I grabbed my squirming toddler and hoisted him onto my hip, my eyes focused on the sanctuary. The priests and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion walked to their different stations and waited expectantly. Praying silently in my head, I walked up to receive my Eucharistic Lord. As I stepped near, my pastor extended his hand and began praying a blessing over my toddler. At the priest’s words, my one-year-old’s eyes grew wide and he exclaimed: “Wow!” Smiles simultaneously broke out on both the priest’s face and my own, and I then received Our Lord.
For the rest of the day, this incident kept popping up in my mind. Whether or not my son fully understood that he was receiving a blessing, his reaction is noteworthy. He was blessed, and he rejoiced!
At the end of Mass, we receive a blessing from the priest. There have been so many times where I thoughtlessly get distracted. Oh yeah, it’s time for the blessing, I’ll think, trying to halfheartedly pay attention as the priest makes the Sign of the Cross over the congregation. A lot of times, I won’t feel any different once I receive this blessing. In fact, on the days when I’m feeling under the weather (but not sick enough to stay home), I just want the priest to hurry up and bless us so I can leave!
Yet, blessings are not — and should not be — some kind of rushed afterthought that is fit into the end of a liturgy. A blessing is a sacramental and the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, sacramentals “prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it” (#1670). Specifically, blessings “include both praise of God for his works and gifts, and the Church’s intercession for men that they may be able to use God’s gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel” (#1678).
Isn’t this amazing? Through the blessing that we receive, God helps us to cooperate with all of the graces that He has showered upon us. How will we respond to this gift and blessing? Will we rejoice?
If we’re lighthearted and smiling, it’d feel pretty easy and natural to happily thank God for these gifts. However, what about those days when we’re going through difficulties, suffering in some way, or just don’t feel well? Should we apathetically look on as we are blessed at Mass, absorbed in our own desires? I’ve found that we have a choice. We can rise above our stuffy nose or other difficulties and choose to rejoice. Intentionally, consciously looking to God with praise and thanksgiving when life feels like a mess takes courage, because it isn’t easy. It requires that we choose to place our hope and trust in God, looking to Him for consolation and help.
In just a couple of days, we will celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a man known for his love, passion, and joy. One of my favorite stories from St. Francis’ life consists of him explaining what perfect joy is. St. Francis explains to Brother Leo that perfect joy is rejoicing and uniting oneself to God in the midst of rejection and suffering. This reaction to rejection involves a choice: a choice to not wallow in despair and self-absorption.
The next time we receive a blessing, how will we respond?[tweet “When we receive a blessing, how do we respond?” ]
Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller