Q. 1. What is the appropriate way for Catholics to pray before meals in public, such as at a restaurant? Should the sign of the cross be avoided? After all, one does not want to attract attention or possibly offend non-believers.
A. 1. My friend, Jesus said, "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." [Mk 8:38]
Crossing yourself in public bears witness that there are still believers in this "adulterous and sinful generation." You should not be ashamed of your faith. In the early days of the Catholic Church, thousands of its faithful members died for their faith, being thrown to the lions. To this day, Catholics are persecuted for their faith. In China, they can be thrown in prison for years. In Muslim countries, they are shot and burned in their Churches. They are tortured in their homes before they are killed. What price are you paying for your faith?
Without overdoing it, it is appropriate to make the sign of the cross before you begin to pray before meals in a public place. Maybe some observers will decide to follow your example of open spirituality.