In Lent this year, I am practicing some themes from Celtic spirituality, suggested by Joyce Rupp, one per week. Her first theme is to notice and celebrate the Presence of the Holy in the ordinary–the small details of our lives–our routines, our surroundings and the people who are front and center. She makes the suggestion that every morning and evening we bless our children.
I have prayed for each of my children and grandchildren since before they were born. But in picking up this Lenten practice which is more regular and more intense, I notice first that my prayers for them now are often either “defensive,” asking for protection or correction, or are just generic, “bless the beasts and the children” kinds of prayers. To bless them in a focused way twice a day is calling me to focus on each of them in his or her particularity, and to see them more deeply and lovingly.
John O’Donahue in his book, To Bless the Space between Us, describes blessing this way:
A blessing is not a sentiment or a question; it is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart.
So I embark this practice with an open heart. What do I already know about each of them, two of them since their conception? What do I still need to observe and to learn? In what can I take delight and rejoice? What concerns can I lift to the Holy One for healing, for satisfying, for directing, for deepening? And how can I be a blessing to each of them, without hovering, prying, judging or interfering?
It was a joy-filled exercise to inscribe in my journal the name of each one, and to limn out the qualities and aspects of that personality, as I pray for blessing for her or for him for that morning and evening. In the collection of the eight of them (in-laws included!), there is such diversity in temperament, style and affections: introverts and extroverts, actors and contemplatives, students and athletes, cheerleaders and followers. In addition, they all keep growing up, changing, even the adults among them, so that my list keeps inviting additions and subtractions day by day. I bless school assignments, sports events, play dates, rehearsals, and after-school lessons. I bless marriages, job searches, office politics, bank accounts. And I bless the working and loving, the hopes and the dreams, as well as bumps in the road that seem to block those dreams. And I pray for each unique spirit of that growing one, made in the image of the Holy, that it be preserved and nourished, and, yes, protected, as it follows the path of the Spirit that is meant for it.
Joyce Rupp suggests this prayer of blessing:
May God and the angels guide, guard, and protect you this night.
And so I go to sleep praying this blessing for each one by name…Sean, Erica Lee, Dalton, Malakai, Erica Brooke, Ezra, Theo, Sadie. I am filled with hope as I bless each one, even as I enter into the arms of the angels who watch and bless me as I sleep, believing that the One who is blessing me will also bless them. A loving way to begin Lent!