Father Collin Poston is pastor of St. Anthony Shrine in Emmitsburg and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Thurmont. He is also the creator of vignettes called "Inspire/Ask-the-Pastor." 

He enjoys the mountains, writing, contemplation, photography, 
steamed crabs, and - of course - the Baltimore Orioles. Reach him
on Twitter
: @FrCollinPoston

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Dust and Dewfall

Reaching the final destination





It is hard to believe, but we are now (already) approaching the season of Lent. It is one of my favorite seasons. It is all about personal conversion, which we all need but don’t always necessarily like.

As a person who likes to exercise, I think of Lent as my “personal trainer." My trainer guides my through physical exercises, such as weightlifting, stretching or aerobic/cardio-types of exercise. Like most of us, when he pushes me, I’m not really enjoying it at all (and that is the greatest understatement of 2017; the last workout I had, I nearly collapsed on the floor when I finished!) It’s hard and I don’t like it. But he continues to push, to test, and encourage all the while… and the end result is that I get stronger, more athletic, and most importantly, healthier.

Lent is like that too.

Often in our hectic, noisy and rushed world, it is difficult to pray or perhaps even to “slow down” enough to get into a prayerful disposition, not to mention strengthening our own personal disciplines and devotions in prayer. The season of Lent challenges us to go deeper with God in prayer. Fasting, too, is something none of us really like to do. If we did, it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice. Lent challenges us to fast, simply put, so that we can “give up” for God, so that we can more readily give more and more to him.

Almsgiving too, is a Lenten practice and challenge. Through it, in a more intentional way, Lent reminds us of our unity and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this world. All of these help us to be “trained” and get stronger, more faithful, as Catholic Christians. This season of penance is hence not a burden, but a gift. Christ shouldered the burden and heavy weight of the cross, and our sins, on the mountain of Calvary, “Good Friday,” to save us and get us to Easter Sunday and resurrection – new life!

As the “Ceremonial of Bishops” states, Lent “is the special season for the ascent to the holy mountain of Easter.” So, let’s start “mountain climbing” my friends. There is nothing so exhilarating as reaching the top of a grand, high mountain you’ve hiked- reaching that final destination.

Easter – and Heaven – is that destination for us.

February 28, 2017 01:39
By Father Collin Poston


God’s work of art: the Beatitudes and you


One of my great loves both in the form of a hobby and also in our Catholic culture is natural photography and art, particularly sacred art. The reason I am drawn to it is simple: beauty. 

I enjoy taking pictures of beautiful things -- a sunrise, a newborn child of a friend, a fresh snowfall untouched by footprints or car tracks, or a unique flower, plant, bird or my hyper-spastic black-furred Pomeranian puppy, Otto! I also always try to get a picture of a newly married couple after I’ve finished their wedding. Sometime I might just take a “family photo” as a form of a memory just like you often do at Christmas or other special times.  

All of these are “beautiful.” As once said by a great author, “the world will be saved by beauty.”

The “Beatitudes” [Matt 5:1-12] begin with the words “Blessed are.” They are like Christian art. They are, lived out, most beautiful. Something that is beautiful attracts our attention. It stands out; it is different from normal. We are transfixed by it. When the Beatitudes, the first of Christ’s teachings in the “Sermon on the Mount,” were given, they “stood out” – they were different, and we find them beautiful, though we may not understand them fully at first glance.




The great theologian and author Hans Urs Von Balthasar says that, like beautiful art, the Beatitudes are like a self-portrait of Christ:

“He begins his ministry of proclamation with a self-portrait that invites his listeners to follow him” [from his book, “Light of the Word.”] When we see the Beatitudes in action – which when we really contemplate it, are at striking odds with what the world would consider “happiness” – we mysteriously and beautifully see God. We see Jesus! The Beatitudes are an image of Christ himself. Put another way, in very modern, current language: the Beatitudes are like “God’s selfie.” When you take a “selfie,” smiling, with your I-phone camera, you send it to a friend or someone, or you post it on your Facebook, it shows everyone your beautiful face!

