Dinnertime, Prayer Time
With a wooden ladle in one hand and her plastic recipe card in the other, Mrs. J. made her way from the kitchen stove to the hall corridor. She elbowed open the door leading to their finished basement and shouted down the stairwell to ensure that her voice could be heard above the blaring music.
“You kids have five minutes to get ready for dinner.” The expected reply came back immediately. “Gee whiz, mom. We just started a new electronic game. Can’t we eat later?” The determined mother of a ten-year-old boy and eight-year-old twin girls retorted, “Don’t you ‘gee whiz’ me. Get up here, wash your hands, and sit down before I put the food on the table.”
Then, after a pregnant pause, she drew in a deep breath and concluded with an even louder staccato, “I…am…not…” at which point she heard the completion of her own sentence wailing in unified return from her three soprano vocalists, “running a hotel here…we know, we know.” “That’s right,” their mother nodded. “Now get moving. You’re down to four minutes!” She grinned, delighted that her repeated admonishment had obviously sunk in.
Of course, we want to make our 2023 New Year’s resolution based on the adage: “a family who prays together stays together.” But how do we corral the kids—who sometimes are burdened with heavy extracurricular schedules—and their too-often overly committed caregivers into the same room long enough to talk to God?
The win-win solution? Suppertime! A shared evening meal not only enhances spiritual growth by providing an opportunity to pray together before eating but also has been proven to advance children’s physical and psychological well-being.
Home-cooked meals tend to be lower in fat, sugar, and salt, have fewer calories, and contain more nutrient-dense ingredients. Children who eat at the family dinner table rather than on their own consume a healthier selection of food and consequently enjoy lower obesity rates.
Even more compelling, the psychological benefits can be astounding. A 2020 Harvard University study confirmed that gathering for a meal and family conversation is “hugely beneficial for kids.” Eighty percent of teens admitted dinnertime is when they are, to quote the study, “most likely to talk to their parents.” Due to this engagement, family dining has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, substance abuse, tobacco smoking, teen pregnancy, and improve self-esteem and resilience!
So the easiest way to have a family pray together is to have them eat together. Offering prayer before meals and giving thanks afterward can become a truly graced moment physically, psychologically, and spiritually for everyone.
I hope you are pleased with my first column in Liguorian! “Holy Homework” will appear in every issue of the magazine this year. I welcome comments via email at the following: FatherBobPagliari@Yahoo.com. May God continue to bless you!
On the refrigerator, post a 2023 calendar circling three or four evenings each week when family members agree to eat supper together. This New Year’s resolution will provide an opportunity to pray together so your family can stay together celebrating happier, healthier, holier lives.