In the evenings, my family has been listening to different musicals as a part of musical enrichment. As I prepared dinner Sunday night, we listened to Fiddler on the Roof. I had been thinking about blessings and started singing the Sabbath Prayer song in my head. If you are not familiar with this song, here are the few lines I kept singing over and over:
May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers' ways.
Hearing those words created a wonder in me about Shabbat prayer blessings. I started looking into Friday night Shabbat blessing in the Jewish tradition. Every Friday evening, the children in a Jewish home receive a blessing. The blessing for boys is “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.” And for the girls, “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.” As I read these blessings, an image came to mind of the Holy Family preparing for the Sabbath and St. Joseph praying a blessing over Jesus. I then started thinking about the night time routine in our home. Each evening, we pray our nightly prayers. Following these prayers, my husband lays his hands on our girl’s heads and prays an evening blessing over their sleep.
Evening time is paramount in a young family’s home. Sleep does not always come easy. It did not for us until we started this nightly ritual of having dad bless the girl’s sleep. Oftentimes, mothers will come to me asking, “how can I get my children to sleep through the night?” I instinctively know what they are looking for, an instant gratification, some quick fix to get the child to sleep and get the much needed rest for a mother who has been sleep deprived. My answer is not usually satisfying nor one that that the world has to offer these mothers. I usually counter with a question, “do you pray with them? Does your husband lay hands on them asking blessing over their sleep?” Usually, these questions beget a follow up question from the listener: “Are we allowed to bless our children? Are not blessings reserved for a priest or deacon?” These are all good questions.
Recently, I listened to a talk given by Msgr. Stephen Rosetti on the The Big Tree Podcast. The Big Tree Podcast is an Albierrone Project. During the podcast named, “A History and Theology of Blessings,” Msgr. Stephen Rosetti suggests there are a number of circumstances in which laity can bless. Msgr. Rosetti very clearly stipulates that these circumstances have clear distinction from the Church’s blessing given by a priest or deacon but, nonetheless, do exist.
Upon further investigation, I found a few of these blessings which are for home use, not for Church use. The most common is a Daily Blessing of Child or more commonly called the Aaronic Blessing found in Numbers 6:23-27:
May God bless you.
May God keep you safe.
God be with you.
God be in your heart.
May God bless and protect you.
Upon further investigation, I found two more resources: Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers (New Edition) – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org) and Prayers to Protect Us – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org).
Msgr. Stephen Rosetti concluded his talk stating: “Don’t be stingy. God is generous. Get out there and bless people.” In my own life, I have experienced a rich manifold of blessings. Before I leave my mom’s home, she always runs out of the house with holy water, blessing my car and praying protection over my travels. Upon leaving my friend’s home, her Greek grandmother always prayed over our backs, making the sign of cross. The other day, on the phone with a priest in convalescence, Msgr. Joseph Aubin prayed a blessing over my two girls and me. And just last night, my husband placed his hand on his two daughters asking the Lord to bless their sleep. I can still hear Tevye’s voice booming: “Tradition!” This is definitely a tradition I would like to manifest in my household, praying blessing over the generations in my family.
Do Catholics have a breviary containing evening or night time prayers? My understanding is that the BCP condensed various Catholic prayer books that existed in the Middle Ages. In the evening prayer section, there are prayers for protection in the night etc, which may be derived from medieval Catholic prayers.