They traveled by plane, train and automobile to reach the holiday table in time for the carving of the turkey. Everyone is at the table with big eyes and watering mouths as they survey the turkey, ham, candied yams, collard greens, sweet potato pie, rice and giblet gravy, hot buttered cornbread and yeast rolls, toss salad with ruby red tomatoes, and oh no she didn’t cook a pot of chitterlings. Before they can begin, Papa Duckett starts the blessing and doesn’t stop. He blesses everything on the table, still in kitchen and at the grocery store. Then there is a series of individual thanksgivings for everyone at the table and how glad he is to be with each and every one of them. Next the thanksgiving ritual moves to people not at the table and ends with the president of the United States. Then we would all join in and say the Catholic grace together. Papa Duckett passed away over 15 years ago and the memories of his blessing of holiday meals still put a smile on my face. My papa was truly a man of faith.

We offer grace before meals because every good thing we have comes from God. In offering grace we are acknowledging our dependence on Him and asking Him to bless our food. One person can offer the grace; the host can offer the grace or ask a guest to do the honor, or the group can say grace altogether.

Some hold hands seated or standing around the table. The most remembered grace experience in a restaurant for me was when the Archbishop of Owerri, Nigeria asked that all the members in our dinner party stand and say grace. Our party of 7 all stood up, held hands and said grace. The other guests in the restaurant became silent in reverence of our ritual.

Just the other day, a Catholic friend told me the story of how one year she shared a holiday meal with the family of her friend. The ritual that took place started off with the father complimenting his wife on a great meal by saying “baby you really threw down with this meal…Let’s eat!” And they all began digging in to the food until my friend said “hey wait, yaw’ll not going to say a blessing?” They all stopped and asked her if she would lead them in prayer. My friend stood up, made the sign of the cross and said;

Bless us O lord and these gifts which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Kathleen Merritt