It is a pious Catholic custom to say a prayer before meals, by which ask God for His blessing on us and our food and we recognize that His goodness is the ultimate source of “our daily bread.”
Our own familiar “Prayer Before Meals” has come down to us through ancient liturgical and monastic traditions. For example, there are echoes of our prayer in documents dating back as far as the 1st century. St. Athanasius in Alexandria, Egypt taught his congregation a similar prayer before meals in the 4th century. It seems that the precise wording of our familiar prayer may date as far back as a liturgical book that was used in the 7th Century.
Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Most people are unaware that there is a “Grace After Meals” too! The wording of the post-meal prayer expresses our gratitude with simplicity and beauty. It would be a wonderful custom for families to adopt in today’s busy world where we would all do well to slow down and appreciate the blessings we have been given.
We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for these and all Thy gifts, from Thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Finally, it is customary for the faithful to offer the “Prayer for the Deceased” at mealtimes, thus remembering relatives and friends who have gone before them. The meaning behind this custom derives from the Catholic belief in Purgatory and our obligation to pray for souls who have died, that they may be purified and ultimately reach the blessing of Heaven. Mealtime is a moment of calm and focus where family unity is reaffirmed and strengthened, so it is an appropriate time to say this traditional prayer for souls:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.