So, if Jesus is the “face of God the Father,” then the Beatitudes are – today, right now, in 2017 -  like the selfie of Jesus! They show us the face of Christ present to the poor in spirit, who must rely on God and his grace in every matter of life; through meekness and mercy, shown through being humble, and giving forgiveness to those who have wronged us; through purity of heart, a right, pure intention, and a courageous chastity within a culture that constantly provides challenge and temptations; through making peace in the midst of a division and conflict; through a mourning, a grief over the death of someone you loved; through a hunger and thirst for that which is right, that is particularly seen in active social justice and standing up for what is right (I particularly think of the March for Life just a few days ago, which had a much more “satisfied, victorious” tone this year); and last but not least, in the willingness to be persecuted and suffer at times for identifying oneself as a Christian, as a Catholic.

These qualities, characteristics are not the first things that come to mind when the average person thinks of happiness or beauty – but seen through the lens of faith in Christ, that looks toward a life beyond this one, it is precisely so. It is indeed beautiful. Like any piece of art, it takes time to complete, and the painting, the sculpture, becomes more beautiful as it is completed. This is what God does with us if we choose to live the Beatitudes - and the beauty is shared to those around us.

As you know, the common translation of “blessed” is “happy.” What is important to know is that the Greek word for “blessedness” and “happiness” is not so much an emotion or feeling the way we often use it: it is rather to describe someone in a fortunate, even advantageous situation. For as one recent biblical commentary notes “in Jewish tradition beatitudes either commended those who take a certain path of life, or promised future consolation to those in affliction and suffering.”

What if, when we find ourselves in material or spiritual poverty or perhaps weak in spirit, in a time of great grief and mourning, or risking the loss of a friendship, professional or family honor through the attempt of being a peacemaker or because of a burning thirst for righteousness: what if we then remembered: fortunate are you? Advantageous are you: indeed, blessed are you?

With a little grace, God can help us to see that our challenges, struggles and obstacles are actually real fortunes, true blessings. What an advantage we truly have.

January 31, 2017 01:00
By Father Collin Poston


In him we find his joy - and ours

As we begin the new year of 2017 and continue to celebrate Christmas, hopefully yours is a truly joyful and peaceful one, whether local or traveling, whatever your circumstances in life may be at the moment, good or bad, “suffering or glorious.”

One of the many blessings in our faith is that we can truly be joyful and at peace even in our struggles and greatest trials if our joy is in Jesus, the “Emmanuel” – which delightfully means “God-is-with-us.”

I often think of the great saints in our history who were joyful in their moments of greatest need. St. Lawrence, as he was being grilled to death over flames, joked with his executioners: “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” St. Francis of Assisi, known by some as  the “joyful beggar,” happily sang praises to God after being beaten up for preaching the Gospel and also in times where he was cold and traveling in the snowy winter of Italy.

Our own saint of the homeland, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, was known to be joyful and at peace even as she suffered through the death of a husband (and children) and faced rejection as she converted to the Catholic faith.

And I also think of a modern saint, St. Teresa of Kolkata, “Mother Teresa” as most of us have known her, who would most always have a bright smile on her face, even though we know now after an illuminating biography published a few years ago showed that she often went through a true “dark night of the soul,” many times of interior darkness, desolation and even depression: not feeling the presence of the God she knew was right near her.



Young women from Missionaries of Charity homes in Kolkata, India, dance near an image of St. Teresa of Kolkata during an Oct. 2 celebration in her honor at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. Pope Francis canonized her Sept. 4, 2016, at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Anto Akkara)


These saints knew this well: that as convicted as they were of Jesus the Christ being the savior of our world, the savior from our sins, they also knew very well that Jesus could be – and is – the savior of the other areas of their lives where they needed him. Their fears and doubts, their desires, hearts, life and work, their joys and their sufferings; illnesses, depression, challenges in relationships, struggles with family, their community, their nation or others. If the saints, holy and human as they were, knew they needed a savior for these things: do not we also? We invite Christ, rightly, into our Christmas and this New Year: let us invite him with trust to be the savior of those areas in our life that we might not “want him to see” – but where we most sincerely need a savior. In this, we always find joy and His peace. In him, we find his joy – and ours.

