(This post is adapted from an article that appeared in The Catholic Telegraph.)
There was a country television program years ago called “Hee Haw” in which the audience asked the question, “Hey, Grandpa, what’s for supper?” Grandpa would come to the window of his house and reel off a delicious menu. “Heart stew with tender dumplings, sweet and sour slaw covered with bacon, hot apple pie with creamy ice cream…” No matter what Grandpa said, it always sounded so good that I wanted to be at his table. His wonderful descriptions spoke of family supper that all of us relished.
It wasn’t just the menu, it was the implication that, when family gathered at the table, memories were being made. In these winter days, we have a great opportunity to celebrate family values at our tables. When we come to the secular table and break bread we are teaching something deeper: At every table, as we break bread and share our story, our success and our failures, Eucharist continues. Jesus Christ comes to table with us.
The family table is an echo of the altar. What we have encountered in our homes teaches us the meaning of the sacred table. I like to imagine that Jesus had his own memories of great family moments. Mary’s home cooking and Joseph’s passionate family talk formed their son to believe that the table was the heart of the home. The sacred altar stands in the center of every parish church as a mystical sign of the union of God and his family. We can only enter this mystical space if we recognize it, if we already know what happens at a table.
We can restore the power of the family meal with very little effort. It is time to change the way we eat supper, especially Sunday supper. While family life is not like it was in Grandpa’s time, we can single out a few meals each week for a celebration of nourishment and love. Eucharist is exactly that kind of celebration. Jesus knew full well that table ways are the perfect way to help us understand that God is “in us, with us and through us.”
Invite your family and friends to come your table. Don’t worry about fancy food or elaborate menus. The important thing is that we have come together to open our hearts and homes to one another and God. You can add a special touch like a focus on a saint’s feast or a seasonal celebration such as Valentine’s Day (A great resource for enjoying the saints is Saints at the Dinner Table by Amy Heyd).
Here are a few ideas to point you in the right direction:
-The meal should begin with a blessing. Everyone at the table should be invited to pray. This is not the time for a quick “Bless us, O Lord…” We need to make it personal and intimate. Thank God for food and friends with gusto.
– Light candles to reinforce our Catholic belief that light symbolizes Christ with us at the table. Then, let the Spirit orchestrate the meal.
-While you eat, start the dialogues of love. Ask questions of children that require more than a one-word answer. Tell family stories, listen to the unspoken feeling being expressed and share the good and bad of your week.
-At the end of the meal, pray again for all that was said and ask a blessing on each one at table.
Featured photo from Catholic Greetings.