Friday 5 May 2017

About Blessings

The Senior Refectory in the Arrupe building has been refurbished and renovated. This has both updated the food preparation area and provided more efficient ways of delivering the meals and cleaning up afterwards. At any gathering of Old Boy boarders, you can guarantee at some stage they will start to share reminiscences about how ‘crook’ and how scant was the food. Especially during the lean war years. It was said in those years that the boys eagerly awaited David Jones food parcels sent by their parents to supplement the meagre fare. But these days, a new era. This week the boys returned to the remodelled Refectory and gave it their stamp of approval. I was invited to bless the new surrounds at the first breakfast sitting.

As a priest, one is regularly being asked to bless people and bless things. The latter include houses, cars, animals, rosary beads and medals, icons, boats and buildings. It is always worthwhile asking why we bless anything. Sometimes one assumes simple piety and respect for ‘holy’ objects. Sometimes one might suspect a tinge of superstition – a ‘magic formula’. But if we go back to sources, to the Old Testament, it seemed that, apart from blessing people (which is putting them into God’s care) the commonest items to be blessed were those used in Temple worship. That is, objects were blessed which were to be used in God’s service.

For me, that is the starting point of a blessing. It is a prayerful reminder that we are commissioning this or that article for God’s service – that is, for building up God’s kingdom. So, if we bless a boat or rugby jerseys, it is not to give some extra hydrodynamic advantage to nudge a boat into a win, or more ‘grunt’ in a team to secure a premiership. No – it is to remind the rowers or the players that their sporting endeavours are to make the most of their God-given talents and to be grateful for them. The blessing is a reminder to use what is blessed to build God’s Kingdom which is always a kingdom of right-relationships, integrity and fairness within the squad or the team. When we blessed the breaking of the ground earlier in the year at the beginning of the Ignis Project, we prayed in thanks for all those who made it possible, as Ignatius would have us. But then we blessed the land:

Creator God, when you formed the earth and clothed it with life, you proclaimed it to be good. That was your original blessing. We ask you to renew that blessing today. May the building soon to grow from this site and the community it will house and support always give you glory – the glory of God which is the human person, teacher and student, fully alive.

And so, this week, in blessing the Refectory, we prayed in thanks for all the blessings we have received and for all who have dined here for more than a century. We also committed ourselves to extending God’s Kingdom in this particular corner of the College – that this meal space be a place of joy, of good relationships, of support for each other in the boarding family, of nourishment in every sense of the word.

There are many ways to build God’s Kingdom here. Establishing and extending that Kingdom is the primary purpose and the heart of the school. All that we do and prepare the boys for is a means to that end.

In the meantime … God bless.

Fr Ross Jones, SJ