The Beauty of Blessings

Kids love blessings. So do parents and teachers. At my school, even the most jaded eighth grader never failed to come forward to receive the birthday blessing offered in chapel. I never saw a graduate decline the chance to have hands laid upon his or her head as the blessing unfolded: “May the Lord bless you and keep you….” Teachers and students always looked forward to rogation, the spring-time blessing of the grounds and gardens.

Episcopal schools bless lots of things: backpacks, classrooms, gardens, new students, graduating students, teachers, parents, and pets. Blessings can happen in chapel, in the lunchroom, on trips, outside and inside, when coming in, and when going out.

Blessings connect us, remind us, comfort us, and give us strength. They make us feel noticed, loved, and honored simply for being who we are. The beauty of a blessing is that it can be offered at any time by anybody. Ordination is not required, nor is a special vestment or an advanced degree in theology.

Even as our schools engage in heady and often challenging conversations about what it means to be a Christian community that serves people of all faiths and no faith at all, there we are, handing out blessings! The blessings we offer—and simply the fact that we can and do offer such blessings as part and parcel of school life—are not to be taken for granted. They are small yet very powerful gifts to our students, facutly and staff, and school families that make real the Episcopal identity that we sometimes struggle to articulate.

With the new school year just underway, it’s a great moment to ask: what and who shall we bless this year?

Here are two books I love about the power and beauty of blessings:

Every Earthly Blessing: Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition
by Esther De Waal
Using narrative and examples of prayers, De Waal outlines the Celtic notion of the holiness of daily life and the interconnectedness of heaven and earth.

To Bless a Child
by the Rev. Roy. G. Pollina
An Episcopal priest offers a short, practical primer for parents, teachers and other lay people about how to write, offer, and structure everyday and special occasion blessings for children.