"Do you always eat like this?"
A guest of a fellow seminarian asked this question last week as we sat down for dinner. It was his first time visiting Moreau Seminary and he was surprised at the way in which we were eating—that is, together.
At Moreau, all of our meals are eaten "in common". Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all eaten with other members of the community in the Moreau Refectory. It is the exception that someone eats outside of the community and very rare that someone would eat alone. This "common table" is an important expression of our commitment to community life at Moreau. It gives us a chance to step out of the busy-ness of our days to spend time with members of the community and be an intentional part of each other's lives.
Dinner is our principal meal together. Every night, it is served "family style" and people often linger long after they are done eating. Like a family that gathers at the end of the day, it is an opportunity to grow closer, share successes and hardships and support each other. This time is used to celebrate birthdays, make announcements, welcome guests and mark other significant community events.
While every meal shared together is special, some are more "festive" than others. Church and community feast days are usually celebrated with special meals and we set aside special community nights on Sunday and Thursday. On Thursday night, members of the Moreau community invite guests from all over for Mass and dinner. The men of Old College, other Holy Cross religious, professors, classmates, family members, friends and other visitors come to share in the fellowship that we experience nightly. Because the demands of ministry and class sometimes necessitate people to be away from Moreau for mealtime during the week, Sunday night is also set aside as a special meal for the members of the Moreau Community to be particularly present to each other.
Sharing a common table at meal time is especially important to a religious community because it allows us to grow closer as a community so that we may more fully share together the "greatest of all table fellowships," the Eucharist. Our Constitution on Prayer states, "The Lord's Supper is the church's foremost gathering for prayer. It is our duty and need to break that bread and share that cup every day unless prevented by serious cause. We are fortified for the journey on which he has sent us. We find ourselves especially close as a brotherhood when we share this greatest of all table fellowships."
So, "Yes," we answered this guest. "We always eat like this." Our gathering around a common table at mealtime is reflective of our gathering around the altar when we celebrate the Eucharist. We are individually nourished and grow closer as brothers in each.
Mr. Brogan Ryan is a Postulant at Moreau Seminary. He and other seminarians at Moreau post twice each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation at Moreau. Meet our other men in formation, and learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross, and specifically about the Postulant Program at Moreau Seminary, which constitutes the first year of religious and priestly formation in Holy Cross for college graduates.