You may have heard or read somewhere that children who routinely have meals with their parents have better outcomes in school and social interactions when compared to children who do not. But how does it relate to faith formation?

It has everything to do with it, as faith is about relationships, and relationships are further formed around the table.

Family Meals Provide an Anchor

It seems that we are busier than ever. From multiple jobs, managing the home, sports schedules, school commitments, etc. Many family members can be on completely different schedules. Sitting down together for a meal provides an opportunity to slow down and reconnect with spouses, siblings, parents and children. Starting the meal with a prayer also means reconnecting with God.

Dinnertime Prayers

One idea is that each person announces his or her greatest blessing of the day, what they are most thankful for, and/or how they encountered Christ today. If your family can sit down together on most evenings, you can have someone different lead the prayer each night, asking God to bless each person at the table, extended family, and those who have passed.


Parents and children spend an increasing amount of time in front of their screens, including at school and work, watching videos and shows, playing games, and on social media. A screenless meal together allows each person to unplug, relax, and emotionally recharge. Having a family rule of no devices at the table when there are two or more present can go a long way.

Group Effort

Coming together for a meal requires many hands and a fair amount of cooperation. Parents must leave work on time, someone needs to prepare or order the meal, and the children need to transition from playing, screentime, or homework. There is also setting the table, cleaning up, and the dishes. Everyone is accountable to one another, requiring self-giving.

Passing Down Traditions

Traditions help the family stay connected to prior generations, by honoring and carrying forward practices deemed valuable and meaningful. Tradition and food go together. Whether it is the prayer custom, the types of foods prepared, or the dishware being used on special occasions or holidays. The stories told around the table that accompanies each tradition contribute to the family identity.

Heavenly Banquet

Family mealtime that includes prayer, joyful storytelling, and time with loved ones points us to the heavenly banquet. Many important Biblical events are often accompanied by a meal. Jesus made this clear with the feeding of thousands with the miracle of five loaves and two fishers, and the breaking of the bread and sharing of his own Body and Blood.

Feast Days and Food

Feast days in the Catholic Church are dedicated to honoring and celebrating the saints and significant holidays, often with traditional foods. For example, on the Feast of St. Joseph, it is customary to share a special pastry called “St. Joseph’s Day bread” or “Zeppole.” In some Latin American countries, the rosca de reyes (King’s cake) is a sweet bread traditionally eaten on the Feast of the Epiphany, also associated with the Blessed Mother. Christmas and Easter involve special meals and culinary traditions. These foods and others serve to commemorate and celebrate liturgical events throughout the Church year.

The Eucharist at Mass

The central and most significant meal in the Catholic faith is the Eucharist or Holy Communion. During Mass, the bread and wine are consecrated and become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Just as we need to eat food to give us energy and keep our bodies healthy, we also need Jesus, the living bread, to nourish our souls and keep our spiritual lives strong. When we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving the very life of Christ into our souls. It strengthens us, gives us grace, and helps us grow in our relationship with God.

Famous Meals in the Bible

Several famous meals mentioned in the Bible hold significant meaning. The Last Supper was the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion. During this meal, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist. All four Gospels tell the story of Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus performed his first public miracle by turning water into wine. These meals remind us of the significance of gathering around the table in Christ, as they can be moments of encounter, nourishment, and spiritual growth.

Before a Family Meal

Cooperation and fellowship around a special meal can begin long before anyone takes their first bite. Children can help prepare the grocery list and assist in finding the food at the store. Children can also set the table, help with various food prep and cooking-related tasks, and bring some of the prepared food dishes to the table. Once everyone is seated and settled, the family can enter prayer by expressing gratitude for the meal and asking for God’s blessings. This prayer can be a simple and heartfelt expression of thanksgiving while inviting God to be present at the table.

During a Family Meal

Family members can collectively acknowledge all who contributed (from the greatest to the least). The older family members can model for the younger ones the practice of taking the time to be present with those around them, including sharing and listening to stories. Those in attendance can take turns making a toast to celebrate current blessings while remembering those who are absent from the table. For special gatherings, pictures can be taken to capture the joyful moment. Eating together in fellowship can foster a spirit of faith, love, and unity within the family and deepen one’s relationship with God.

After a Family Meal

Once the last person has finished, the family could give a final prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude for the meal and fellowship while praying for those who will go without substance this day and for those who are lonely, sick, and facing various challenges. Collaboration over the meal can continue with everyone pitching in to help clear the table, store any leftovers, wash and dry the dishes, take out the garbage, etc. Many hands make light work.