Making History on a Tuesday Morning, With the Church’s Blessing

As a Jesuit priest for more than two decades, the Rev. James Martin has bestowed thousands of blessings — on rosary beads, on babies, on homes, boats, and meals, on statues of saints, on the sick, on brides and on grooms.

Never before, though, was he permitted to bless a same-sex couple — not until Monday, when the pope said he would allow such blessings, an announcement that reverberated through the church.

On Tuesday morning, Damian Steidl Jack, 44, and his husband, Jason Steidl Jack, 38, stood before Father Martin in a living room on Manhattan’s West Side. The couple, running a bit late because of subway delays, dressed casually. Damian, a floral designer, complimented Father Martin on the pine smell of the Christmas tree.

In keeping with the Vatican’s admonition that such a blessing should not be performed with “any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding,” Father Martin wore no robes, and read from no text. There is no blessing for same-sex couples in the thick book of blessings published by the U.S. Conference of Bishops. Instead he selected a favorite of his own from the Old Testament.

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