One of the daily rituals and traditions we have as a family is saying grace before meals when we gather at the table. This has continued over the years from when my children were young. It took place regardless of who was at the table, friends, grandparents, visitors and now girlfriends! There is a sense of amusement when someone joins us for food for the first time and the words of grace begin. Forks have been dropped and apologies offered. It’s all done politely.
Being able to pray at the kitchen table can be as normal as the conversation that takes place. Sometimes we have complicated and confused people by setting the bar for prayer too high. Prayer needs to be accessible and normal for people.
Reminding young couples with children that it is necessary for them to pass on faith in the home is not good enough. Our parishes can play a part here, helping the wider and often disconnected parishioners that they can also live faith at home. Parish pastoral councils (PPCs) can take some of the lead here. Imagine if our PPCs could discuss how they can assist the young families in the parish by reaching out and showing them ideas to encourage faith at home.
Our families need to be able to normalise the praying at home, so that special rites of passage reconnect with faith and meaning. Imagine if parishes and parishioners could encourage family friendly ways to pray at home.
No matter where people are on their spiritual journey, families can take the lead in nurturing faith in the home. Begin with the basics. The sign of the cross. I am very conscious now that this action has lost meaning for many. We can invite people to either use or get a holy water font and begin again the tradition of inviting people to bless themselves as the leave the house. It was once a regular feature in many homes. I know of many parishes that still offer small bottles of holy water for parishioners.
Covid-19 has left a legacy of some people praying online. Wouldn’t it be a great legacy if it also meant that we can find alternative ways to encourage faith lived in the home? While many viewed the sanctuary’s online across the island, this was done from the sanctuaries of their home. Eucharistic tables were joined with kitchen tables. Let us not lose sight of this connection. To be people nourished spiritually at our parish altar tables is as important to be nourished from our kitchen tables. Let us keep this connection and find new ways support this.
In the Archdiocese of Dublin, we are preparing monthly resources and faith suggestions that can take place on your kitchen table. We all can inspire families and parishes to repurpose the kitchen table to nurture faith at home. There is no one excluded from the kitchen table. Each month we will offer ways that families can pray at home. Parishes can also take the lead here too. Some parishes have created prayer spaces with a kitchen table to model and show how easy it can be to pray at home.
As we begin to welcome back people to our churches in greater numbers, let us not lose sight of the many who are not present. We can use simple ideas such as a sign or the cross or a grace before meals to create patterns and ways people can pray easily at home. To paraphrase T.S Eliot we must ‘begin again.’ Start with the basics. In the name of the Father.
Gerard Gallagher is a Pastoral Coordinator in the Archdiocese of Dublin.