-Father Arthur Tonne, The Big Book of Sacramentals
“Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, distributed them to those reclining” – St. John, 6:11.
A Catholic Army chaplain of World War Two was relating some of his experiences. Speaking of starvation in war-torn Europe, he described what he saw in an American Army camp in France. Every day a group of boys and girls of all sizes and ages, but with one common longing for food, would search among the empty food cans thrown out from the Army kitchen.
With painstaking perseverance the children would scrape every speck of food from the cans. After they had gathered whatever they could find, each child placed his precious findings on the ground, knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and said a prayer before his miserable meal. Many of the soldiers were touched to tears.
Millions of people are starving to death in the world today. Millions do not know where their next meal is coming from. Millions cannot remember when they had their last fully satisfying dinner. Yes, millions are like those famished French children–they pick up every scrap and speck of food, no matter where or when they find it. And many of them are grateful to the point of thanking God for these miserable scraps.
In the midst of all this starvation you and I have plenty to eat. Once in a while we may go hungry, but we always know that in time we will have something to eat. The Lord has been boundlessly good to us Americans. He has spared us the sufferings of starvation. He has made our fields and gardens yield bounteously.
How many of us thank Almighty God for every meal? How many of us remember to repeat a meal prayer three times a day? How many of us show appreciation to the Lord who provides for us?
Strictly speaking, it is not a sin to omit your meal prayer. However, it is sinful never to say a prayer at meals. It is thoughtlessness and ingratitude of the rankest kind.
The Old and the New Testaments are full of examples of God’s people praying for God’s blessing on what they were about to eat, thanking God for the food which He made to grow. We read that even the pagans would pause to think of their gods before they sat down to eat. But the best example is that of our Lord, who gave thanks when He multiplied food to feed the crowd in the desert.
The early Christian centuries are filled with reports of this pious practice. “Prayer,” writes Tertullian, “begins and ends the meal.” “When we sit down to the table,” St. Athanasius tells us, “and take the bread to break it, we make the sign of the cross over it three times, and return thanks. After the repast we renew our thanksgiving by saying thrice: ‘The good and merciful Lord has given food to them that fear Him. Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.'”
Why should we pray at all our meals?
1.It is the intelligent and thoughtful thing to do. It shows that we realize where food comes from. It shows that we think of Him who has made this meal possible. It distinguishes us from the mere animal.
The story is told of a seven-year-old boy who was invited to lunch at the home of a playmate. As soon as everyone was seated, and the food was served, the family began to eat–without a prayer.
“Don’t you pray before you eat?” asked the guest.
“We just don’t take time for it,” admitted the mother as she flushed a deep purple.
The visitor thought a moment and then blurted out: “You’re just like my dog–he starts right in.”
2.Saying grace at meals is common courtesy. What would you think of a person to whom you gave a meal, who would not take time to thank you for it? After all, every meal we eat is a gift of God.
3.Saying a meal prayer is good hygiene; it is good for the health. The benefit of a meal depends almost entirely upon the condition of your stomach, a very sensitive organ. If you are angry, over-excited, hurried or worried, the stomach becomes tense. Its glands do not function properly. It cannot digest food properly.
Blessing yourself and your food, however briefly, has a calming effect upon the entire system, especially upon the stomach. It soothes the nerves and the digestive organs. And that is good for the health.
4.Praying at meals is often the only chance and the only time we have in the busy day to direct our thoughts to God. We are supposed to “pray always.” Since we cannot and do not at all times think of God during the work-a-day hours, we should be all the more thoughtful about remembering the Lord at definite times. Meal times are particularly precious.
5.Offering thanks at meals is the best way to incline God to grant further blessings of soul and body. We are eager to do another favor for the person who expresses his thanks. We are hesitant to go out of our way for one who never shows gratitude. So with God.
He will continue to bless those who express their thanks for the blessing of food. He will withdraw His favors from those who never thank Him.
Meal prayers are a daily sacramental, a means of grace and heavenly help, an assistance to health of soul and body, a source of blessing throughout the day.
Picture yourself scraping your meal bit by bit from cans on a garbage pile. Picture yourself, picture your children searching among the leavings and garbage of other people for a bite or handful to eat.
Then remember that God has spared us this suffering, this disgust. He has been bounteously good.
Be sure to bless Him, be sure to thank Him, be sure to pray to Him every time you sit down to that thrice-daily blessing–a meal. Amen.
A note from me:
It is good to say your grace after meals, also. Here it is:
We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, Almighty God, who livest and reignest world without end. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
The Angelus is very efficacious too. Here is the post with the prayer, etc.
Introducing our new line of homemade lovelies…..
Rosie has spent many hours in her chair crocheting doilies. They are well-made and quite gorgeous, and would add a lovely touch to your home decor! They would make a lovely gift, too. Come and take a peek here.
The rosary, scapulars, formal prayers and blessings, holy water, incense, altar candles. . . . The sacramentals of the Holy Catholic Church express the supreme beauty and goodness of Almighty God. The words and language of the blessings are beautiful; the form and art of statues and pictures inspire the best in us. The sacramentals of themselves do not save souls, but they are the means for securing heavenly help for those who use them properly….
A faithful St. Robert, a humble St. Alberic and an unshakably loyal St. Stephen Harding. What do they have in common? They are the Three Religious Rebels that are brought to life by M. Raymond in this pre-sequel of The Family That Overtook Christ , the amazing story of the family of St. Bernard of Clairvaux…
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