Online Book Club Week 7: Mealtime Grace

The Prayer List by Jane Knuth - online book club

Editor’s note: Jump into our online book club! We’re reading Jane Knuth’s The Prayer List…and Other True Stories of How Families Pray. This week we focus on chapters 19–21. Learn more about the book club here.

I made a startling discovery in the last couple of weeks. I was reading a biography of St. Catherine Laboure.* The story takes place in early 1800s France and describes the sisters as saying the same meal grace that my family has always said—the one that Catholics use most of the time that starts out, “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…” According to The Life of Catherine Laboure by Fr. Rene Laurentin, this is the grace that monastics have used for centuries.

How come I didn’t know that?

No one ever told me we were saying grace around our little kitchen table the same way that monks and nuns say it in their refectories. And then, when I looked up “refectory,” I found out that it literally means, the place where one goes to be restored, and it shared the same root word as “restaurant.”

Wait. This realization left me with lots of questions. When we eat together as a family and we ask the same blessing on our food those communities of vowed religious do, then does that mean we are “restored” by our ordinary hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizzas? Even when we eat them in restaurants? Does our simple, family mealtime grace connect us to the historical, worldwide Church? Could it be that family prayer binds the Church together as much as the other way around?

Anyway, it was a good book. I recommend it.

*St. Catherine is the Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul who received a vision of Our Lady when Mary wanted the Miraculous Medal to be distributed.

The Prayer List Discussion Questions

  1. Rita and Gulaine write their prayers on egg-shaped paper and “hatch” them between the pages of their Bible. Marina prays in the car, because that is the only time her busy family has for prayer. And the young mom believed so strongly that selling used books would be God’s way to get the money needed for adoption. These stories are all so perfectly simple. Do you have a simple way that you pray in your family?
  2. When your family sits together to eat a meal, do you say grace? Which one? Do you know where it comes from?

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About Jane Knuth 10 Articles
Jane Knuth is a longtime volunteer in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2011, Jane’s first book, Thrift Store Saints, was awarded first place from the Catholic Press Association for Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith. Her latest book is The Prayer List. She also writes a monthly column for The Good News, the newspaper of the Diocese of Kalamazoo.
Contact: Facebook

2 Comments on Online Book Club Week 7: Mealtime Grace

  1. Your insights into the “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…” grace reminded me: this is the grace that my parents and I would always say, but we added “May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace”. Before every meal, we interceded for the souls in Purgatory! I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but there’s a power in that. Perhaps, one day, I’ll meet a soul that my parents and I helped by this prayer. I’m grateful to my parents for many things, but especially for teaching me to pray and for the example of their lived faith.

    • Mary Ellen, That prayer for the souls in purgatory was part of my childhood, as well. I remember saying it after we tidied up the graves on Memorial Day.

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