heat. Season both sides of the steak with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Carefully add steaks to the hot oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side for a rare steak. For medium steaks, put the pan in a 350-degree oven for another 6-8 minutes, or 10-15 minutes for well-done. When cooked to desired temperature, place steaks on a warm plate to rest 5 minutes before serving.


Angelic Rice (Serves 2)food-1

2 cups pre-cooked rice

1 tsp butter
1/8 -1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Fra Angelico liqueur (hazelnut infused liqueur)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2-3 tsp fresh chives (or parsley) finely minced

In the same pan as the steak, melt butter over medium heat. Add the Fra Angelico and flambé or simmer for about 2 minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Add the pre-cooked rice and cream and stir together. Salt and pepper to taste. To serve, add some rice to a plate, top off with the filet mignon, and garnish with fresh chives.

One family at a time

Father Leo writes that family meals improve and strengthen family relationships . . .

Fr. Leo Patalinghug

Common sense isn’t so common. That applies with poignant accuracy when it comes to finding solutions to society’s ills. Americans spend billions without results, but improvement doesn’t characterize the results, especially when observing society’s microcosm: the family. Perhaps we ought to spend something more valuable than money — time with our families around the kitchen table!

I once naïvely supported a movement to repeal Maryland’s “blue law,” which restricted commerce on Sundays. Shopping overshadowed the reason why businesses slowed down one day a week in the first place. The reason: to spend time as a family. My attitude was shaped by a secular world that force-fed me to believe that material gains equal happiness. Eventually, this prodigal child came to his senses! Mea culpa!

My previous attitude, though not sinful per se, was wrong in se — and at best unhelpful to the goal of improving society. Our microwavable fast-food-paced society has made families hunger for all the wrong stuff. Indicative and symptomatic of this ME-ology (rather than obedience to the wisdom of THEOlogy) is the ironic and even hypocritical lifestyle of today’s family. Parents work extra long hours to sacrifice for the family, but instead are sacrificing the family.

Another painful reaction is the starvation for a family meal. Commercializing Thanksgiving demonstrates the reality of a family meal’s unmistakable importance. Do we eat with enemies? Then why are family meals eaten together so rare?

Enter “Grace Before Meals,” a movement I started with the entrepreneurial skills of Tim Watkins, president of Renegade Productions and member of Legatus’ Baltimore Chapter. This worldwide movement actually started off as a joke. But God’s sense of humor showed that something simple in His hands can be used to feed the masses.

Grace Before Meals is built on the simple premise that a regular family meal can improve and strengthen family relationships. However, it’s more than food. The shared wisdom of the family, coupled with the inspired wisdom of the Church (our universal family), is transmitted to children around a very important desk: the dining room table. The table is where Jesus taught some of his greatest lessons. He offered more than just food. His greatest lesson of love was eventually turned into a culinary command: Take this all of you, eat and drink, for unless you eat the Body and drink the Blood, you will have no life in you. It’s a sin not to share in the Lord’s Supper because we are starving ourselves by not eating the Bread of Life and not drinking the Cup of eternal salvation.

In all of its simplicity, a regular family meal is a simple step for a better world, even if it’s a hard pill to swallow for busy people. A poll conducted by the Associated Press and MTV asked teens: “What makes you happy?” The No. 1 answer: spending time with family. Go figure! Maybe the pop culture mentality of modern media will finally air shows like Grace Before Meals that encourages (rather than poking fun at) traditional families. Perhaps media should eliminate (or at least stop producing) shows that promote desperate household infidelity, which subliminally encourage divorce as something more normal than “normal” families.

Grace Before Meals (the television pilot, cookbook and movement) has been given positive media coverage. We’ve been featured on the CBS Sunday Morning Show, Fox and Friends, PBS Religion and Ethics, the front page of the Washington Post. I’ve traveled the country giving presentations, cooking demos (including the most recent Legatus Summit) and retreats built around the great gift of food!

We were given a great boost in publicity when the Food Network filmed some segments for a show I thought would be about our movement. While the show did highlight the importance of a family meal, it also turned out to be a surprise cooking competition with one of the world’s greatest celebrity chefs on Throwdown! With Bobby Flay.

God’s grace was with me on that day. I won the competition! This fun opportunity was truly “religious” in that it brought family, friends and even celebrity chefs to the dinner table. It shows that Grace Before Meals is never limited to a 10-15 second prayer before you eat. Grace occurs when we do something loving for one another, like feeding God’s flock.

Some people ask if I want to do more TV cooking competitions. My standard response is: “I want to cooperate with God’s plan — even if I have to simply stir the pot and feed the flock.”

If God wants me to share in his mission to save the world’s families, then I must start serving up satisfying meals — beginning with the Food and Drink that I serve at every Mass.

Yes, God wants to save the world and our families. And he can do it one dinner table at a time, beginning at His dinner table. Happy feasting!

Father Leo E. Patalinghug, STL, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a faculty member at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. He is the author of “Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life.” To learn more, visit gracebeforemeals.com

Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life

This cookbook is a resource for bringing families together around the dinner table . . .

patalinghugGrace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life
Leo McWatkins, 2009. 162 pages, $17.00 paperback

More than a cookbook, this is a resource for parents who want their children to know that they can always talk to their families. The book helps parents encourage their children’s growth in character and confidence. Father Leo takes practical ideas and a real-life approach to discussing important spiritual themes that impact busy families. He mixes it with a combination of recipes related to personal milestones, family holidays and faith observances to help parents create an environment for honest communication.

Order: Barnes & Noble