The Blessing of the Meal

Yesterday, while sitting in our family physician's office, I noticed an article on eating food. Not food products, not processed food, not fast food or frozen dinners, but actual food that one can purchase from the Mennonite farmers down the road – apples, green beans, carrots, eggs, honey, poultry and beef.

It appears that as a society we have forgotten what real food looks like. What's even more disturbing is that, in the name of convenience, we have forgotten what real food tastes like. This is unfortunate: nothing brings together friends and family like a delicious home-cooked meal. Perhaps we have forgotten about real food because we have forgotten about the family meal.

In the past year or so, my wife and I have experimented more with home-cooking. It usually begins late Saturday afternoon. We stop off at the supermarket after a full day of children's dance and gymnastics at the local YMCA. I will pick out the meat in consultation with my wife, while she and the girls pick out the vegetables and dessert.  Sometimes it's honey-roasted chicken with peas and garlic mashed potatoes, along with blueberry pie for dessert. Other times it is bear roast from my last hunting excursion, rice, asparagus, and fresh strawberries over ice-cream.

What's important is that the food is real, that we pick it out as a family, and that we spend Sunday afternoon after Mass preparing it together. This way my wife gets to rest on the Lord's Day from the day-to-day rush of meal making, we spend time as a family shaping our children's values, and our taste-buds are permitted to savor fresh food that we have come together as a family to prepare. I am convinced that one of the reasons our children are succumbing to a culture of sex and violence is because supper is no longer a sacred time in which families come together to share their day. The meal offers a family the perfect excuse to pull together as one, combine talents, communicate, and enjoy the fruits of a common labor.

 All of this got me thinking about the theology of the meal. Throughout the Gospels, Our Lord uses the meal to mark important events in His life and to impart His more solemn teachings. For example, Christ's first public miracle took place over a meal. It was the wedding feast of Cana and the bride and groom had run out of wine. His first public miracle, at the urging of Our Blessed Mother, was to keep the meal going by changing water into wine.

Similarly, there is the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Having fed the multitudes, Our Lord chose this moment to reveal that He is the bread of life, that His flesh is real food and that His blood is real drink. Our Lord reveals one of His most profound theological truths — namely, the mystery of transubstantiation — over a meal. Additionally, He institutes the sacrament to which this truth applies most directly, the Most Holy Eucharist, during the Last Supper. Thus the Mass is modeled on the family meal, within the context of our fellow Catholics being brothers and sisters in Christ.

Not even the resurrection escapes the theology of the meal. After all, it was one thing for Our Lord to resurrect from the dead; it was quite another for his disciples to believe. According to St. Luke's Gospel, the disciples at first failed to recognize Christ until the breaking of the bread. Others disbelieved and were frightened by His pierced hands and feet — perhaps mistaking Our Lord for a ghost — until He sat down and shared a meal of fish with them.

Meals signal important events and teachings in Holy Scripture. They are also instrumental to a strong family life. The family that eats together will find it easier to pray together, and the family that prays together will stay together.

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  • Guest

    What a lovely tradition! To give the "family spirit" a real work-out, they can clean up the meal as well. (When people used to ask my father if we had a dishwasher, he would smile, "Why, yes, I have four of them: Heidi, Christine, Kathryn, and Jennifer.")

     

    Heidi Hess Saxton Editor, "Canticle" Magazine http://heidihesssaxton.blogspot.com

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    It was working together over meals that my late wife taught me that I was a better chef than she. She noted that I worked to please MY palate, and made delightful dishes from out of my imagination. Even my ‘failures’ were success of unique meals, sometimes raucous with laughter at what didn’t work just right.

    She pointed out that Mom cooks for the general crowd – her children, her very beloved – and ‘generalizes’ her meal to all palates. The male chef tends to seek to find that flavor that please his own palate. This, then, is offered for his audience. His is more artistic simply from his self-interest, and his offerings can be like disgestible works of art.

    I miss that fun of working the kitchen together. Plus, if one needed a pan already used, the other just might dive into the sink of hot water to ready it for the new piece of work.

    My late wife, too, was wise in knowing that she would not last as I would – that her brittle childhood diabetes would take her down even as I was at ‘the top of my game’. Hence, part of that game was to know that I cook with flair and flavor, and delight to present my works to any audience. But, too, as I work in the kitchen on some dish, I often find myself in tearful prayer – missing my partner of spice and charm – commending her wondrous person to God . . .

    . . . where she is paving a way of my salvation describing my rigatoni with garlic and ricotta, and tempting the Ultimate Palate Who minds His throne.

    [NO! You can't have my recipe(s) - sometimes self-interest can be quite selfish; the chef to have his recipes for guests, not the whole world. Just give me a week's notice when you can make it. She also taught me that the shopping can be a fun eye-opener, too. You just know that any lady who can teach her man to shop, and enjoy it, deserves canonization.]

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    The family meal and blessing was always something I remember with great fondness from my days as a child.  My father would sit down and we would all bow our heads while my father would speak from his heart.  Every night was different and would relate something special that we experienced that day.  He was a true leader of his family spirtually.

    This is exactly what Our Lady of America has asked of men to do once again…take the spiritual lead in their own families and emulate St. Joseph and The Holy Family.

    Learn more about Our Lady of America and Her requests at http://www.oltiv.org and have a blessed day.

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