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
As a priest and a big baseball fan, I always enjoy watching Baltimore Orioles games after a hard day’s work – with some Tostitos and salsa in my lap and my “eyes of faith” wide open.
This is the start of the best time of the year for baseball fans. September is “pennant race” time. The Orioles are fighting for a playoff spot (and a division championship!) and – in my humble opinion as a “prayerful, hopeful” fan – they have a really good shot at it this year.
As a “sports journalist” I’m no Paul McMullen
. If any of you are wondering about my “sports cred,” however, nota bene
1) I am a veteran (and occasional/current) member of the “Men in Black
” seminarian and priest basketball team to promote vocations in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
2) When I was an undergrad student at Towson University, I was the sports editor and a writer (and occasional photographer) for The Towerlight, the school’s weekly newspaper.
3) At Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, I was on the first-ever team to win the coveted and first “Rector’s Cup” 4-team soccer tournament with a victory over St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (which, by the way, went down to penalty kicks).
4) I was a “little-league” baseball player as a child, and played on my parish softball team – and led the pre-game prayers, of course! - at my former parish of St. Mary’s in Hagerstown.
5) I played a year of high-school football (mostly sat on the bench…but it was fun) at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School at my alma mater in Frederick.
6) I was privileged to throw out a “first pitch” at a Hagerstown Suns game and also for “Opening Day” for the Pony League (boys of age 10-13) in Hagerstown.
7) (This is probably the one I’m most proud of). I am the only priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore who has a signed baseball from our former archbishop, Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien. I’m going to see if I can get one from Archbishop William E. Lori later. I’m working on it.
Last night, I was watching the Orioles gritty 1-0 win over the Boston Red Sox (victories over the Bosox I always enjoy with great glee, almost as much as victories over the New York Yankees!) Kevin Gausmann pitched a strong, masterful game, only giving up four hits and throwing fastballs with a lot of courage and authority. And the O’s only run was Mark Trumbo’s solo home run early on in the game. But the team played with so much heart, and showed so much poise in the face of adversity during the game. They weren’t perfect; but Gausmann got out of several jams and Zach Britton came in to close out the game confidently in the ninth inning as he done so well all year. I was very impressed and inspired.
Well, with my “faith goggles,” this makes me think of our own perseverance as Catholics and Christians.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” said St. Paul (2 Timothy 4:7.) Whenever I see great sports performances like this, it makes me think of the virtues, such as fortitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:
“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. ‘The Lord is my strength and my song’ (Ex. 15:2.)” [CCC. 1808.]
One of the many great lessons about baseball, eschatology and the “last things” – life, death and resurrection, “dust and dewfall” if you will! – is that every baseball player who steps into the batter’s box eventually wants to get “home” and, if there is anyone on base, to get his other teammates home as well. It's like our own goal, which is Heaven, and like the mission of the Church, not just for ourselves but for all of our brothers and sisters. As I watch baseball this fall (and hopefully many Orioles playoff victories, as you do too!) I’ll be thinking of persevering in this life with fortitude from the Lord, our strength, our song.
For those victorious in the Lord, September always leads to October, the pennant race to the World Series, this world’s journey to the eternal joy of Heaven.
September 15, 2016 12:04
By Father Collin Poston
Almost 10 years ago now, I had the chance as a young priest to go on a two-week summer pilgrimage to Kolkata, India with Father Jack Lombardi (the former chaplain of the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg) and a group of hearty, faithful young people. It was a pilgrimage in the spirit of “walking in the footsteps of Mother Teresa” and it was a most memorable experience!
The pilgrimage was my first real experience of “culture shock” as I was immediately immersed into the city-life of the vast and diverse city of Kolkata. When we, very evidently looking like “American tourists,” immediately walked the streets there after our plane had landed and we were recovering from jet-lag, the many people we saw – even the many we saw living in poverty – were very friendly and even joyful. Later in the trip, our group of pilgrims went to serve at orphanages and homes for the dying that Mother Teresa had established many years ago when she followed God’s call to serve Christ, as she would say, in his “distressing disguise.” I will never forget this.
This is a print of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata given to me by a friend.
Of the many profound experiences I had there, one of the best ones was actually having the privilege of offering a Mass for the Missionaries of Charity right in the chapel of their motherhouse. Just like their foundress, they would begin each day with quiet prayer and a simple community Mass. They would all sit “Indian-style,” literally. They sat barefoot on the floor. There were no chairs, except for the priest-celebrant and the altar servers. And when they received Communion, they did so with great reverence, gratitude and humility.
