I saw a snippet in our local newspaper earlier this week that I’ve been mulling over ever since. It was in the community section, among the bridge club results and notices of forthcoming meetings. A brief announcement of such a bizarre nature that it took me completely by surprise.
BLESSING OF BAGS
Blessing of school bags will take place at 6.30pm Mass on Saturday, September 3.
It is probable that I am missing something; that this is a perfectly ordinary event in the Church calendar. And yet … I can’t help wondering precisely what those seeking to have their school bags blessed expect to achieve thereby. How might a blessed bag differ from one that has not been sprinkled with holy water and had some incantation recited in it presence?
Will such a bag acquire the capacity to hold more books than its un-blessed neighbour? Will it make the contents seem lighter to the child carrying it on his/her back? Will it render he texts within the books more intelligible, so that the child gains a better understanding of the information they contain? Will it provide assurance for the parents that this simple ceremony will increase the likelihood that their child will obtain a better mark in his/her examinations?
When considered alongside the vile things done to children in the name of religion, it might seem a strange thing to make a fuss about. The physical, mental and sexual abuse suffered by past generations at the hands of members of religious orders, in Ireland and elsewhere, is well documented. What harm can there be in the simple act of blessing a school bag? None, unless, like me, you take the view that permitting our young to believe such bizarre nonsense is to damage their minds by filling them with irrational ideas.
As I have said, I have been pondering this idea, on and off, for a few days now. Throughout, I have tried to fight off the possibility that my mind keeps coming back to: that the advertised event is not real; that it is, rather, some joke perpetrated by a hoaxer who wishes to make the Church look foolish.
I’m not sure which is worse, the idea that the event may be real, with all that implies – the totally irrational belief system behind it – or the possibility that someone is so full of contempt for the Church that he or she thinks it amusing to make fun of an institution that, despite everything, still means a great deal to many Irish citizens.
I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who can confirm that such ceremonies do, in fact, take place, and who can explain the thinking behind them. Please use the comments below or on Facebook.