Do we need a “National Eat Dinner Together Day”? Well there is one, and that’s this Monday, September 25th! The fourth Monday in September has been declared “Family Day — a day to eat dinner with your children,” by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. This is a national effort to promote family dinners as an effective way to reduce youth substance abuse and other risky behaviors, as research consistently finds that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs. For more ideas, visit their site: https://casafamilyday.org/
Nothing brings us together like eating together. Good food, great conversations, and loads of laughs—that’s what family dinners are made of. But in today’s culture, we all know that family dinner together has become an easy casualty. Grabbing dinner on the go can be bad for our wallets and our waistlines, but most importantly we miss the opportunity to bond and grow as a family.
Throughout the Bible, we see that mealtime was a time for being together and enjoying each other, and it was also a time for teaching and imparting wisdom. The Old Testament prophets often compared life in the new heavens and earth with the picture of a divine banqueting table (Isaiah. 25:6; 55:1–2). In the New Testament, we regularly find Jesus reclining “at table” during His earthly ministry, engaging with real people, furthering His kingdom work, fostering true community, demonstrating reconciliation with God, and building genuine fellowship among His disciples (Luke 5:29; 7:36; 11:37; 14:15). From Sarah hosting the angels to the Passover meal observance to Jesus changing water to wine for a wedding feast, there are so many biblical examples of mealtime fellowship. Jesus often compared the Kingdom of God to a banquet! Eating together was a big deal to Jesus because it was a chance to deepen friendships, welcome strangers and serve the poor. No wonder Jesus chose to be food for us in the Holy Eucharist, to be the best spiritual nourishment for us.
Parents will vouch for the formative value of eating together as this is a great opportunity to instill important values in the lives of children. Listen to what a young man remembers about his family’s practice of eating meals together: “It was therapeutic: an excuse to talk, to reflect on the day, and on recent events. Our chats about the banal—of baseball and television—often led to discussions of the seriousness—of politics and death, of memories and loss. Eating together was a small act, and it required very little of us—45 minutes away from our usual, quotidian distractions—and yet it was invariably one of the happiest parts of my day.”
Such is the formative value of eating together. If kids are not used to talking to you about their day at an earlier age of 8 or 9, we can’t expect them to do it at 12 or 13. Yes, let us make a greater effort to have family dinners more often.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal