Sunday, December 09, 2007

Grace Before Meals

We've all heard the idea that regular family meals together help to keep families together and can help individuals lead healthier and happier lives. Today Fr. Leo came to my church (St. Rose of Lima) and spoke about this. He also reminded us that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and we should ask ourselves what gift are we giving Him. He had some suggestions based on today's readings. He was also promoting his website (linked above) and his new book full of recipes and ideas for how to have meaningful family conversation.

In my family meals have always been an important time together. Sometimes this can come across as a negative, or a means of control, (you must be home for dinner on Sunday!) And sometimes our dinner conversations were dominated by the parents and their investigations on me and my brother. They wanted to be sure we were doing everything right in our lives and used this time to drill us. Those dinners sometimes became disasters and unpleasant memories. However, there have been good times in which we all simply relaxed and enjoyed each other's company.

Dinner together as a family can be great, but man does not live on dinner alone! As with everything the motivations you bring to the table will determine how pleasant that family meal is. Eating together should be a time to really check in (not check on) your kids. I think if you suspect there is an issue that needs to be resolved you should do that with the child individually later. Eating together should be a cause for celebration and a time for thanksgiving. I think my parents often felt pressured to drill my brother and I because we had so little time together that they worried if they didn't bring up certain things over dinner, we would slip away and the topic wouldn't get discussed.

Now my housemates are my surrogate family. I live in a former convent with eight other women. We eat dinner together every Sunday and we try to eat together (schedules permitting) Monday through Thursday. I try to make it to every dinner, because I know this is usually the only time in the day I'll take to enjoy the company of those I live with. If it weren't for these dinners I wouldn't have such good bonds with some of them. Of course there are those housemates who are unable or choose not to come to the majority of dinners. We lament that they chose not to join us and that they miss out on community life, but you can't force people into spending time together.

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