Blessing Ritual In Brazil

‘I will pour out my spirit and my blessings on your children. They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank.’ 

By Bev Trach

Bev Trach is a Scarboro Lay Missionary working in Brazil. This article first appeared in the November 2009 Newsletter of the Scarboro Missionaries whose headquarters are in Scarborough, Ontario, to the immediate east of Toronto. Monsignor John Mary Fraser, a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto, founded the Scarboro Missionaries in 1918. Some years earlier Fr Edward Galvin, who was to become one of the founders of the Columbans, traveled to China with Father Fraser. A talk that the Canadian priest gave in St Patrick’s National Seminary, Ireland, stirred the interest of a young professor there, Fr John Blowick, who became the other co-founder of the Columbans. Father Fraser was interned in the Philippines during World War II.

No matter how well life is going, or how difficult things are, there is always a certainty that changes are possible. In my own belief, I know that the one constant is that God is here. There are many churches, books, magazines and speakers that try to help us see that God is present in our lives. Practices and rituals help to remind us of God's presence. Daily prayer, church on Sundays, and a walk through nature is a means that help us to grow in our appreciation of God's presence in our lives.

Being aware of God's presence is only part of it. Our communications and interactions with God, remain important. In scripture, it is very common to hear of the people asking God for a blessing, either for themselves or for the people they love. God's blessing is a gift.

One of the rituals, in Brazil, that I have witnessed on many occasions is that of a child asking their parent/s to invoke upon them God's blessings. It is a combination of words and actions. When children awaken in the morning and during their first encounter with their parent, they will ask the parent for God's blessings. The parent will say, "May God bless you" and at the same time the child takes the hand of the parent as in a handshake, kiss the parent's hand and then the parent will in turn kiss the child's hand, while still holding it.

This same request for a blessing and giving of a blessing may happen between children, siblings, parents, grandparents, God parents, aunts and uncles. This ritual occurs first thing in the morning, before the child goes to school or work, when they return home and before they go to sleep at night. In many cases, it happens so quickly that it may go unnoticed to a visitor but if the child forgets, they are reminded by the parent to ask for their blessing. I have also witnessed this being done over the telephone. Following their initial greeting, a request for a blessing is asked before any further conversation takes place.

Dyulliana, who is seven months pregnant shared with me that she asks her mother every morning and evening for a blessing. Normally, Lucivania, the mother will bless the baby in the womb by rubbing Dyulliana's belly and at times kisses it. On the rare occasion, that Lucivania does not give a blessing to the baby, Dyulliana said the baby begins to stir and move around a lot. For the two of them, there is no doubt the value of this blessing begins with the beginning of life.

This ritual is not only a reminder of the goodness and presence of God, but also keeps the connection of a child to members of his/her family and their faith.