Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the manner of sacraments; but, by the prayer of the Church, they prepare one to receive grace and ready the individual for it. Therefore, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals offers faithful believers the possibility of sanctifying almost all the events of life, through the divine grace that derives from the paschal mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, a mystery from which all seek the efficacy of the sacraments and sacramentals. Thus, the sanctification of men and the praise of God can be found in the honest use of most material things, which can be reverted to this end,
Blessings (of people, of objects and places) are the principal sacramental acts. Every blessing is done in praise of God and in prayer for his gifts. In Christ, all christians are blessed by God the Father, «with every spiritual blessing» Eph 1:3 That is why the Church invokes the name of Jesus when giving the blessing, and makes the holy sign of the cross of Christ.
Catechism of the Caholic Church, 1670-1671
At the world’s beginning, there is thus God who “speaks goodness” [dice-bene], he blesses [bene-dice], he speaks goodness [dice-bene]. He sees that every work of his hands is good and beautiful, and when he creates man, and creation is complete, he recognizes that it is “very good” (Gen 1:31). Shortly thereafter, the beauty that God had imprinted within his work will change, and the human being will become a degenerate creature, capable of spreading evil and death in the world; but nothing will ever take away God’s original imprint, an imprint of goodness that God placed in the world, in human nature, in all of us: the capacity to bless and the fact of us being blessed. God did not make a mistake with creation nor with the creation of man. The hope of the world lies entirely in God’s blessing: he continues to love us, to wish us well; he is the first, as the poet Péguy said, to continue to hope for our good (The Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue, first ed. 1911).
God’s great blessing is Jesus Christ; his Son is God’s greatest gift. He is a blessing for all of humanity. He is the blessing that saved us all. He is the eternal Word with which the Father blessed us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:8), Saint Paul says, the Word made flesh and offered for us on the cross.
Saint Paul proclaims God’s plan of love with emotion. And he says it like this: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:3-6). There is no sin that can completely erase the image of Christ present in each one of us. No sin can erase that image that God has given us — the image of Christ. Sin can disfigure it, but not remove it from God’s mercy. A sinner can remain in error for a long time, but God is patient till the end, hoping that [the sinner’s] heart will eventually open and change. God is like a good father and like a good mother — he is also a good mother: they never stop loving their child, no matter what he or she may do wrong, always. What comes to my mind is the many times that I have seen people queue to enter a prison. Many mothers queue up to see their imprisoned child: they do not stop loving their child and they know that the people passing by on the bus are thinking: “Ah, that is a prisoner’s mother”. Yet they are not embarrassed about this; or better yet, they are embarrassed but they go ahead, because their child is more important than their embarrassment. Thus we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit, because he is a father, he is a mother, he is pure love, he has blessed us forever. And he will never stop blessing us.
It is an impressive experience to read these biblical texts of blessing in a prison, or in a rehabilitation group. To let these people feel that they are still blessed, notwithstanding their grave errors, that the heavenly Father continues to desire their good and to hope that they will open themselves to the good, in the end. Even if their closest relatives have abandoned them since by now they judge them to be irredeemable, they are always children to God. God cannot erase in us the image of sons and daughters; each one of us is his son, his daughter. At times we see miracles happen: men and women who are reborn because they find this blessing that has anointed them as children. For God’s grace changes lives: he takes us as we are, but he never leaves us as we are.
Let us think of what Jesus did with Zacchaeus (cf. Lk 19:1-10), for example. Everyone saw evil in him. Yet, Jesus sees in him a glimmer of good, and in his curiosity in seeing Jesus he is able to receive saving mercy. In this way he changes first the heart, and then the life of Zacchaeus. In the belittled and rejected people, Jesus sees the indelible blessing of the Father. Zacchaeus is a public sinner. He practiced many evil deeds, and yet Jesus saw that indelible sign of the Father’s blessing and for that he had compassion. Compassion leads Jesus to help him and to change his heart. It is a phrase that is repeated so much in the Gospel, “he had compassion”. Even more, he is able to identify himself with every person in need (cf. Mt 25:31-46). In the passage on the final “protocol” on which we will all be judged (Matthew 25), Jesus says: “I was hungry, I was naked, I was in prison, I was in hospital, I was there…”.
To God who blesses, we also respond by blessing: – God taught us to bless and we must bless – it is the prayer of praise, adoration, thanksgiving. In the Catechism we read: “The prayer of blessing is man’s response to God’s gifts: since God blesses, man’s heart can respond by blessing the One who is the source of all blessing” (n. 2626). Prayer is joy and gratitude. God didn’t wait for us to convert to start loving us. He did it long before, whilst we were still in sin.
We cannot only bless this God who blesses us, we must bless everything and all through Him. We must bless God and bless our brothers and sisters, bless the world: this is the root of Christian meekness, the ability to feel blessed and the ability to bless. If we all did this, there would certainly be no war. This world needs blessings and we can both give blessings and receive blessings. The Father loves us. And all we have left is the joy of blessing him and the joy of thanking him, and of learning from him not to curse, but to bless. And here just a word for people who are used to cursing, for those who constantly have a negative word, a curse in their mouths, even in their hearts. Each of us may think: am I in the habit of cursing in this way? Let us ask the Lord for the grace to change this habit. Because we have a blessed heart and a curse should not come from a blessed heart. May the Lord teach us never to curse, but to bless
Depending on the type of Blessings, it can be either an ordained minister or a lay faithful. For example, we all can and should bless the food we eat.
We can ask for a blessing at certain important times in our lives (eg engagements, wedding anniversaries, pregnancies, end of courses…) as well as places or objects (eg homes, the workplace, vehicles, religious objects…)
It can be done in a short prayer and with the imposition of the priest’s hands, or in a more complete and communal celebration using holy water.
Any questions or requests for information should, preferably, be submitted to the parish office or in person to the priest in order to obtain the most appropriate response.
Click here to learn about the norms in force in the Patriarchate of Lisbon regarding the celebration of the Sacraments and Sacramentals.