by Ginger Philbrick
At a recent dinner party, without asking me first, my hostess called on me to say the blessing. This was after a pretty healthy cocktail time and while the food, already on the table, was beginning to congeal.
I couldn’t come up with a single statement for the Lord. In answer to her question, I had a quick answer: “No.” I feel a bit unsettled after the incident and would like to know your “take” on it.
Anonymous in Lancaster County
In your email to me, you expounded a bit on the subject of meal blessings and correctly stated that some people, especially those not of the clergy, don’t want to be the ones to bless the food. As you suggested, it may be out of shyness, or feeling inadequate, or wanting to follow Jesus’ instruction that, “when you pray, enter your closet.”
I often wonder what the one to whom we are praying thinks of the words offered up before meals. With head bowed, I have heard some of the most beautiful expressions of gratitude that I believe came from a sincerely grateful heart. I have also listened to words that I felt were crafted together solely to impress the diners, not to thank the giver of the gifts before us.
Saying a blessing should not be a frivolous undertaking. It is an honor to be asked, but a hostess should ask before she calls on someone to say grace, even if that someone is a member of the clergy. You must not blame yourself for your reaction. And, I think, a private explanation to your hostess will make you both feel better.
Let me share with you one of the most earnest blessings I have heard. At lunch, my niece, then 6 years old, said she would like to say the blessing over our egg salad sandwiches. When our heads were bowed, she said, “ Dear God, thank you for this sandwich. And, God, if you could make the egg a little bit more done, I would like that. Thank you. Amen.”
Now, that was a blessing offered both in gratitude and in faith!
Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.