Growing up in my house, attendance at Sunday dinner was a requirement. Though my family wasn’t particularly religious, both my parents were firm believers that we structure our Sunday plans around this meal, which was always to be enjoyed together. My mom, being mid-western gal she is, always made too much delicious food and we would sit for a few hours talking about baseball, business, politics, basically anything under the sun.
Some of my fondest memories are the debates that our conversations would spur, as we were seated around that rustic wood table. These Sunday dinners provided my brother and I a place to discover our voice and a platform to practice using this voice to defend issues which we believed in.
Throughout the years, the faces around the table changed—my grandfather visited every now and then, friends came and went, the girlfriends my brother brought home changed, my sweet (and brave) husband made his way in—but the camaraderie, laughter, love, and lively discussions did not change.
The dinner table is certainly the center of the family. It provides a time for families to grow together without interruptions or judgement.
Jesus’ first miracle was performed in the context of a meal (the wedding feast at Cana) and the presentation of his gift to us, the Eucharist, was performed while he was reclining at table with his disciples.
Every week Catholics once again gather around that same table to participate in the ultimate act of love, to receive the bread which satisfies—the body, blood, soul and divinity—of the Lord in the Eucharist. Since the family is the domestic church, there needs to be a table for the people to gather about regularly. The family must come together in order to maintain a common mission and to provide a safe place for children to become comfortable voicing and defending their beliefs.
In order to properly form missionaries ready for battle, the ecclesia domestica needs to answer the call of its Mother, the Church, and regularly come together for formal and informal formation. The dinner table provides an informal setting for parents to connect with their children and gently guide them towards all that is good, true, and beautiful.
Formal formation found in actively participating in the Lord’s Supper will naturally seep its way into informal dinner conversation. The Catechism reminds us that the Lord’s Supper “anticipates the wedding feast of the lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem” (1329). So, though not every meal together will resemble a glimpse of the wedding feast of the lamb, gathering to share a meal will provide space for questions and discussion. Through these moments, seeds are planted and consciences are formed.
As Catholics, we should bring our faith to every action of our day, and eating is more than just saying grace before the meal. It’s taking a moment to step out of the hustle and bustle of life and give thanks to God for the food, and then rest while enjoying it with those you love. If a daily family meal isn’t manageable, make a priority to share a meal together once a week, whether that be after Mass on Sunday or a different day. The camaraderie and memories formed through these simple moments transcend time and space.