Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bless the Children, Save the World

I shall never forget the devotion and heartfelt care with which my father and mother made the sign of the Cross on the forehead, mouth, and breast of us children when we went away from home, especially when the parting was a long one. This blessing was like an escort that we knew would guide us on our way. It made visible the prayer of our parents, which went with us, and it gave us the assurance that this prayer was supported by the blessing of the Saviour.

The blessing was also a challenge to us not to go outside the sphere of this blessing. Blessing is a priestly gesture, and so in the sign of the Cross we felt the priesthood of parents, its dignity and power. I believe that this blessing which is a perfect expression of the common priesthood of the baptized, should come back in a much stronger way into our daily life and permeate it with the power of the love that comes from the Lord.
Spirit of the Liturgy, 184

Reflection – A rare personal autobiographical reference from the Pope! And an extraordinarily beautiful one, at that. One senses both with Joseph Ratzinger and Karol Woytla, when you read their childhood reminiscences, that they sprang from a deep Catholic culture. Their parents were people of profound faith, prayer, practice, and the world they came to adulthood in, rent apart as it was by war, terror, rampaging ideologies, and death, was nonetheless a, Catholic  world, to a degree that we secularized ones of the 21st century have a hard time picturing.

So, parents blessing their children. You parents out there reading this—do you do this? Do you know that you are priests in your home, not in some tortured metaphorical way, but really and truly? You have spiritual authority, you know, to bless, protect, govern and guide your families, and to entreat the help of God for them. This is what priesthood means, fundamentally.

How to rebuild a Catholic culture—this is the question on so many people’s minds and hearts. How are we to re-sacralize our world? How are we to re-introduce belief in God and spiritual depth into this horrible flat secularity that swamps us constantly? How is salvation to come to the world today?

Catherine Doherty knew how. Domestic rituals, customs, traditions, tied to the liturgical year, special foods and songs and prayers suitable for this or that time or occasion—this is the raw material of Catholic Christian culture. And this is what she taught us, and what we strive to create and foster at Madonna House - Christian culture through a rich blend of liturgical customs and practices.

So... blessing children. Having a ‘special meal’ because it is May 31 (say), and the feast of Our Lady’s Visitation. Putting flowers in front of her statue (surely you have a statue or icon of Mary in your home somewhere, right?). Doing something ‘three-themed’ this Sunday because it is Trinity Sunday. Binding up the day with morning and evening prayers. Praying the Angelus at .

On and on and on. Catholic culture takes work, but it is fun, too. It’s this whole business of faith permeating our days in simple, beautiful ways. Parents, bless your children. And you non-parents out there, you too have the priesthood of the baptized. You can bless your neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools (you may have to be stealthy!).

It’s important to have good theology, to have intellectual understanding of faith and Church teachings. It’s important to have good liturgy, to be faithful to Sunday Mass. And it is important indeed to practice virtue and loving service of neighbour.

But our Catholicism has to get worked into the fabric of our daily lives, has to engender a whole way of life, or it is not really complete. And it is ritual, custom, tradition that achieves that working in, that way of life. Catholic culture—it’s not easy to achieve in a sea of secularity and disbelief, of ironic detachment and indifference to God. But we gotta start somewhere. Parents, make the sign of the cross on your children’s foreheads, mouths, and breasts when they leave the house. And have something nice for supper tomorrow – it’s Our Lady’s feast day! Start there.

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