Father Leo on food, family and faith

Father Leo Patalinghug and one of his yummy concoctions.

Father Leo Patalinghug and one of his yummy concoctions.

By Maricar CP Hampton

Father Leo Patalinghug dons an apron as regularly – and as comfortably – as he wears his priestly vestments. He delivers the word of God from a kitchen counter and uses a chopping board to convey his message of faith.

“Christianity is all about being fed by the body and blood of Jesus,” he said.

Father Leo said his cooking homilies were inspired by Jesus Christ who, according to biblical narrative, broke bread with his apostles as he preached.

“I am simply following in my Master’s footsteps, using a dash of biblical truth and a pinch of humor to spread the Good News,” he told The FilAm.

It all began as a joke, he said. His friends asked him to try sermonizing via a cooking demonstration. It would be a good opportunity, they coaxed him, to talk about faith and family.

“It really started after September 11 because we were supposed to go on a retreat which was cancelled because of some airline problems. And on retreats I cooked the meals and they have suggested that I do something for TV. They thought it would be fun to hear a priest’s prospective on faith and family tied in with food,” he continued.

On his way to becoming the Wolfgang Puck of his diocese, he met a television producer for a cable company. Thus was born the movement called Grace before Meals, which connects families to Christ’s teachings as well as to Father Leo’s recipes for bacon brussels sprouts and coconut bourbon cream chicken.

Grace Before Meals seeks to encourage families to strengthen their relationships by having regular family meals at a dinner table.

“What I am trying to do is help people understand that what they hunger for is not only food for the belly but also food for the soul,” he said.

Born in Gatangan, Masbate, Father Leo and his family migrated to the U.S. when he was 2 years old. His father, a physician, found work in Baltimore, Maryland. He was raised in a traditional home where respect for elders and home-cooked meals were a big part of family life.

“Eating has always been a part of the Philippine tradition, where we eat anything from sinigang to pancit and lechon. All these celebration foods are part of my culture,” he said.

His fondness for cooking was inspired by his mother.
“My mom was a good cook. People like our food and so my friends would always come over when I was a kid because my mom could cook so well,” recalled Father Leo.

While at seminary school in Rome, he learned to cook Italian food and developed a passion for the culinary arts.
He describes his style as “fusion,” where he takes flavors from different cultures and tries to give a nice, new twist to classic flavors. He is partial to Filipino and Italian cooking.

He said, “I have no personal ambitions. I don’t want to be famous, nor do I want to be on TV. I don’t even care about money. I became a priest for those reasons. My ultimate desire is just to get to heaven. And I think one of the ways I’d do that is making sure I listen to Jesus when he asks me did you feed the hungry?”

Aside from being the founder of Grace Before Meals, Father Leo is the parish priest at Our Lady of the Fields Catholic Church in Millersville, MD.

“I look at Jesus and see he was always moving from village to village always giving people some good news, which is definitely satisfying,” he said, again drawing parallels between himself and his Creator.

On April 30, Father Leo will be a guest speaker at the screening of “The Blood & The Rose” at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia. The film tells the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s miraculous appearance to Juan Diego in 1531, asking him to spread the Catholic faith. It debuted in January at the historic Warner Theater in Washington D.C. It was filmed in Spain and Mexico.

For more information visit: http://thebloodandtherose.com/events/.

Father Leo and Bobby Flay

Father Leo and Bobby Flay

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