“Times are a changin’” even in the Italian Catholic church. Today is Martedi Grasso and the party will soon be over, tomorrow marks the beginning of the quaresima and the forty days before Easter. Susanna in the pool says that when she was a child (let’s say 40 or more years ago), quaresima really existed and, with the exception of one day exactly twenty days into the period, she never went out for forty days -- no parties, no sweets, lots of church and a very sober lifestyle. Nowadays, “its always a party”, she says and quaresima has lost its sense.
In any case, the traditional Benedizione Pasquale or "home blessing” still stands. The first time a priest rang my doorbell and announced that he would enter and bless me and my home, I was quite startled. I had two small children and was so busy and tired I hadn’t noticed the messaged taped to the front door of our building announcing his arrival. I stepped aside and let him swing some fumes around (as the boys turned up their noses and fanned the smell away), and awkwardly let him bless us and our home for Easter. I explained that I wasn’t Catholic and didn’t know the prayer in Italian, but he kindly proceeded in any case. He would return each year and the boys and I learned to enjoy the rite; it was comforting to know that my home and soul were in good hands and he was a nice man.
Since we moved to a more residential area, I have only seen one house blessing priest although each year there is a notice taped to the door of our building. Maybe I just haven’t been home. But this year there is a novità-- an invitation to sign up for the home blessing at the local parish. The invitation explains that this new procedure allows the home blessing to be an important moment of
prayer for those who wish to take part while being respectful of those who practice other religions. You have to fill out a form and drop it off at the parish before February 28 to receive your blessing on March 7 between 16:30-19:00.
I am sorry that I won’t be indiscriminately blessed this year but it would be a bit odd to ask for it, not being Catholic and all. The new reverend’s name on the invitation is Don Peter and I imagine that he is importing some non-Italian efficiency into the system – too bad.