By Martha Maier
Last spring, gathered around a table laden with salmon, baked potato fries, asparagus and an abundance of rice, I said a brief blessing before we began to eat. We were dining al fresco in Southern California, having travelled there to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from grad school. At the table were Emily, her classmate Amanda and assorted family members. After I prayed, giving thanks not only for our feast but asking for God’s blessing on our graduates, Amanda looked at me and said “Thank-you. That was beautiful.” I recall feeling somewhat embarrassed by Amanda’s heartfelt compliment because it certainly wasn’t my best prayer and I had felt self-conscious praying for her, knowing she wasn’t a member of a faith community.
Later on I reflected that in all likelihood Amanda rarely, if ever, was intentionally blessed in her life — called by name as a beloved, precious child of God — as she moved along her journey of life. This experience reminded me of the important of the blessings (or rites) that occur in the catechumenal process — the Welcome Blessing, the Enrollment Blessing, the Blessings during Lent, the Blessings at Baptism or Affirmation of Baptism, and the Affirmation of Vocation Blessing.
As with the meal blessing for Emily and Amanda, I often want to downplay the blessings so not to embarrass our journeyers (our name for those in the catechumenate). For example, it seems very intimidating to take someone new to the church, bring them in front of the worship assembly and place crosses all over their body during the Welcome Blessing. Yet rarely have I known a journeyer to balk at this ritual. Rather, over and over again as they reflect on this rite, the share the powerful ways that they felt blessed by their sponsor, the congregation and by God.
What stories do you have to tell about the gift of blessing? I invite you to share them in the comments section on our website.
Martha Maier is a retired ELCA pastor and a JBL:NAAC Board Member.