Sine Qua Non of Sunday Family Dinner

A few years ago, my husband and I looked around at our family and realized that our existing dining area was becoming too small to comfortably accommodate the growing number of young people who were showing up as guests at Sunday evening dinner. With practicality and common sense honed by the many challenges of raising a big family, we built a new dining room that is large enough to address the needs of our expanding family.

The dining room construction was a labour of love, built mostly by my talented hands-on husband, his meticulous engineer friend and whoever was around to lend a hand, willingly or unwillingly. It took about three months to complete with the goal of being fully operational by Christmas.

The finished room is simple but spacious, custom-made to fit our family. A long dining table that was once a boardroom conference table seats sixteen people. Two big windows look out onto the backyard and let in streams of sunlight. In a prominent spot stands a statue of Our Blessed Mother, her height of almost three feet elevated even more by the pedestal upon which she presides over the room. So notable is her presence that our sons have named the room The Blessed Mother, pronounced with a very bad Bostonian accent. A priest friend blessed the room when construction was completed and I’m sure Our Lady looked on with approval. There is only one rule enforced in this room: no cell phones allowed. There is an unspoken rule about kindness and respect.

We built our dining room to preserve a tradition that is very important to family life: the Sunday evening family meal. Throughout the week dinner is hurriedly eaten at our large L-shaped kitchen island because schedules conflict and people have things to do. But Sundays are different. On the Lord’s Day, candles are lit, the table is set with the good china and many hours go into preparing the meal by yours truly. As with all our meals, dinner begins with Grace Before Meals and one Hail Mary. Dessert is plentiful and comforting, usually created by my husband whose creations have recently been inspired by The Great British Baking Show. Conversation around the table is animated and everyone including girlfriends, boyfriends, in-laws and other guests are encouraged to express themselves. Everyone passes the food and drink; we make room and time for each other and continue to grow in love despite differences in personalities and opinions. After dinner, those who did not cook the meal serve the family by cleaning up. It is a beautiful, noisy sight with Our Blessed Mother keeping watch.

As our adult children move away to pursue careers and build their futures, the number of people at Sunday evening dinner varies from week to week. Now we have a little grandson who sometimes joins us. Eventually, please God, there will be more grandchildren around the table. But although our family is scattered to far-off places, when they come home they know that Sunday evening means Sunday family dinner.

Sr. Lucia, the Fatima visionary, warned that “a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family.” At this point in time it is urgent that we restore our families to Christ. The tradition of Sunday evening family dinner is crucial to this work of restoration because from sharing a family meal comes some of the most important lessons in faith. The primacy of Christ as the Head of the Church is reflected in the father who sits at the head of the table and leads us in prayer as he serves the family. In families where, sadly, some of our adult children have made choices that are not Catholic, this time together is a way of showing our love while at the same time upholding the Truths of the Faith and giving them an open door to return to Holy Mother Church. The bounty we enjoy reminds us of Our Heavenly Father’s loving care and that He rewards the work of our hands. Sunday evening family dinner is a powerful proclamation of family rooted in Christ and in service to one another. Through this important tradition given and blessed by Christ we profess as did Joshua, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)