Shortly after Elisabeth was born my father-in-law asked my husband if we planned to baptize her. Not being members of any church my husband said “no”. When he relayed the conversation to me later, I told Fabian that I didn’t mind having Elisabeth baptized, especially if it felt important to my in-laws. So when we arrived last summer, Elisabeth was baptized. Afterwards we celebrated at a local beer garden where Elisabeth was given a lime green pinwheel by one of the servers in lieu of a beer. Aside from some photos of the occasion, I haven’t thought of it since.
Until yesterday. Fabian and Elisabeth were ahead of me as they left the apartment in Regensburg. After I’d locked the door, I looked down the street to see a short man approaching them. He was elderly and acted in a familiar sort of way. I watched him speak to my husband but wasn’t close enough to hear any words. I could tell that although Fabian didn’t know the man, he wasn’t concerned. The old man touched Elisabeth’s head. In spite of feeling apprehensive, I continued to watch. A few more words were exchanged. The man walked away.
A moment later my husband saw me and started to walk my way. Curiousity overwhelmed me, “Who was that man?” I asked. He was a retired priest who lived in a house nearby, my husband told me. He said to my husband, “Excuse me, sir, may I give your child a benediction?”. When my husband agreed (who turns down a blessing?!) and told him our daughter’s name. Then the priest said, “Elisabeth, may you be blessed in the name of the father, son and the holy spirit.” and touched her head and forehead in that way that priests do. Then he thanked my husband who thanked him back and went along his way.
Another encounter with a priest in a life where we seldom encounter religion at all? Both in the same city. Both under a year. I think of myself as a spiritual person, not a religious one but I can’t help but feel blessed. I can imagine the priest jokes that some might think of when they read this, but for me this experience is sweetness and light. We are blessed. To be here on vacation but also to have a stranger come up and offer a blessing to my daughter. Then bang! Seconds later my superstitious Irish grandmother side kicks in. And I start to wonder when the bottom is going to drop out. But let me banish the banshee of superstition. Instead, I will concentrate on the moments that I have and remember feeling blessed.