January 05, 2017 12:47
By Father Collin Poston


Separation Anxiety and the meaning of Advent (St. Otto, pray for us, Part II)


It has been advised by many a wise sage, many a saint, and many of good spiritual counsel that it is good from time to time to pray “out of your experience.” My daily experience of late has been living with a tiny black-furred, hyper-spastic Pomeranian puppy, who, by the way, at the time of this writing just started barking furiously at the “knock of the door” that was actually heard on TV. And so, I have been praying with this.

There have been many joys of having a little, five-month old puppy like Otto: running through the autumn leaves with him on the campus of St. Anthony Shrine in Emmitsburg; watching him wag his tail when he makes a new friend, dog or human, whether after church or as I am taking him for a walk through the neighborhood; and having him happily lick my face – and many other faces, including those of several students and faculty members of St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown, where I am a chaplain.

Now Otto isn’t a priest, but his presence has helped me in my ministry to the students. It truly is calming, and I think it makes the confessions easier - especially when one can hold a 5-pound, tail-wagging puppy in his or her lap when making the “Act of Contrition!”  


One of the hardest things though, I have to admit, is this: every morning when I have to leave him. I gingerly place him in his crate located in my rectory kitchen, watch him give me those sad “puppy-eyes” and then tell him good-bye and that I will “be back soon.” I usually also give him a silent priestly-blessing, making the Sign of the Cross over him. But often even before the door closes, I share the sorrow.  He begins an incessant whimpering, a crying for his “daddy.” And what might be even more heart-breaking is that when I return about an hour or two later – usually after having celebrated morning mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, an eight-minute drive away in Thurmont – as I open the door, he is always standing inside his crate, at attention and looking at me in almost the exact same stance and position as when I left him!


But then, a miraculous thing happens. When I open the door of his crate and pull him out, he smiles. He wags his entire body in happiness, hops around, tongue hanging out joyfully, so happy that I have returned that he is ready to almost leap out of his skin. And when I pick him up he washes my face with his tongue, licking me again somewhere between 20 and 100 times! It’s hard to count… but I’m not really counting. I know he is just loving me – and saying, “I’ve waited for you! I’m glad you’re with me again! I’m glad you’re home.”

This is a very simple experience and reflection,  but I often think of this and of Advent. In this holy season of Advent, we consider the reality that our forefathers in faith, the Israelites, long-awaited a Savior, a Deliverer, a Redeemer they would never see. In some strange, surreal way, they were like my cute puppy in his crate, awaiting the coming and return of his owner – yet they had never, ever seen him. Can you imagine? I guess one might say that they had their own version of “separation anxiety”: being separated from God because of original sin and not having God’s presence with them, as they once had in the beginning in the Garden of Eden. And this went on for years, and years, and years.

And yet what is so awesome is this: in Otto, a cute little Pom puppy, I find aspects of the nature of God. When I return, he is always glad to see me. He always longs to see me. He can’t stop licking my face and showing his affection for me. His love seems to be “unconditional” for me, even though he is merely a creature, only a little, happy dog. But God is like this with us. He always wants to see us, to be with us, to love us. He never, ever wants to be separated from us. I think of this often when I return home to Otto.

And yet, Otto also teaches us how we should be with God, in the coming of Christ in Advent as we approach Christmas. What should we long for more than the coming of God himself into our midst to save us? Our “Emmanuel,” “God with us”? As the Lord wore human “skin” to come as a little child to save us from our sins and meet us, and remove our separation anxiety, so too in spirit should the fullness of our joy be: so elated, amazed, and astounded that we might even “burst out of our skin” to see the Lord Jesus, as if meeting him for the first time. Isn’t this the true spirit of Advent – and Christmas? Much more than mere “things,” no matter how nice and sentimental they may be?  

