My daily rounds as the Muslim chaplain in a big city acute-care hospital included visiting patients of all faith traditions. Sometimes, I would be asked to pray with a patient. For interfaith prayers, Muslims have a wealth of revelation they can recite from, in addition to the Qur’an, including the Old Testament, the Psalms, and the teachings of Jesus (aleyhi assalaam), especially as told in the Sermon on the Mount rendered in the Gospel of Matthew.
One night, I was called to bless a newborn Catholic baby. I had carefully prepared a prayer from the Sermon on the Mount, anticipating my first blessing. But I was somewhat unprepared for the moment when I would be called upon to make the signing of the cross. I felt that this act was something I could not witness sincerely from within my own faith tradition. I also learned from my counterpart in the Jewish tradition that she too was unable to “cross” that line (forgive the pun), although for different reasons.
To solve the matter, my supervisor suggested that if I am asked to do the signing, I should locate someone on the floor who would be comfortable doing it, such as a nurse or other staff person.
That night, when I entered the room to do the blessing, I actually didn’t have a plan, beyond reciting my prayer. The new mother was holding the baby in her arms, and we stood in a small circle with the baby’s grandmother and an elderly aunt joining us.
After finishing my prayer, I noticed that the grandmother was wearing a large, gold cross around her neck. Pausing intentionally, I asked the grandmother if she would like to participate in the celebration, by signing the cross for her new grandchild.
I could tell by her reaction of enthusiastic accent, bordering on disbelief, that I had made the right choice. She was happy to be included in the blessing, knowing that it is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for any newborn or parent. Being in that moment and seeing the joy on everyone’s face brought tears instantly to my eyes. Grandma’s participation turned a simple religious ritual into something personal, generational, and unforgettable. When the blessing was over, the four of us remained standing, wiping at tears and savoring the harmonious notes of our sisterhood. That is, until the little angel in pink brought us back to earth, demanding to be fed.