04 September 2008

Start a Change with Prayer: Grace Before Meals 4 September 2008

I'm handing over most of my space today to Fr Leo Patalinghug of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, USA, who was born in the Philippines but grew up in Maryland. He uses his talent in cooking as part of his apostolate to families. He has many other gifts. You can find a link to his blog at the bottom of the page.

I never read his recipes, as I know little or nothing about cooking, though I can claim a number of very tenuous connections with Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for Vice President in the US Elections. I did a supply (filling in for the regular priest - if there is one) in Skagway, Alaska, in June 1991. There's no resident priest there. I also celebrated the first Mass organized by the Filipino community in Juneau that time. After Mass, in typical Filipino style, there was a pot-luck dinner to which everyone was invited. Tourists from 'The Lower 48' who happened to be at the Mass - it was a Sunday afternoon - were amazed and delighted.
(Church of St Therese of the Child Jesus, Skagway, AK).

Sarah Palin also hunts moose. I'm not an advocate of hunting, but I'm probably the only Columban priest who has cooked moose liver - and four times at that, during a supply in June 2005 in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, Canada, which I first visited while in Skagway in 1990. The two places aren't too far from each other as the crow flies, but I don't think too many crows make the journey.

(Our Lady of the Way, Haines Junction, YT)

The parish priest had shot a moose the previous winter and put the meat in the freezer. He otld me I was welcome to use any of it while there. One night I took out what I was certain was a steak. Next morning I found it was moose liver. I cooked one big portion for lunch and the second for supper, since I thought you weren't supposed to put defrosted meat back in the freezer.

Next time I made doubly sure that what I was taking out of the freezer was a steak. I was certain it was, since I could feel the 'bone'. Alas, it was moose liver again. It tastes pretty much like cow's liver, not too bad, and is 'good for you'. However, you can only eat so much of it! After that I just bought meat I could see at the local supermarket.

One area where I have more than a tenuous link with Sarah Palin is respect for the unborn child and respect for persons with disabilities, especailly those with mental disabilities. I can truthfully claim that I have helped quite a few young women in Bristol Palin's situation in practical ways and on 14 September I'll be attending the annual pilgrimage of members of Faith and Light in Manila. This is always held on or near the Birthday of our Blessed Mother.
Over now to Father Leo

Start a Change with Prayer!
This past weekend marked a time of much change . The celebration of Labor Day in the U.S. begins a transition from the lazy days of summer to the busy start of the school year. This weekend, the seminarians began their first full week of the new semester, while college students got acclimated to their new courses. For seminarians and students, that’s a big change . Finally, this past weekend in the St. Joseph Cathedral of Wheeling West Virginia, I witnessed the wedding of a young couple whose lives are now transformed in the Sacrament of Marriage. Here’s the before and after picture.

Change is inevitable, and yet we often forget that it will happen to us. The father of the bride, in a heartfelt speech, recalled the many changes he experienced watching his three daughters grow from newborn babies to married women. And now with his youngest daughter married, he humbly admitted he never expected this change to be so difficult!

The fact that we are creatures of habit means we crave stability. Stability is a good thing; however, a life without change can lead us to a life of routine, which a s comfortable as it seems, will only dull our senses, stunt our emotions, and limit our potential to grow. Change is tough , but it is necessary for growth. As Christians, we are on a pilgrimage throughout life and are always changing. It’s called ongoing conversion.
After one year of seminary formation work, I realize how good change requires prayer. The orientation period for seminarians provides great opportunities for prayer and our new men need it. They faced a tough week of learning what it means to be a seminarian, a completely new lifestyle for them. The men took time to re-orient themselves through prayer t his weekend while they were on a silent retreat. They prayed like they have never prayed before! I snapped this picture of the seminarians asking for prayers at the tomb of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, buried less than two miles from the seminary.
Talk about a saint who experienced change. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was an Episcopalian wife and mother, who became a widow at a young age . Her biography tells us she accepted these changes through prayer. She experienced even more change when, after years of serious prayer, she converted to the Catholic Faith, despite the possibility her family might disown her. She moved from big city Baltimore to very rural Emmitsburg, MD. She took on a religious habit with a mission to educate poor children. While raising her own children in very poor conditions, she felt the pain of having to bury three of them. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton handled each of these changes with such prayer and grace that she eventually experienced the greatest transformation of all: she was canonized a saint. Prayer is the only thing that will get us through difficult changes. This time of year, accepting your kids have grown up and are going to college can be painful. It’s hard for me to accept that Tim and Megan Watkins, now off at college, are the same children in the original Grace Before Meals video trailer that was filmed 6 years ago! Check out the trailer and you’ll see how quickly they have grown up.

If it’s hard for me to accept they are growing up, what’s it like for their parents? For students leaving home for the first time, the experience can be a painful change, too. Believe me parents, I do a lot of talking with college freshmen who are a bit sad to be away from home. Yes, they miss you too! This change isn’t easy for them either.

I consider how seminarians must also change but from within, which is the most difficult change to make.
Prayer doesn’t always change the situation, but it can help us understand and accept the lessons that change brings .
This past weekend marked a change for many of our Grace Before Meals families. When it gets tough accepting these changes, you may want to slightly modify your g race before meals. Instead of rushing the prayer before you eat, take some extra time and say an special prayer for parents feeling the change of an empty nest; for newly married couples living a life no longer for themselves but for the other; and for seminarians called to re orient their lives to do the Father’s will.
Timmy’s Meal Before College: Beef and Zucchini

FYI: Timmy Watkins is the second of Tim Watkins' three children. Tim Watkins is the producer of Grace Before Meals and a good friend who has invited me to his house for dinner on many occasions, though I usually do the cooking! H is wife is a great cook and kind enough to give me free range of her kitchen. Timmy has been my assistant chef for many of these meals, but this meal was my going away gift to him before he left for college.
Click here for the recipe.

A Prayer to Say During a Change in Life

Heavenly Father, help us to accept change with grace. Help us to ask for grace when change comes into our lives. Help us to see how these changes, no matter how painful , can be great sources of grace for us! We ask this through Christ o ur Lord. Amen!

Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.
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