After reading a number of Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle's other books, meeting her in person, and watching some of her TV appearances, I knew to expect a great deal more than a dry commentary on the importance of eating dinner together as a family when I agreed to read and review this book.
My copy of Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality by Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle came at just the right time. I had recently become aware that my life was not nearly as grounded in prayer as it ought to be and has been at other periods. I knew being diligent and faithful when it comes to saying grace and blessings before meals would be a great and super-simple way to reignite my prayer life.
If we do not allow ourselves to be fed and willing to seek out and/or accept nourishment, we will not have what we need to share true sustenance with others. It’s along the lines of the, first put on your own oxygen mask before helping the people around you with their advice. If you need to HALT because you are, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, then it's time to take care of your own needs before you can adequately and reasonably meet those of another person.
I developed what I called "grace on the go" when I was nannying for little ones. Once everyone had been served food they would probably eat, I would often forget to say a blessing before everyone started chowing down. I, therefore, used this adapted version of grace: "Blessed, oh, Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are already receiving from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."
The inspiration to add some additional prayer, catechesis, and faith-based discussions at the dinner table as a family is definitely of the Holy Spirit. It's so easy to skip over grace or to rush through it when the food's hot and everyone's hungry.
When I was growing up, our family traditionally prayed two variations of grace. The good old default one was, "Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen."
When my youngest sister was still under the age of five, sometimes we shortened the meal blessing to a very exuberant chant: "Thank You, God, for giving us food! Thank You, God, for giving us food!"
To be honest, family dinners at the Niermeyer residence could be quite fun and/or exasperatingly nerve-wracking. We would have nights when we'd laugh so hard we almost choked. There was more than one time when mashed potatoes or some other edible item hit the walls during an impromptu food fight.
Certain remnants of one particular food fight were unwittingly taken into public. My sister went out with a slice of toast caught in her hair. After leaving the house post-food fight, she was browsing at a bookstore and noticed a handsome young man staring at her. She brushed her hair away from her face. A piece of toast fell out of her blond locks. Suddenly the intrigue of this possible suitor staring intensely at her dissipated. She quickly scurried out of the bookstore, resolving never to leave the house with bread in her hair, again. Her friends heard this story, and the next time they had a party for her, they all clipped pieces of toast in their hair.
Gabriella, a friend of ours we met through St. Benedict's and 40 Days for Life, always ended the meal blessing with “and may the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.” Kevin and I thought that was a great addition to grace and now pray that each time after blessing the food.Such a small addition to a prayer can really add to the depth of meditation and consideration of others. Suddenly, not only the people present but all of those who have gone before us in the faith, are lifted up in prayer.
Feeding Your Family's Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality is a perfect guide for infusing dinner prayer time with more depth, a brief, but meaningful lesson about the Catholic faith, the saints, and the fundamental teachings of the Catechism in a way that is approachable for families, practical in terms of time required, and uplifting in nature.
I highly recommend Feeding Your Family's Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality for any and all Christian families interested in a closer walk with Christ and a more intimate connection with the members of their family.
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