Monday, August 23, 2004

Labor Day Ideas

The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882, to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. Today, Labor Day unofficially signals the beginning of a new "school" year of work and study and the end of the lazy days of summer.

To respect the origins of this national holiday while acknowledging its new role of marking the change in the social season, the weekend of September 4-5, 2004, may be an appropriate time to acknowledge and bless the temporal and spiritual work that parishioners do.

Teachers and Students
The Book of Blessings, Chapter 5, has an order for the blessing of students and teachers. The basic structure of the blessing begins with general intercessions after the homily written specifically for teachers and students followed by a prayer of blessing. After the homily, teachers and students might be called forward to stand before the assembly to receive the church's blessing.

Pastoral Staff and Parish Leaders
"In the life of a parish there is a diversity of services that are exercised by lay persons. It is fitting that as people publicly begin their service they receive the blessing of God who gives the gifts needed to carry out this work" (Book of Blessings, "Order for the Blessing of Those who Exercise Pastoral Service" #1808).
One of the Masses during this weekend might include a blessing of the parish staff and leaders, especially if there are new staff members and leaders. The structure of the blessing in the Book of Blessings (Chapter 60) is the same as that for teachers and students--intercessions for the leaders after the homily followed by a prayer of blessing over them.

Liturgical Ministers
This weekend and the weeks following might be a good time to bless liturgical ministers scheduled to serve during the upcoming liturgical year. The Book of Blessings contains blessings for readers (Chapter 61), altar servers, sacristans, musicians and ushers (Chapter 62), and the commissioning of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (Chapter 63).

Parish Organizations
There are also blessings for parish council members (Chapter 64) and officers of parish societies (Chapter 65) in the Book of Blessings.

New Parishioners
Labor Day is also a traditional time for moving into new homes. This weekend and the next, be extra aware and welcoming of new faces in your parish. Hospitality for strangers is a year-round ministry for every Christian and is especially needed for those beginning a new chapter of their lives as new members of your parish. The Book of Blessings has an order for welcoming new parishioners (Chapter 66). The structure is very simple: new parishioners may be introduced to the assembly by the pastor after the greeting in the Gathering Rite. Then they are prayed for by name in the intercessions. Be careful that you do not force the spot light upon anyone who may be uncomfortably shy. It would be best to let new parishioners know ahead of time of this opportunity and give them the choice of participating in it.

Remember that hospitality, welcome, and prayer for each other doesn't end with Labor Day. Our blessings and welcome on this weekend must be supported and made genuine by the blessings we are for each other throughout the year.