Saturday, November 3, 2018

ON OUR HEARTS AND ON OUR LIPS: Holy Water for the Children


It’s an idea I got from Elaine in Shankill, giving the children in school a bottle of holy water to bring home; small plastic bottles that remind me of Caroline in St. Anne’s Resource Centre, Caroline preparing hundreds and hundreds of them in preparation for Easter. Good ideas always need someone who will do the practical part.

I brought up the idea at the Spiritual Life committee in Sacred Heart School here in Hastings. Head Teacher, Mr. Hellett loved it. He sourced the bottles - 250 of them - got them filled with water and labelled with each child’s name.

And so, on Wednesday, Eve of All Saints I spent most of the day in school going from class to class. The children, from the youngest up, were very enthusiastic about the Mission I was sending them on and they all understood the idea of mission. Their task was to bring the holy water home to bless their families.

The chats we had were lovely and they had a very good grasp of what a blessing is, when a priest gives a blessing – the bread and wine at Mass, babies at baptism, the sick.

Particularly with the smaller ones, I would kneel and have a child bless me as a demonstration of what they might do at home with their parents. But, of course, they had their own ideas! Parents wouldn’t have to kneel – they could be blessed sitting on a chair or on a couch. And apart from blessing parents they were keen to bless everyone in the house, including pets. They could bless doors and windows and the graves of those who died. One girl was going to bless her grandmother who is ill. All their own lovely ideas.

Two suggestions I made were, one that they could bless their pillow. This made a lot of them laugh and I would say, “you don’t have to pour the whole bottle on your pillow, just a tiny bit on a corner!” I heard since that one girl went home and blessed the four corners of her pillow.

The other suggestion is that they could bless their lips, their speech. That too caused amusement but it’s one that I’m serious about - how we as Christians should watch what we say, how words have the power to bless or hurt, to lift up or bring down. The blessing we use before the reading of the Gospel at Mass is appropriate – with our thumb we bless our minds, our hearts and our lips that we might worthily proclaim the holy Gospel. St. James’ teaching on the tongue is worth reading – in chapter three of his letter.

For the actual blessing of the water I got each child to hold their bottle in their two hands and asked them to close their eyes and repeat the prayer after me. “God our Father, we ask you in the name of Jesus to send your Holy Spirit into this water to make it holy. We ask you to bless us and our families, our friends, our school and our teachers. Mary, mother of Jesus, we ask you to pray for us today and every day that we may be safe. Amen!”

Looking down at the faces of the children during this prayer was one of the most inspiring things ever – their sincere earnestness! I felt like the luckiest, most blessed person in the world, so grateful to be here at this time in my life

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