I sometimes wish we were a bit more touchy-feely in our faith practice. I mean - Jesus was a great lover of people, and his healing, his affirmation, his acceptance was almost always shown by some form of touch episode. And to the extent that he could given safety, Blessed John Paul II was a most loving and touch-oriented leader.
Let me share a bit of real-world with you. Dear wife Dee was raised in a rural Pennsylvania setting. Her folks were Methodist. Salt of the earth. Really loving... but don’t get too close. No hugging if you get the picture.
Well, on her first trip to Detroit with me, Tom to meet my parents, Dee was immediately wrapped in the arms of an Irish rooted family. “Welcome. (Hug, Hug). So glad you’re here. (Hug Hug) Come on in and sit down at the kitchen table.” And that’s where the conversation and the relationship started. And loads of neighbors who had been told that “Tom was bringing home a girl” showed up as well. Dee found that she could easily fit into this welcoming life-style and she soon discovered that those hugs are a real blessing. She soon took them back to Pennsylvania to introduce them to her folks. :-)
Let me share a need little example of ‘blessing’ others in the act of touching them. I’ve recently been asked to come speak to a small Mom’s Group formed in our parish. They’ve asked for some short ten minute talks or reflections on topics of my own choosing... but words that might help them on their spiritual journey.
In my last talk with the moms, my topic was ‘sanctifying time.’ And I was sharing ideas of how to sanctify time during the day - time that would normally be completely devoted to the ‘real world’ and not spirituality. Somehow, the conversation came around to sharing holiness with others. Like when you’re in the checkout line at the supermarket and the tire and underpaid clerk asks you how are you today. I suggested that instead of answering “I’m fine, how are you?” to answer with an emphatic “I’m BLESSED today -- how about you?” I have done this over the years and it has caused some interesting conversations. Okay - point made?
But what I really wanted to share with you is that a young mom in the Mom’s Group who is also a nurse in a dementia lock-down facility shared this thought. She said that someone had offered an idea that when she (the nurse) was going to hug someone, that she should silently and softly make the sign of the cross with the hand resting on the shoulder or just over on the back a bit. In other words - to place the sign of the cross as a blessing on the person. It doesn’t matter if its your husband, your best girlfriend or a patient in a lock-down facility. They don’t have to know it - it can be just between you and the Lord God. Talk about sanctifying time and thought and action during the day!
And dear moms (and visitors) - I’m hopeful you know that blessing your children is very Scriptural and very awesome. It is a great teaching gesture as well as a loving gesture. I also believe strongly in the habit of men giving a father’s blessing to their children. Each night before going to bed. And there’s no reason that a dad can’t also do that tenderly and prayerfully for his spouse.
In his work called CHOOSING LOVE by the late Fr. Henri JM Nouwen, about BLESSING ONE ANOTHER, he wrote:
“To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly. Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends. In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings. We forget so quickly that we are God's beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.”
And so - as I have done for more than a dozen years, I will close as I’ve closed emails, columns, sermons and letters:
Copyright 2012 Deacon Tom Fox
About the Author
Deacon Tom Fox and his wife Dee are co-hosts of the CATHOLIC VITAMINS Podcast for over 6 1/2 years. Tom has also been a member of the Catholic Mom columnists team for eight years, and was a regular contributor to the Catholic Moments Podcast for three years. Most recently, Deacon Tom has been leading a project to bring Catholic radio to the north central Arizona community where he and Dee reside. Blessings!