Come to the Table

Come to the Table

(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

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.

Is this a holy encounter? You bet it is. God is just like Grandpa at the window: He wants us to come to his table and enjoy it all.

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Featured photo from Catholic Greetings.

 
 

About the Author

Jeanne Hunt is a product development director at Franciscan Media. She is a well-known speaker and author on topics of women’s spirituality, marriage and family life. Her latest book is Celebrating Saints and Seasons: Hundreds of Activities for Catholic Children.
 
 
 
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  • Rich Leonardi

    “This is not the time for a quick ‘Bless us, O Lord…’ We need to make it personal and intimate.”

    Is not praying the same table blessing shared by countless ancestors and millions of Catholics around the world and across time a form of intimacy and personal connection?

    “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.”

    You mean THE Eucharist, right?

    • AGlassmeyer

      I can see where you might think she means “Bless us, O Lord…” isn’t personal and intimate. The way I understood the comment was that it shouldn’t be a quick, thoughtless act–whether it is a memorized prayer or a spontaneous one. I actually found another article where Jeanne gives an example close to what I think she is trying to say here. It’s from Family Prayer in Every Day Catholic, January 2011:

      “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts….” The kids race through the prayer like a dog after a bone, thought Dante as he sat down for Sunday supper. “Do you even realize what you just said?” he asked the boys, already deep into Caroline’s famous macaroni and cheese.

      Dante looked to Caroline for help in pointing out that prayer had become a thoughtless routine. Somehow they had lost that sense of prayerfulness that used to guide their days.

      Find the complete article here: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/EDC/preview.aspx?id=236

      I think the most important thing is to remember why you pray and give your prayer the personal and intimate attention it deserves, regardless of the words you choose to say.

  • Angela G

    I can see where you might think she means “Bless us, O Lord…” isn’t personal and intimate. The way I understood the comment was that it shouldn’t be a quick, thoughtless act–whether it is a memorized prayer or a spontaneous one. I actually found another article where Jeanne gives an example close to what I think she is trying to say here. It’s from Family Prayer in Every Day Catholic, January 2011:

    “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts….” The kids race through the prayer like a dog after a bone, thought Dante as he sat down for Sunday supper. “Do you even realize what you just said?” he asked the boys, already deep into Caroline’s famous macaroni and cheese.

    Dante looked to Caroline for help in pointing out that prayer had become a thoughtless routine. Somehow they had lost that sense of prayerfulness that used to guide their days.

    Find the complete article here: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/EDC/preview.aspx?id=236

    I think the most important thing is to remember why you pray and give your prayer the personal and intimate attention it deserves, regardless of the words you choose to say.

  • Sanorared

    You are absolutely right on with this blog, Jeanne. The family table is of great importance and is, indeed, an echo of the altar.