A reflection on blessings by Elbert Lott

Sarah Ruszkowksi

Published 7 March 2017

From Life of the Beloved:

“Let me first tell you what I mean by the word “blessing.” In Latin, to bless is benedicere.  The word “benediction” that is used in many churches means literally: speaking (dictio) well (bene) or saying good thing of someone.  That speaks to me. I need to hear good things said of me, and I know how much you have the same need.  Nowadays, we often say: “we have to affirm each other.” Without affirmation, it is hard to live well.  

To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer.  It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light.  To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s Belovedness.  And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.  There is a lot of mutual admiration in this world, just as there is a lot of mutual condemnation.  

A blessing goes beyond the distinction between admiration or condemnation, between virtues or vices, between good deeds or evil deeds.  A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness.”

–Henri Nouwen

Here, Elbert Lott, one of the original core members in L’Arche Chicago, reflects on this passage on blessing from Henri Nouwen.  Elbert has lived in community for almost 17 years and leads the community, and his home, Friendship House, in faith and blessing.

What is a blessing?

It makes people feel good.  I bless people in my church and in my house. When you hit bad times, you’ll be blessed.  At community night, you’ll be blessed. We bless old people, in nursing homes and hospitals. And we bless babies.

How do you bless people?

I say a prayer for them.

Why is it important?

Prayer changes things and blessings make the hearts feel better.

Why should people bless each other?

Blessings give people peace.

How should people bless each other?

Have faith.  Have joy.  And then you bless other people.