There's something about food that brings people together, which is why it's been said that families who eat dinner with each other every night share a closeness that comes from being brought around the table to eat. Pope Francis encouraged this fundamental experience in his weekly catechesis in St. Peter's Square and urged parents to remove smartphones from the table to bring back the sense of relationship within a family, which seems to get lost when heads are buried in screens.
Too much screen time is becoming an international issue not only for children but for parents as well — and when it's the parents, their children are noticing. The Pope took this fact — that spending time on your phone makes you less present, less involved with the people around you — and used his general audience catechesis to address families and help them to realize that the dinner table is where reparation can begin.
"Today we reflect on a characteristic of family life that we learn from the first years of life: togetherness. . . . Its symbol, its 'icon,' is the family gathered around the dinner table. The sharing of a meal — and beyond the food, sharing affections, stories, and events — is a fundamental experience. . . .
Togetherness is a sure thermometer for measuring the health of relationships: if something isn't going well in a family, or if there's some hidden wound, it's immediately clear at the table. A family that almost never eats together, or that, rather than talking at table watches television or looks at the smartphone, is 'not much of a family.' When the children are attached to the computer and the telephone at the table, and don't listen to one another, this isn't family, it's a hostel! . . .
Today, many social contexts pose obstacles to family togetherness. It's true, today it's not easy. We must find a way to recover it. At the table we talk, at the table we listen. No more silence, that silence that isn't the silence of nuns, but the silence of selfishness, where everyone does his own thing, or is on the television or computer . . . and they don't talk. No, no silence. We need to recover family togetherness while adapting it to the times."
The pope is truly speaking to the entire world, and he may be onto something. Will you take his advice at your family dinner table?