People regularly count the ways in which the restrictions due to Covid 19, transforms lives and lifestyles. Some restrictions are helpful, some not so. Consider examples of restrictions related to travel, social life, family, work circumstances, leisure activities, educational opportunities, medical appointments, shopping, and those related to our spiritual lives. Human relationships and life are central to the restrictions. By default, the world and its people transitions to a new way of life. There is no return to the old. Today a blessing God’s people will miss is the individual blessing of throats.
Yesterday, Candlemas day, the priest blessed the candles for use during the forthcoming liturgical year in the Church. Included in those candles were those that the priest uses to bless peoples’ throats on this feast.
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St Blaise. Tradition states that before becoming a bishop he was a physician. The Church venerates St Blaise as patron of all who suffer from diseases of the throat. The blessing that the faithful receive in the Church today is a sign of our faith in God’s protection, love and healing for us and for the sick. In the ritual of blessing the priest uses two blessed, crossed and unlit candles and places them on the throat of each person saying these words,
‘Through the intercession of St Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all ailments of the throat and from every other evil [or from every disease of the throat and from any other illness]. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’
The fact that the blessing is communal and on webcam takes away from it’s personal dimension. Of course, it is good and helpful to receive the blessing in faith. The experience offers people an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings we receive from God through the priest each time we receive the sacraments. The priest or bishop administers one to one blessings in Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and The Anointing of the Sick. During the celebration, the priest blesses the bread and wine which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. We receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.
There are also other occasions of blessing in life. At Mass or prayer time, we pray the Sign of the Cross and when the priest proclaims the Gospel, we pray the threefold sign of the Cross. We ask God to bless the food we eat when we say Grace before Meals. The priest blesses devotional objects using holy water from time to time. He also blesses the dead during the prayers of the funeral rite using holy water and incense. Can you recall any other time of blessing?
A blessing is a sign of love. The psalm proclaimed at Mass today is Psalm 102. In it, the psalmist invites the listener ‘never forget all his [the Lord’s] blessings.’ The psalmist also invites them to ‘give thanks and bless his [the Lord’s] holy name’.
Therefore, we learn from God’s Word that God blesses each person and each one can bless God. In addition, in Psalm 148 the psalm invites all God’s creation to praise and bless the Lord. This is a dominant theme in Laudato Si’, Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis’ letter to every person in the world.
Let us receive the blessings of the Lord and remember to give thanks. Mary, Mother of God never forgot to say thanks for the great things that God did for her. She said thanks in her ‘Magnificat’ prayer.
Families who accompany their children in faith, hope and love will find very helpful resources on the Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé website including the Children’s Grow in Love/ I nGrá Dé e-book.
- The Sign of the Cross/ Comhartha na Croise
- The ‘Magnificat’
ACTIVITY: Write/ Draw your own prayer of thanks to God. Read it aloud.
READ: Psalm 148 from the Bible or from the Grow in Love/ I nGrá Dé Children’s e-book
VIDEO: Watch the video lyric of Psalm 148 (Grow in Love online resources, Fourth Class/P6) where the psalmist invites all creation to bless the Lord. How do the sun, the moon, the stars and the animals, insects and trees bless God? How can you bless God?
Sr Anne Neylon