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Food is sacramental

By Paula Fournier


PRINCE ALBERT — In an effort to promote family life and continue this year’s theme, Our Church is a Family of Families, Rev. Leo Patalinghug, chef and founder of Grace Before Meals, was invited to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert to speak and cook for families.

Patalinghug concelebrated Sunday mass May 24 at Sacred Heart Cathedral with Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr., and cathedral rector Rev. Matthew Nguyen.

During the homily, he said that to him, the Holy Spirit is not represented well by the typical images of ghost, fire or dove.

“The Holy Spirit is the one person in the Trinity that bewilders us and can be a little frightening. The Holy Spirit is both inspired and enthusiastic. Do you know why people don’t have great relationships with God and the Holy Spirit? The word enthusiasm in latin is entheos, meaning God. We are missing enthusiasm and spirit. Prove the Holy Spirit is real by being enthusiastic and inspired.” He explained that enthusiastic people who want to bring others to God have to temper their enthusiasm. It requires them to have a sensitive and right relationship with people, to read them well and not overwhelm.

“Only when we can admit how broken we are can he heal us, like wounded warriors without arms or legs are now healed and doing something inspirational with their lives. I know you’re hungry, be not afraid because God will feed us. We will be able to speak the language to the whole world and you know what we’ll say? Its dinnertime, come and get it.”

Later that evening, as he cooked a bacon, butternut squash and brandy penne for families in St. Mary High School gymnasium, he told the guests that God does not “use a microwave, he uses a crock pot. There are good things if we are patient and wait for it.” He also told them that feeding their children is a liturgy.

“In Greek, the word liturgy means work. Feeding your children is a liturgy, it’s work.”

If parents and families are not willing to work at feeding their kids, he said, the devil will and “he’s better at plating than we are.”

Cooking for Patalinghug is a way for him to present the Christian message in a palatable way.

“What I try to do is remind people that food is sacramental. Food is the one thing in our life that God gave to us, but we work with it: fruit of the vine, work of human hands. It is one of the most powerful things that even the secular world believes in. I don’t do these talks just for Catholics, I do this for everyone including non-religious people because they know food has the divine property to bring our families together.”

Patalinghug works with the Centre of Addictions and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. He explained one study done on addictions. Results showed that to reduce teen suicide, pregnancy, drug and alcohol addictions and raise SAT scores, the number one factor among all issues was a regular family mealtime.

He believes society has bought into the fast-food mentality, the mentality that says I’m too busy to feed my family. I’m too busy to spend one holy hour with my family over a meal.

“Like giving meat an hour to marinate, do you spend enough time with your families that you soak in their goodness? With faith, food and family, we have to have fun. It’s how we need to present our message. Is it edible, bite sizeable and appealing?”

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