Friday, August 16, 2013

Grace before meals

I grew up saying grace before every meal, but I got lazy about it in college. Dining halls aren't exactly the most conducive places for prayer.

That all changed a few years ago, when I was out to dinner at an Irish pub in DC. My friends and I, led by a friend who was discerning the priesthood, paused to bow our heads and pray before eating.

As we began eating, a sweet old man came up to us with tears in his eyes. He thanked us for pausing to pray. "It's so good," he said, "to see young people saying grace."

I was so moved by that experience. I never realized such a simple act as praying in public could encourage other people and give them hope. Ever since, I try to make a point of praying before meals, especially when I'm in public.

What about you? Do you usually pray before sitting down to eat?


  1. Hey Tess, what a lovely post. I too grew up saying grace before every meal (my parents and siblings at home still do, and I of course join in when I'm home), but I have to say once I was eating in dining halls in college or at my desk in my room, I dropped the habit. I wonder if it's because somehow in my mind, grace had become a prayer you say with people; a communal thank-you for blessings received, and a lot of my college friends were of different faiths, or none at all...

    Still, I don't say it when I'm eating out either, so there's really no excuse! I must try harder! I am moving home in a month though, as my new job is in my hometown - so it'll be nice to be saying grace around the dinner table with my family again! We always say grace and then mention a few specific intentions - e.g. for an exam coming up, anyone we've heard of who is ill, if one of us is going to be traveling etc...

    Out of curiosity, what grace do you say? We always said "Bless us, Oh Lord, for these thy gifts, which from thy bounty we are about to receive, through Christ our Lord, Amen". I always thought that was the standard Catholic grace, but then I have Catholic friends who say a different version, so I'm not sure...

    1. Wow, what a beautiful custom your family has! I think you're right about the communal nature of saying grace; I also felt a little funny saying it by myself when my college friends didn't share my faith, or any faith, which likely played a role in my praying it less often. Although in retrospect, saying it by myself may have been a good way to witness to my faith, as evidenced by the sweet old man we encountered in that restaurant. But I don't think that would have occurred to me at the time.

      We say, "Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord. Amen." A wee bit different from the one your family says—I bet that can be chalked up to regional differences between here and Ireland. But close enough to be pretty near universal. :) I also always thought that grace was pretty standard; almost all my friends use the same one.

  2. It took a while for me to get comfortable saying it in public as well. But now that I've pushed myself to go through that period where it feels odd and awkward, it just seems like second nature to make the sign of the cross and say grace to myself even if I'm alone. :)

  3. I've been trying to return to the habit, even if I'm saying it by myself. I have some Catholic friends who always say it before they eat and others (who are Catholic also) who don't. I think it's a great way to integrate prayer into daily life, as well as an opportunity to witness to others in public. I just need to get better with my consistency!