Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fr. Leo Patalinghug - Priest, Chef, Martial Artist

The priestly garb matches his black belt in karate perfectly.

I’ll be frank, tabbies and tigers: we’re invisible.* If we’re not invisible, we’re being ignored, if not ignored, then we’re seen for the lies that people say about us. As the late great Bishop Sheen once said, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”

However, that little intro isn’t to get you riled up against the world. It’s to motivate you to be your cool self, to be the best you can be with your gifts, because if you can’t reach people through your impeccable theology (as if anyone had this), you just may reach them through your talents. And here is where Fr. Leo E. Patalinghug does a karate flip into the kitchen and proceeds to serve Bobby Flay on national television. That is, he served fajitas, thereby besting the renowned Food Network chef in kitchen combat (Throwdown, not Iron Chef), and gaining attention for his Grace Before Meals movement.

The movement, compromised of a book, a TV show, events, and the participation of many, many people, may be summed up in the slogan: Stronger family, better food. It has its roots in when Fr. Leo used to cook for his St. John’s Church parishioners in Westminster, Maryland. Those opportunities were precious, self-evident moments of bonding, and they were what led to Grace Before Meals the book.

Fr. Leo’s love for cooking and his priesthood are not mere happenstance, however. It was while attending seminary in Rome that he started talking and exchanging recipes with local Italian chefs. They taught him rigatoni and lasagna, and he taught them hamburgers and ribs. Before the seminary and his call to the priesthood, he owned a martial arts school with his brother, where he presumably served up knuckle sandwiches in a masterful fashion.

But it's food that brings us together, and it isn’t just a way to share something delicious; it is a way to truly interact and learn from one another. Of course, in times like these, it is ever more important that we bind together, especially on the family level. We might as well be cool about it and throw a barbecue or two.

*The article is actually about pro-lifers, but I ask you, who is the largest pro-life institution in the world?

More on Fr. Leo: