Comfort Prayer Shawl Program
Comfort shawls, lap blankets and pocket shawls are given to patients and family members in the Medical Center, employees, and members of the community who are experiencing a difficult time and are in need of comfort and healing. They may also be given in celebration. There are no specific criteria and the shawls are given to let the receivers know they are not alone and to provide them with a sense of God’s peace and healing. The mantles, made by volunteers from area churches and the community as well as by St. Vincent’s staff members, are created with prayers, good intentions and hopes woven into their fabric and have been blessed prior to their distribution.
These presentations of shawls have become moments of deep joy for both presenters and recipients, sometimes in the midst of loss or great sadness. Every time patients or people in need receive a shawl, a prayer is said to remind them that it is meant as a hope for God’s love, peace and healing to embrace them. Shawl recipients can feel the love, concern and empathy of those who created the beautiful mantles, and they remain wonderful sources of comfort throughout their ordeals and beyond.
The mantles become a private sanctuary, a way to feel God’s presence and a way to bless someone.
For those making these mantles, the rewards are many. The process becomes a way to find quite time for self-reflection, to engage in a spiritual practice, and to give a part of one’s self to others.
Shawls, Lap Blankets, Caps and Pocket Shawls
In addition to comfort shawls, volunteers also knit or crochet lap blankets, comfort caps for chemo patients and caps for infants in our nursery.
Volunteers also create Pocket Shawls, typically about 2 ½ x 3 1/3” for families of patients who are critically ill or who have passed away to carry in their pockets as a remembrance.
Shawl makers have freedom to create items of various sizes, colors and patterns.
St. Vincent’s currently has more than 350 volunteers from the community and among staff and their families who create these items and donate them to the program.
If you wish to have a comfort shawl presented to a patient, or if you wish to donate shawls to St. Vincent’s, please contact the Pastoral Care Office at 203-576-5110.
How to Make a Shawl
These shawls should be treated in a respectful and reverent manner. While you are making them, please do not subject them to odors or fragrances (smoke, perfume, etc.). Be sure your hands are clean when you work on them and that they are stored in a dry, clean place.
The Significance of Three's
We've all heard people say that “things happen in three's.” In the Christian faith tradition, the number three, symbolized by the Trinity (Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer), has come to mean wholeness. It is said that the number 3 is used 523 times in Scripture.
Many phases of life happen in combinations of three: child/adult/senior, maiden/mother/crone, as well as past/present/future; and some people believe in the combination of birth/death/rebirth, or the 3 acts of existence birth/life/death/ We've all heard of the concept of body/mind/spirit, which encompasses the physical, mental and spiritual make up of a human being; and we have been encouraged to live and act in faith/hope/charity.
According to the Chinese, three is a perfect number. It is also the sacred number of the women in Mayan. Egyptians see it as the number of the cosmos. From the Buddhist tradition, come “The Triple Gem” or “The Three Jewels,” which is the Buddha (the enlightened one), the Dhamma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community of followers). In general; there are 3 primary colors with which it is possible to obtain all the colors; there are 3 keys of music: sol, F, and C; the three divine principles: light, heat, and life; three types of universe: matter, astral (mental or soul) and spirit; and the earth, sea, and sky of nature.
The 3-stitch seed pattern was selected as symbolic of planting peace, healing, love, comfort and hope.
This is a basic list of colors and some of the attributes associated with them. It might be helpful to use it as a guideline when you're selecting a color for your shawl.
RED – love, strength, warmth, energy, vigor, courage
PINK – compassion, sensitivity, warm-heartedness, nurturing
ORANGE – vitality, strength
YELLOW – optimism, well-being
GREEN – healing, hope, renewal, confidence, life
AQUA – courage
BLUE – healing, meditation, tranquility, spirituality
INDIGO – spiritual nature
VIOLET – spirituality, comfort during grief or mourning
PURPLE – spirituality,
BEIGE – optimism
WHITE – protection, peace, purity
Beginning to Knit Dedication
(adapted from www.shawlministry.com)
(You may want to light a candle for this prayer)
Mantle of Love, Healer of Hearts,
As we begin, we ask a blessing from all who have come before us;
whose hands have been instruments of creation and beauty;
who have used humble tools and hand-spun wool in order to provide cover and warmth
for themselves and those they loved;
who have felt, as we will feel, the yarn in their fingers;
who have seen, as we will see, the growth of the fabric;
who have heard, as we will hear, the click of the needles.
Guide our attention to stay on course.
Hold us close and ground us.
Bless, also, this yarn and these knitting needles.
May any negative energy connected to them be cast away as we cast on;
and all positive energy bound in as we bind off.
In their simplicity, may we find comfort and solace.
Bless our hands...
often just appendages at the end of our arms...
workers doing their job without appreciation...looked at, yet not really seen.
These instruments of love have done mundane tasks, yet also create beauty,
they reach out, touch, stroke, scrub, lift, grasp, gestures and guide.
These hands, our hands, gifts of great importance,
blessing be on them and in them as we begin.
May the fruits of their labor be good!
For more information on how to incorporate prayer and deepen the spiritual dimension of the Comfort Shawl Ministry, please visit the Prayer Shawl Ministry website.