Fr Leo cooks extended metaphors in dispensing marriage truisms

Filipino-American priest draws capacity crowd to his cookery demonstration

There wasn’t even standing room for the cookery demonstration at the World Meeting of Families by Fr Leo Patalinghug, known to his fans as Fr Leo Feeds. Photgraph: Ronan McGreevy

There wasn’t even standing room for the cookery demonstration at the World Meeting of Families by Fr Leo Patalinghug, known to his fans as Fr Leo Feeds. Photgraph: Ronan McGreevy

 

Fr James Martin, whose plea for greater tolerance within the Church for gay people drew a capacity audience and a standing ovation, has a contender for the most popular priest at the World Meeting of Families.

There wasn’t even standing room only for the cookery demonstration by Fr Leo Patalinghug, known to his fans as Fr Leo Feeds.

The standing room was already taken along with the 700 seats in the main auditorium in the RDS. The organisers let in latecomers two by two like the animals in the ark and they sat on the floor.

Fr Leo, a little Filipino-American ball of perpetual energy, is a priest in the Baltimore diocese and a TV chef with a popular programme on the US-based Catholic channel EWTN. He also has an internet podcast called Shoot the Shiitake in which he discusses issues around the Catholic Church.

He is hardly known in Ireland judging by the composition of his captivated audience in which there were few locals .

Instead, there are people here from Africa, the Americas, Spain and the Middle East. His fan base seems to be as catholic as the Church.

He dispenses truisms about marriage life based on his bestselling book Spicing Up Married Life, using the cooking process as an extended metaphor.

When we are first first married, we think it is going to be “one long honeymoon after another”, but then we get fat and old, he points out, “which is why I wear black”.

Marinating he likens to baptism, the flames generated by “Caribbean holy water” aka rum are like the passions in a marriage. He tosses the food into the air. “This requires practice. You know what else requires practice? - marriage.”

And so on it goes, but Jesus, he reminds the audience, also used food as a metaphor rather a lot.

Marriage, he likens to a form of death in which the newly married person’s old self dies. “You are no longer going to live your life only for your own selfish ends. Men, you’re going to have live her life through perfume, purses and shoes; women, you are going to have live his life through beer, football and stinky feet.”

The irony of a celibate priest writing a cook book on married life is not lost on Fr Leo. He even addresses it in the first sentence of his book. “While it may seem strange for an unmarried priest to write a book about marriage (much less a cookbook about marriage) I know that God calls his priests spouses to the Bride of Christ - the Church.”

Expanding on the theme in front of a live audience, he likens married couples to the marriage between a priest and the Catholic Church.

He has a fine line in patter and a comedian’s sense of timing. Reflecting on the age of instant gratification, he quips: “My parents really cherished their sofa. They still have the plastic on it”.

He serves up some mélange of panko breadcrumbs, stir-fried vegetables, spices, sugar and rum. The food is an afterthought to the relentless patter. If only talking led to holiness, he would be a saint.

“I’m not a very patient priest. That’s why I’m not a baker.” Towards the end of his talk, he asks couples to renew their vows and then kiss each other.

Fr Leo is not without his serious side and has flayed the hierarchy in his podcasts. He tells the RDS audience that the lies of bishops and priests has threatened to “destroy our Church from within”.

How then does he assess the state of the contemporary Catholic Church, I ask him afterwards. “We are under the weight of the cross but if we are willing to carry it, that is how faith grows. We should never be afraid to carry it.”