It is an ancient tradition that parents can do every day.
Parents have the weighty task of bringing their children to God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how, “Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children” (CCC 2225).
This is certainly not an easy task and at times can seem fruitless. Sometimes we may never know until years later the effect we had on our children.
One important part of “evangelizing” our children is quite simple and very ancient. It is called the “Parental Blessing” and consists of an ability to call down God’s blessings upon your children. As parents we have a special responsibility and duty to entrust our children to God and our prayers have a double effect upon them. God has given them to us and it is our duty to give them back to God.
Examples of this type of blessing run throughout the Old Testament. One of the most well known examples is that of Isaac blessing his son Jacob (cf. Genesis 27). There are many other examples in the Old Testament and for this reason many people use these blessings with their own children.
One blessing that is frequently used is from the book of Numbers and is referred to as the Aaronic Blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
Another blessing comes from the book of Tobit, where Tobit gives his son Tobias a blessing before he departs on a journey: “May God in heaven protect you on the way and bring you back to me safe and sound; may his angel accompany you” (Tobit 5:17).
A simple way to do this would be to take a bit of holy water (if available) and trace the sign of the cross on the forehand of your child (or simply place your hand on their head). While doing this you can pray any of the above prayers, or just say, “May God bless you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
The formula of the prayer is not set in stone and a parent can use a spontaneous prayer to bless their children. The important part is to invoke God’s blessing upon them, recognizing the power God has given you as a parent.
This blessing is most typically done before bedtime, but can also be used before your child goes off to school, boards the bus or goes on a journey. It will give you added comfort to know that God is with them as they leave your home and an angel is there beside them every step of the way.
It’s not easy being a parent and teaching them the faith can seen like an insurmountable task. However, with God’s help, all things are possible.