Why Family Rituals are Important

by Dr Angel Adams, Dr Patricia Papciak

“Bless our hearts
to hear in the
breaking of bread
the song of the universe.
Prayers across cultures”

-Father John Giuliani

The concept of grace is different for different people. For some the idea of beauty is what comes first to mind, while for others the image of movement is what they begin to imagine. Some might hear the song Amazing Grace in their head, a well-known 18th century hymn by John Newton or others may think of the child’s book they read called All About Grace. For yet others the idea of the prayer we say before eating might be the meaning of grace. We would like to focus on this concept because it is associated with the importance of family rituals. Why are family rituals important? A family tradition or ritual is something experienced together with regularity and provides each member with a sense of belonging to the family unit. Just think how much quality time you really spend with your child, and how much of that time is spent disciplining, arguing, and in power struggles. It’s a sobering thought!

Image: A child saying grace

We invite you to create special rituals with your children or teens to deepen your attachment and instil values. Saying grace before the meal ignites an atmosphere of sharing and intimacy when eating together, and this is one such ritual. Light a candle in the dining room and put a special bouquet or even a flower or herb picked from your garden on the table. Put some gentle soothing music in the background. Make every meal a special occasion. I remember as a child my parents always made sure we ate at the same time each evening and we shared about our day. We were not allowed to eat separately off of trays watching TV. I have kept that as a special memory as an adult, even though as a child I might have been annoyed at times.

No matter what religion you believe or if you are a non-believer, saying grace with your family can be a very special ritual to create. Sometimes families can say the same prayer in a rote manner and it loses its meaning. When a family offers a special blessing at the table before eating, they are not only giving thanks for the food, they are saying thanks for their love and togetherness and thanks for this amazing planet. Saying grace begins the ritual of nourishing relationships as well as the body. A blessing for food and sharing of food is a universal cultural experience because it is an appreciation for the sacred gift of food that has been going on throughout the ages.

Prayers may be attached to different religions or they may be non-religious prayers that induce a sense of gratitude and spirituality. It would be enriching for your children to experience and to enjoy the beauty and diversity that is evoked in blessings and prayers around the world. Saying grace from another culture offers your child a wonderful gift as you are a role model by introducing them to traditional blessings and prayers which connect them to all humankind. Your family members may be a bit embarrassed at first as they take turns saying grace, but give them time because they will eventually look forward to this family ritual. Even stroppy teens who go through the motions will be positively effected by it. We need to express grace in the preparation of our meals with a sense of pleasure, respecting both food and one another.

How did this expression of thankfulness for the food and the good fortunes in our lives come to be called grace? When we thank God for the food, what exactly are we doing? It seems that we are feeling thankful that the forces of the universe have seen fit to provide us with good health, the ability to work and earn money, and to put food on the table. We thank God for these things because we don’t truly know the process that brought about our good fortune. Whether God has a specific religious connotation for you or a more general application of the mystery of life, when we say grace, we are being thankful that we have been able to live a life where we are nourished, where we share our blessings with family, and enjoy an internal feeling of health and goodness. We feel there is something peaceful and inspirational inside ourselves that is in some way we are connected with the beauty we see when we watch the ballet or the strutting peacock or feel the warmth of the sun on our face.

In America, Thanksgiving is the holiday that is most celebrated. Americans of course are all different nationalities and all different ethnicities, but the day of Thanksgiving in November is a day that everyone enjoys as a day to be thankful for what they have. The origins of that day relate to the pilgrims when they felt thankful that they were successful with their first harvest. They stopped to give thanks to God for their success in their new lives. They were successful because they worked hard, had the stamina to succeed, and the motivation to start from nothing and create a new life. There something in all of us that makes us feel thankful for that unknown source of motivation and courage. A day of giving thanks is not solely an American tradition. In many countries of the world people choose a day in the year to stop their busy lives and give thanks for what they have and have been given. In France that day is called Le Jour D’Actions de Grace, the day of the actions of grace. It is a day of thanksgiving, but there is the connotation that the actions of grace are one of the mysteries of life.

Image: Painting of people eating a meal at a tableby Nikki McClure http://www.nikkimcclure.com

There is a wonderful book called Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World by Adrian Butash. She investigated and found 160 mealtime blessings, including prayers from a variety of religions, ancient traditions, and visionary authors, as well as two in American Sign Language. This book would be great to include at the outset of your dinner time ritual and which your children can read. There is also a book by Nikki McClure called Saying Grace Around the World. Her website is http://www.nikkimcclure.com You can also download the A World of Grace poster (see illustration above). 100 Graces: Mealtime Blessings, by Marcia M. Kelly is another excellent book. We have included some of the prayers and blessings below from both books so you can get a sample of how fun it will be to say these before dinner and enjoy saying grace in a different way. Enjoy these moments of grace, create your own moments of grace and be motivated by grace in the world to inspire you as you experience your family rituals through this week.

Make us worthy, Lord,
To serve those people
Throughout the world who live and die
In poverty and hunger.

Give them, through our hands
This day their daily bread,
And by our understanding love,
Give peace and joy.

