The Blessing of the Baskets
I was not raised as a person of faith. The closest thing to an Easter miracle in my house was the invention of Peeps. My husband was raised a Catholic and when we got married we agreed to raise any children we might produce as Catholics. We did produce children, two of them, and we did raise them as Catholics from Baptism to Confirmation. At the age of three when we taught our daughter the sign of the cross she dutifully repeated, “Fader, Son, and Hobie’s Ghost.” Hobie was our dog. Whether or not the training “stuck” is my children’s story to tell.
Along the way I learned a great deal about Christianity, Catholicism, and organized religion in general…but that is for another blog. Suffice it to say, there are some beautiful traditions that help to illustrate Christian ideals, one of which is the Blessing of the Baskets.
I was introduced to the Blessing of the Baskets by my sister-in-law whose Catholic faith has provided her with a great deal of sustenance in good times and bad. The bad times include the loss of a child. It was the power of her faith that convinced me to keep our promise to the Catholic Church. I saw the strength it gave her and her husband, and hoped it would be a resource for my children.
The Catholic Blessing of the Baskets is especially popular among Polish Americans. Traditionally it includes the following items: eggs to symbolize new life; bread for sustenance; meat to symbolize Christ’s victory over death; horseradish to acknowledge that in life one must accept the bitter with the sweet; vinegar for the bitter wine that Jesus was given on the cross; salt for its ability to preserve; cake to represent the sweetness of life; and butter in the shape of a lamb to watch over the basket and proclaim life over death. The food is usually prepared on Friday and taken to church on Saturday to be blessed. It’s a short ceremony that is not considered a mass and does not include communion.
We have celebrated Easter with my sister-in-law and her husband in Central Pennsylvania for the past few years and they have invited me to attend the blessing.The first year was especially memorable. The priest had just began the service when someone’s cell phone rang. It was the priest’s phone, which he dug out of his vestments and answered. “I need to take this,” he explained, then disappeared into the hallway. Needless to say I was gobsmacked by this turn of events.
When the priest came back a few minutes later, her explained that a young priest had just lost his mother and was in dire need of comfort and advice. Then the priest went on to bless the baskets. He also asked us to pray for firefighters with whom he would be visiting later that day at the local station. He talked about their sacrifice for the greater good and their ability to overcome fear, much like Christ. Again, I was gobsmacked. It just so happened that my son was in training to become a professional firefighter. Along with a few tears, these words gave me a great deal of comfort and pride.
I guess the lesson here is, when you’re a guest in someone’s home and they invite you to take part in a tradition (religious or otherwise) give it a chance. You might get more out of it than you expect.
Thank you for visiting and Happy Easter,
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