Catholic Activity: The Parental Blessing
A beautiful description of the blessing of parents upon their children.
The parental blessing is as old as humanity. It was practiced among the patriarchs. It is a custom so sacred that it should be called the "sacrament of the domestic hearth." What a devout custom it is for fathers and mothers to bless their children each day, and for children to ask for this blessing.
Priests have the authority to bless the faithful, and parents, too, have the privilege of blessing their children. The prayer which is said for the newly married couple at the Nuptial Mass says:
"May the God of Abraham, the God of Issaac, and the God of Jacob bless you. As He sent His angel of peace, the blessed Raphael, so may He shower His blessings upon you. May Almighty God bless you, that you may see your children's children unto the third and fourth generation; and may you afterward have life everlasting."Every time parents raise their hands in blessing, they draw down God's assistance for their children's welfare in body and soul.
The early Christians blessed their children with the Sign of the Cross. The fathers and mothers of martyrs blessed their loved ones in prison and encouraged them to constancy. It was a practice loved by the mothers of saints. St. Makrina gave her blessing to her grandsons, and with such efficacy that they became great doctors of the Oriental Church: St. Basil of Caesarea and St. Gregory of Nyssa. It is inspiring to read how St. Nonna daily blessed her son, St. Gregory of Nazianzen. Francis de Sales knelt for his parents' benediction. St. Ambrose says: "Whosoever is blessed by his parents is blessed by God."
The parental blessing effects another great good: it is a sacred bond which unites the father and mother in everlasting faithfulness, in perfect love and harmony. The Sign of the Cross, in which they unite to bless their children, reminds them of their solemn promise to remain faithful to each other until death.
HOW TO GIVE THE PARENTAL BLESSING
Have your children kneel before you. Place your right hand, or both hands on the head of each as you repeat: "God bless you, my child." Then you may take holy water, and with the thumb of the right hand, make the Sign of the Cross upon the forehead, lips and breast, saying: "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The child may answer. "Thank you."
Or one may make the Sign of the Cross in silence upon the forehead or over all the children. Another way is to say, while making the Sign of the Cross on the forehead: "Bless you, my child, in the Name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit."
You may send your blessing to those away from home, or even in purgatory. Send your blessing to your absent children, and at the end of every letter you write them, add: "Your father and mother love you and bless you."
WHEN TO GIVE THE BLESSING
The parental blessing should be given in the evening after night prayers. It may be given also, when little ones go to school; before they go to confession or receive Holy Communion; when going on a journey, or setting out on a dangerous occupation. Finally, bless your children when lying upon your deathbed. "You may not be rich," says St. Ambrose "you may be unable to bequeath any great possessions to your children, but one thing you can give them: the heritage of your blessing, and it is better to be blessed than to be rich." St. Louis, King of France, realized this and at the end of his life, wrote to his son: "I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil."
So bless your children daily, especially in these times when the dangers surrounding youth threaten their innocence, their futures, their very lives and eternal salvation.
CARMELITE MONASTERY Philadelphia, Pa.
CATHOLICS United for the Faith St. Pius X Chapter P. O. Box 3905 Trenton, N. J. 08629