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The Family Dinner and the Wedding Feast


We know that having dinner together as a family is something that’s important. Search the internet and you'll find all kinds of reasons as to why that is, and they’ll range anywhere from it being cheaper to do so, to building stronger families, to ensuring better nutrition.

However, I wonder if there is something deeper going on with the family dinner ...


Perhaps something covenantal.

I wonder if this is somehow a reflection or an echo of the wedding feast ... Isn’t it possible that in this “breaking of the bread” we are also somehow renewing with one another the covenant of our family?

Here is my theory.

Marriage is a covenant. It is an exchange of persons wherein I say, "I am yours and you are mine." It is different from a contract, in which we exchange goods, things, and services. In ancient times, a covenant was unbreakable and was the means used to bring new members into the family. We see this in the ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures (see Scott Hahn's, Kinship by Covenant, and Fustel de Coulanges’, The Ancient City). This covenant was ratified by an oath, a sacrifice, and some sort of common meal. We continue to see these same ancient traditions in our marriage ceremonies. We begin the Christian marriage ceremony by invoking God (in the name of the Father ...), we swear an oath to each other ( ... till death do us part), we give ourselves to each other in the conjugal act (a sacrificial act), and we celebrate with a festive meal (the wedding feast).

With this in mind, can we not also see elements of this ancient covenant ritual in the family dinner?


We begin the dinner with prayer, invoking our God in thanks for the blessings He has provided. Sometimes, in our family, this includes a song related to the liturgical season we are in. Then we sit down and eat together.

I wonder if this is somehow a reflection or an echo of the wedding feast ... Isn’t it possible that in this “breaking of the bread” we are also somehow renewing with one another the covenant of our family?

To put it even more plainly, think about what happens at the dinner table. At dinner we are present. We hear the opinions of each person; there is discussion, laughter, crying (from the little guys that are tired and need to go to bed), and there is a connection between the persons present. Here at the table we see each other again as a family. We are one. We are united in this meal despite our differences.

Perhaps this is why the family is called the domestic church.


At Holy Mass we come together in the name of God, Christ is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, and then we become united through Holy Communion. The Mass is a renewing of our covenant with God and His covenant with us.

Is not the family dinner like this also, albeit in a more informal way?

Family dinner is good for all the reasons that your internet search tells you it is, but I believe it is efficacious because in it we find a trace of an ancient covenant renewal. If we are to believe this to be true, even in part, then it behooves my wife and me, for the sake of our marriage and family, to eat dinner together as a family as much as possible.


Semper Fidelis,


Kenton E. Biffert


Kenton works at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College as an adjunct professor and the Dean of Students. Together with his wife, they homeschool their 7 children (plus one on the way), explore the wilds of Ontario in the canoe, and read voraciously. To learn more about the art of fatherhood, visit Kenton's personal blog.

Me & My House Catholic Parenting is an                     resource.

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