When I was very young, my mother gave me a rosary. She told me that it was blessed. I didn’t know what the difference was between a blessed and an unblessed rosary, but I assumed my new rosary was somehow better than an unblessed one.
A few years later, after I had become an altar server, a parishioner came into the sacristy before Mass and asked the priest to bless her rosary. The priest waved a sign of the cross over the beads and mumbled something I couldn’t hear.
Eventually I saw priests bless all manner of things—cars, houses, animals, Bibles, medals, statues. I also saw people getting blessed. Everyone is blessed at the end of Mass, of course. Sometimes a priest would bless a room of people gathered for a meeting. Or wedding anniversary couples. I’ve heard of priests blessing sports teams just before a game.
What does a blessing look like?
For a long time, I thought of a blessing as something a priest does—something that is holy and a bit mysterious. And that is true, as far as it goes. But it is an incomplete understanding of blessing.
A blessing is first of all something that God does. Or more correctly, a blessing is anything and everything that God does:
From the beginning until the end of time the whole of God’s work is a blessing. From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as one vast divine blessing. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1079)
And then we respond. We are gob smacked. We say thank you. We offer praise. We are so astonished at God’s blessing that life becomes a wonder. And united with Jesus (God’s greatest blessing) and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we dare to bless God back.
That back-and-forth, blessing for blessing is who God is and who we are in God. A blessing is not a thing. It’s not like an aura or an extra bit of holiness that makes my rosary better than one that hasn’t been blessed yet. A blessing is a way of being in relationship—a holy, mysterious, wondrous relationship with God.
Blessings in the RCIA
For catechumens who are new to faith, they don’t always perceive the back-and-forth, blessing for blessing aspect of their nascent relationship with God. For that reason, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults provides a collection of blessings that we can pray with and for the catechumens.
In the section titled “Blessings of the Catechumens” (RCIA 95-97), you’ll find nine blessings. The RCIA says:
The blessings of the catechumens are a sign of God’s love and of the Church’s tender care. They are bestowed on the catechumens so that, even though they do not as of yet have the grace of the sacraments, they may still receive from the Church courage, joy, and peace as they proceed along the difficult journey they have begun. (95)
In other words, by regularly praying these blessings with the catechumens, you will teach them about God’s love for them and the church’s tender care for them. These blessings will encourage them, make them more joyful, and give them peace. These blessings will teach them about the back-and-forth, blessing for blessing that is who God is and who we are in God.
If you read through each blessing, you will see that they are somewhat tailored to different points along the journey of faith. The first few might be more suited to those who are beginning their journey. The last few might fit well with those who are close to initiation.
These blessings can be celebrated as part of a liturgy of the word or they can be given at the end of a catechetical session. They can even be done at Sunday Mass if you want the entire parish to participate in the blessing.
A priest, deacon, or a designated catechist can lead the blessing.
15 Blessings for a catechumen
Here are some occasions on which you might bless a catechumen:
- After a significant step in faith
- After a setback
- When they have to prepare for something difficult
- After a job promotion
- After finding out they’re pregnant or after a birth
- When they are feeling lonely
- When they are feeling tempted
- When they are feeling victorious
- When they are feeling especially close to God
- After a big accomplishment
- Before a challenging family encounter
- Before a journey
- After getting a new job or promotion
- On a birthday or anniversary
- After the death of a loved one
Whenever we ask for or give a blessing, it is important to remember we are not talking about an object or some objective, impersonal action. A blessing is a personal, intimate act of love, initiated by God and reciprocated by us:
Blessings therefore refer first and foremost to God, whose majesty and goodness they extol, and since they indicate the communication of God’s favor, they also involve human beings, whom he governs and in his providence protects. Further, blessings apply to other created things through which, in their abundance and variety, God blesses human beings. (Book of Blessings, 7)
P.S. If you celebrate one of these in a liturgy of the word service, be sure to pay attention to the four liturgical arts in RCIA rituals.
How have you incorporated blessings into your RCIA process? How have your catechumens responded? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “15 occasions to bless an RCIA catechumen”
Just finished reading this article re: blessings for catechumens. Thank you. An old dog can learn new tricks. I think i have done it but never thought of it as something special. You bring a greater meaning to the actions and certainly makes me respect the process even more. Thank you again.
Blessings are very powerful. You have reminded me that they should be celebrated more often! I still cry when we do the signing of the senses!