When I was a young priest I had occasion to visit a contemplative
community of sisters. An old sister opened the door. Knowing that I was
a new priest, she asked for my first blessing. I stood over this
contemplative and drew on every resource I knew to invoke the most
intimate blessing. As I was completing the blessing, it struck me how
ironical this situation was: here was a contemplative who had spent over
sixty years of her life navigating the searing silence and darkness of
God, yet she was asking a twenty-five-year-old for his blessing. When
she stood up I decided to kneel down and ask her for her blessing. She
seemed utterly taken aback; she mumbled something and practically ran
out of the room. She must never have had such a a request for her
blessing before. This was a woman who practiced a totally contemplative
life, and yet the system made her feel that she could not bless, and
conversely, it made me think I could. This experience led me to question
who had the authority and power to bless.
Who has the power to bless? This question is not to be answered simply
by the description of one’s institutional status or membership. But
perhaps there are deeper questions hidden here: What do you bless with?
Or where do you bless from? When you bless another, you first gather
yourself; you reach below your surface mind and personality, down to the
deeper source within you – namely, the soul. Blessing is from soul to
soul. And the key to who you are is your soul. When you bless someone,
you literally call the force of their infinite self into action.