Janet’s bag of blessings

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

March 17, 2008


            Janet came to the sacristy after mass with a plastic bag. 

            “Father,” she said. “Can you bless some things?”

            People often bring things to be blessed after mass. Sometimes there is a little line.

            It is part of our “sacramentalizing” impulse in Catholicism. By “sacramentalizing” I mean, the desire to make the “ordinary” things of creation into “extraordinary” reminders of “God’s grace.” Ordinary things are holy when they are “set apart” for God.

            In Janet’s bag were some “holy things.” 

            There was a “St. Rita of Cascia pill box.”

            St. Rita was an Italian saint of the 14th century. She is patroness of impossible causes, aches and pains, and, most importantly, forgiveness. She had to forgive the murder of her husband. She also bore on her head the wounds of Jesus’ crown of thorns. So she is sometimes thought of as a patron to people who have pain. Hence the pill box. Blessing the pill box makes it a holy vessel of the medications and a way to say that real healing comes through the spirit in forgiveness. Not a bad message.

            Janet also had a “Sacred Heart of Jesus coffee mug.”

            The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a puzzlement to many people. They don’t understand the flame bursting out of Jesus’ chest. But I think they are missing a great insight.

            One of my favorite novenas is to the Sacred Heart. That novena speaks of Christ’s heart as a burning furnace of love for us. It may seem a little irreverent, but I always think of that Elvis song where he sings of “a hunk of burning love.” Something really on fire for us.

            It is nice that when you are drinking your morning coffee to realize that your life is not just warmed by “Mister Coffee” but by the Heart of Jesus. For many people, that first cup of coffee in the morning is a kind of mini resurrection, when they renew their lives with the hope in their morning prayer.

            Janet also had a wall plaque of the prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

            People often confuse the Immaculate Heart of Mary with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We have a man in our parish who always prays for fulfillment of the intentions of both. I pointed out to him that we don’t pray for the intentions of Jesus because Jesus is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, i.e., God. He does not need our help since He is, well, God.

            But, we do pray for the intentions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We figure anything that Mary has adopted as a prayer intention must be a good thing. After all, she taught Jesus to pray. As His mother, her prayers will get a hearing.

            All of this is, of course, “anthropomorphic”. We assume that God responds to human motivations. That might seem a little silly, but we do believe that we are made in God’s image. Besides, what else can we do? It is our nature to see things from a human perspective. God’s will is only a partially revealed mystery.

            Finally, Janet had a big set of glow in the dark rosary beads. She said they had been blessed by the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje. Evidently Mary tells pilgrims they should take it to a priest to be blessed. I was flattered. While I could hardly improve on Mary’s blessing I could see her point that it is still important that the priest pronounce it holy as a representative of Christ and His church.

            Not everybody is a walking religious goods store, like Janet. But I understand her desire. She wants to make the whole world into something sacred. That is a good thing.