My friend Fr Zuhlsdorf put up a post on Blessing during Holy Communion in the UK it is something almost every priest does. It seems to have crept in from Anglicanism and now seems to be part of Catholic custom. I do it, I can't say I am too unhappy about it. At funerals especially, by offering the possibility of a blessing, it allows one offer an alternative to those who have estranged themselves from communion with the Church.
Is it correct? No, For several reasons:
- It is an addition to the Liturgy. The principle should be followed that "nothing is added and nothing taken away", the priest is the servant of the Liturgy not its master.
- The focus of the distribution of Holy Communion is Communion, giving the Body and Blood of Christ, it is wrong to turn attention from the Body of Christ to a priest giving his personal blessing to an individual.
- People are blessed collectively at the end of Mass, therefore it becomes a duplication, such duplications of a liturgical action should be always be avoided
Fr McNamara LC, the Zenit answerer of liturgical questions, suggested some time ago, that it might be appropriate to say some prayer over those who come for a blessing, that encourages communion, such as, "May the Lord soon bring you into full Communion".
The problem is not just a pastoral one, of finding some way of including the excluded but a deeper one of misunderstanding the meaning of "active participation", and people simply not understanding how to make a Spiritual Communion, if that is lacking then maybe even those who make an actual Communion fail to understand what should happen.
Then it could be that we have lost site of what a blessing actually is.