Recently, I attended a Formation Day for those who administer Christian Initiation. I met some incredible people who give of themselves to assist with the faith formation of others. We each received a prayer shawl, individually made, beautifully designed and decorated.
I understand that prayer shawls are not a new thing. In fact, they date back many years. Jewish men are known to wear the Tallit, a fringed shawl used specifically to aid in creating the proper mood for reverence for God whilst holding a prayerful spirit during worship. According to Jewish understanding, the numerical value of the Hebrew word tzitzit (fringes) is 600. Each of the fringes contain threads and knots that total to a corresponding number of the commandments contained in the Torah. The bible does not specifically instruct men to wear the shawl but it does require them to wear the tassels as a reminder to keep the law.
Some Christians choose to wear a prayer shawl because the claim is that if Jesus wore one, so too would it be fitting for them to follow in His footsteps. There are some women who still wear the symbolic veil in Mass, symbolising their love and affection for Mary the mother of Jesus. The veil aims to make one feel humble and reverent focusing on prayer without distraction from what may be happening around you. The only difference between a prayer shawl and a regular shawl is the process in which it is made. As the shawls are created, prayers are said in offering to the recipient.
As a newly appointed employee within Pastoral Ministries I have had the task of learning so many new things! Although I felt quite prepared in some ways, having taught in schools across a number of diocese for over thirty years, nothing could prepare me for the job of working with many others to provide support and programs for formation within the wider bubble that lies outside the education system. My eyes have been opened to witness the true love, care, compassion, and sacrifice that so many offer within the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.
So, I accepted my prayer shawl, and as I wrapped it around me, I thought of how much that shawl is a tangible symbol of the love and care that has been shown to me upon my initiation into the Pastoral Ministries team. I have been accepted, welcomed, nurtured and cared for. The support and love that outflows from others towards me is something truly humbling, and I could not have felt more grateful…. I’ve been wrapped in a gift of love. May you feel that gift too.
Image from Unsplash Priscilla Du Preez