We Catholics love to be blessed. One of my favorite authors, John O’Donohue, says “A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen.” Blessings are an extra layer of comfort wrapped around us. Blessings are bonus hugs from God. The church classifies a blessing as a sacramental; a way to assist us in opening ourselves to the gift of grace.
In many of our parishes this weekend the St. Blaise blessing of the throats may be offered. Most of us will quickly join the lines of people moving forward to have blessed candles placed near our neck. We will listen for the blessing through the intercession of St. Blaise so we will be preserved “from throat troubles and every other evil” (especially people who don’t use a handkerchief; my words, not the church).
The Sunday liturgy is filled with moments of particular blessings; the blessing of water at the sprinkling rite, the blessing given at the conclusion of the penitential rite, the one given to the deacon before he proclaims the Gospel, the blessings called down during the eucharistic prayer and the concluding blessing, to cite a few.
We desire to surround ourselves with objects that have been given a special blessing. We use them in a holy and conscious manner, or as a means to unite ourselves more closely with a particular saint. From church we bring our blessed palms or blessed candles. The bride and groom offer their wedding rings to be blessed, before they slip them on one another’s finger. Once again it is becoming common to see people bringing a rosary, statue or prayer book to church and asking Father “Please bless this.” People come to the church asking for a blessing on special events of their life such as a pregnancy, an engagement, a wedding anniversary or a mission trip.
We desire to bless one another within our secular worlds as well. A sneeze is usually met with “God bless you,” children are put to bed with parents offering a similar sentiment. When we do a kind act for another we may be wished “God bless you.” When something of good nature happens to us we respond with “what a blessing” and many of us bring Fluffy, Scooter and Peewee in tow to receive their animal blessing on the feast of St. Francis.
Blessings are so significant to life in the church that our Catholic bishops compiled an 800-page “Book of Blessings,” with official rituals and words for most any occasion or purpose, from a parish meeting to a new home, fishing gear to new church doors, religious articles to new parishioners. Athletic events are also covered, but I did not find a specific blessing for the Green Bay Packers — must have been an oversight on the part of the bishops!
A blessing is not just reserved for within the church or to be dispensed by a priest. Whenever the church pronounces God’s blessing, it does so with gratitude and desires that her people do likewise so we are to live each moment of our Catholic life by blessing and being blessed. Consider purchasing another book compiled by our Bishops entitled “Catholic Household Blessing and Prayers” and begin a whole new journey of blessing in your life.
And by the way, “God bless you!”
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.