Friday, January 18, 2013

Bless you!

"Rituals bind a community together, 
and also bind individuals to a community."  
~Kathleen Norris in THE CLOISTER WALK

Just as there's a patron saint for anything you need or want -- there's a Blessing Prayer for everything.

A special gift from our son's godmother, our family's edition of Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers dates back to 1988, the year our youngest daughter was born -- and it's been put to good use throughout our family's journey! A newer version is featured and available through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Catalog.

Clearly, we can -- and often do -- spontaneous prayer together, too. But for those special moments when we want to create and celebrate with a family ritual, this book has been -- well, a genuine blessing!

For example, on the first day of school, our family tradition was to make a special, sit-down breakfast -- followed by a few moments when one or both of us would bless each child by placing our hands on his or her head, and -- using the Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers book -- say:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.R. Amen
May the Lord's face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.R. Amen
May the Lord look upon you with kindness, and give you peace.R. Amen

Years later, as we prepared each one to go off to college, we gathered in a family circle and, again, using the book, began with the sign of the cross:
The Lord will guard your coming and your going. Blessed be the name of the Lord.R. Now and forever 
Gathering all our memories of good times and difficulties together, and full of hope and concern for the days ahead, let us ask God's blessing on [name of son/daughter]. 
Listen to the words of the Holy Gospel according to John:
Thomas said to [Jesus], 'Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 
[John 14:5-6]
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ
Finally, as each family member placed hands on the new college student, either Michael or I would pray:
O God, you led your servant Abraham from his home and guarded him in all his wanderings. Guide this servant of yours, [name of son/daughter]. Be a refuge on the journey, shade in the heat, shelter in the storm, rest in weariness, protection in trouble, and a strong staff in danger. For all our days together, we give you thanks: bind us together now, even though we may be far apart. May your peace rest upon this house, and may it go with your servant always. Grant this through Christ our Lord,
R. Amen
It may sound like I'm trying to sell you a book. Yet as much as we've appreciated and used this particular text, what I'm promoting is taking the time to celebrate and honor special, unique moments in our family's journey -- as a family -- using a ritual to help us remember God's presence, and our belonging to the universal Church.

This book has reminded me over the years that the opportunities are endless! Blessing on a birthday. Blessing during pregnancy. Prayer in time of discernment. Blessings in times of suffering and need. Prayers before surgery or near the time of death. Prayer rituals heals us, and binds us to one another in Christ who is our everything.

What kind of family rituals do you treasure in your own family?