Body Vegetarian

Sacred Feast

One of my goals this year is to introduce people to a new way to eat, basing it on a vegetarian diet.  Over the last couple of months, people keep asking me, “how are you doing it?  Can you help me?”

So, I’ve decided to start inviting people to my house, cook them a good meal, give them recipes and cooking tips, and have some fun.  My hope is, that through these “Sacred Feasts”, we might be able to celebrate the fact that, starting with small lifestyle changes, we can be get our health back, renew and strengthen relationships, and enjoy all that God wants to give us.

I’m hosting my first “sacred feast” tonight.  I’ve got five friends coming over, and I’m excited!  We’re starting out with several easy appetizers, including grilled polenta, caponata in phylo shells, and marinated olives.  All served up with a nice Prosecco.

Next, a salad made from lettuce from my garden (yea!), mixed with a classic vinaigrette.  For the main course, Pasta Primavera with roasted vegetables.  I’m pairing this wish a good Italian white wine named Vernaccia.  The grapes used to make this wine come from the area around the beautiful Tuscan hill town of San Gimignano.

Dessert will consist of strawberries with a splash of basalmic vinegar.  Although this sounds weird, don’t be afraid to try it, along with a little freshly ground pepper.  I know… strange.  Try it.  With the strawberries, everyone can nibble on a couple of chocolate biscotti.

I’ll let you know how it all went!


Running in the rain

There was lots of things to do this week, and I got most of them done.  Making it to the gym every other day didn’t happen, though.  I’m trying to be consistent, but sometimes life gets in the way, but I guess you know that.

To make up for it, I thought I’d squeeze in a good run this afternoon.  There were some clouds on the horizon, but it didn’t look too bad. I made it through about three quarters of my jog when this massive wind hit me, along with pelting rain.  I wasn’t paying much attention to the sky, and when I looked up, it was black, black, black.  I was getting drenched, but I was enjoying it.

The wind was so strong, a tree (bradford pear) snapped in half about twenty feet away from me.  I just kept running, laughing as I went.  Now, the funny thing is, in the past all this would have really bothered me.  I would have not been happy that I was getting soaked.  I would have started worrying when trees started coming down around me.  I most certainly wouldn’t have been laughing.

But, now, I’m not letting things get to me as much, especially things that are out of my control.  Getting upset or frustrated generally doesn’t solve the problem.  Remember the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?  Well, I guess there’s a lot of wisdom in that book from, when was it, the 90’s?

So, I think that needs to be my message for today:  Try to enjoy things a bit more, and don’t stress about every little thing.  Being stressed usually adds to the problem rather than eliminating it.

Years ago, I heard a cool little tidbit:  “On the day of your funeral, your in basket will still be full.”  It seems like there’s always too much to do, not enough time.  This weekend, enjoy the company of friends.  See a movie or take a drive.  Visit a park and see some nature.  Whatever it is you do, lighten up and have fun, even if it means taking a run in the rain.


Psalm 46

Over the last week, I’ve been talking to a lot of people about Psalm 46, and it seems as though the comforting words found within it are bringing encouragement  to many folks.    Here’s the NAB translation:

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.

The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah

Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,

Though its waters rage and foam and mountains totter at its surging.  The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah

 Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High.

God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day.

Though nations rage and kingdoms totter, God’s voice thunders and the earth trembles.

The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah

Come and see the works of the LORD, who has done fearsome deeds on earth;

Who stops wars to the ends of the earth, breaks the bow, splinters the spear, and burns the shields with fire;

Who says: “Be still and confess that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah

As I wrote in an earlier post, I think this psalm has important  relevance for us right now.  Nearly everyone I know is facing some type of struggle.  A few  are minor, but others are major and life changing.  The word epic comes to mind.  Anyone trying to overcome these difficulties in isolation is, I believe, almost sure to fail.  The Psalmist writes, not about me, but rather about our and us.  No doubt about it.  We are all in this together, and it’s time to realize how little we can accomplish by ourselves.  Together, and with God’s help and presence, we will do great things.  We have nothing to fear.



