Prayer at Meals

September 26, 1993
Brother John Raymond

	Not to long ago someone wrote to me asking about a prayer to say
 before meals. In past years praying before meals was a standard
 Catholic practice. The most popular prayer taught to Catholics,
 which I also learned as a child, was the following: "Bless us Oh
 Lord in these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy
 bounty through Christ Our Lord. Amen." This is not the only prayer
 that can be prayed before meals. At our monastery we pray before our
 meals: "Lord Jesus, we thank you for this food and we ask You to
 bless those who have provided it for us. Blessed Virgin with Thy
 loving Child Thy blessing give to us this day. Amen."
	Any prayer before meals should first thank God for the food that
 is about to be eaten. Food is a gift from God. Farmers experience
 this maybe a little more than those of us who live in the city. Many
 a farmer has had a crop failure and gone out of business because of
 bad weather. The supermarket makes one forget this reality. One
 child was asked by her teacher where milk came from. The child
 proudly answered "from the store." One presumes food will always be
 plentiful in the supermarket or that technology can always save the
 day. Yet, it would not take much for our country to experience a
 real famine. Lack of rain, plagues, floods, etc. could quickly empty
 the shelves in the stores and the food on our tables. Other factors
 may also bring about an empty table at mealtime - unemployment, war,
 etc. So we have many good reasons to thank God for providing our
 food both directly and indirectly. Our Lord Himself gave us this
 example of giving God thanks before meals. The Gospel tells us that
 before He miraculously fed the four thousand people Jesus took the
 loaves and the fish and He gave thanks. (See Mt 15,36)
	Another aspect of a prayer before meals is it should call down
 God's blessing upon the food one is about to eat. In doing so one is
 asking Him make it benefit both one's body and soul. How many people
 have become sick or even died as a result of the food they ate. One
 of the best examples of the power of a blessing is found in the life
 of St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Monks. Someone was
 trying to kill him. So they put poison in the wine he was to drink
 with his meal. When he said the blessing over the meal before eating
 the wine glass broke spilling its deadly contents on the table. St.
 Benedict was preserved from harm by God's blessing. These days
 people have many worries about the food they eat and maybe rightly
 so. This food causes cancer, another food causes something else,
 etc. Yet, I believe calling down God's blessing before meals in
 faith may be the surest protection one can have from any long term
 bad effects of the food fears of today. Again Our Lord Himself gave
 us this example of asking God's blessing of our meals. The Gospel
 tells us that before He miraculously fed the five thousand men Jesus
 took the loaves and fish, raised His eyes to Heaven and said the
 blessing over them. (See Lk 9,16; Mt 14,19)
	To pray before meals in today's world can involve overcoming
 one's fear of what other people think. Saying grace before meals in
 a restaurant, in front of other people or even with one's own family
 may make one feel very uncomfortable, especially since one may be
 the only one concerned about doing it. At times one may even
 experience open persecution to this practice. Someone I know was in
 a restaurant with a close friend of theirs. When they went to pray
 before eating the friend said to them, "Oh come on, you really
 believe in doing that!" In spite of what people think one is still
 called to be a witness to and for Christ. So let us be the salt of
 the earth and the light of the world regardless of what "everybody
 else is doing!"