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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

October 2000

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Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

    • Religion—Scriptures; prayer; Christian living
Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

  • Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
  • Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for the key words and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners. You can also find a list of terms on the glossary page of AmericanCatholic Youth.

Blessing

The Beatitudes

Choice

Francis of Assisi

The Psalms

Blessing as an Art

If we were print journalists about to write an article about blessings for our local newspaper, we'd start by asking ourselves the traditional questions: who, what, when, where, why?

This month's author gives us the framework to answer those questions. Our own thoughts and experiences will fill out the framework.

Who Can Bless?

Anyone. Anyone can offer a blessing. A blessing has its roots in our own relationship with God, the source of all good. If blessings are to flow freely from our hearts, they will do so because we are close to God. Like a tree or plant waiting for spring, rooted in the good earth and nourished by rain and sun, ready to bless the world with flowers, foliage and fragrance, we too will bless the world when we are rooted in God.

What is a Blessing?

A blessing has the receiver's good in mind. Jesus gave us the Beatitudes. He blessed the persecuted, the poor, those without a voice. His vision for them is a world filled with blessing. We too want those who receive our blessings to prosper, to flourish, to enjoy relationship with God.

Wishing the best for someone doesn't always translate easily into benefit. It takes work and help. Blessing a difficult family situation, for example, won't automatically result in a peace-filled home. But the blessing will encourage us to work at better family relations.

When a blended family comes together, building unity among siblings and stepparents doesn't just happen, even with the best intentions.

When and where?

Anytime, under any circumstances. Opportunities for blessing abound. The author suggests some. We can add to the list of possibilities.

  • How much of God's blessings do the sick, the lonely and the elderly experience in their daily living? We can be the vehicles for their increased joy. Many of us have older family members in other parts of the country, family we don't often see. If they have access to the Internet and e-mail, a simple e-mail card will brighten their day. See St. Anthony Messenger's site for Catholic e-Greetings. Other commercial sites from familiar card designers and online bookstores also offer cheerful e-mail cards. More.
  • With our guidance, our children can learn to read the Scriptures, find a short prayer of blessing and create a card with scriptural text to send a distant family member. The Psalms, the Gospels, Paul's letters—all are rich sources of blessings. Younger children who miss older siblings off at college can send a warm blessing to them, perhaps a scriptural prayer on the back of a family photo or a collage of Bible-inspired pictures and drawings.
  • Our parishes bless and pray over RCIA participants in the Lenten liturgies. What else can a parish do to bless its RCIA members during other seasons?
  • A video greeting can be a terrific way to cheer someone. Take some shots of your family, the kids' school projects, your blooming flower garden, anything from your life that will cheer someone else. Open or close the video with a group blessing for the recipient. Gather the family around the kitchen table, light a candle, offer a prayer of blessing and toast the recipient on camera. Videomaker magazine offers informative articles and tips on creating dynamic video projects.
  • A family photo album will do just as well. Include a photo of the children extending their arms in blessing for their remote and ill grandma, for example.
  • For shut-ins, a gift of a book of photos would be a blessing. Edward Steichen's The Family of Man, originally a 1955 photographic exhibit in New York's Museum of Modern Art, is filled with inspiring photos. Steichen captured life from birth to death in his pictures.

Why Do We Offer Blessing?

We bless because God blessed. Genesis tells us that as soon as God saw the world he had created, he blessed it. Our author discusses the importance of the "ritual of transfer" for a blessing. A blessing is a form of sacrament. When we bless, we make the invisible (God's love) visible to someone. Sacraments are physical signs, tangible expressions of the love of God.

Blessing others (and ourselves) can be a form of forgiveness. See Thomas Richstatter's Catholic Update article on the sacrament of reconciliation for a further discussion of forgiveness. The Catholic Update series contains numerous articles on the sacramental life of the Church.

St. Francis of Assisi was famous for the way he blessed everyone—and everything—around him. Check out the St. Francis Feature for more.

Blessing Is a Choice

Our author calls on us to bless, not curse. Anger is a swift and easy response to many situations, such as the way others drive in traffic. Blessing is a conscious choice.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey talks of the personal victory that we achieve when we take responsibility for our own actions. Anger is simply reaction to stimulus. The act of blessing inserts a step between stimulus and reaction, a step based on values and principles. When we live as though we have a relationship with God, we take responsibility for anger, insert a pause before the hostile reaction and bless someone or some situation as our response. Living in faith is a choice. Living as a Christian, as one who believes in God, is a choice.

Nourishing our relationship with God strengthens our ability to make these positive choices. The simple act of blessing ourselves in the morning, of uttering a brief prayer before the day starts, reminds us of the values that drive our lives. It is a reminder of relationship.

  • The peace prayer of St. Francis is a good example of choosing to pray in blessing. "Where there is hatred, let me sow love." Love is the chosen response, not hatred.
  • As parent "bleacher rage" (and even physical fighting) becomes more common at young people's sports events, our children need our blessing. They need to hear us pray over them. Our wish for them is enriched by fun and by friendly competition. They need to see us parents respect coaches and referees. Disagreeing with a call is not an occasion for violent outbreaks, just an emotionally exciting part of the game.
  • Each week we pray together as a Church when we gather for liturgy. We then carry that spirit through all we do for the coming week. Supplement your efforts with Sabbath blessings. These spirit-filled essays, written by an Anglican writer and mother, highlight the ordinary blessings in our lives. Again, blessing is a choice. Nourishing our ability to bless is also a choice.
  • An awareness of how other faiths offer blessing will strengthen our own. Commonly requested Jewish prayers and blessings reveal another perspective. Jews and Christians alike place written prayers on Jerusalem's venerable Wailing Wall. You can e-mail a prayer for placement on the wall if you can't visit in person.

Further Reading

For more information on moving beyond violence to peace, see the transcript of a radio interview with Colman McCarthy, the founder of The Center for Teaching Peace, a Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Research Resources
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.
Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications
People magazine
The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization


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