Last week, I was introduced to the spirituality of Catherine Doherty.  Called a spiritual giant of the 20th century , she was the founder of Madonna House, a public association of Christian Faithful.  After all my years of doing church work, I’m always surprised to hear about spiritual giants I’ve never heard before.  There’s always more to learn!

Someone loaned me a book of her daily reflections.  Her reflection on peace resonated with me:

In the Gospel, Christ says, “By their fruits you shall know them.”  One of the basic fruits of the Christian life should be peace- a deep, inner peace in each one of us.

What is there to be unpeaceful about?  Difficulties will abound. Trials will dwell with us constantly.  Little pressures and big pressures will encompass us with their eternal  demands.  Temptations will besiege us from within. Loneliness will knock at the door of our hearts. The devil will roar all around us, not only like a lion but like underground thunder.  Mental, physical, and spiritual weariness will chant their endless lullaby. The flesh will seek escape into sleep.

These things will happen, but if our soul remains in its cell of peace, dwelling at the feet of the Prince of Peace, all this will be as if it were not, for peace is the fruit of charity, and nothing can penetrate that cell unless we let it.

I was praying with St. Teresa of Avila, and I recalled her words “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing affright you.  All things are passing.  God alone remains.”

Let us try then to dwell at the feet of the Prince of Peace.  Let us work in the noonday darkness, in the many dark nights of  the spiritual life, holding high the torch of peace. If we do that, then faith will become strong, the vision of our priorities will be clear, and peace and love will grow.

Body Ignatian Spirituality Mind Spirit

Resolution Review

Well, it’s been about five months since many of us made our annual New Year’s Resolutions.  I was trying to remember mine, so I guess maybe I haven’t quite met them.  Hum…

USA Today did a study where researchers tracked individuals who made New Year’s resolutions.  They divided them into two groups:  (1) Those who made a resolution and wrote it down, and (2) those who made one but didn’t write it down. The results were astonishing.  Of those who neglected to put their goal down on paper, only 4% kept their resolution, however, those who did write it down, 44% kept them.  That’s a ten fold increase!

So this got me thinking.  Did I write them down somewhere?  If I was smart enough to, where did I put that paper?  Maybe you share in this dilemma?

Well, whatever those goals were in January, they are still probably relevant today.  So, maybe its time to start over.  If you didn’t make at least one resolution, then maybe we can all set some goals together.

Here’s some easy tips:

  • Write it down.  Put it in a prominent place, or somewhere where it won’t be lost.
  • A goal must be achievable.  Maybe you could have two, one easy, and one that is challenging.
  • The goal must be measurable and specific.

There’s a lot of info out on the net, including a website set up to help with goalsetting,  I haven’t spent a lot of time on the site, just pointing out there’s help available.

So, what are my goals going to be?

  1. Keep working on my diet and exercise by maintaining my present weight and making it to the gym at least three times a week.
  2. Set up opportunities to share with people the importance of getting healthy, body, mind and spirit.
  3. Getting a vegetable garden planted by May 1st.
  4. Complete the Spiritual Exercises and start sharing with others about the experience.
  5. Finally start my Sacred Feast dinners, inviting people to my house to share in the cooking and eating of a healthy meal.

So, folks, those are my goals/resolutions I want to keep for the next several months.  If you have some goal/resolution you want to work on, post it in the comments section of this post.  Let’s cheer each other on!

Soups and Stews Spirit Vegetarian

Brother Victor

For the last several months, I’ve been cooking from two great books, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and Sacred Feasts.  Both were written by Brother Victor-Antoine, who is the cook at Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery in upstate New York.  These are great books, and more importantly, they both hold very simple, tasty and easy to prepare recipes.

