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Saying Grace

A couple hold hands and pray over their meal.

Photo (c) jasonEscapist on flickr. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

As we sit down, our son takes a few bites—normally one of each thing on his plate—and then grabs our hands. He joins in when his mouth is empty again:

Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus,
For our food, for our food
And your many blessings, and your many blessings.
Amen. Amen.

The other day he came with me to a community lunch in the parish I serve, and we sang it together when I was asked to say grace. Not only did a large number of people join in, but I was delighted to hear that so many people there then wanted to tell me about the graces they use at home or that they used as they or there children were growing up.

There are all sorts of traditions to that moment of thanksgiving, from the formal use of psalms to open and close each meal, to the delightfully idiosyncratic. Reading a charming mystery novel this week, I stumbled across this one that I’m looking forward to using:

Thank you God for dairy products including cheese, and on this, the 26th day of November, we thank you especially for Roquefort, Brie and all the many varieties of cheddar. Thank you God for turkeys who willingly gave their lives that we might celebrate your bounty. Thank you God for grain from which we get our bread and beer. […]And thank you God for hamsters and all the little things that make our life worth living.

I think a good grace is one that makes those gathered at the table rejoice in the goodness of what will be shared: in its essential goodness, in all the care that has gone into preparing for the meal, and in the possibility to meet God in one another around the table.  I’ve felt those good graces in hands held with eyes shut in a moment of thankfulness; in carefully prepared prayers; in trying different prayers each night (check out William Kervin’s A Year of Grace: 365 Mealtime Prayers if you’re looking for a particularly good collection); in the spontaneous overflow of words tumbling into one another; and in song.  Just the other night, gathered around a kitchen island after a long day of meeting, we sang “You Call Us Lord To Be”—and I haven’t felt so profoundly worshipful and grateful in a long time.

Saying grace can take so many forms, but it’s always about recognizing God’s grace lavished upon us. When have you felt it most deeply? What way of sharing grace has been life-giving for you?

Matthew Griffin

About Matthew Griffin

I'm a priest serving in the Diocese of Niagara, with both a pastoral and an academic interest in the relationship between liturgy and theology. I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending time with my beloved and our young son.
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