As I was leaving the chapel after a very peaceful celebration of Mass, I noticed what I thought was a sister praying alone in the very back of the chapel. It turned out to be a statue of Mother Teresa, life-size and in color, in the very place she would pray each day for Mass. It was, like the theme and message of the Gospel from Jesus this weekend, the “lowest place” - the last place, in the very back against the wall. I remember thinking what an example that was of living just like our Lord said. Amazing!
This is a photograph of the statue of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata that is located in the chapel of her motherhouse in India.
Mother Teresa, or Blessed Teresa of Kolkata will be canonized a saint Sept. 4. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from her (I’ve never met her, but I feel like I know her!) is to actively seek out that “lowest place” rather than the higher one, and certainly humility and opportunities to serve others instead of following temptations we face to find selfish ambition, power, worldly pleasures, or personal gain or glory.
May we seek to imitate her own joyful, peaceful imitation of Christ himself: “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14: 11.)
August 31, 2016 02:00
By Father Collin Poston
In a Gospel passage a few weekends ago at Sunday Mass, we heard the fascinating words of our Lord teaching his disciples how to pray. His first word to them, in the Gospel of Luke is simply "Father."
I find it amazing and providential, each summer it seems, that so often in the Gospels we hear around this time in the liturgical cycle the prevalent themes of trust, rest and even family. These are the days when many of us - myself included - take (or have just returned from) summer vacations, and hence we seek time to grow closer to one another as a family.
A picture from my recent visit to Ocean City.
I have many fond memories from my childhood of fishing and crabbing with my father and family on the Chesapeake Bay, near Chincoteague and Assateague islands, and in Ocean City. Sometimes we would catch fish, and sometimes not so much; such is the surprising, trying, patient and peaceful life of fishing. But when we did, at the end of the day it often ended up being very tasty fried flounder. Thanks to my dad and a hot skillet or grill, it ended up happily settling in our tummies!
But even more than the excitement of catching a large fish, it was even better just being with my father, my family and friends. Whether it was him teaching me how to bait a hook, or helping me reel in a feisty fish, those were times when I truly bonded with my dad. They are times I won't forget and gratefully call to mind.
This is a similar type of relationship that Jesus wants us to have with his Father - who is our Father, through our baptisms and our Christian life. I imagine, when I contemplate it, that his disciples obviously saw, by his devotion and the very way he prayed, that they could tell that he had - I dare say - a most trusting and childlike relationship with the Father. He was so deeply bonded with him. What if ours were the same?
August 25, 2016 07:54
By Father Collin Poston
I don’t know about you, but I found it very inspiring this year to watch the Olympics. And even with the many medals the United States won – with many Marylanders (Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky being the most prominent of them) – what has been most impressive to me as a priest and a Catholic Christian is to see the increasing witness of faith the athletes have given in Rio.
This was seen so often in their words, their interviews, in their gestures of praise, prayer, joy and thanksgiving, giving all the glory to God on a worldwide stage. SO impressive!
Immediately after members of the U.S. Women’s 4x100 relay team won a gold medal, they huddled together, got down on their knees, and said a prayer of most sincere thanksgiving to God. Before Katie Ledecky
swam, she prayed a Hail Mary because it calmed her down. And a mature, grounded and faithful Michael Phelps
, with all of his medals, gave thanks to God for his help.
One of the smallest (if not the smallest) Olympians for the U.S., gymnast Simone Biles
, gave big thanks to God and wears her faith openly as bright as her smile. Even Usain Bolt, after winning gold and smiling his own joyful, infectious smile, pointed heavenward and made the sign of the cross often in these two weeks.
Watching Simone Biles compete.
My favorite story in these Olympics has been Helen Maroulis. She’s the female wrestler who won the first-ever gold medal in women’s wrestling for the United States. But to do it she had to defeat Saori Yoshida, a winner of three prior gold medals and 13 world championships. Yoshida is known to be the greatest women’s wrestler in the history of the sport. She is truly a legend.
There are many aspects of the backstory here that are so inspiring. Helen, a 24-year-old Rockville native, grew up as a very shy girl who very much wanted to wrestle. She almost didn't, however, because it just wasn’t popular or available years ago. None of the boys wanted to wrestle her. But Helen eventually did get trained and never quit.
She has wrestled Yoshida twice before and lost both times by pins. In both Japan and in the international community, Yoshida was the heavy favorite and seemed invincible. For Helen it really was like David and Goliath. But on Thursday she defeated Yoshida 4-1, and by doing so she gave her Japanese opponent her first-ever Olympics loss.
