There are many Catholic and other Christian families all around the world who begin each of their meals with the practice of saying ‘grace’.
Used in this context of a prayer said before a meal, grace literally means ‘thanksgiving’. You are supposed to be thanking God for the gift of His bounty supplying the most basic of human physical needs.
Many people believe that this prayer is obligatory, not optional, and that it should be said not only before the meal, but also after the meal.
Christ gave us a tremendous example as he broke bread with His disciples at the Last Supper, and many other times throughout his ministry.
In early monasticism, each dish would be brought out separately, and prayer would be said prior to each of these dish courses.
Throughout the history of the Church, saying ‘grace’ or some prayer before each meal has been a traditional staple of the faithful, and teaching your children the proper way to say grace was a key educational effort for families.
The most common form of grace said by many Christians has its roots in antiquity, and has been said around tables all over the world for centuries: “Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
In this familiar version that is simple to teach our youngsters in a family or school setting, we begin by asking the Lord’s blessing. We go on to specify that the blessing for which we are praying is one of the gift of this particular meal.
We then acknowledge this gift is received thanks to the intercession on behalf of all men by our Lord, Jesus Christ. Finally we conclude with the simple “Amen”, which of course means “to strengthen” or “confirm” and was recorded as being uttered by our Lord in the Scriptures dozens of times.
With the formal American holiday of Thanksgiving upon us, a subject that I will again explore over these next few days, it is important to remember to give thanks each and every day for all that we receive. Doing this at meal times is an especially noteworthy way to incorporate this tradition of thanks to God into our daily individual and familial routines.