Review: The Priestly Blessing: Rediscovering the Gift

The Priestly Blessing: Rediscovering the GiftThe Priestly Blessing: Rediscovering the Gift by Stephen J. Rossetti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The subtitle of this book from the well-known writer on Catholic priesthood is most appropriate. ‘Rediscovering the Gift’ of the priestly blessing is something that argued for strenuously by Stephen Rosetti as he examines this significant and powerful part of the life of the Church.

Notwithstanding the impact of the clerical sexual abuse crisis on the standing of Catholic priests, many people still seek out the ordained to ask for blessings of themselves or things they have or the things they are doing. It is part of a long history in Christianity, and indeed in the time before the advent of Jesus, and it is this history that Rosetti explores in some detail as part of his thesis. Addressing the place of blessings in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament only advances that argument more clearly.

The nature of the blessing, particularly the priestly blessing, is something that could form part of the new approach needed by the Church in an increasingly secularized world. Rather than relying solely on the faithful to come into the church building for the celebration of the great liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, the more widespread use of the ‘Sacramentals’ – especially blessings – might provide what Rosetti describes as a mustard seed for the kingdom of God in the life of those who might otherwise remain distant. There is, I suggest, something to think about in that suggestion.

Rosetti’s description of the Book of Blessings and his examination of parts of it from a theological and pastorally practical standpoint are well worth reading. This book, one of the official liturgical books of the Church, is also one of the great unknown treasures of the Church – and we are, I would suggest, the poorer for it. Taking the Book of Blessings off the shelf – and purchasing a copy if they don’t already have one – is something anyone interested in the missional life of the Church should do. It is a treasure that is oft wasted because it is unknown, but it is a treasure that has much to offer those who use it.

From the back cover:
Bestselling author and leading expert on the Catholic priesthood Msgr Stephen J, Rosetti forges a renewed theology of priestly blessing, encouraging his brother priests to embrace the habit of blessing people, objects, and events.

In this provocative and inspirational book he traces the history of the priestly blessing in the Bible and shows how the various types of blessings are integral to the identity of priests and crucial to the spiritual wellbeing of all the faithful.

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