The only time I remember asking for a blessing was when I went to confession and began a rather senseless rigmarole with the words “bless me Father”.
Putting innocent children through the ordeal of finding “sins” was the height of nonsense. The other occasion of a blessing was at mealtime, before and after. That made sense and it still does. How we should be thankful for all the good things we have in life and how we should be sad when so many people have never had and never will have the same opportunities! However it wasn’t a personal blessing. Blessings were not part of our spirituality.
Only in later life when I came to be part of a different spirituality did I become conscious of how the English language robbed us of our Celtic heritage and gave us all a sterile cold communications system bereft of all emotional warmth and spiritual nourishment. I would describe the Irish language as a deeply spiritual language.
I still begin each new day with same morning prayers my parents taught me. Over the years I have added one of my own. I pray that I will be a blessing to everyone I meet and have contact with during the day and that they will be equally a blessing to me, that we will all bless the Lord and be blessed by Him. For all of that I pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit because on my own I don’t think I would succeed very well. It really gives me a boost at the beginning of each day.
Some time ago a friend gave me a present of John O’Donohue’s book Benedictus, a lovely present that I would recommend at this festive season.
I suggest that we can and should be creative in making up our own homespun blessings. In this respect Brazil has a very rich heritage. Children ask the blessing of their parents separately before leaving the house, it may just be words or it can be accompanied with the sign of the cross on the forehead. They do the same with their baptismal and confirmation godparents.
The never call these aunts or uncles if they are such but rather godfather or godmother (padrinho, madrinha). These religious bonds are stronger than blood relationships. That of course can have a downside if there is a later breakdown in relations between parents and godparents. They often want me to baptize them again with a new set of godparents!
This year in our parish we did an about-turn on the question of child confessions. We substituted it with a lovely blessing ceremony. After a simple prayer we had the children ask priest, parents and catechists for a blessing. Then all of us in turn knelt down and received a blessing from each child. It was nice. As in Ireland old customs are not easy to retain in this modern utilitarian culture but there are things we need to fight hard to continue. Future generations will be grateful. See what you can do in your family this Christmas.
Christmas is a time of joy and hope and we have good reasons to be hopeful. After the dark clouds of the last half-century there are some beautiful rays of light. Cuba and the United States have decided to bury the hatchet. The Church has new winds blowing away the cobwebs of a musty past. Above all we have our own Latin American Francis as a new John the Baptist crying from the desert, telling us to straighten things out and get on with living. I send you our blessings from afar and may this season be one of real joy and boundless hope for all of us.
Thanks, Tony. Lovely.