So, the litany to St. Otto continues:

St. Otto, apostle of the country of Pomerania, patron saint of dogs and perhaps humans with separation anxiety, and their hyper-spastic Pomeranian puppies and their grateful, knowing-that-they-are loved owners - pray for us! Help us to long for Jesus more than any other thing: and have a true joy in Him this Christmas.

 

  

 

 

December 06, 2016 10:55
By Father Collin Poston


Holding what gives you life


A few years ago, while on retreat, I discovered a fine little book that has immensely helped my prayer life. Like so many of the best books on prayer, what makes it so excellent is its simplicity. It is called “Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life,” co-authored by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn, and published by Paulist Press. It has the look of a children’s book, but that is intentional since it teaches us to be “childlike” when we pray.




The book shares a true story about how during World War II bombings, many children became orphans. As they remained in refugee camps after their rescue, they were traumatized and afraid – especially of becoming homeless, without family and without food. So someone came up with the idea that as they would go to sleep at night, they would give the children pieces of bread or little loaves of bread, to hold as they would go to sleep. They slept most peacefully because holding their bread reminded them the “‘Today I ate, and I will eat again tomorrow.’”

The reason this story is shared at the very beginning of this simple, 72-page book is because it illustrates for us of our need to “examen” – the spiritual practice, mastered by followers of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits, of looking back in the evening upon our day we have experienced and asking ourselves, “For what moment today am I most grateful?” And also, “For what moment today am I least grateful?”



It is called the examen because, in prayer form according to the authors, it is a way of doing an “examination of conscience” which is one of the most important of all Catholic traditions. But in this vein, it is actually like “holding bread,” for it invites us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to look thankfully at the moments during our day where we have found God’s presence. And, also, to humbly acknowledge the times we may not have responded to God/Christ and his inspiration and movements within, in conscience and heart (in the spiritual life, these movements and feelings are called consolations and desolations.) To notice these and reflect on them as a regular spiritual practice can help us grow in gratitude and virtue, and also fight temptations to discouragement and vice. I personally have found it most helpful. So, as a way of entering a national holiday weekend that has a very obvious spiritual tone: 

What are you holding that gives you life? What are you thankful for: today – even in this very moment?

What a great question for us to “examen” ourselves as we gather at table with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving.


November 23, 2016 11:35
By Father Collin Poston


Maccabees and Martyrdom




This past Sunday, the first reading we heard from the second Book of Maccabees, chapter 7, is one that comes up liturgically only once every three years. But it is one of the most inspiring stories to read in all the Scriptures. And though it may not seem so at first glance, it is very relevant to today and I believe to our future.

It is the story of a mother and her seven sons who are commanded by the king to eat pork. In their time and tradition, that was a sin. So basically the king tries to force them to do something their conscience tells them is wrong and displeasing to God. It is quite intense. At the risk of going to hell and forfeiting heaven, each of the sons chooses to obey God, and not sin. And so the king orders each of them to be killed since they refuse his request. And, lo and behold, this is what happens: each of them dies a martyr’s death, with their mother encouraging each one of them to be faithful and not give in to the king – all the while witnessing these things. Eventually the youngest son is left: and in the face of impending torture, his mother tenderly, courageously says to him:

“Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age.

I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things. In the same way mankind came into existence. Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with your brothers.”

And so what happens? The boy says to the executioner: “What is the delay? I will not obey the king’s command. I obey the command of the law given to our ancestors through Moses… and you will not escape the hands of God.”

And, as painful as that would be, that mother went to her own death a righteous and eternally happy mother. Her sons did exactly what she wanted them to do: and they wear the resurrected victor’s crown.

The very thought of dying a martyr’s death is frightening to many of us. I pray that if this ever comes my direction as a priest that I am faithful to God – and, one never knows. I’m about 48 years old, but it could come in my lifetime.

