We start dinner with a blessing. And then we dig in. But I am struggling to make dinner more than a meal. I want it to be a communion.
My five-year-old is very social and bright. She loves attending Saint Louis Catholic School. But she is often fried by dinner time. She just wants to watch TV. She keeps getting out of her chair and trying to get back to the TV. Most of the discussion at dinner is telling her to get back into her seat.
My eleven-year-old doesn’t always have much to say. We all know what it’s like to ask, “How was school?” and have the answer be, “OK.”
Sometimes my husband starts to talk and then gives up because of the fight over TV.
So, I try to ask more interesting questions: “Is there something funny or sad that happened today?” “If you could describe your day in three words, what would they be?” “What color was your day?” But my efforts are only sometimes met with success.
On the drive to school, I quizzed my girls on the mysteries of the rosary and had an insight: In the Third Luminous Mystery, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, Jesus went from town to town and met people face to face. He most certainly could have waited to arrive in human history in an era with radio and television and text messages and emails and social media. He knows He would have had a great audience. But Jesus opted to become Incarnate at a time that forced walking on the road with others, staying and eating in people’s houses and having personal encounters – conversation.
I have taken to prayer the need for connection with my family and others. I love Facebook. Well, let me say that I really dislike Facebook - it’s annoying and I waste so much time. And also, I love it! I’m a writer. I need to write. And, also, I need an audience for my jokes. This is necessary. I have more jokes in me than for just my family. But Facebook is not really an authentic connection. I find that I get sucked into my phone, and then I miss the real connection I could be having with others.
And then I go to birthday parties for my girls’ friends and so often the parents are on their phones. Birthday parties can be brutal for parents. Sometimes I wish the party host would plan games and activities so introverted parents will chat.
And then my eleven-year-old went on a field trip with her 6th grade class. They were going to Waco to see the mammoth fossils. I got excited about the bonding of friends on a long bus ride. But my daughter said her classmates were planning to hide under blankets and listen to music or watch videos. I almost cried. Thankfully, they did end up talking to each other!
Conversation among adults and kids is becoming a lost art. Pope Francis talked about this recently too. Catholic News Agency and EWTN reported that he was concerned by a recent visit with some young people:
“Young people were all there waiting for me when I arrived. As young people do, they made noise. I approached to greet them and a few reached out their hands. But the majority of them were with the phones – photos, photos, photos…selfie! I have seen that their reality is that. That is the real world, not human contact. This is serious.”
And then I thought about Jesus, going from town to town and looking people in the eye, touching them and asking them simple things that made Him an authentic part of their lives.
I am praying for the art of conversation and real connection between people, whether that’s at the dinner table or when friends get together but are tempted to hide in technology or at those social gatherings where we don’t know anyone or anywhere else. Jesus wants so much to have communion with people, not on the surface, but in a real encounter. That’s why He walked from town to town. And He wants real encounters among His people too.
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