Friday, August 13, 2010

Grace Before Meals: Family Meal Rules?

Fr. Leo's ministry Grace Before Meals is all about gathering families around the dinner table for good food and good conversation, in order to foster the great connections that the domestic Church that is the family.

But I had an interesting discussion some weeks back with a group of moms about if the "family dinner" was so important.  One mom argued that other mealtimes, like breakfast, could be a time to gather, and pegging it to dinner was too restrictive.   Another mom argued that perhaps even mealtime was not necessary for connection when there are other opportunities for connection as a family, and that "forcing" everyone to participate in family mealtimes could be counterproductive.   It made for an interesting conversation.

I do think there is something important about eating together that is unique in a family's experience.    But I also know some people don't have great memories of family mealtimes.  Also, there can be different seasons of life, such as busy sport or work schedules and young children just learning table manners, that can make family mealtimes a challenge at best.

As I wrote in my review of Fr. Leo's book, our family's mealtimes often break some of the common "rules" for dinner time.  I was partially joking, of course, because there are no rules in Canon Law for how mealtimes should look.

But we do try to make an effort to have family mealtimes and interesting conversations to go along with those, and I find that as our children get older both the discussions and the food get more interesting.  That keeps us committed to trying to make those times a priority, even as schedules get busier.

What are some of your family meal rules?  Any suggestions for


  1. We do have a rule about trying to eat dinner together, I heard a Catholic-Psychologist speak once, and he said that eating dinner together is one of the single most important things you can do for your children. Our only "rule" is to pray before we eat, and to ask to be excused....thats it. We have pretty interesting discussions....
    My own rule is never to eat anything that isn't yummy! God is good, and He made lots of delicious food. I think He wants us to enjoy it! And I am with Erma Bombeck on this one- if you die tomorrow you will never regret having dessert!!

  2. But fiber is yummy! And also dessert of course. I'm with you there.

  3. It IS a mystical event of sorts - the bonding that occurs with meals and fellowship. My perspective on it is that if food is worth eating, it's worth sitting down at a table to enjoy... which is but one reason I don't eat in a car, or while standing up. I find dining to be a highly civilized event, one very distinctly different from animals feeding in a barnyard. Our ability to enjoy the goodness of God's creation through aroma, sight, flavor, texture, etc., is a small reflection of His goodness. And then, there's an opportunity to express gratitude - that distinctly godly attribute - to those whom prepared the meal. Certainly, our Saviour reinforced the tradition of sharing of mealtime in the Passover of the Last Supper, which we celebrate now as the Eucharist. I find that the cultural cheapening of home-prepared meals as a nuclear family occurs through the inculcation of haste, and the degradation of cooking and food preparation skills, which in turn have led to our ever-increasing waistlines and elevated blood pressures and heart disease from ingesting highly-processed, sodium-laden "foods."

    Yes, civility may be the greatest instillation at family meal time. We omit it to our detriment.

  4. Okay, my comment about "fiber" above is a little strange because I had thought this post was the one in which I write about my "food rules" instead of "family meal rules."

    Warm, I agree that eating together is a mystical experience of sorts. But even if the food is purchased or somewhat pre-made, can the experience of gathering be just as important? Something to ponder.

    When I get a chance, I plan to post my experience of making Fr. Leo's fusion fajitas. There was something special about this made-from-scratch meal!