I was raised Catholic. My brothers and sisters and I went to Catholic schools. We were steeped in Catholic tradition. Fasting before communion, mass in Latin until I was 3rd grade, confession every week or so. My brothers and I were altar boys. When we sat down to dinner we said a long blessing in unison. I'll never forget it.
Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And then the Hail Mary.
Hail mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
We got to the place where we could say the whole thing in one quick breath, a droning monotone that, after a while, meant nothing except... Let's get this over with so we can get to the food. There is nothing wrong with the prayer. It is a fine prayer. It was more what I had done with it. Droning it out, not even thinking about what it means. I might as well have been saying the alphabet backwards. It would have meant the same thing.
We have gotten to the place with our own kids where we take turns saying a spontaneous prayer to bless our food. It's nice. The kids usually say thanks for the day, the weather, the opportunity to spend time together, their friends, etc. They are simple. Sweet. Immediate. Sincere. It has made me pray differently. Also, I hang out with church friends who pray out loud. They do it so well. Growing up I never would have prayed aloud except for the rote prayers we were taught in school. Now it feels right.
This is a little prayer I keep in my wallet. Said over and over enough it would become like the blessing we said over our food when we were kids. But I read it often and say it every now and then. It feels right.
Oh, Heavenly Father,
We thank thee for food and
Remember the hungry.
We thank thee for health and
Remember the sick.
We thank thee for friends and
Remember the friendless.
We thank thee for freedom and
Remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
That thy gifts to us may be
Used for others.