Posted November 28th, 2012 | From the Feedbag

 Grace Before Meals in Public

In the upcoming Season of Advent and Christmas, we will all be invited to various dinner parties, banquets or meals. Before the meal begins however, there can be an awkward moment.  Does someone lead grace? And, what can be done to bring a little bit of God back to these festivities – especially since these are all celebrating (or preparing to celebrate) something holy. This “From the Feedbag” E-Blast responds to a question from someone seeking how to say grace in public, but in a way that invites people together, rather than separates us from each other. And, by the way, if you have questions for future “From the Feedbag” responses, click HERE.


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Dear Father, God bless you for your work…we are all the better for it!  Please see that attached email. For the past four years I have been the president of [a] company …and have instituted (did not ask for a vote) a tradition of praying before our banquets, birthday parties and fundraisers.  As my term has ended (and I missed a meeting), the group would like to eliminate this practice. (BTW I have never mentioned “Jesus;” I do reference the Hebrew Scriptures …but I do make the sign of the cross…can’t help that). Father, my goal is to bring the love of Jesus Christ to all I meet. And certainly a short prayer…”grace before meals”…is a lovely uniting practice.If you have any words of wisdom…I would be greatly appreciative.
Praised be Jesus Christ!

pk

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Dear “pk”,
Praying before you eat is a dying discipline and an unappreciated act of faith. It also speaks of a diminishing religious zeal and a lessening of manners. By voting NOT to say a little prayer, people inadvertently (consciously) think it’s not necessary to say “thank you” – to the farmers, ranchers, cooks or wait staff, much less God for the bounty they are about to receive.
The ‘unsung’ heroes of a recent church event in Ijamsville, MD – to help promote marriage and family. The organizers, Dr. & Mrs. Grabowski and members of St. Ignatius who helped cook, serve and clean for a fun and faithful event.
I can understand your angst about the “laws” and decisions forbidding a moment of gratitude and grace. Unfortunately, we are living in a world that is increasingly hostile to religion, uncomfortable with praying and downright ignorant of social graces during a meal. I find it commendable that you want to bring some structure and some spiritual inspiration to your dinner parties. However, as we approach a new era of angry secularism, we need to be as “innocent as doves and cunning as serpents” (Matthew 10:16) when it comes to bringing God back to our socializing, and bringing gracebeforemeals.com back to reality!
A young parishioner feasting on the Fusion Fajitas at an event in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Yes, he prayed before he dove right in!

Here are some suggestions that may help: (1) Instead of saying that you want to offer a prayer at a “non-religious” event, perhaps you can say that you’d like to offer a “few words of thanks and heartfelt remembrances,” or “inspired sentiments.” While this is “distinct” from a formal prayer, it provides at least some avenue in which you can offer a prayerful thought, even if it’s not a formal prayer.

Talk about a public expression of faith – people climbing the Holy Stairs Shrine in Rome on their knees.

(2) In this moment of sharing inspired sentiments (i.e., prayer), be sure to specifically thank “all those who made this meal possible,” including those who raised and farmed the food, prepared it, serve it, and all of us who celebrate our togetherness. By being “inclusive” in this prayer, we show how God uses human moments to make Himself present. It’s an idea similar to the prayer used at Mass, “Blessed are you Lord of all Creation, for through Your goodness we have this bread and wine to offer, fruit of the vine and the earth, and work of human hands, it will become for the bread of life, our spiritual drink.” By bringing humanity into the “conversation” (i.e., prayer with God), we get people thinking that saying “thank you” is a good, normal and appropriate thing to do at these social gatherings. 

Nighttime view of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica – a center of faith, but also history, art and culture, and a tribute to human development collaborating with the Divine Faith. It still stands as one of the greatest places to visit.

(3) While there should be no reason to be ashamed of the Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord, we have to be attentive and respectful to the plural expressions of faith and those of different religions. Perhaps you can conclude by praying in the name of “God who blesses us to become brothers and sisters – one world family – in the Lord.”  

The tomb of St. Cecilia, young martyr. The way her fingers are configured, showing a combination of “2 and 3″ indicates that she died professing her faith in Jesus Christ, who was 2 Natures (human and divine) and part of the Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit).

(4) If offering a “few words of inspired thanks” still causes religious suspicion, a group leader, organizer or host of the gathering can offer a sentimental “toast.” A “toast” – a raising of the glass (like the way the priest raises the chalice at mass) – is still a common expression of celebration. However, as believers, we can turn the words of a toast into a moment of prayerful expressions of gratitude. But, keep these comments extra short. And, as you raise the glass, encourage people to have an attitude of gratitude, and conclude by saying “amen and cheers.” It’s an easy way to slide in a prayer without coming across as a religious zealot.

