is there a hierarchy of blessings?

An interesting dialogue has unfolded on the previous post regarding blessings. Are blessings given by an ordained man more effective or special? Here are some thoughts…

Many of us were raised to believe in a hierarchy of blessings. This reflected the church as a structure of hierarchical leadership, and was ingrained within our Catholic psyche. A deacon’s blessing was greater than a lay person’s. A priest’s blessing was greater than a deacon’s. A bishop’s blessing was greater than a priest’s. And a papal blessing was the best of all!

Promoting this belief has fed the great divide between the ordained and the laity – a divide that has benefited the ordained for centuries. It went beyond affirming the special sacramental gifts received in ordination, to a belief in an assumed wisdom. And, an assumed holiness. (Thankfully, our Church has been careful to teach that the efficacy of the sacraments does not depend on the holiness of the priests.)

This assumption of holiness in the ordained has got us into a lot of trouble, and has allowed a lot of evil to go unchecked and unpunished in our church. So, no, I can no longer believe that the blessing of an ordained man is automatically holier or more effective. St. Francis might have had a big enough heart to prostrate himself before every priest merely because he was a priest; even if that priest was the greatest sinner of all. My heart isn’t that big.

Whether lay or ordained, God listens to the prayers of both sinners and saints. So, hopefully God will receive kindly the blessings of all. But, my own human nature tells me that when a true person of prayer tells me they are praying for me, then somehow that prayer will be given special hearing; because it is a prayer that comes from the depths of the heart. (This is why it is so wonderful to join our prayers to that great communion of saints.)

And, I feel the same way about blessings. A blessing is a prayerful shout out to God to shower graces on a specific person, event, place or thing.  I don’t believe that the efficacy of the prayer depends on our official status in the Church, or even if we are Catholic or not! When a person that I love and respect for their deep faith offers to bless me, than I feel truly blessed.

A former pastor always invited the parish community to join him in special blessings. This was a powerful gesture, especially during the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as women and men journeyed to the Easter sacraments. As he read the ‘official’ blessings of the Church, we all turned to the person and raised our hands in a blessing gesture. This simple action took the focus away from the priest as some magical dispenser of blessings, to a blessing community. And when the entire community blesses, then you can’t help but believe that the the blessings will overflow.

more thoughts on being an introvert

I’ve finally finished Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking The light bulb of recognition continues to click on as I become more and more aware of why I do what I do. Why I think the way I think. Yes, I am an introvert. The signs are all there. And, with this recognition, is a deep sense of freedom.

I always knew that I leaned toward introversion. As a child, I loved rain and snow storms. This meant that I could curl up with a book without the guilt of a sunny day beckoning me outdoors. Books still follow me everywhere I go; in the car, at the lake, on air travels. (I love you, iPad!)

I was never painfully shy, but I shied away from large social gatherings and events. I still do. I prefer an intimate evening with good food, good wine, good conversation and good friends.

I was always blessed with friends, but I valued quality over quantity. My nearest and dearest friends have been in my life for almost thirty years and more. Time flies when we chat over numerous cups of tea, drinks, or an over-heated telephone receiver. Sometimes all three!

Many of the women and men, who have been my mentors and models, are introverts also. At meetings, they don’t have the loudest voice at the table. The loudest voices usually monopolize the conversation, whether or not they have something of substance to share. My mentors are the ones who can sit quietly during the maelstrom of cacophonous voices.

But they are not merely sitting. They are pondering. And when they speak, everyone listens. They listen because they know that this person’s voice will carry substance. These women and men model strong leadership for me. They allow all voices to be heard before gently nudging from the side-lines. They don’t have to be front and center to be a moving force in a group.

I may be introverted, but I’m not afraid to give a talk or a presentation. But, I feel more comfortable reading a prepared speech. I will spend hours writing and editing obsessively. But, if I am happy with the end result, it increases my confidence. I have sat on panel presentations where I was the only one with a prepared talk, but this no longer worries me. Apparently, this is a common public speaking strategy for introverts.

I finished my university studies later in life. As a young student in a traditional lecture hall, I never raised my hand or contributed to a class discussion. With the introduction of online classes and asynchronous conversations, I had found my element. I love the thinking process. For me, writing is an extension of this process. Online discussion boards allow me the luxury of time to think and write carefully. The other advantage is that I don’t have to sit and squirm through long-winded diatribes from the class extrovert. I can simply scroll down through their densely worded paragraphs!

It is no surprise that many writers are introverts. Blogging is a great forum for us. It allows our voices to be heard, and to nudge a dialogue with others. If an online discussion gets over-heated, we can easily leave it to those who enjoy the energy of an aggressive debate. I don’t.

Did I mention that I’m an introvert?

Misconceptions of femininity hamper faith development

...we must discard the notion that all things of the heart belong in the realm of women, and things of the mind belong to men. Women and men each have gifts and characteristics that we tend to identify as more “female” or “male,” but these gifts are not uniquely or solely theirs. The perfect human would encompass all these gifts. The perfect church and society would tap into the richness of both in order to access the potential of wholeness within humanity….

The Prairie Messenger has kindly published the second of my two part column on the perceived view that our church is becoming too feminine…Misconceptions of femininity hamper faith development.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!