Growing up Catholic, I was exposed to a variety of rites and rituals that were part of our faith formation. Holy Communion and Baptism, of course, but also saying the rosary, blessing ourselves with holy water upon entering the church, ashes on Ash Wednesday, throat blessing on St. Blaise Day, crowning the Mary statue on May 1. We “played Mass” using Necco candies as wafers and made little altars in our bedroom using an upside down shoe box covered with tissue paper, on top of which would be a little statue of Mary or Jesus, surrounded by birthday candles standing in tiny empty spools of thread.
What these rites and rituals have in common is that they involve us bodily in expressing our faith and receiving God’s grace. We move, participate and use elements that can be seen, touched, tasted, heard and smelled. They also involve hearing God’s Word proclaimed and trusting in God’s promises. Rites and rituals push us to set aside doubts about whether the combination of words, actions and things actually have any real effect on anything. We are invited to simply participate and experience the movement of the Spirit.
Here are some rites and rituals that we already practice or that are available for the asking!
Prayer Shawl Blessings
We bless prayer shawls and blankets during services, but when we give them away, we try to bring a group of people together to lay a hand on the shawl or blanket and pray for the person to receive it. Recipients of these blankets get a genuine sense of God’s peace and presence when they use them. (I know this first hand!)
I have done a few house blessings and am more than willing to do more. There is a neat ritual for this that involves going from room to room, reading and scripture and saying a prayer for the typical activities in that place.
Pet blessing services are typically done on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4. The Mutual Ministry Team has asked that we have a Pet Blessing this year, which I plan to do outside the church the evening of Thursday, Oct. 4.
We have had one formal congregation service of healing since I have been here, and another one is planned for September. But healing prayer, including anointing with oil, is available any time. Just call or stop by my office. I am thinking about setting aside some times for healing prayer in the Chapel.
We often do blessings and sendings for people moving or going on missions. Rituals can be created to help with grief, making life transitions, letting go, etc. Symbolic actions using tangible items, combined with Scripture, prayer and conversation help us process feelings and turn to Christ. If you are interested, I’m ready and willing to serve!