Here is another of the most visited posts on my previous blog, I have extended what was originally written there.
One of the things I am fairly regularly asked to do is to bless houses. Usually when people have moved into a new home but occasionally when something unpleasant has occurred in a home, once in a house where a violent father had finally left and the blessing was both a cleansing and marking a new beginning for the mother and children. Working in schools, as a chaplain, this was probably the ‘service’ I have most often been able to provide for staff, especially for those who never go to church.
It’s surprising, therefore, that Common Worship makes no provision for this. The New Zealand Prayer Book of 1989 has an excellent House Blessing with very usable materials (see below). Prayers for the Domestic Church by Ed Hays available on Amazon in Kindle and paper formats also has good material.
The New Zealand Prayer Book (Collins, 1989) texts are also comprehensive (see the introduction, above).
The rite suggests a Eucharist in the home as appropriate or A Family Liturgy with blessing of food and a rite of peace at the end of the meal.
For each room a scripture reading, a versicle and response and a collect is provided with the suggestion of ritual action. Here’s the blessing for a bedroom
The whole Prayer Book is now available on line. It contains much excellent material, including many liturgical items written or compiled by Jim Cotter.
In Britain Pastoral Prayers, Mowbray 1996 provided a series of collects for blessing various rooms in a home.
The recent, excellent Manual of Minor Exorcisms – for the use of priests, CTS, 2012, has some good prayers for use where distress has occurred – those related to a home are on page 66 following.
The various books of Celtic prayers seem to have no resources for house blessings but in Healing the Land, Ray Simpson, Mayhew 2004; the weekend household meal on page 180 would work as a house blessing.
The official Roman books including a Blessing of a New Home (see The Book of Blessings, Collegeville 1992) which is also in A Shorter Roman Ritual, Midwest Theological Forum, 2009 and has a good set of intercessions.
Bless This House, published by Veritas in 1992 is the most comprehensive provision I know and comes in a 30 page booklet. It contains a hymn with a verse for each room (16 possible verses) and thirteen specific room blessings are offered each with an introduction, suggested ritual action, blessing prayer and verse of the hymn. The participants would only need a copy of the hymn verses. The hymn is in 126.96.36.199 metre and the suggested tunes are Stuttgart or Servant Song by Richard Gillard.
The blessing prayers are declarative “Bless ….” with a cross indicating a sign of the cross to be made by the celebrant. Anyone feeling uncomfortable with this formula could easily adapt them (eg ‘Blessed be God for …’).
The book begins with an opening rite based on the liturgy of the Word and ending with a litany of intercession. As well as blessings for every possible room the front door, a crucifix and the family Bible are also provided with blessings. Different blessings are given for a room for a younger or older child. The blessing of the parents’ room assumes an opposite sex couple but this could easily be adapted. Although not all will want it a house blessing is a rite that can be provided for same-sex couples who can’t, currently, be married in church or have their marriages or Civil Partnerships blessed in church. It is also a rite that lends itself to the arrival of foster children or children for adoption. Adaptation would also be needed for a single person. Although in both these circumstances a new verse would need to be composed for the hymn.
My own experience is that people want some ritual action such as sprinkling with holy water. Lighting candles at the dinner table or in a prayer corner along with incense sticks also work well.
Here are the texts provided for “Blessing of a playroom/sports room/swimming pool’:
“Life, especially for children, is unhealthy if it is all work and no play. Jesus himself called his disciples away to a place apart in order to rest. Wise living knows how to play and work in moderation.
Ritual action: music is played in the room
Let us pray
Lord, we give you thanks
for easing the cares and burdens of our daily life,
and giving us rest and refreshment
when we are tired in mind and body.
Bless this room
that all who meet here
may find good company,
renewal of spirit and body
and encouragement to continue doing your holy will.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
He sprinkles the place with holy water.
The following verse of the hymn or other suitable acclamation may be sung.
Jesus spent his days in labour,
Doing good and healing ill.
And at evening rested, praying,
By the lakeside, silent, still.”
From Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, Second Vatican Council:
The Creator of all made the married state the beginning and foundation of human society; by his grace he has made of it too a great mystery in Christ and in the Church (cf. Eph. 5:32), and so the apostolate of married persons and of families has a special importance for both Church and civil society.
Christian couples are, for each other, for their children and for their relatives, cooperators of grace and witnesses of the faith. They are the first to pass on the faith to their children and to educate them in it. By word and example they form them to a Christian and apostolic life; they offer them wise guidance in the choice of vocation, and if they discover in them a sacred vocation they encourage it with all care.
To give clear proof in their own lives of the indissolubility and holiness of the marriage bond; to assert with vigour the right and duty of parents and guardians to give their children a Christian upbringing; to defend the dignity and legitimate autonomy of the family: this has always been the duty of married persons; today, however, it has become the most important aspect of their apostolate.
The mission of being the primary vital cell of society has been given to the family by God himself. This mission will be accomplished if the family, by the mutual affection of its members and by family prayer, presents itself as a domestic sanctuary of the Church; if the whole family takes its part in the Church’s liturgical worship; if, finally, it offers active hospitality, and practices justice and other good works for the benefit of all its brothers suffering from want. Among the various works of the family apostolate the following may be listed: adopting abandoned children, showing a loving welcome to strangers, helping with the running of schools, supporting adolescents with advice and help, assisting engaged couples to make a better preparation for marriage, taking a share in catechism-teaching, supporting married people and families in a material or moral crisis, and in the case of the aged not only providing them with what is indispensable but also procuring for them a fair share of the fruits of economic progress.
Everywhere and always, but especially in regions where the first seeds of the Gospel are just being sown, or where the Church is still in its infancy or finds itself in a critical situation, Christian families bear a very valuable witness to Christ before the world when all their life they remain attached to the Gospel and hold up the example of Christian marriage