At the very beginning of our inception as a nation, both Catholics and priests were persecuted because of their adherence to the Catholic faith. And we know well, that even though at present we live a very “comfortable Catholicism” here in America, already signs seem to indicate that our choice for God, for Jesus Christ, for the Holy Father and for the high calling and standards of our Catholic faith are being fiercely challenged and there is an attempt for them to be “eroded.” A slow, subtle erosion… and yet also a present opportunity to grow strong as a church.

In the larger world-view, there are many Catholics and Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. Some are in Syria, the Middle East and in Africa. They have lost homes, their livelihoods, their families and even their lives – though the mainstream media mostly fails to report this.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” Our Lord said about these good faithful souls [in the Beatitudes, Matthew Chapter 5.]

Here on our soil, I think of what is being challenged in the arena of religious freedom. Just as the king tried to pressure the Maccabeans, isn't our government putting pressure on the church, religious institutions, groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor and Christian businesses like Hobby Lobby to cave in and compromise on their principles?

As we enter a dramatic week that will surely change history in the United States of America, I hope you will pray with me that our state of freedom in faith remains united. As a priest friend of mine often said, “May God bless America, and may God save America.”

And so I ask myself: what does my Catholic faith really mean to me? Am I willing to stand for it, am I willing to vote for political candidates who will respect it?  One day, hopefully a very long time from now, with the help of God’s grace, am I even willing to die for it?  



November 07, 2016 10:53
By Father Collin Poston


Photography and the Saints


One of the best things about our Catholic faith is the gift and example of the saints. We have so many saints to look to for inspiration: and all kinds of “patron saints” as we call them to intercede for us and help us in particular needs. St. Anthony of Padua, for example, is known to be the saint one turns to when he has lost something - and, if you are wondering, he does come through regularly on this. The only thing he doesn’t readily help me with is my lost golf balls after a poor shot. But that’s my problem, not so much his.

I’m not precisely sure who the patron saint of photographers is. I know St. Lucy is a saint for eye problems and optometrists. Google tells me it is St. Veronica: as in “Veronica’s veil”, she who, according to our tradition, wiped the face of Jesus with a cloth while he was carrying the cross to Calvary. His image was imprinted onto the cloth: hence, as a camera advertiser once put it in a TV commercial a few years ago, “image is everything.”   



Here's a stained glass window of the Holy Family, taken at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Thurmont.

Whether St. Veronica, St. Lucy or another saint, as we celebrate All Saints Day this week I was reflecting on the saints and also the joy I have found in a recently renewed interest in photography. Of the many tools one needs in photography, the most important (besides the camera itself) is light. Without light, an image cannot be captured… and of course nothing can be seen. And with light, whether natural like the sunlight or forms of artificial light, a person’s smile can be enjoyed, a forest and stream appreciated, a family meal remembered – with a picture, a photograph. And of course many of us share these images with friends: online via social media, Instagram, Facebook and e-mail, etc.




A tree that stands on the parish property at St. Anthony Shrine in Emmitsburg. 


 When I think of light, photography, and images from this, it makes me think about the saints. The reason we know so much in our Catholic and Christian tradition about the saints is because these were the ones who were most generous with God, and also humble enough to let the light shine through them. They were like the camera helping produce the image: and the “light” within all of them is Christ. His light creates the image, and helps it to be seen as beautiful by all. 

Contemplating the saints, and photography, and light itself: may we, each and all, be like cameras with open lenses. (Someone just walked into our parish office, dimly lit, and said to us “Do you need the light on?” Yes, that really happened! As I was writing this.)

Like an open lens: always open to God’s plan in our lives, open to His grace, open to His light. A photographer relies on it: so too ourselves, we pray, to be the saint, the person God has created us to be, made in his image.  




