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Potlucks, Raclette, and the Mass Offertory


Church potlucks are a great analogy to what happens at Mass.  Here are some ways your family can replicate them at home.


by Ryan Langr


Who Loves Church Potlucks?

Who doesn’t like a potluck? With a variety of jello salads, hot dishes, crockpot BBQs, and scrumptious desserts, what’s not to love? If you’ve ever lived in the Midwest, it’s unlikely you’ve not been to a potluck. It’s what we do up here!

I think potlucks say a lot about us as Catholics, as it directly parallels what occurs in the Mass. In fact, you could say potlucks are almost sacramental. We gather together to share a meal with a community of believers. We all come from different places, with different burdens, but they’re all set aside so we can enjoy this meal together.

We also bring many different gifts. Fried chicken (you pretend isn’t from the store), your grandmas’ secret sloppy joes recipe, or that dessert you made four times to get it just right. All are unique, all are gifts, and all are brought with love.

This is close to what happens during Mass when we “bring up the gifts.” The ancient church understood this time as offering up our own personal gifts to God, as well any prayers, concerns, and supplications that may be on our hearts. In fact, people used to bring up to the altar the fruits of their labor—wheat, bread, grapes, eggs. etc.


Raclette: A Lesson from Switzerland

Despite my obsession with potlucks, I never realized their near-sacredness until this last Memorial Day weekend, when my family had our own “mini-potluck” in the form of “raclette,” a timeless Swiss tradition of frying your food on your table. My wife, who is of Swiss heritage, is up on all the cool Swiss traditions.

Raclette is basically a “table grill” set in the middle of the table for everyone to pile no a variety of foods cooked to their liking. You get to see what everyone else is cooking, and I’ve loved learning about flavor combinations that others are doing—I’ve discovered some I never would have thought of, despite my fanatic consumption of Chopped and Master Chef.

It was a great experience, and the fact that we were all bringing different tastes, conversations, and experiences to the table was very apparent. Everybody loved it!

Try it Yourself!

Traditionally, a raclette meal consists of various cheeses, potatoes, meats and fruits. We used all of these (as you 

can see from the pictures), and the shrimp was definitely my favorite. I was a little nervous my 2-year-old Philomena was going to grab the hot grill, but we set her far away and just shared whatever we were making for ourselves. She loved asking what everyone was making and learning names of different foods. You could try just about anything with raclette, and I think you should!

If you don’t have access to a raclette grill [Amazon], try the follow ideas for the same feel:

  • Family potluck night: If you’re household is old enough, or filled with semi-capable cooks, consider doing a family potluck night. Each person (or team, if you have enough) chooses a dish to cook for the entire family. At dinner, each person can lead a line giving thanks for something. During dinner, talk about why each person chose what they did. However, we don’t all have families where every member can cook, so…
  • Rotate family cooking: …you can also rotate the family cooking. This works especially well if you have one person who can mentor or teach the younger (or less-experienced cooks) in the family. Not only will asking them to cook one night a week impart a valuable life skill to them, but they will begin to learn something about themselves. As we learn about what we like to cook, we learn about ourselves and we “bring to the table.”
  • Share in meal planning: One final way we can image the offertory at our dinner table is by allowing the whole family to share in the meal planning. This allows everyone an insight into how each other thinks—ask them about their choices, and you just might learn something about the gifts they bring to the family and the Church.
Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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