The Power of Family Meals

The Power of Family Meals

by Tom McGrath
Arts & Faith

I have a recurring memory that pops into my head from time to time. I would be hanging out with my friends when I suddenly realized the time—5:09. I’d drop what I was doing (even if I was batting in the bottom of the ninth) and set off at top speed, desperately trying to make it home by 5:15, the appointed dinner hour in our home.

Tom McGrath (left) with his older brother, Pat.

My parents weren’t big on having too many rules, but one of the few non-negotiables in our home was that we were all at the dinner table at 5:15 pm. I’m so glad they insisted.


8 Faith Reasons to Enjoy Regular Family Meals:

1. They foster gratitude.
2. They help you share your family’s values.
3. They become a spiritual anchor echoing the faithfulness of God.
4. They nurture your spiritual self.
5. They are an opportunity to practice virtues such as kindness, respect, forgiveness, tolerance, understanding, and joy.
6. They give you the chance to create lasting memories with your children.
7. They show you who you are and where you belong.
8. They prepare you for fuller participation in the Mass.

Years later as I was writing a family newsletter, At Home with Our Faith, I started paying attention to all the research that was pouring out about the many positive effects of regular family meals at home. Year after year, the encouraging research results have continued to grow exponentially.

According to the mountains of research, children who enjoy regular meals with their family do better in school, exhibit fewer anti-social tendencies, and are more successful with their peers. They are far more likely to graduate high school and far less likely to take up smoking, use alcohol or drugs, or experiment with sex. The list of benefits goes on and on.

And it’s no surprise. We bring all our hungers to the table—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual—and all of them can be fed. The meal doesn’t have to be like a Norman Rockwell painting—everyone smiling around an orderly table. There may even be teasing and taunting and spilled milk. It doesn’t matter. The fact that you are there together, sharing your lives, and being present to one another is how the magic happens.

Family mealtime prepares us to be really present to one another so we can better appreciate the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It can be a school where we learn to pray about what really matters to us, day by day, and the place where we practice forgiveness, both giving and receiving. It’s the place to bring our needs and know they will be met. In effect, it becomes a great place to prepare our minds and hearts to move from the family table to the table of the Lord in our parish.

So after all these years I’m glad my parents were so strict about the family meal. My wife and I held fast to this practice with our own daughters. And that memory of me running frantically always ends well—catching my breath and taking my place as my family says together, “Bless us O Lord, and these, thy gifts…”

Tom McGrath 

Tom McGrath is the author of Raising Faith Filled Kids, The Meal Box, and is one of the authors of the God’s Gift series.

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Books by Tom McGrath

En torno a la mesa

Preguntas divertidas para compartir la fe en familia

¡Sea tan amable en pasar la sal, la pimienta y En torno a la mesa para iniciar la conversación! Se han combinado preguntas chistosas y creativas que ofrecen siempre consejos prácticos en torno a la fe de los que se podrán beneficiar cada vez que se sienten a la mesa.

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The Meal Box

Fun Questions and Family Tips to Get Mealtime Conversations Cookin'

Pass the salt and pepper–along with The Meal Box. Creatively fun questions combined with helpful family faith tips spice up every mealtime conversation. 54 cards in plastic case.

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Raising Faith-Filled Kids

Ordinary Opportunities to Nurture Spirituality at Home

Offers a generous collection of easy tips and tools to help parents realize a spiritual path and inspire virtue, discipline, and hope in their families.

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Educando hijos en la plenitud de la fe

Raising Faith-Filled Kids (Spanish)

Ofrece una abundante recopilación de consejos e instrumentos fáciles para ayudar a padres y madres a seguir una senda espiritual e inspirar la virtud, la disciplina y la esperanza en sus familias.

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Las Bienaventuranzas para las familias (50-pack)

El Papa Francisco ha llamado a las Bienaventuranzas un “programa para la santidad” y “el camino a la verdadera felicidad”, en otras palabras, la expresión de la esencia del mensaje de Cristo.

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Las obras de misericordia para las familias (50-pack)

En Las obras de misericordia las palabras tomadas del Evangelio de Mateo se presentan en un hermoso diseño. De un lado se muestran las obras de misericordia corporales y del otro las obras de misericordia espirituales.

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The Beatitudes for Families (50-pack)

In The Beatitudes for Families, the Beatitudes are beautifully presented with original artwork. On one side, you will find the words of Christ as found in Matthew 5:3-10. On the other side, you will find an adapted version of the Beatitudes written specifically for families by Tom McGrath, author of Raising Faith-Filled Kids.

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The Works of Mercy for Families (50-pack)

In The Works of Mercy, beautiful artwork surrounds the words taken from the Gospel of Matthew. One side shows the Corporal Works of Mercy and the other shows the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

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The Meal Box

The Art of Teaching

Tom McGrath and Bret Nicholaus created The Meal Box, a set of 54 fun questions and family faith tips to get mealtime conversations cookin’.

Here’s a sample Meal Box card to share with your family:


If you could open the back door to your house and step out into the perfect backyard, what would that yard be like? Be as specific as you can.


Take a moment to imagine in what ways heaven will be the perfect place. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Take one action today that will make life in your family more like your vision of heaven.”

Learn more about The Meal Box here.