Monday, March 1, 2010

Why we bless our homes and holy articles

There is a Catholic tradition for our homes to be blessed. Not just our homes, but a lot of other things. In fact, the Book of Blessings has a whole list of places and things and people that not only can be blessed, but should be. However, there seems to be a strange misunderstanding of why we get things blessed. A lot of this misunderstanding stems from a rather stilted spirituality that implies that when we bless (whether it is things, places or even people), we seem to be bringing God into a place where God was not before. And when God ‘enters’ into that place, it therefore becomes ‘holy’. Very often, when I am invited to bless a house, especially a new house, I get the impression that the new owners want to invite God to come and live with them, as if he was not there in the first place. Either that, or the family or homeowner feels that with God in that place, he ‘chases’ away what is not of God.

I usually like to begin my house blessing by sharing with the family what a house blessing is not. It is not primarily a time of ‘ghost busting’, if I can put it in a term that many are familiar with. What it is, is a time for prayer. A dedicated time where the family has set aside to be mindful of God’s presence which already is in their lives. A time set aside for a purposeful blessing becomes then a re-awakened awareness that God has already been in their lives, and continues to bless them from that point onwards.

It is not that I don’t believe in the power of evil, or that evil exists. But to even think that evil seems to have an earlier prominence in our homes, even before a blessing is invoked, seems to give evil an edge over God, which is a very weakened theology. Moreover, if we think that a priest can ‘bring’ God into a home by his blessings invoked, we make God out to be a very small person, and rather powerless at that. Would that not also imply then, that the priest is somehow more powerful and bigger than God, if he can ‘bring’ God to a place where he was not before?

Yet, in saying this, I don’t mean to undermine the value of a blessing, nor imply that I don’t believe in blessing homes, offices or cars. What I am most interested in is that the people whom I bless these for become more aware of their need to respond to God’s presence once these blessings are imparted. I am certain that if we realize what a blessing is, then we become stronger in our faith that God has always loved us, and continues to. Isn’t that what faith is in its essence? Faith is the belief that God is always journeying with us in life, loving us, be it in good times or in bad?

That is also one reason why I hesitate to bless articles and holy cards that do no belong to the person presenting them to me for the blessing. I always like to ask if this article, this medal or this rosary belongs to the person. When I bless these things, what I am doing, is I am praying with the person, and invoking the blessing not just on the article, but on the person as well. And I do believe that every person needs to hear the words of blessing because they need to hear that they are loved. All blessings give us reassurances of love. And we need to hear this with our own ears. The problem with many of us leading such dysfunctional lives stems from the belief that we are not sufficiently loved. Simply handing to someone a cross or a medal that 'has been blessed' can inadvertently propagate a 'talisman' mentality, where the wearer of the medal or crucifix becomes 'protected' because of the holy medal, and not because the person himself now sees a need to live a holy life. Isn't a holy life the best 'protection' against anything evil?

It may be simplistic for me to think that just hearing it once from a priest or anyone can change one’s poor self-image, but at least it is a start. So, I remind the person who holds up the rosary, the medal, the crucifix or the holy card that God’s love, God’s support and presence in their lives will be made more present to them when they look at these sacramentals, and use them with faith and love, to give them the ability to live in sacred space, so that they can then become bearers of God’s image to the world.

And it is the church's hope that having invoked these blessings, the people now know that they are blessed (even more than their homes and their medals), according them courage to now make the world a more holy place by their very lives.

4 comments:

  1. hi fr luke..

    a very good article on the blessing. The blessing must be "complementary" or in line with faith we live in.. OTW.. it must go hand in hand with our faith.. Blessing may be a 10-20 mins spiritual exercise.. to signfy the christian character of a catholic or a christian homes..Then again.. we need to live out our lives as catholic christian.. no matter what the circumstances may be .. tks


    george

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  2. How quaint - "stilted spirituality " ! Spirituality on stilts brings to mind a whole "chingay procession" of our catholic 'traditional practices' that I must indeed confess I am also partial to. It is still a spirituality of sorts that tries to make form & substance of otherwise great theological concepts & "mystery" ( which is the church's beloved word for matters not befitting for the ill-informed laity to know)
    A childlike acceptance & reverence for 'men of the cloth' is the staple of childhood catechesis ( besides Our Lord did promise his kingdom to mere children/ childlike adults too ??) so it is no surprise that our priests are looked upon as the channels or conduits of grace, holiness & godliness through which God's benevolence or blessings flow & ( hopefully) overflow ! So of course our priests are much sought after to bless our humble abodes, offices, etc. Perhaps it's easy for the clergy to misunderstand us because the spirituality of the masses is "too earthy ", manifested in riotous clash of colour & action & sound ??

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  3. haha, I even have my car blessed not so only to protect me from accident and harm on the road but also to protect other drivers, motorist etc from being injured should I be careless in my driving.

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  4. Dear Fr
    Years ago I attended Sunday mass on a glorious sunny day in Brisbane. I thought I’d stepped into a mini zoo when I entered the church grounds. Standing outside were folks along with their pets – hamsters, dogs, cats, terrapins, rabbits; one gentleman even had a parrot perched upon his shoulder. Surprisingly, the animals remained quiet throughout the mass and I realized later that the priest was going to invoke a special blessing on those pets on that particular Sunday. I also recall how not so long ago, during a Sunday mass, you invoked a special blessing on all the expectant mothers in our parish. It’s moments like these that I find blessings so special, personal and meaningful…and yes, all blessings give us reassurances of God’s love :)

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