– Mother Teresa

MEALTIME PRAYERS AROUND THE WORLD

Latin America

To those who have hunger
Give bread.
And to those who have bread
Give the hunger for justice.

-Mother Teresa

Vietnamese Buddhist Blessing From Thich Nhat Hanh

In this plate of food, I see the entire universe supporting my existence.

Buddhist

This food is the gift
of the whole universe.
Each morsel is a sacrifice of life,
May I be worthy to receive it.
May the energy in this food
Give me the strength
To transform my unwholesome qualities
Into wholesome ones.
I am grateful for this food.
May I realize the Path of Awakening,
For the sake of all beings.

Sanskrit Blessing

The food is brahma (creative energy). Its essence is vishnu (preservative energy). The eater is shiva (destructive energy). No sickness due to food can come to one who eats with this knowledge.

Christian Blessing

In a few moments of silence let each of us be mindful of all we have for which to give thanks: friends, food, hopes, health and happy memories (a moment of silence observed). So in giving thanks we are blessed, Amen.

Mother Teresa Of Calcutta

Make us worthy, Lord,
To serve our fellow men throughout the world
Who live and die in poverty or hunger.

Give them through our hands this day
their daily bread
And by our understanding love
Give peace and joy.

Sai Prayer

Oh Lord Hari, You are the food, You are the enjoyer of the food,
You are the giver of food.
Therefore, I offer all that I consume at Thy Lotus Feet.

Sung to the tune Frère Jacques

We are thankful, we are thankful
For our food, for our food.
And our many blessings,
And our many blessings
Thank you Lord, Thank you Lord.

Irish Blessing

May you always have …
Walls for the winds
A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire
Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And all your heart might desire.

Ashanti, West African Tribe

Earth, when I am about to die I lean upon you.
Earth, while I am alive I depend upon you.

Muslim

All praises are due to Allah who gave us sufficient food to eat and who satiated our thirst while such food is needed by us all the time and while we are not ungrateful to Allah.

China

O God, I am as one hungry for rice, parched as one thirsty for tea. Fill so my empty heart. Amen.

Wiccan Food Blessing

As a Wiccan, be conscious of where your food comes from. Visualize the source of the food: The gods, the farmers tending the crops and animals, the Earth in which it grows, the Sun’s rays warming the soil and turning the leaves green; the Wind carrying pollen and bees for pollination; the Rain. Do not forget anyone who might have had any part in bringing your food to your table: the truck drivers, clerks, etc.

A sample food blessing follows:

We are grateful for the seeds that grew the plants,
For the cows that gave the milk, for the chickens, that laid the eggs,
For the lives of the animals whose bodies will nourish ours,
For those who planted and tended,
For the Wind, the Sun, the Rain, and the Earth that nourished them,
For those who harvested, milked, gathered and slaughtered,
For those who carried, prepared and delivered,
Thank you all who provided our food today. Blessed Be.

Anglican Church of Canada

For food in a world where many walk in hunger
For friends in a world where many walk alone
For faith in a world where many walk in fear
We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen.

Hindu, India

Before grasping this grain,
let us consider in our minds
the reasons why
we should care for and safeguard this body.
This is my prayer, oh God:
May I be forever devoted at your feet,
offering body, mind, and wealth
to the service of truth in the world.

Christian

Loving Father, we thank you for this food,
And for all your blessings to us.
Lord Jesus, come and be our guest,
And take your place at this table.Holy Spirit, as this food feeds our bodies,
So we pray you would nourish our souls. Amen.

Ashanti, Ghana

Earth, when I am about to die
I lean upon you.
Earth, while I am alive
I depend upon you.

Selkirk Grace, Scottish

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it.
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Christian Children’s Prayer

Thank you God for the world so sweet,
Thank you God for the food we eat.
Thank you God for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

Apostolic, Armenia

The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord,
And Thou givest them their food in due season.
Thou openest Thy hand and fillest all things
Living with plenteousness

Coptic, Egypt

Bless, O Lord, the plants, the vegetation,
and the herbs of the field,
that they may grow
and increase to fullness
and bear much fruit.
And may the fruit of the land
remind us of the spiritual fruit
we should bear.

Sioux, Native American

I’m an Indian.
I think about the common things like this pot.
The bubbling water comes from the rain cloud.
It represents the sky.
The fire comes from the sun,
Which warms us all, men, animals, trees.
The meat stands for the four-legged creatures,
Our animal brothers,
Who gave themselves so that we should live.
The steam is living breath.
It was water, now it goes up to the sky,
Becomes a cloud again.
These things are sacred.
Looking at that pot full of good soup,
I am thinking how, in this simple manner,
The Great Spirit takes care of me

Jewish

Praised are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, who in goodness, with grace, kindness, and mercy, feeds the entire world. He provides bread for all creatures, for His kindness is never-ending. And because of His magnificent greatness we have never wanted for food, nor will we ever want for food, to the end of time.

For His great name, because He is God who feeds and provides for all, and who does good to all by preparing food for all of His creatures whom He created: Praised are You, God, who feeds all.

Hawaiian

Dear God, bless those who bear the hardship of famine and those who share their plenty with others. Wrap Thy love around those who come to us in trust. Take care of those who wander far from us in anger. Amen.


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