The Lenten Season invites us to take a step back and focus on ways we can spend our time intentionally. For a lot of us with bustling families, it’s not always easy to find time to sit down around the dining room table and enjoy a meal together; it’s more like packed meals or a drive-thru dinner in the car between pick-ups.

Those days are part of life for many of us, but I’m encouraging a shift in this routine during Lent. As Catholics, we abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. We use this as an active sacrifice we can make each week. It also gives us the opportunity for solidarity.

In Jesus’ time, eating meat was a luxury only for those who could afford it and many times it was only eaten during big celebrations. In solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and in the memory of Good Friday and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us, we abstain from meat.

We are called to eat a simple meal on Fridays; it’s a time to connect over an easy meal that can be prepared and enjoyed by the whole family. Over the next few weeks, make family dinner a priority. You can use this time to model for your family that it’s okay to slow down and spend intentional time with the people you love the most.

During the Last Supper, Jesus intentionally took the time to sit down with his disciples, the people whom he loved, and break bread with them. He spent his final night alive on earth around the dining room table and shared a meal with His family – a meal which was the most important gift we have ever received as human beings.

We should strive to be more like Jesus and to follow His example here by prioritizing our mealtime with family and spending time in communal prayer. You should never hesitate to begin praying with your family. It’s never too early or too late to teach your children prayer.

Building your personal relationship with Christ normally begins by learning to pray with others. Praying during mealtimes is the perfect place to model prayer for your family. It's a time where you can get creative with prayer because praying does not always need to look the way you’re taught in a textbook; it can be the traditional mealtime prayers that are pre-written for us, it can be made up by your family and sang together, it can be whatever you want your prayer to look like that day.

Talking to God isn’t always structured, but it’s always perfect. Your family will feel a deeper connection to one another and to Christ when prayer becomes a part of your routine. Start this routine now during the Lenten season and see if it catches on.

When you’re sitting around your dining room table this week, remember to feel grateful for all of the blessings around you. Take the time to talk with your loved ones about how you can best stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are marginalized and in a time of struggle and what your responsibilities are as neighbors in this big, beautiful universe.

We have been given the responsibility to continue Jesus’ care for our world and all the people on it. Through the giving of his Body and Blood, Jesus gave us the strength to live out our call to be the image of God to our neighbors. We have the opportunity to pray for one another, to share our time and talents with one another and to sit around a dining room table and break bread.

This Lent, set aside intentional time to be present with one another and witness the beauty that comes from prayer and fellowship with the ones you love. You never know – you may spark a whole generation of missionaries for the faith beginning with one family dinner. Give it a go, I guarantee it will be worth every minute.

Lisa Ann Limongello serves as parish catechetical leader in the parishes of St. James, Pennington; St. Alphonsus, Hopewell, and St. George, Titusville.

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