It has to be said, right up front, that Catholics love blessings. We will bless almost anything: Water, candles, meals, our children, new cars, animals, boats, wedding rings, palms, ashes, salt, eggs, houses, new cars, and all kinds of people: sick people, old people, engaged couples, mothers, students, teachers…. We have a blessing for almost anything.
But what is a “blessing,” exactly? A blessing is a formal prayer that acknowledges God’s goodness, gives thanks, and asks God to preserve, protect, or sanctify whatever—or whoever– is being blessed.
To someone unfamiliar with the tradition, this might seem like so much superstition. But at its most basic, a blessing is a prayer that takes an everyday object or person, and directs us to look through them to see the good that God is doing. Blessing prayers are an acknowledgement that all of creation belongs to God, and that the things we have been given all come from God’s generous hand.
A blessing prayer isn’t magic. Like all prayers it changes mostly the one doing the praying, helping us to see that the goodness of God reaches into every part of our world, and into every situation of our lives. Our joys and our sorrows, our evening meals and our palm branches, our anniversaries and our new years—all are occasions to give thanks to God. That’s what blessings are for.
There are many books of blessings available. One I like a lot is available from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops through their web site. It’s called “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.”