Does my story about the frogs sound like last year’s resolutions? Great inspiration and great resolutions, but oftentimes we only decide, and months later, we are still on the same limb of doing nothing.
Friends, on this day, the launching of a new year, it has been a tradition in many Catholic cultures for the father or grandfather to bless the children one by one. Often, they would trace the sign of the Cross on the forehead and pray the words we hear today in the first reading from the Book of Numbers.
“The Lord Bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”
There is something powerful about the blessing of ordained ministers. When the priest blesses us in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, he is imparting to us grace that accomplishes what it says. Just as God at the creation said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Or the priest at the Eucharist says, “This is my body,” the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ, or the priest raises his hand in confession and blessing and saying, “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And your sins are forgiven.
The words of blessing do not simply inform, they perform, they make happen what is said in prayer. Think for a moment of a close call in the end zone at a football game. A player rushes to the end zone and seems to have broken the plain with the ball. His teammates are all signaling that he has scored a touchdown. But that does not matter. It’s only when one of the referees in the striped shirts raises his hands to signal a touchdown, that it becomes real and is registered on the scoreboard.
So, parents, this is the day to be bold in prayer and begin this New Year tracing the sign of the Cross on the foreheads of your children.You are the priests in the domestic Church and you can call God’s blessing down upon your children and your house.
I leave you today with the beautiful blessing prayer that climaxes Pope Benedict’s Encyclical, God is Love. Deus Caritas Est.
Holy Mary, mother of God, you have given the world its true light, Jesus, your Son--the Son of God You abandoned yourself completely to God's call and thus became a wellspring of the goodness which flows forth from him. Show us Jesus. Lead us to him. Teach us to know and love him, so that we, too, can become capable of true love and be fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world. Amen.
Happy and Blessed New Year!
About Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C. is President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. He entered Holy Cross Fathers in 1964. He earned a Bachelors in Philosophy from Stonehill College in 1967 and a Masters in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. In addition to English, Father Willy is conversant in French and Spanish. He's a native of Old Town, Maine and one of 12 children. He remains a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox, even though he has served as Chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.