From Brother Victor, I learned that for centuries, monks were for the most part vegetarians, eating meat only rarely.  Most of the food was grown within the monastery walls, and sometimes people would bring whatever they had in abundance to share with the monks. It was all fresh, all local, all good.  Just a caveat.  Brother Victor uses a fair amount of heavy cream, butter, cheese, etc., but I’ve easily adapted the recipes and they turned out great.

As I was finishing up weekly meeting with the person guiding me through the 19th Annotation of St. Ignatius, she gave me a book to read over called Blessings of the Daily, also written by Brother Victor.  It’s a day by day entry into monastic thought and prayer.  Also worth having on your shelf.

Writing about “Doubting Thomas”, Brother Victor notes,

several early church writers mention the fact that perhaps Thomas was jealous of the other Apostles who claimed to have seen the Lord.  Others remark that perhaps Thomas resented the fact that Christ appeared to the group, knowing full well of Thomas’ absence.  Other commentators speculate Thomas didn’t feel obliged to believe the other Apostles, for they were not always trustworthy and had abandoned Jesus during his crucifixion.

Jesus himself, full of compassion, uses the occasion to teach Thomas and also the rest of us about the value of faith, the necessity of trusting in him.  Faith will always remain a challenge for us as it will for future generations, but Jesus assures a blessing to those who without seeing him shall trust in him and believe in his words.

If there ever was a time to trust in Jesus’ words, I think it’s now.

Ignatian Spirituality Spirit

Starting off right

I love to watch the sun come up, sipping a fresh cup of coffee.  I have a small patio just outside my kitchen, where I’ve got a table and chairs.  A ceramic image of Mary and the baby Jesus that I purchased in Florence years ago hangs on the side of my garden shed.  As I look to the East, the sky changing from dark to light, from peachy red to creamy yellow, my focus shifts between the  light of the new day and this little ceramic image. Its a great way for me to begin again.  I usually say the “gloria” during these few minutes, and I thank the Lord that He is a God of second chances.

No matter what I did yesterday, I can start again.  If I focused on the wrong things, I’m given the chance to re-focus.  If I wronged someone, I’ve got another twenty-four hours to right it.

During the winter, or if the weather is bad, I have the same experience by looking out my second floor window.  If it’s raining, I still pray this way, knowing that the sun is still coming up behind the clouds, even though I can’t see it.  Rainy days remind me that God is moving whether I can see it or not.

I’m grateful that there is some on-line help too.  I love the three minute retreat from Loyola Press.  After I pray with the sunrise, I usually make my way, with my second cup of coffee, to the computer, see what’s new, and end with this on-line prayer.

My mom starts her day by visiting Sacred Space, a website produced by the Irish Jesuits.  She’s been visiting this site each day for years.  Growing up, I don’t think I ever even heard of the Jesuits, much less met one.  But now, they influence me through the three minute retreats, wonderful books about Ignatian Spirituality (Try Inner Compass by Margaret Silf) and through the internet.  I’m in the last days of making a 34 week retreat based upon the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  It’s been a life-changer.  More about that another time…

Italy Travel

Ah, Tuscany Pt. I

Frances Mayes is out with a new book entitled Every Day in Tuscany. Mayes is the author of several books about life in Italy, and she is one of my favorite authors.  I’m about half way through this latest memoir, and so far, it hasn’t disappointed.

Her writing style is such that she draws you into the story, the experiences, and its as if you get to meet the people, share the food, drink the wine, see the sights right along with her.  I love it.

I was talking to my mom last night about the book, and she hadn’t heard it was out yet, but I think she’ll head out today and get her copy.  Several years ago, my family took at trip to Italy, and stayed in Cortona for a few days.  It is a beautiful little hilltown, and we wanted to see for ourselves what drew Mayes and her husband Ed to settle in this place that seems to date from forever.  We weren’t disappointed as we ate in the little tratorria she loves, bought perfectly ripe peaches from the frutta e verdura shop the size of a postage stamp that she buys her produce from.  We visited the museum where Fra Angelico’s magnificent  painting of the Annunciation hangs, bought plates and cups in the traditional pattern of Cortona.  At Christmas, I bring out my copy of the Annunciation and hang it on the wall in my living room.  When I’m depressed about something, or want to celebrate a special occasion, I eat off those plates.  For a moment, I’m back in Cortona, enjoying the sweet life…