Individual glasses of fine wine during a tasting and viticultural lesson on the culinary cruise.
(5) Depending on the gathering, it may be very appropriate for you NOT to offer a public prayer as people can get rather hostile, sad to say. In this case, no one can stop you from praying silently to God. He is the one to whom the prayer is directed. If you are the host, or a guest of honor, it would be very appropriate for you to share your faith. The guests should know that you are a man or woman of faith by how you live your life, and not just because you want to pray before you eat. However, if you’re simply a guest, or a friend of the guest, you should have an established rapport with the host before you suggest that you “lead” a prayer. If you’re not in a position to take a lead role at the dinner or event – that is, someone who is called upon to make a speech, a toast or the official prayer – then it is best that you simply offer a prayer by yourself without making a spectacle or scene. The humble disposition of bowing your head, or making a simple but dignified sign of the cross, is more Christ-like than publicly announcing your faith in an uncomfortable way.
Liz Lev, professor and expert tour guide during one of the tapings for the “Savoring Our Faith: Special Edition in Rome”. Liz provides an excellent approach to sharing the faith through history and art.

These suggestions can hopefully make your dinner party or event more special, thematically appropriate and a true celebration. Your prayer – whether publicly or privately prayed – will always be heard by God loudly and clearly. And, if you are truly giving your prayer to God, He will use that opportunity to bring souls closer to Him around his Sacred Banquet.

  • How do you pray in public?  
  • Is this advice helpful to you?  
  • What would you suggest is the best way to introduce prayer in a place where people have different faiths and backgrounds?
  • Where are you most comfortable to pray, and where are you least comfortable to share your faith?  

Your questions, comments and responses are very helpful in giving our movement the proper focus and relevance to your faithful foodie experiences.  Please post your comments below.

 

Father in heaven, we thank you for the people who want to make a witness to your goodness by praying in public. Give them the necessary graces, virtue and proper skills to be an effective minister of your presence, a true bridge to your bounty. Teach people how to be humble in their approach to sharing faith, and always trusting that you always hear our prayers – spoken from our lips and held silently in our hearts. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

At the Church in Palawan Philippines, a nation that is unafraid to express their faith in God. Though a poor and developing nation, it is a joyful nation because of the fervor and faith of the people.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1ST & 2ND 

Family Faith Festival at St. Patrick ChurchSt. Patrick Church, 1000 N. Beckley Station Road. Louisville, KY 40245CONTACT: Tim Grove | tgrove@st.patrick-lou.org | 502-719-0362

  • Fr. Leo is a very energetic and sincere guest with a flair for performing and engaging audiences. He is committed to helping families grow stronger- body, mind and soul! He’s coming to St. Patrick, Dec. 1 & 2 to present a parish-wide mission.
  • While at St. Patrick, Father Leo will spread the good news about the importance of family meals in three ways:
  • Father Leo will preach at all Masses
  • Father Leo will give a talk entitled, “Spiritual Combat” to our teens at 7 p.m., Dec. 1 in Schindler Hall
  • [Mass at 5 p.m. and a light meal will precede Father’s talk.
  • Father Leo will offer a Family Faith Festival and Fajitas dinner from 1 to 4 p.m., Dec. 2 in the Celtic Center.
  • Father Leo also will autograph aprons, and copies of his books, all of which will be available for purchase just in time for Christmas.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6THHoly Hour Presentation at Columbia UniversityColumbia University 405 West 114th St. New York, NY 10025 CONTACT: Fr. Dan O’Reilly | 212-866-1500 | daniel.o’reilly@archny.org

  • Every Thursday, Columbia University’s Catholic Ministry has a Holy Hour, adoration, and feature a speaker once a month for the students to see. In December, Fr. Leo will be the featured speaker who will have a chance to speak about Grace Before Meals, share in the Benediction following the Holy Hour, and then mingle with students complete with a cooking demo. 
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Posted in From the Feedbag | 2 Comments

2 Responses to “From The Feedbag: Grace Before Meals in Public”

  • Thank you, Father,, for your effort to acknowledge God by saying grace. In public, I bless my meal by the sign of the cross directly over the plate. Or, I bow my head in silent prayer. My husband and I frequently are in public settings, or at private dinners where we are in a minority as Christians. We have adapted by honoring our need to thank God in a way that is authentic and unabashed.

    BP

    Posted by Beth Parks on November 28th, 2012 at 8:46 pm.
  • Fr. Leo–
    your suggestions on ecumenical “prayer” before a shared meal were very enlightening, as my husband’s family is composed of mostly nonbelievers. Your suggestions are a great way to introduce, at the very least, the notion of thankfulness for the food we prepare and share. My husband & I pray before every meal, whether at home or in a restaurant, and with our son’s and my family.
    I have learned to be more open in giving God the Glory when He intervenes, in situations where it may not be politically correct to be overtly religious. So far, no one has challenged my statements (“opinions”), but that may be due to the current norm of respecting everyone’s opinions. Hopefully, this will lead me to being more open in sharing prayer. I am a nurse and we are taught that all patients have spiritual needs which must be addressed in a way appropriate for that patient’s needs. This does give me leeway to bring prayer & spiritual comfort into my nursing practice.

    Posted by Genie Ford on November 28th, 2012 at 10:39 pm.

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