Blessings for Catholics
Blessings can sanctify places and events in the lives of Catholics and prepare them to recieve grace from God.
Enter a Catholic home, and you may see a house-blessing print or plaque hanging above the front door.
Canon law holds that a new home can be blessed only when those who will live in it are present. This is because the blessing is not for the structure but for the family who will reside within its walls. Homes may be blessed by a priest, a deacon, or a layperson following designated rites and prayers. Although a home can be blessed at any time, blessings traditionally occur on the feast of Epiphany.
House-blessing prints and plaques often contain a poem written by Arthur Guiterman (1871–1943). His most famous poem, “A House Blessing,” begins:
God bless the corners of this house,
And be the lintel blest;
And bless the hearth and bless the board,
And bless each place of rest.
Plaques and prints of house blessings have varied throughout the years. In 1941, as war spread across the globe, the Devotional Publishing Company of New York distributed a house blessing that showed Catholic patriotism of World War II. At the top stood an American flag, a cross, and the Vatican flag. The red, white, and blue border, highlighted by stars, surrounded a prayer for the home that stated:
And bless all those beneath our roof,
And those who are away.
Bless the young and bless the old,
Wherever they may be.
Chalking the Door on Epiphany
Home is the place in which children are cherished, faith is nourished, and visitors are welcomed. Homes are blessed to encourage and strengthen the faith of all who dwell inside.
Many Catholics follow the tradition of chalking their homes on the feast of the Epiphany, traditionally celebrated on January 6 and now often celebrated on the first Sunday after the first Saturday in January. On that day, chalk that has been blessed by a priest is used to write C + M + B above the front door, the porch steps, or an interior part of the home. The letters represent the first initials of the three kings who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Those letters also signify the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, “May Christ bless the house.” The crosses symbolize Christ’s Cross.
Although anyone baptized in the Catholic Church can mark a house with chalk, priests often do this for homes within their parishes. For example, priests of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Sayreville, New Jersey, have delighted children by visiting their homes to write the blessing. The clergy of St. Hedwig Parish in Chester, Pennsylvania, have chalked the front door of their church as well as the homes of parishioners.
On the feast of Epiphany, blessed chalk is used to write over the door of the house. The letters call to mind the names of the three kings who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany as well as signify a Latin blessing (photo courtesy of OnePeterFive.com).
The Elemosineria Apostolica, known as the Office of Papal Charities, helps Catholics obtain blessings from the pope to mark special events. A papal blessing can be represented with a printed certificate or can be on parchment with calligraphy. The document bears a picture of the pope as well as the names of the recipients and the reason for which the blessing has been granted.
Blessing of Food
The Bible contains many examples of persons blessing food and offering prayers before and after meals. For instance, Christ said a prayer and blessed loaves and fishes before feeding a crowd of five thousand people. He prayed before sharing the Last Supper with His apostles on Holy Thursday.
Today, families may ask their priests to bless the food they will eat for holiday dinners, such as Easter and Thanksgiving. Families may take the food to the church or invite priests to visit their homes for the blessing. The food is blessed to thank to God for providing nourishment.
Decorating spaces in the home with holy articles can draw the family into prayer.
Although there is no wrong place to pray, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that the most appropriate places to pray are personal or family oratories, monasteries, places of pilgrimage, and churches (no. 2696). Catholics are encouraged to set aside space in their homes for prayer. The Catechism states, “For personal prayer, this can be a ‘prayer corner’ with the Sacred Scriptures and icons, in order to be there, in secret, before our Father (see Matt. 6:6). In a Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters prayer in common” (no. 2691).
Prayer corners in a home show the importance of prayer. A comfortable chair and a table with a Bible and a rosary remind family members to pray throughout the day. Catholic school classrooms also often have prayer corners to encourage children to make prayer a habit.
A Kitchen Madonna is a painting, a plaque, or a statue that honors Mary’s role as a homemaker. The Kitchen Prayer of the 1950s calls Mary the Queen of Our Kitchen. The Kitchen Madonna plaques of the 1960s showed Mary greeting the Christ Child while holding a loaf of bread, inspiring mothers to nurture their children and make their homes warm, welcoming, and comfortable.
The custom of keeping a picture or statue of Mary in the kitchen has been especially popular in areas near Poland and Ukraine. In the 1966 children’s book The Kitchen Madonna, a housekeeper from Ukraine tells her British employers that their kitchen feels empty and has no “good place.” “In my home, Ukrainian home,” said the housekeeper, “we make a good place. A place on top of the cupboard, perhaps, or perhaps on the shelf. Little place but it holy because we keep there, Our Lady and Holy Child.”
From 1956 to the 1960s, Enesco Imports produced a series of figurines known as the Prayer Ladies. Sometimes called Mother in the Kitchen, this series included salt and pepper shakers, napkin holders, and spoon rests. The figurines had prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer and grace before meals printed on their aprons.
Originally posted 2019-05-17 16:56:50.