 

November 01, 2016 03:15
By Father Collin Poston


St. Otto, pray for us (and my hyper-spastic Pomeranian puppy)


As some of you may know from the recent article in the Catholic Review about priests and their pet dogs (“Four-Legged and Faithful”), I am now the proud and happy owner of a new puppy. He’s a fluffy black Pomeranian named Otto. He’s about 3 months old now, and standing mighty, tall and at attention.  He recently entered the heavyweight dog division by weighing in at a whopping 3.1 pounds! When I first got him, he could actually fit comfortably in my Baltimore Orioles ballcap. No joke!

Otto is a happy little pooch with a lot of personality and an amazing amount of energy. Though “Poms” are small in size, they eat a surprising amount of food (thankfully for my bank account, it’s “small dog” food), and they have what has been described as a “big dog personality in a small dog package.”  




I find that Otto is very bright, teachable and quite agile, quick and athletic. He’s getting pretty fast, but he can’t outrun me yet; that day may come very soon – Usain Bolt, look out! He’s a lot of fun! And, he’s also great around people. My parishioners – especially the children – love him! He’s super-friendly and so far hasn’t met a face unworthy of multiple licks.  

He’s also teaching me a lot. For example, I was sharing recently in a homily that one day I took him out for a walk, and as I did I started pointing out to him all of the beautiful things above on the horizon: the lovely trees with the leaves becoming red and orange and yellow, the sun shining brightly above, even some bluebirds flying by.



His response? He just looks at me, and then he continues eating the leaf, bug, stick, piece of grass, etc. that is right in front of him in his 2-foot radius. He’s just a puppy, of course. But, as a way of talking about prayer, I used it as an example of how, often when we pray, we only see what is right before us; yet God sees in a much bigger, broader way – which we should always remember.

Otto is also learning how to do “steps:” going up and down a typical step or stair is a big thing for him. But recently he went down a step that was about 5 or 6 inches tall. He nailed it! He did it with confidence and trust. This – I shared with my parishioners – is the same way God wants us to be with him when we pray to him with a great trust that he is always there for us. He wants what is best for us, and we should not be afraid or worried in spirit when we pray.




The one thing I have found in having a new puppy (this is my first time as a dog owner – my family had dogs and cats when I was a child/youth) is that his energy level is quite high. He wants to play all the time, it seems. And when he takes naps, I find that I often want to nap as well. Alas: “come to me, all you who are weary” the Lord once said. But, as I often reflect and pray before I go to sleep at night, Otto gives me joy and, like the very gift of my priesthood, he gives me a “good tired.” I’m going to need a lot of energy in the next few months ahead with this companion (especially with 3:30 a.m. “potty breaks” – more on that in a future blog.)



So, I need some heavenly help. And so my litany to St. Otto of Bamberg, priest, bishop, missionary and peacemaker, begins:

St. Otto, Apostle of Pomerania, obedient to the pope, and patron saint of hyper-spastic Pomeranian puppies and their slowly-learning owners: pray for us.    


Photos of Otto courtesy Father Collin Poston


 

   

October 24, 2016 01:47
By Father Collin Poston


The power of a thank you


I was sitting in my office at my former parish of St. Mary in Hagerstown not too long ago when one of our faithful parishioners who is involved in pro-life ministry stopped by to see me. She had been praying just down the street from our church outside a “reproductive services” building where abortions are performed.

“I have someone I would like you to meet,” she told me, referencing a woman who had approached her when my friend was praying outside the clinic.

I didn’t know what to expect when I walked over to her. Frankly, I was a little nervous. But when my friend took me to the woman, I was delighted and surprised when I watched her pull back a blanket covering a little baby carrier to show me a beautiful little baby boy.  He was tiny, with short brown hair and, although he was sleeping, he actually had a little smile on his face!

“Several months ago, I came here planning to abort my child,” the mother said, “but then one of your women here encouraged me not to do it, and told me there would be help. So I had my baby… and I just wanted to say ‘thank you.’”


It was one of the most beautiful moments I had as a priest at St. Mary’s, and I will never forget it.

