The Family Meal

I’ve said many times that creating a family and raising children is the toughest job in the world. Parents are heroes. One of the things that makes family life such a challenge is the culture we live in. Its values and goals so often conflict with the life experiences we want our children to have.

Most parents want the “best” for their family. But, what is the best? Current social norms encourage families to “go for it all”. Sports, social media, cell phones, video games, internet browsing, and cable TV are all part of the fabric of young family life.

Each in themselves can be harmless and at best, recreational and restorative. But, as in all things, “too much” causes dysfunction and the breakdown of the peaceful flow of human relationships.

Just last week the newspaper reported that teens were spending more time on the computer and cell phones than in daily sleep! A local college chaplain told me the biggest challenge he had in helping his young students was to get them to put down their iPads and talk to each other!

In all the chatter of social media we are losing something precious . . . the fun and satisfaction of talking and relating with each other. Strong measures to correct this are needed and it will, at times, take courage and wisdom to deal with the resistance.

One step you can take is the family meal (especially on Sunday). Does your family have dinner together? Maybe not every night given people’s crazy schedules – – – but more times than not during the week, families should sit at table to eat and share stories about the day or upcoming events.

It’s not that any one hilarious story or deeply meaningful comment will happen; that’s not the point. What’s happening is the wider event — we’re caring for each other. We’re learning about our lives together. The dinner table is where we show each other “I’ve got your back”, “we are a family”.

Think back. I bet you could tell five really good stories about your dinner table growing up. Funny stories, stories of tears and melt downs, stories of deep sharing. Parents, it’s up to you to show your children how important dinner together is. You’re there to create memories.

So . . . . . . cell phones, video games, and iPads, all have their proper place, just not at the dinner table.

My Dinner Table Story ……

We had a dog named “Penny”, a copper colored weiner dog. This dog had free run of the back yard and, as dogs do, Penny would leave her “droppings” everywhere. As we headed out to play, mom would remind us to “watch where we stepped” Well, guess who didn’t? No sooner had we finished Grace before dinner, when the odor told everyone someone had “stepped in it”.

“Check your shoes,” dad would say. Yes, it was me. No shouting or finger pointing . . . just go clean off your shoes or even better take them off. Returning to the table, the offense, having been removed, we all could enjoy our dinner.

I’ve told Fr. John this is the perfect image of Purgatory (you can’t sit at the Banquet of Heaven with “you know what” on your shoes). Clean ’em off’ and you’re welcome at the table. He’s not buying it.

God loves you very much.

Fr. Tim


Lord, we thank you
for the goodness of our people
and for the spirit of justice
that fills this nation.
We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the
land and the challenge of the cities.

We thank you for our work and our rest,
for one another, and for our homes.
We thank you, Lord:
accept our thanksgiving on this day.
We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.