SUPERNATURAL Power of Family Meals --VID 13

Power of Family Meals  -- VID 13 

I am strongly convinced there will be no renewal in the Church until the Gospel- valued practice of meal hospitality is restored in believers’ homes. This authentic, original and new direction has one Jesus trick. Eating with Jesus means taking up His mission.  That’s new evangelization.

Scientific analysis (Miriam Weinstein's work above) shows the daily family meal as a trans-cultural, global experience strengthening one’s ability to cope with stress, trauma and change; fostering personal and group resilience; and even capable of transforming relationships.  Specialists affirm that sharing meals separates humans from animals who just feed.

Daily supper, therefore, binds your family with global humanity.  Its ordinary, everyday character is its real strength.  Humans are meaning seeking, symbolizing animals.  Our thirst for meaning in life is quenched in regular, familiar, symbolic action.  Meals, no matter how simple or solemn, repeatedly use well-known, recognizable props: napkins, dishes, silver/plastic ware.   They also have accompanying behaviors: setting the table, taking a seat, customary beginnings and ends, passing food and drink, conversation, cleaning up after oneself and others.   Meal actions bring us to the familiarity and safety of home, ultimately leading us each day to our full, everlasting destiny as humans with eternal souls.

Meal interaction forms and grounds group beliefs.  Mealtime separates the self from busyness, drawing individuals into a belonging moment which strengthens inter-personal bonds in the practice of “we/us” values or family communion.  Allowing for ongoing adjustments, from the unpretentious delivery pizza with wings, to an unforgettable linen tablecloth-ed and candled milestone or annual anniversary.  Flexibility in new situations is paramount, from babies to unexpected guests, family illness, to easy, convenient paper plates or special care for grandma’s heirloom china.

Meals nurture stomachs and relationships.  The Somalian word for family means “eating together.”  Eating with others is the Biblical origin of the word com-pan(e)-ion, literally, “person with whom I eat bread,” or my “bread-sharer.”  Wider community events have their own customary rituals.  Tailgate or halftime food and drink are adjusted to the context as are their eating rituals: hand held carriers, mega beverages, and fan’s sportswear coordinated with team colors.  These communal eating/drinking/sporting events join individuals together with chants and cheers subconsciously celebrating a “collective consciousness” of hometown bonding and identity.

Whether singing the National anthem, raising the flag, or wearing team colors at a stadium, the donning of a tuxedo or gown with boutonniere or bouquet, color coordinated table favors and settings, centerpieces, meal choices, toast, music and dancing, and cake cutting/sharing, these all connect humans with the family of humanity, with a commonly celebrated repertoire, bonding rituals, or family traditions.

A more recent, and very popular, ritual adaptation is celebrations motivating others to do good for others in need.  Thanksgiving dinner or a St Joseph’s Day table (above pic) is more than eating turkey or pasta.  Donating time, treasures, or talents to a food pantry or worthy cause makes feasting complete.  Public acts bind us to others, whether a global or regional community: 4th of July hot dogs and colors, New Year’s toast, Memorial Day with outdoor edibles.

Because daily meals are meant to be commonplace, they are not always perfect or fun.  Some may be boring, others (at times) healing; however, they’re always familiar.  As such, they help humans smooth over rough spots and/or crisis moments (like dysfunction, addiction).  Families who share meals have an uncanny resilience when it comes to dealing with difficulties, the unexpected, or tragedies.

No matter what, positive hormones rise after a shared meal creating feelings of calm and bonding.  Meal ritual is a powerful tool against large-scale forces pulling us apart.  Returns after long absences are eased with a comfort meal.  Feasters share, even repeat, anecdotal stories from the past as family myths and formative identity narratives.  Some of these stories are cemented in the spirit of a home with favorite heirloom recipes and antics.

Sharing a meal usually means trying to live life as we would prefer it to be.  When we fumble, another meal affords us the time to try again – practice makes perfect.  One behavior which needs frequent rehearsal is gratitude.  Prior to eating, this is the fundamental, grace-filled purpose of offering thanks to God, and for those who prepared the food.  Gratitude and appreciation for meal-preppers and providers needs to permeate the conversations of every meal: describing favorites, discussing flavors, textures and tastes, acknowledging effort and creativity.

Regular daily meals help us transcend personal limitations by transforming individuals through group interaction/ritual, especially when shared and eaten for the glory of God – the source of all good.  Continuity with the past through recipes, familiar practices/stories, actions, and traditions handed down to us reveals a timelessness of close relatives survived through crises and thrived into this very day.  If they could do it, we, of the same flesh, blood, and spirit, surely can. 

Holiday meals, and their daily mundane counterparts, link us with the greater "always and everywhere” like: spaghetti Thursdays; Sunday breakfasts; turkey with the trimmings; Christmas cookies; New Year’s toasts; St Valentine’s Day candy; Easter eggs: hardboiled, chocolate, marshmallow filled; Mother’s Day brunch/dinner; Father’s Day BBQs; 4th of July hot dogs on grilled rolls; Halloween treats; and all of the above and more with countless, corresponding props: table settings, placemats, centerpieces, Christmas wreaths/trees/decorations, red foil hearts, grassy baskets, field games, etc.  Family heritage potential provides us with meaning, or at least with ways of wrestling with the endless crises, worries, tribulations, and challenges of the "here & now."  In the same way a little boy’s dandelions are a mother’s beloved bouquet, a moonlit night on a lake or candlelit, wine infused dinner refurbishes love.

Now, just place these daily humdrum and holiday family meal-events into the hands of the Risen Lord who loves us to death and beyond.  Each Sunday the apostles encountered their Lord and Master in the breaking of the bread, and remembered this Sunday Eucharist each day as they broke bread in their homes. This is the fuller meaning of the petition asking God in the Lord's Prayer: give us this day our daily bread -- daily, family communion with the Lord.

VID 13 accompanies this article

Next Saturday: My Patron: “When the saints come marching in!”
All video and textual content of St Casimir’s Series on the Domestic Church and Tandem Blog Articles © CzMKrysa, Buffalo, NY April-July 2020


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