Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Catholic Prayer: Parental Blessing


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Young families should revive the beautiful tradition of the parental blessing. This will elevate the parent's position in the child's eyes, and, if done frequently, the child's desire for his parent's blessing will become deeply rooted within him.


Of very long standing is the parental blessing. First of all, there is the first blessing given the newborn babe by his father and mother after birth. This consists of the parents individually blessing the infant three times with holy water as they say these words: "May the Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, bless you, my child, for time and eternity, and may this blessing remain forever with you. Amen."

Very properly is this blessing repeated by the parents after the child's spiritual rebirth in baptism.

The inspiring practice should also be continued as they grow up under their care. Thus parents should bless their children when they retire in the evening. They should also bless them when they leave the home, particularly to go on a considerable journey.

Perhaps this practice, like so many others, is more faithfully kept up in religious communities--religious families, we might well call them--than in Catholic homes. There the superior customarily sprinkles the members with holy water, as he invokes God's blessing upon them the last thing in the evening before they leave the community chapel where they had gathered for night prayers. There, too, the individual member kneels for the superior's blessing both upon leaving the community and upon his return.

Unfortunately, like so many other fine family customs, this one is often neglected today. To be sure, the parental blessing is still found in some homes. And, we are happy to add, there is some evidence that it is coming into its own again. It should be a worthy activity to help make it universal again.

A well known example from history, showing the observance of this practice, is that of the recently canonized St. Thomas More. The custom had been observed in the home of his childhood. He continued it as an adult. Even when he held the position of Lord Chancellor of England, the second highest post in the kingdom, he still continued the practice of kneeling for his father's blessing each day before going to take up the duties of his high office. It suggests, among other things, how such a practice, simple as it may seem in itself, lends dignity to parenthood and makes for mutual respect on the part of parents and children.

To show that the practice of the parental blessing is not totally unknown among ourselves, the following example from one of the dioceses of the middle west might be mentioned.

The aged father of one of the Monsignors of the diocese is visited regularly by his son. When it comes time to take his leave, the Monsignor kneels for his father's blessing. Then the father, in turn, kneels for his son's priestly blessing. To the two there is nothing unusual about this. The Monsignor had been accustomed to receive his father's blessing regularly since the earliest days of his childhood.

The simple blessing of one's pastor should also be mentioned. It is appreciated by the faithful. It is proper to request it frequently and particularly so upon a visit by him to the home.

Prayer Source: Your Home, A Church in Miniature by Compiled by The Family Life Bureau in the early 1950s, The Neumann Press, Long Prairie, Minnesota, 1994