The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 21: Bless You
Well, hey friends. Today we’re talking all about blessings – what they are, who can do it and when, the many varieties of blessings, all the things. But before I get into any of that, I’d like to thank those of you who are sharing, rating, and reviewing this podcast – as you’ve heard me say before, that is the very best way to get this message out to more people, and I am truly blessed by your actions – so thanks, friends! Okay, let’s get into it.
If you were born and raised Catholic, you have probably received hundreds of blessings in your lifetime at mass and in other places, from priests and other members of the clergy. Maybe you’ve lined up for a blessing of your throat on the feast day of St. Blaise or received an Irish blessing on St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe you got your home blessed or your marriage blessed, or even your pets blessed on the Feast of St. Francis. It can be easy for a cradle Catholic to believe that a blessing can only come from a priest, but this is not only not true, but this is also such a limiting belief. In your baptism, you received roles as priest, prophet and king (yes – each of these roles and responsibilities belongs to each one of us by baptism) and because of that, it’s your privilege and your duty to bless others, and you are likely already doing just that more often than you realize.
And what do I mean by that?
Well, every time you say grace or a blessing over your food and the hands that prepared it, you are blessing. Or when people sneeze around you and you bless them, or when you pray for your children as they leave the house or go into school – that is also a blessing. I got into the habit when my children were small of making the sign of the cross over their schools whenever I’d pass them in my car during the day. I’d bless my kids, their friends, their teachers, anyone who would cross their paths, and I still do this today even though they’re grown – the circle of blessing keeps expanding and I can’t tell you the number of homes and schools that I bless on an average day. Maybe even yours.
One of the best parts of Catholicism is the physical means by which a spiritual blessing is offered. We use stuff we can see and touch, like hands, water, oil, bread, wine and more, to confer a blessing or grace that we can’t touch or see. And this physical manifestation makes a real difference. It’s why we miss the Holy Water at the entrance of churches when it’s not available due to Lent or, you know, a global pandemic. We miss it because we want to bless ourselves with something we can feel, something that feels apart from us. We want to experience a blessing from God.
A friend of mine brought me a bottle of Holy Water from Medjugorje a few years ago and it’s a running joke that when my grown kids leave my house, they know I’m going to offer them a blessing with that water. And you know what, most of the time, they take it. I make the sign of the cross on their foreheads with the water and pray God’s protection and guidance over them. I bless them mind, body, and spirit and it makes me feel better to send them off in that way because they no longer live under my roof, but also in a very real way, I know I am sending them off blessed by God.
Last week we celebrated Mother’s Day a few days early by meeting the kids in Boston. My son now lives just outside the city. My daughter lives in a different city but was in town visiting her boyfriend who goes to school there, so Boston was a good location for a meet-up but it also, for me, was a bit of a pilgrimage. You see, I’ve been watching masses from a particular church in that city all year. I’ve been so blessed by it and by their pastor in his homilies – it is not a stretch to say that I’m not sure where my faith would have been this year without St. Cecilia’s and Fr. John Unni, and my family knew that, so they arranged for us to get in and to say a prayer there together.
As we looked for the right door by which to enter on that rainy Wednesday, we split up a bit – my husband and son in one direction and my daughter and I in the other. Eventually me and the kids were let in by Mark, the very kind pastoral associate, but my husband, Tim was delayed, and we didn’t know why. As it turns out, he had met Fr. John at a different door and had received a priestly blessing there from him for us. Fr. John put his hands on Tim’s head, prayed for him and for all of us and asked him to pass it on. And Tim thought I’d be disappointed to have missed Fr. John and I was, but also, I knew the truth – we had been blessed by God, through Fr. John, through Tim, because that’s how blessing goes – from God through individual people. And If we participate in that cycle of blessing, we become part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
I know I’ve talked here before about cursillo, a retreat movement I’m a part of and which I hope all of you get to experience one day. One of my dearest memories of that weekend is a time of blessing that was offered at the end of mass. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of several weekends led by our friends Fr. Joe Callahan and his team, and since Fr. Joe is now in Heaven it’s a particularly heartfelt memory for me. Anyway, at that time, we had recessed from the chapel, and we kneeled together in a circle in the gathering area as Fr. Joe extended his hands and offered the blessing to our all-female group of retreatants: He said, “May the blessings of almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit descend upon you and remain with you forever.” Fr. Joe was such a lovely man with a truly melodic speaking voice, and that was always a beautiful moment, but the next part frequently overwhelmed many in the group, because it was then that Fr. Joe asked for our blessing. As the all-female group got to our feet, Fr. Joe would say, “and Sisters, may we too, ask for your blessing?” The women were frequently surprised by this, it was so humble and holy. It reminded me, kind of, of Pope Francis when he first stood in St. Peter’s Square and addressed the people after being named Pope. Do you remember that? Thousands of people waiting for his papal blessing, but he started by asking for theirs first. Wow, that was such a powerful moment, wasn’t it?
When it comes to blessings, I’d say, the more the better, wouldn’t you? This is a hard world to walk through sometimes and when we have the opportunity to be a conduit of grace by our blessing, I hope we will always say yes. When we consider the abundant love of God, I don’t understand why we would ever be stingy when it comes to a blessing, but this is unfortunately a reality in our church these days. I hope in the future, we can be more expansive in our blessings and consider the larger definition of the word, which has nothing to do with our approval or sanction but is all about asking God for grace and favor which all of God’s children need, and which no one, not any of us, deserve.
When you bless someone or a place or a family, you are asking God in His providence to confer grace in whatever way God chooses and you’re trusting in His omnipotence and kindness. As we emerge from this time of trial, I want to be a bigger part of that cycle of blessing, don’t you? God knows the world needs it so let’s bless and be a blessing in whatever way we can. And who knows – you might just be the answer to someone’s prayer today. You could be the blessing that someone most needs. Imagine that.
Well friend, I have lots of resources for you in today’s show notes: prayers and blessings and books and music that might give language to the many ways that you can bless others everyday but for now, here’s a blessing for you:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, in your kindness please look on my friend today, see their need and respond in your providence and love. Bless them in mind, body and spirit and bless their dear ones too as we learn together to be conduits of your blessing and love for your people.
And may the blessings of almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit descend upon you and remain with you forever, amen.
Okay friend, I’ll see you next time.