ST. THOMAS AQUINAS noted that bread, like water, has always provided sustenance for man in the order of nature; yet, in its “natural” state, it also prefigured the unleavened bread of the Passover and … in turn foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist.
Every meal, then, [is] a celebration of God’s creation and his providence. By means of the common prayers, every meal [in the Old Testament] was united with the historic meals of the ancestors…. The New Testament shows us Jesus as he vividly brings all these meals to fulfillment.
[A meal] is, in the age of grace, the image of the banquet the saints know in heaven. When we “say grace” before (or after) our meals, we transform our homey family meals—and even our meals taken alone—into “sacraments” of God’s banquet. The prayer lends every meal an importance and dignity it might otherwise lack.
This doesn’t mean [our] meals will be stiff or joyless or unnecessarily formal. If anything, it should increase the joy, because an awareness of God’s presence will surely inspire us to love those around us all the more and all the better.
The question sometimes arises whether we should say grace in public places…. I think it’s always a good idea, even if we offer our prayer silently while making an unostentatious Sign of the Cross. This simple gesture sometimes has a profound effect on by-standers, and it has even marked the beginning of conversión for people who have witnessed it.
Scott Hahn, Signs of Life (New York: Doubleday, 2009),
Pages 100-102. Used with permission.