99 Blessings, by Brother David Steindl-Rast, Image, NY, 2013
We are beginning the Third Week of Lent, and thus far I have made two failed attempts to find something that appealed to me for my daily Lenten reading, or to share with you, — that is, until I came across 99 Blessings. Subjects selected apparently at random, are expressed in prayer and gratitude much as one might do at the end of the day when one recalls even a single blessing, — a good thing that the Lord has done in one’s life. Each of the ninety-nine, whether we choose to read them one by one or scatter-shot, reflects a moment in life, an observation that might, in another setting be considered mundane, but which reaches luminosity through the eyes and words of the author. Take the one on sleep, for example:
… you bless us with sleep, which
refreshes and renews our body
and gives our mind time to settle
like muddy water that turns clear.
… May I be ready to embrace sleep
when sleep is ready to embrace me…
Or one on flea markets and garage sales, or one on spiders, — the author’s scope is endless, requiring from the reader the blessing of mindfulness, the ability to be fully present wherever one happens to be. With that attentiveness comes the awareness of one’s surroundings, be they human or plant, animal or atmosphere, joined with awareness of shared gifts and giftedness. One is urged to open one’s heart and hands in generosity and blessing.
Each reflection-blessing, addressed to the “Source of All Blessings,” can stand on its own or, as I discovered, lead to a quiet moment of interiority, dropping into deeper prayer, a deeper sense of the presence of God. Well after Lent is over, I imagine I will turn again to this small volume for further listening. As a matter of fact, Brother David has left one last page blank, a one-hundredth blessing I can speak on my own. In his preface, “An Invitation to Bless,” he concludes, “May you grow ever more blessed, ever more able to bless.”
Maureen F. McDermott