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How to say grace before meals

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A beginner's guide to the Catholic tradition of giving thanks.

Following after the example of Jesus himself, Christians for centuries have maintained the tradition of saying “grace” or “thanks” before consuming a meal. It is a simple way of recognizing how God is the one who ultimately provides the food that we enjoy each and every day.

Depending on the culture and time period, there have been various ways of giving thanks to God before each meal. Yet, one prayer that has endured the test the time is the traditional, “Bless us, O Lord” prayer, which dates back to the 7th century and is found in the Gelasian Sacramentary.

The usual Catholic custom is to make the sign of the cross, say the meal prayer, and then begin eating. Some Catholics also use a post-meal prayer to further give thanks to God. This custom is practiced before every meal, whether it be at home, in the restaurant, at the school cafeteria or at a baseball game. It is a public witness of faith and a reminder that God is everywhere, even in the most unlikeliest of places.

There is no “right” way to say grace, as it could be a spontaneous prayer or some other family tradition. The important part is to pray to God before each meal, thanking him for providing the food that sustains us.

For those who would like a prayer to get them started, below is the traditional Catholic prayer, along with the Latin translation for those who want to “spice” it up every once and a while.

BEFORE

Bless us, O Lord, and these
thy gifts which we are about
to receive from thy bounty,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bénedic, Dómine, nos et haec
tua dona quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi.
Per Christum  Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

AFTER

We give thee thanks, almighty God,
for all your benefits,
who livest and reignest forever
and ever. Amen.

May the Lord grant us His peace.
And life everlasting. Amen.

And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God
rest in peace. Amen

Ágimus tibi gratias, omnípotens Deus,
pro universis beneficiis tuis,
qui vivis et regnas in
sæcula sæculórum. Amen.

Deus det nobis suam pacem.
Et vitam æternum. Amen.

Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei,
requiescant in pace. Amen.

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