What do family dinners have to do with faith?

GA Catholic sends this comment:  ‘Without questioning the value of sharing meals together as a family, what in the world does this have to do with ‘Handing on the faith?'”

This comment refers to the post mentioning Family DayA Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children, celebrated on September 28, brought to you by the folks at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA)

 Great question, GA Catholic.  

1. One of the ways we Catholics talk about Mass is as a meal.  If our kids rarely experience meals eaten with others in a family setting, without the TV on, how will they ever be able to recognize the connections between family meals and the Mass?

2. One of the best vehicles to hand on the faith is the family dinner table discussion.  I often ask my kids, “Tell me some stories about your day.” (This proved much more successful than saying, “How was school”?) Answers to this question tell us a lot about their friends, their teachers, their ethical dilemmas, their attitudes toward people and things.  We can weigh in with a faith perspective on these topics.  On Sundays you can ask kids what they thought about a particularly challenging story you heard at Mass that day: the prodigal son, the laborers in the vineyard, Abraham and Isaac, Noah and the Ark. Kids have opinions, questions about many of these stories if you give them the chance to express them.

3. Never eating dinner together is a sign that something in the family is out of whack.  Priorities are skewed.  Kids’ sports commitments may be running the family schedule, for example.  (Few families would say, “Our kids sports are the most important thing in our family life,” but our schedules might say something different.)  “A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children”  is an invitation to look at our family priorities and whether our schedules match our priorities. How do you schedule in “handing on the faith” if you never eat dinner together?  Here’s a great interview on family priorities from U.S. Catholic magazine.  

4. Joseph Califano and his researchers at CASA say that eating dinner with your kids regularly is one way to keep them off drugs.  I assume anyone wanting to hand on the faith to their kids would of course want to keep them off drugs, especially when the method involves something as easy, cheap, and noncontroversial as macaroni and cheese.  

5. Family meals are a great opportunity to pray together.  Let the kids take turns praying spontaneously for the needs of the world, their friends, your family members.  It’s good to give kids opportunities to pray with and in front of others.

I could go on and on…

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