In such a secularized culture, it is not unusual for a parent to wonder how to ensure there is enough spiritual formation for their children. A parent has the responsibility of being the primary educator and formator of their children, but where do you go for your formation as a Catholic parent? What practices should you integrate into your family life that are not a pretentious and superficial ritual that is more intrusive than nurturing the faith life of the family members?
This and succeeding blog posts are intended to help parents with suggested practices and information that are basic to living the Catholic faith. The suggestions are given with awareness of the busyness of our lives and that we live in a culture that is uncomfortable with overt religiosity. This same culture tolerates and encourages cynical values that are unhealthy for adults and particularly dangerous for the youth whose mind and personality are in the developmental stages. Blessings and grace are essential for raising youth and protecting their Catholic faith.
An essential role for a parent to fulfill is the blessing of their children.
Give your child a blessing complete with your hand on their head, your thumb tracing a cross on their forehead, and offer words such as those that close prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours:
May the Lord bless you,
and lead you to everlasting life.
When to Offer This Blessing
Bless your child NOW!
If you have not yet made it a practice to bless your child, the blessing is not only an appointment not yet kept, but one will also find that the sooner you adopt this practice, the easier the child accepts this as normal. Such a blessing confers grace and forms both parent and child. When you first approach your child to do this, it may seem awkward for both of you, but it is a standard responsibility of a parent.
The blessing of a child is typically offered when the child goes to bed, leaves for school or with friends, or when the child is facing a real or perceived crisis. Anytime your child needs grace is a good time to bless your child. When do they need grace? Each child is their own person with their own interior life carrying their own sense of personal joys, sadnesses, frustrations, disappointments, and struggles. Children do not express all that is going on within, and grace is always needed. The needs for grace are often so blessings ought to be offered often, even when the need is not obvious or expressed by the child.
Where to Bless Your Child
Certainly, within the confines of the home, a parent can offer a blessing on their child with minimal awkwardness. Outside the home, a parent’s blessing does not have to be done with great fanfare. It can be done quietly without anyone around even knowing what is happening. On the other hand, it is a very normal thing for a parent to express their hopes and prayers for their child. It is not something that needs an explanation or to cause embarrassment. To the contrary, you witness to your faith to a culture that direly needs faith.
Objection from child
A parent is a role that carries responsibilities not determined by the child’s wishes. The parent, the adult in the circumstances, is accountable to the duty, not the child.
Yes, there can be objections from a child who fears that a blessing is some intrusion of their autonomy or freedom as an individual. This attitude of a future teenager can be avoided if the practice of offering a blessing is introduced when they are younger and more trusting that the parent knows best. For the older, more independent child, try explaining your role as a parent who is expressing your prayer and hope for your child’s best interest.
The actions of placing your hand upon your child’s head and tracing the cross on the forehead are body memories you are creating for your child. It is a means to form them not only to take consolation in as they grow but also helps to teach your child how to raise their own children.
If the actions cause more difficulty than it is worth, the expression of the words vocally can be done at normal voice or quietly, moderated to the circumstances.
A Parent’s Proper Role
It is a common refrain of the Church that parents are the primary educators and formators of their children. Parents are heads or leaders of the domestic church. It is not that often that a parent hears from the Church what or how they are to do it. The primary teacher of parenting is one’s parents. Parents think back to how they were raised and often draw from their own family’s practices and rituals. Today’s parent may not have received overt blessings from their parents or, as a child their parent’s blessing may not have been understood or appreciated.
A parent’s role can be overwhelming, especially so if the parent takes on responsibilities appropriate to the child, or more so God. Imagine the Blessed Mother, Mary’s thoughts after hearing the prophecy of Simeon and Ana heard outside the Temple at the Presentation of Mary. Each of them cast dark clouds of future events for both mother and child but also each foresaw the glory attained by such suffering. Prayer and trust in God’s Divine Providence were essential to Blessed Mary. Such sources of consolation are available to parents of today.
There is also the satisfaction that a parent may attain when you do justice for your children. A parent’s duty includes respecting the dignity of their children, provide protection for their children, and to lead them to heaven through life and death. The blessing offered is a full expression of a parent’s role.
The blessing calls on God to grace your child. Scripture assures us, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11: 9,11-13
A parent can find consolation in trusting Divine Providence, that God is not only in control of all things, but is working out each of our Salvation in the most efficacious manner given each of our states. God’s wisdom is beyond man’s, and the Holy Spirit [too] comes to the aid of our weakness. Romans 8:26 Even when Pilate asked Jesus, “Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered [him], “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.” Jesus demonstrated His trust in Divine Providence.
What should you expect from your blessings offered? Good things. We must resist defining the outcome, rather trust that we are working in concert with God’s plan, especially so when we are obedient to the Father’s Will. A parent’s blessing for their child is undoubtedly in the Father’s Will, and consolation can be gained in fulfilling your duty.
Children of today face temptations at inappropriate and early ages. These temptations are more ubiquitous than ever before, and sadly more than ever, they are susceptible to the seduction encouraged by our society. A parent’s blessing can make a difference by drawing down graces for the child. It is a simple and essential means for parents to express their love for their child in a meaningful and formative manner. Sincerely offered, a blessing for your child can only be
The peace of Jesus in the womb of Mary be with you.
© 2019 Patrick A. O’Donnell All Rights Reserved