I had the pleasure of visiting Mount St. Mary’s University last month. Mount St. Mary’s University (The Mount) is located in Emmitsburg, Maryland and now is recognized as one of the finest Catholic Colleges in the Unites States. The Newman Guide for selecting Catholic Colleges has listed Mount St. Mary’s as one of the Top Ten Catholic Colleges in America.
Mount St. Mary’s was begun in 1805 as the first seminary to serve the Diocese of Baltimore–the oldest diocese in America. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary is now the largest seminary in the United States. It now has 170 men studying for the priesthood and they come from 31 diocese across America. The seminary has just surpassed Mundelein Seminary in Chicago which used to be the largest.
It was my honor to finally meet theology professor, Father Leo Patalinghug, who gave me a tour of the seminary. He is very proud of the work he does in guiding young men toward the calling to be a priest. Father Leo said it is the most important work he does for the church and everything else is secondary. Fr. Leo shared a very special room in the seminary which houses hundreds of Saints Relics and a St. John’s Bible that was a recent and treasured donation. The Saint John’s Bible is a hand-crafted bible that took years to complete with fine artwork and calligraphy and was done in the tradition of Benedictine monks from the early church. This incredible Bible is the work of Donald Jackson and the monks at Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota.
Father Leo shared with us the beautiful places for worship and prayer that are in the seminary and around the campus. The seminary has its own chapel that had the great smell of incense where there is adoration of the Holy Eucharist every evening, and a seminarian is in the sanctuary 24 hours a day to be with Christ. The campus’ main church is the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, just recently refurbished, and is a beautiful piece of architecture that inspires one to prayer and holiness.
The other ministry that Father Leo offers was the way I first got to know him–through his cooking ministry, Grace Before Meals. Father Leo was very proud to show the seminary kitchen that recently had a make-over where he films his video podcasts and cooks for his students. Father Leo has a great ministry that uses his talents as a culinary master to feed you “Body, Mind, and Soul.” Father Leo has the mission to use his talents to help families come together to share meals and become stronger through faith and good healthy food. Father Leo even won a Throw Down cookoff with Chef Bobbly Flay on cable’s Food Network with his famous steak fajitas. Father Leo has written a cookbook with great recipes and ideas of faith and family that now includes his world famous steak fajita recipe called Grace Before Meals (Amazon). You can find out more about Father Leo’s ministry and his recipes at his website Grace Before Meals. Father Leo will also be hosting a retreat to the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa Valley July 22-26, 2012, which should be a special culinary and spiritual journey for all who attend. Father Leo is a real gift to our faith and you should view the video below to witness the energy and excitement he brings to the Catholic Church.
The University also offers one of the best places for contemplative prayer that I have ever visited, The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. The National Shrine has a beautiful trail behind the campus at a base of St. Mary’s Mountain that has, The Stations of the Cross, Holy Statuary, Mountain Streams and Ponds, Chapel of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton used to take her students up to this place for prayer and teaching. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is the oldest replica in America of the famous one in France. There are too many beautiful places to name on this trail of spirituality to name in this blog. I urge you to see it for yourself. They are now fundraising for a new Visitor Center at the base of the bell tower with Mother Mary in gold at the top which can be seen for miles in this inspiring St. Joseph’s valley.
I wish Father Leo and all the students at Mount St. Mary’s University well, and encourage you to check out this fine institution and the Grotto. I bet that Father Leo has had an influence on the student dining, because we ate at the University Cafe and the Butternut Squash-Apple Soup was excellent. Pax Christi:)