When Helen outlasted Yoshida for the gold medal last week, she collapsed on the mat in tears. And after running a “victory lap” with the American flag draped over her like a superhero cape, she received her gold medal on the podium. She was one of the most inspiring of all recipients of medals – all smiles, with tears streaming down her face. So beautiful!
But here’s the best part.
Helen said after her victory that this was the hardest thing she had ever done, mentally, physically and emotionally. She noted what an honor it is to be an American. But right before she walked onto the mat for her match, she said a prayer. It was very simple, but very powerful:
“Christ is in me, and I am enough.”
Even with a gold medal around her neck an hour later, Helen realized that Christ was her strength – and she could never have done it without him. Even – and especially – in the Olympics.
Like Olympians who train for a perishable crown, we Christians train for one that is imperishable. We train for salvation. We train for heaven.
Like Helen and so many of these faithful, humble Olympians who have spent many hours, days, weeks and even years training for an event that may only last a mere three minutes, may we know that our strength lies not in our own power. Our strength ultimately is found in Christ: only in him.
August 22, 2016 10:30
By Father Collin Poston
Well, as a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore for 13 years now, and as the former pastor of eight years of St. Mary in Hagerstown and St. Michael in Clear Spring, and now as the new pastor of St. Anthony Shrine and Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishes in Emmitsburg and Thurmont (respectively), I must introduce myself openly and candidly to you.
I have found over the last few years that a) I am much more comfortable writing than I am speaking in public or preaching at Mass, b) I have neither ever written a “blog” nor do I read them really at all and c) I’m not really that much into long homilies.
I can’t imagine writing a blog that is very wordy or verbose (“Brevity is the soul of wit” as Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet.”) So when the Catholic Review (via George Matysek
) approached me about doing a blog, I was excited about it, but I had a bit of trepidation since these are “new waters” of sailing for me.
From my front porch, where I get my blog inspirations.
Sometimes when I’m driving in my car, and I am listening to some music on my radio, I wonder: “If I ever made a rock album, what would the title be?” And then, after singing some “CD shuffle car karaoke” and causing my stereo and any random insects in my car to weep bitterly from my singing and then scramble for the doors and windows, reality sets in and I come back down to earth. I like to sing, but I’m not really a musician. But I do think that one of my gifts is, indeed, writing. I might be able to “write” a song (lyrics, anyway; that is on my lifetime “bucket list”) or maybe poetry. I’d also love to write a book someday. But right now, I’m going to give a blog a shot. A blog is a lot more conversational in tone, I gather; so, here goes!
One of my parishes, St. Anthony Shrine in Emmitsburg.
After a little bit of prayer, thought and contemplation, while staring at the greenery and the foliage surrounding my church while sitting on my back porch at my rectory which is located at the base of the “Mount” and the Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, I decided that the title of my new rock album [i.e. my blog!] would be “Dust and Dewfall.”
I chose this for a few simple reasons. First, “dust” is what God used to create us, according to the book of Genesis, and is what we hear about our own mortality and our “end” on Ash Wednesday: “you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” (from the prayer of imposition of the ashes on our foreheads.) Second, “dewfall” is something we see at the beginning of the day, during the start of a morning covering our lawns or the plants and flowers outside. We also hear this word during the “epiclesis” of Eucharistic Prayer II at Mass: “Let your Spirit come down upon these gifts like the dewfall” as bread and wine are about to be consecrated into the Lord’s very Body and Blood. So, if dust represents an end, dewfall represents a beginning. It is like the circle of life: or even “life, death and resurrection.” The whole mystery of our faith!
Lastly, I would also say as one who very happily lives in the “Seton vicariate” or central and/or Western Maryland (Emmitsburg is probably Central Maryland, but I know some people who debate this), I actually see many dusty roads and plenty of morning dew out here.
Recently, as I was standing on the back porch of my rectory gleefully showing a friend my new home and front lawn, he surveyed the scene and said: “Oh, I couldn’t live out here; it’s way too quiet.” I quickly responded: “Ahhh… this, my friend, is paradise!” Well, it “ain’t Balmer, hon!” - that’s for sure. It’s not the place for my new rock album. But it is a great atmosphere to pray, contemplate and start creating a blog [I hope you like it!] For so often: it is amidst the dust and dewfall where we will find God himself.
August 16, 2016 03:19
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By Father Collin Poston