Thursday, September 22, 2011

FW: Family Dinner


September 22, 2011
By Archbishop Henry J. Mansell
We are reminded by the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" that the family is the original cell of social life. At the same time we realize the tremendous challenges that families face in meeting the challenges of every day. It is helpful to know, nonetheless, of the notable progress which families are achieving on a regular basis.

Some outstanding facts have been emerging. Renowned surveys over the past sixteen years--for example, those sponsored by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University--find that the more often children have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs, and that parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children.

The statement is made clearly and simply: frequent family dinners make a difference.

The evidence in these surveys shows tellingly that compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent dinners (fewer than three per week) are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol, and one and a half times likelier to use marijuana.

During these years there is consistent evidence that family dinners help to make a significant difference in academic performance and weekly attendance at religious services.

One way to bring attention to this outstanding phenomenon is a national Family Day--A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children. It is promoted every year by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and takes place on the fourth Monday of September, this year, September 26.

While it is possible for families to join together for this event, it is not necessary. The important thing is for the family to be together and to recognize the value of doing this frequently during every week.

We all know that objections will come forward. What about one parent families? They celebrate as a family. How do we handle our social, academic, athletic, and work appointments? We may have to schedule another meal as the family get together. How do we address the technological intrusions? Shut them off during the meal. No texting of other friends at that time. The important fact is that you are all there.

There is no extra cost involved. The long term dividends your family will receive will be the profound spiritual and emotional return on your personal investment. Many of you of course are already experiencing these rewards from family dinners.

We in the Archdiocese of Hartford will be participating in the preparations for people to celebrate Family Day. ...many preparations are being made but we do not wish to make this a complicated enterprise. It is important to understand that we all are relational, to one another and to God. We are the family of the Church and we celebrate that reality especially in the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The awareness of this reality brings our lives to greater completion.

As we discuss over the table the happy events of our day and the challenges we face, we must keep in mind, as the first Christians did in the Sacred Scriptures, those who do not have sufficient means to provide a full meal. As we continue to enrich our lives, we cannot ever lose that awareness.

May our Family Dinner be increasingly blessed by God's love and help us to appreciate more acutely the fullness of our lives.

Reprinted with permission from the Catholic Transcript.
* Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell is the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut.

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