Secular Graces

As much as I'd love to belong to a faith tradition and a congregation, I'm a heathen. A few people have offered to help me out with that, but there are just some hurdles I can't get over. I'm totally on board with the caring and community aspects, the devoting time to consideration of grand concepts of the divine or debased, I'd even consider getting out of bed on a Sunday (but not too early) to do that regularly because I think it's important to some intrinsic part of our humanity. I think there are a lot of rituals in religion that are worth keeping even if you don't share the relevant God.

One of them is the practice of gratitude. It is something that needs practicing; the more habitual it becomes, the better you'll feel on a normal day and the deeper you'll be able to dig on those days when you need to feel better. I don't do too much habitually except eat, so I've been considering ways to include the ritual of grace at our table without invoking a deity.

At kindergarten most German children are taught to say
Piep piep piep                 Peep peep peep
Wir haben uns alle Lieb   We all love each other
Guten Appetit!                Bon appetit!
and we've been using that at home for more than a year. Currently we're dealing with a bit of an all-fronts anti-English rebellion and, not willing to concede my progecolony just yet, I've responded in part by thinking up some English alternatives.

Here are my results so far. I'd like one that's child-friendly and one for special occasions; I'd be most grateful for any feedback or further suggestions!
May this meal help us grow in gratitude and strength.

For all that we have,
and those whom we love,
let us be truly thankful

Thanks to the farmer and thanks to the meat
Thanks to the cook, and now let's eat!

All I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family.
All I really need is here with me now, and I sing my song of thanks
(adapted from a Raffi song)

For the sun and the rain and the earth,
the plants and the meat,
We're grateful for friendship and mirth
and healthy food to eat

Reach up towards your goals, reach down to help the small
We give thanks for this food that makes us strong and tall
(has the potential benefit of actions - but what to do for "thanks"?) [edit: clap]

May we learn and love, grow and strive
Thanks to those who help us thrive.

For what is on this table
we are truly grateful

Let us enjoy our meal
And give thanks for the feed
Let us enjoy good company
But remember those in need

For bounty, while many know hunger
for hope, while many live in fear
for love, while many are lonely
we give thanks for all our blessings here

It's a gift to live simply,
It's a gift to be free,
We are grateful for all that went into this meal

(means "I humbly receive" in Japanese - or so I'm told)
Online I found some others that I quite liked but just weren't what we need right now:
"Here’s a beautiful Buddhist meal gatha that is entirely secular:
    We receive this food in gratitude to all beings
    Who have helped to bring it to our table,
    And vow to respond in turn to those in need
    With wisdom and compassion.

"Or how about this variation on a Native American thanks giving:
    We give thanks for the plants and animals who have given themselves so that we can enjoy this meal together.
    We also give thanks for our friends and family who have traveled here today.
    May this meal bring us strength and health.
What do you think? Could you imagine applying something like this to your meal rituals? Do you practice gratitude?


  1. Hey Lauren... great idea, I need to think more about this because I do think this is something important - now if we can just find something to resemble the sense of community that those with religion have. I've told my boyfriend that that is the only thing I miss from being a part of organized religion, and that I know some people who choose to stay with their religious establishment almost exclusively for that community not for the religion in itself.

    1. I often bemoan the issue of people seeming to need God to be good. There's a book on my nightstand called Good Without God; what a billion non-religious people do believe - but I haven't started it yet. There's also the UUI, which has a "search by zipcode" function on their website for congregations. (More about UU here: They seem to be predominantly American though.

  2. Love this! I'm going to print it as an option for our Girl Guide camps. We generally do "generic" ones, but even they invoke God in some way which is fine for most girls but not all. Ones we normally choose are Johnny Appleseed, or ones the girls want to do, or sometimes:

    God is great
    God is good
    Let us thank Him for our food

    Still, I like yours better!

  3. Because we used to host Japanese students, we sometimes use itadakimasu - when we remember, that is! :-)
    We are not at all religious either. Organised religion of any kind gives me the whim-whams. Though I completely understand the need for community.

  4. I can totally relate to your situation.

    Personally, I regard spirituality as separate from religion. While I can appreciate the community, ritual, and celebration aspects of religion, as an agnostic I don't find religion necessary for my wellbeing. I prefer to have my community needs met elsewhere - mainly because I find most religious people to be too pushy about their belief system.

    I don't feel the need to have a formal grace before meals, most of the time. I always say a silent thanks. However, I am not raising a family. If I were, I'd also want to have a formal grace before meals.

    I like ALL of the options that you have here. Very creative and fun. The one that most resonates with me is the Buddhist meal gatha. Although I view Buddhism as a religion, albeit not monotheistic, I find that many of my personal values align with Buddhist values.

    People who do energy work, like Reiki, sometimes practice a before-meal ritual. They place their hands over the plate of food and allow the energy to flow. That effectively blesses the food, and every being involved in that meal - plants, animals, cook, bread winner, farmer, and so on.

  5. We started saying grace when our older son was a few years old. This is what I adapted from a saying on a Zen calendar:

    This food is the gift of the whole universe,
    The earth, the air, the sun, the sea,
    We're grateful for this food and for each other!

    I don't consider it the "perfect" blessing for us, but it works pretty well, and it's so simple that everyone who eats with us occasionally knows it.

    1. I like it! Thanks for commenting Debbie :)