MEALS: Managing Eating And Living Simultaneously shares importance of family meals

by Doreen Kennelly

Twenty-seven years ago, when I was a younger mother and homemaker, some friends and I decided that life would be easier for us if we were to organize meals for our families. We worked diligently creating weekly menus, collecting recipes, and compiling shopping lists to correspond with them.

We thought this was such a helpful tool that we arranged to mass-produce our work and sell it. As we set out to “market” our product, one of the women in the group came up with the acronym MEALS = Managing Eating And Living Simultaneously. This title appropriately captured the struggle and solution.

Although I am no longer responsible for planning and preparing meals for a young family, I understand that gathering as a family around the meal table – even once a week – is a great challenge. The lives of young families are full of demands and activities that cause them to choose restaurants and fast food, which is often eaten on the run, rather than in the comfort of their homes around the family table.

We all have a certain nostalgia and longing for family mealtime. Family memories and traditions often find their source at the dinner table. The popular television series, Blue Bloods, captures the essence of the family meal in each episode as the Reagan family’s four generations gather at the dinner table each week. They share a meal, their joys, sorrows, struggles, pains, and opinions. They honor accomplishments and remember those who are no longer with them. There is a tangible sense of comradery and companionship, a sense of belonging. They are family. Their Sunday meal is a clear symbol of this bond.

“Families” can be extended to include close friends, not just blood relatives, who also enjoy the fellowship of sharing a meal with others. A number of years ago a group of men from various walks of life went on a “golf pilgrimage.” The group included my husband, a priest friend, and six other men. At the final meal of the pilgrimage the conversation turned to the consideration of the question, “If you could plan your last meal on Earth, what would you choose for the menu?”

The men took turns, describing delicacies of all sorts. The last man at the table (a recent convert to the Catholic faith), who had been listening attentively to the others as they described their feasts, stopped them in their tracks with his response. “What I want for my last meal is the body and blood of Christ.”

The Church, in her wisdom understands the fundamental need to gather as family once a week. As the church bells ring on Sunday mornings, it is our Mother (the Church) calling her children to gather as family around the table of the Lord. We hear the stories of our ancestors in faith, we learn how much God loves us, and how we can share his love with others. We sing. We pray. We commune. We are nourished, and we are sent off.

Here is a simple recipe your family might enjoy on these winter days in North Dakota. It’s easy and delicious!

Chicken Tortilla Soup (semi-homemade)

• 1 small jar of Pace Picante sauce

• 1 can shoe-peg corn (it is a short can found in canned vegetable isle)

• 1 can black beans

• 1 package shoe-string style carrots (produce department)

• 2 cans chicken broth

• 1 tsp cumin

• Meat from one rotisserie chicken or 1-2 cans chicken

• Lime juice to taste

• Fresh cilantro to taste

• Heat until the carrots are tender! (Sometimes I microwave the carrots before adding them to the soup if I am in a hurry)

• Serve with tortilla chips, grated cheddar cheese, and/or sour cream

Doreen Kennelly is the Adult Education Coordinator at Holy Spirit Church in Fargo.

Note: The gentleman whose desire it was to receive the body and blood of Christ as his last meal on Earth did, indeed, receive what his heart desired!

Editor’s Note: The aim of this new column in New Earth is to provide a place to share stories, traditions, and inspirations for living out a Catholic culture in the home. If you have traditions and stories in your family that illustrates the goodness of Catholic community and family in the home, please contact kristina.lahr@fargodiocese.org.