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.
“Oh mom, we just started a new electronic game. Can’t we eat later?”
The determined mother of a 10-year-old boy and 8-year-old twin girls retorted, “Don’t you ‘Oh mom’ me. Get yourselves up here, wash your hands and make sure you’re seated before I put the food on the table.”
Then, after a pregnant pause, she drew 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 to herself, secretly delighted that her words of warning had sunk in and were being quoted back to her.
We all know the rhyming adage, “The family that prays together, stays together.” However, in our fast-paced world, how do we corral extra-curricular kids and overly-committed parents into the same room long enough to talk to God instead of sending thumb-scurrying text messages across never-darkening cell phones? Some might even ask, “Why should we try? Is praying or eating together really going to solve any of our contemporary problems?”
Here are the scientific facts. Jill Anderson reports these findings from Harvard University. Their 2020 study conducted by Anne Fishel confirms that gathering together for the evening meal and family conversation is “hugely beneficial for kids.” Contrary to popular belief, 80 percent of teens rank family dinner very high on their list of preferences and admit that dinner time is when they are “most likely to talk to their parents.”
Ms. Fishel adds that family meals improve physical stamina, cognitive acumen and academic performance due to superior nutrition. This happens because home cooking tends to be lower in fat, sugar and salt intake, has fewer calories and contains more fruit, fiber, vegetables and protein. The truth is that children who eat at the family dinner table rather than on their own consume better food choices and consequently enjoy lower obesity rates.
Even more compelling, the psychological benefits are astounding. Family dining relates to less depression, anxiety, substance abuse, tobacco smoking, teen pregnancy, and to improved self-esteem and resilience!
The easiest way to have a family pray together is having them eat together. Offering a prayer before meals and giving thanks afterwards can become a truly graced moment physically and spiritually for everyone.
Jesus did not eat his last supper alone. He gathered the disciples and gave them and us the Eucharist, a word that means thanksgiving. This year is a great opportunity to change our annual Thanksgiving Day meal into a recurring family dinner gathering. Since as few as three or four shared evenings a week can turn the tide away from sin and closer to God, the family that eats together can more easily pray together and eventually stay together celebrating happier, healthier, holier lives.
Father Pagliari's monthly Holy Homework column can be found at https://www.cny.org.
Comments can be sent to: FatherBobPagliari@Yahoo.com