Mayes draws you in to her experiences, and she leaves her readers longing for a little taste of la dolce vita.  As we were leaving Cortona, my mom asked the cab driver if he knew were Bramasole, the abandoned house Mayes and her husband had restored.  “Si, si,” he replied, and off we went into the hills.  Bramasole, which means to “yearn for the sun” in Italian, is not the grandest house, but I would take it in a heartbeat.  My mom noticed the windows were open.  “Are they home” she wondered?  We stood outside their gates, laughing, taking pictures, dreaming about what it would be like to live in this place.  I love the picture we have of my mom, with a big smile, standing at the gates of Bramasole.

In this latest book, Mayes writes that, even though the people at the gate don’t realize it, she and her husband do hear the laughing, the conversations, good and bad.  As I read this, I kicked myself that we didn’t yell up that day.  My mom would have loved to have been invited in to look around.  She may have decided to stay another day…

In my mind, there are few places in the world that get me dreaming as does Tuscany.  I’ve lead several tour groups there over the years, and after the last one, with the weak dollar and sky-high prices, I said that was it, no more tours!

That lasted about two years, and as I write this, I’m beginning to plan a fifteen day trip all over Italy for the summer of 2011.  I’m ready.

Catholic Church Spirit

Be Still

Several years ago, I had the chance to visit the Grand Tetons with my family.  I asked “how come no one ever told me about this place?”  I had never heard of this mountain range before, and it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.  It would be on my “top ten things to see before you die list.”  Make the trip!

It seems like the last few days have been very chaotic.  Things are just crazy, whether it be things going on in my family, the Church, our country.  Will it ever end?  As I was sitting at my desk yesterday, an email came in inviting me to a day of prayer.  The title of the mini retreat was “Be still and know that I am God,” and within ten minutes, I had signed up.

The presenter began his first talk by asking the question, “who could have perceived the hostility we face today?”  It seems we face it at every turn, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that God knows what He’s doing.  He’s in control, and He’s faced similar hostility before.

In his reflection on Psalm 46, where the theme of the retreat came from, the presenter spoke of the power and majesty of the words of this psalm.  The first lines, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, (v2-3)” immediately spoke to me.

Instead of going crazy and getting upset about things I have no control over, I need to turn it over to God and trust that He’s doing something, even though I may not perceive it.

Fr. Paul  said that what’s often missing in us is the stillness of God. He asked us if we had ever thought about whether we were being called to  a place of stillness.  For some, this is where God speaks most clearly.

In order to have intimacy with God, there must be a constant returning to Him, over and over. It doesn’t matter what sin has come back into your life and alienated yourself from God, return back.  Fr. Paul said a contemporary translation of this psalm uses the words, “Let go and let God”  to remind us that He is in control.  The extent we can let go will determine the extent He will be exalted.  Pray in faith.

The next time I’m stressed out and overwhelmed, I’m going to close my eyes and visualize myself standing in front of the Grand Tetons on a beautiful spring day.  No matter what is happening around me, I will be reminded that sometimes, I just need to be still, and know that He is in control.  “The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge”(v.12).

On a different note, if you want to check out something really cool, click the Vatican’s newest page:

It will open up to a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel.  Amazing!  Be sure to notice that up in the right hand corner of the Last Judgement, you can see an area that was left unrestored in the 1990’s.

Catholic Church Spirit

Easter in Baghdad

The priest holding the Paschal Candle is Fr. Tyson Wood, a good friend of mine.  His message to his friends this Easter was “You know, no matter where we are (dark places or times) the Church continues its faith mission of bringing people to Christ.”  Amen

Please pray for Fr. Tyson’s safe return, scheduled in the next several weeks.  God bless him and our troops.