Excerpted from 99 Blessings by Brother David Steindl-Rast. Copyright © 2013 by Brother David Steindl-Rast. Excerpted by permission of Image, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. What is a blessing?
The words "blessing" and "blood" spring from the same root in the English language. This allows us to think of blessing as a life-giving blood-stream, a current of spiritual energy circulating through the universe. The more we share in it, the more we come alive on all levels. The sharing has two phases: we open our heart to receive the blessing that flows to us and we pass it on by blessing others. Blessing can take many forms. We can bless others by loving action or by wishing them well. We can bless God - as the Source "from whom all blessings flow" - by thanksgiving. Blessings like the ones collected in this book are stylized sets of words meant to open the heart to the cosmic give-and-take of life.
2. You include a blessing for the internet. How should social media impact our spiritual lives?
Spirituality is - by definition - aliveness on all levels. One of those levels is our social embedding. A measure of spiritual maturity is alertness to social opportunities and responsibilities. Thus, use of the social media is an important area of spirituality.
3. Why are these series of prayers for all walks of life - from the religious to non-religious?
There is a basic religiosity shared by all human beings. Blessing belongs to this fundamental stratum of Religion underlying the different religions. This is the reason why blessings like the ones in this book can resonate with people belonging to any religion or even to none of them.
4. This marks the first time a member of the Benedictine Order of Catholic monks has done a book like this. Why did you think it was important?
In our time much depends on finding common ground. For people at home in one religion the task is to find the common ground of all religions. Blessings are an easy way to reach that ground we share and to celebrate it.
5. Are there things unworthy of a blessing?
Confronted with destructive things and events like atomic reactors, arsenals, gas chambers, and torture, we have the choice to curse or to bless. If cursing is the opposite of blessing, it means throttling the flow of life-giving energy. It is difficult to see how this could improve a situation. In contrast, blessing will attempt to channel positive energy where it is most needed in the hope that some of it may seep in.
6. You are known for pioneering work in interfaith dialogue. Has there been progress made or are the rifts growing?
On the level of institutional religions public pressure has brought about a certain amount of tolerance. Here, we ought not to expect much, since every institution depends for its survival on competition with its equals. But much progress has been made during my lifetime on the level of spirituality, of basic human religiosity. Here, more and more people are discovering a shared dimension of their ultimate concerns and are learning from each other.