I don’t know what level of faith this woman had; but I believe her act, so much like both the Samaritan in the Gospel and Naaman, healed of leprosy, [cf. Lk 17:11-19, and 2 Kgs 5:14-17] was actually a very religious act. Taking the time to bring her baby back to the people who encouraged her to mother him shows what gratitude truly is – a way of thanking God for his blessings and acknowledging that every gift we have is something we need to thank him for.

We need to be thankful for every single gift, especially human life.

The woman who had once considered abortion is now not only blessed as a mother with a son, but God is going to bless her many times over for her Godly choice of life. As we celebrate October and a month dedicated to “Respect Life,” let us call to mind our blessings, and perhaps even ask God to show us one particular one we’ve received. And, most especially, we thank God for our parents, our children and the very gift of life itself. Through our Sunday Eucharist, let us express our thanks not only in prayer but in inspired action, as we prayed at the final blessing on Sunday:

“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

"Thanks be to God!”     


October 11, 2016 02:21
By Father Collin Poston


The Virtue of Food


As time during my 13 years as a priest has passed, one of the things I have learned about myself is that I have come to love and appreciate good food. I have become, over time, what one calls a “foodie” – someone who likes to try different and unique dishes with a plenitude of flavors, spices and such.

In the spirit of faith, I also have come to realize that the best meals we have are not alone but with one another: with family, friends and parishioners. Some of the best meals and dinners have been spontaneous encounters with “locals” or people from my community or town whom I happen to strike up a conversation with, and often later become friends – over food. And when this happens, I also have the blessing of getting to know well chefs, the owners of restaurants, waiters and waitresses, and many hosts and hostesses, to name a few.  



Standing outside St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

It is also in that spirit that I recently attended the first-ever “Olive Mass” in the Cathedral of St. Louis in New Orleans, LA (a city that is a hub and center of spicy and tasty food – such as jambalaya and shrimp gumbo, for example! - and lively culture.)

You’ve probably heard of themed-Masses such as the “Red Mass” which is offered for lawyers and those working in legal professions, as well as the “Blue Mass” which supports those who guard and protect us – police officers, firefighters, those who are ambulance drivers and more. The Olive Mass is a Mass created for those who serve us as chefs, those who work in restaurants, and others within the food and hospitality industry. It is the inspiration of Father Leo Patalinghug (a longtime personal friend of mine, the author of Grace Before Meals, the host of a cooking show on EWTN, a 'throwdown' competitor with Bobby Flay and the founder of The Table Foundation) who, in addition to being a very gifted cook in his own right, has a compassion and love for those who serve us with and through food.




With my friend, Boaz, who is from Jerusalem and is a member of Chefs for Peace, Christian, Muslim and Jewish chefs who promote peace.

The Olive Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans with several other priests present, was offered to support and say “thank you” to those who serve food to us and to many. In his homily, Father Leo reminded us that God, that Jesus, loves us so much that – in the Eucharist – he has become food for us, through his presence to us in bread and wine, becoming sacramentally his body and blood. But he also encouraged those who work so hard and so often in the hot, busy and stressful environments of kitchens of restaurants, that – quoting St. Teresa of Avila – “God is found amidst the pots and the pans!” And of course, after a beautiful and inspiring Mass in the lovely cathedral there, all were invited to a reception hosted at a local convent where delicious local food was served as a gift from Chef John Besh, a celebrity chef who owns about a dozen restaurants in and around New Orleans.         

It is Father Leo’s hope that, like the Lord’s own visiting of homes and sharing meals with anyone who desired to come to know him and listen to him, relationships will be strengthened in the Lord and among those who serve food – and families and us, of course as well!  He hopes that a simple love of food will lead us back to an amazing and new love of God and each other. God gives us food and our meals to help us build relationships and become a family, in both a personal and a larger human way.

So, through all of this, I have discovered three simple things. First, after being around delicious food and skilled chefs, I believe I really don’t know how to cook.  Second, I am more grateful for it - and particularly those who serve it in a new way. And third, praise God, I now understand the “virtue of food.”       




October 06, 2016 11:08
By Father Collin Poston

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