Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Blessing at Communion

Should blessings be given to those unable to receive Holy Communion? is an interesting question; as an old Liberal, for me, in the Extraodinary Form there seems to be less of a problem than in the Ordinary Form. In the EF the priest makes the sign of the Cross over those who present themselves for Holy Communion with the Sacred Host saying, "May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul to eternal Life", if the communicant puts out their tongue he gives them Holy Communion.
In the Ordinary Form he holds up the Sacred Host and says, "Corpus Christi" and the communicant responds, "Amen" and either the priest places the Host on their tongue or in there hand. Introducing a blessing for non-communicants is a rite that is not part of the Liturgy and a rite introduced on the priest's own initiative, which of course he is not supposed to.

Joe Shaw reproduces the extract of a letter from the CDW:

(Protocol No. 930/08/L) dated Nov. 22, 2008, sent in response to a private query and signed by Father Anthony Ward, SM, undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
The letter said that "this matter is presently under the attentive study of the Congregation," so "for the present, this dicastery wishes to limit itself to the following observations": 
"1. The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments subsequent to the distribution of Holy Communion.
"2. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).
"3. Furthermore, the laying on of a hand or hands — which has its own sacramental significance, inappropriate here — by those distributing Holy Communion, in substitution for its reception, is to be explicitly discouraged.
"4. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio n. 84, 'forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry'. To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.
"5. In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church's discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin)."
Interesting, eh?


Fr Simon Henry said...

If I had a pound for every time this rule had been broken I would be able to buy up the Vatican Museum. It's not like a venial sin that we fall into through lack of attention, like losing your temper or falling into gossip but rather a deliberate policy to ignore what the Church teaches in about this. It may seem, on the surface, a "pastoral" thing to do but the Church has 2,000 years of pastral experience that has led Her to decide otherwise. Mother knows best!

paul said...

What about children too young to have made their First Communion?

Fr. A;M. said...

Yes, it is interesting Father. I must say I personally do not have a problem with the blessing of infants and small children. If an adult presented him/herself for a blessing at Holy Communion, then it might be pastorally better to impart a blessing rather than cause a commotion at the altar rail. However if the Church states categorically that no blessings (whatsoever ?) maybe given, then all priests should comply.

Flabellum said...

My practice is to silently make a sign of the cross with the host, but I fear even that oversteps the Church's norms described by Fr Ward. However just about every bishop in the E&W hierarchy seems to positively encourage the blessings Fr Ward deprecates.

Jacobi said...

Seems clear to me. The blessing is given to all at the end of the Mass, full stop.

Any additional blessings are irrelevant (including those to children ). To do so is simply pandering, but more importantly it confuses the understanding of the concept of blessing.

A simple explanation of this from the pulpit might be in order!

JARay said...

This widespread practice is going to be very, very difficult to discontinue. I am firmly of the opinion that there must be a clear prohibition from the Vatican regarding this, otherwise it will never stop.
Do not think that this practice only operates in the UK. Yesterday morning my PP called on the teachers to come forward and bless those children from their classes who had not yet made their first Communion!!!!
The children came into Church from their school which is part of the total complex which we have, of a Church, a school, a convent and an aged care facility all on the same site....and there's a presbytery too.
He, the PP that is, is a nice chap but he really doesn't know a thing about what is licit or illicit. He just operates as a really NICE chap. He's young and just can't say "No".

Lynda said...

The time for receiving Holy Communion at Mass is just that - it is not the time for attending to any other matter, or for taking one's focus off the Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, even for a moment. A person could receive a blessing from the priest after Mass or at some other time. A blessing is not a consolation prize for those who may not receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.

savio said...

Dear Father Blake
The time for a blessing from the Priest is surely not at the moment when the faithful approaches the altar rails to receive Communion. Further at the end of Mass the Priest gives a full formal blessing before the dismissal I suspect this new practice is another post Vatican II novelty.

The catechism teaches that to receive the Blessed Sacrament worthily it is required that we be in a state of grace, and fasting as appropriate.

A Catholic not in a state of grace would know not to approach the altar rails at Communion time.

mike hurcum said...

The Council of Trent tells us unequivocally we should not receive communion unless we have made a Sacramental Confession. Pius the tenth or ninth tells us those who communicate daily should confess daily (Again sacramentally). A priest told me he did it (gave) the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to a manifest sinner to avoid scandal. Another writing in the local Diocesan Rag," If you are in the line up to receive communion and you remember mortal sin keep going and receive else you may cause others to sin through scandal.

georgem said...

It's one of those all-must-have-prizes practices that will be very difficult to discontinue because "the people" like it. I noticed that even the Archbishop of Westminster was a practitioner of the laying on of hands at his inaugural Mass, to the extent of grabbing one person by the arm during the distribution of Holy Communion.
I'm fairly relaxed about a simple sign of the cross but uneasy when I see a priest touching the heads of non-recipients with his sanctified fingers before retrieving the next Host. On those occasions I don't receive, which is more often than I would wish.
A few more homilies/sermons on the meaning of the state of grace rather than the usual feel-good peace'n'justice fare, which often amount to little more than being nice to one another, wouldn't come amiss.

Richard said...

If this was "under the attentive study of the Congregation" in 2008, how many years is it before we might expect a decision and an announcement?

Fr. A.M. said...

A question :Can anyone remember the priest 'blessing' babes-in-arms etc. at the communion rail before vat. II ?

amwmilner said...

The late bishop Michael Evans also wondered about whether a blessing was appropriate at this point, and our own liturgy office I believe was uneasy. Given coming forward at that time is in some sense an act of spiritual communion, Bishop Evans solution was to use a phrase like "may you grow in communion with our Lord Jesus Christ" and this is my practice.

Fr. Tony Milner

Physiocrat said...

This practice seems to have popped up out of nowhere somewhere in the early 1990s, beginning with children. Someone must have given an instruction about it.

It needs to be gently discouraged, probably by the priest pointing out that is unnecessary since everyone receives communion at the end.

It would also be beneficial if the reception of communion was more tightly linked to confession, by pointing out that one is still in communion even if one remains in one's place, kneeling with the right spiritual disposition.

Daily communion only with daily confession? The difficulty here is "Same old sins, Father".

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the priest should make the sign of the cross with the Host.It is a distraction to see the priest halt the giving of Holy Communion to pat people on the head and grinningly mutter a blessing. The trouble is that a sizeable number of the congregation are not able to receive- either not being Catholic or in an irregular relationship. What is worrying to me as an EMHC is that I am asked to give a blessing. I have only done it once and felt overcome -so now I give the chalice only. Lindi

Peter said...

The Diocese of Portsmouth guidelines for Lay Ministers of Holy Communion states:
15. Giving a blessing
A lay minister may always give a blessing to someone not receiving communion who requests one. A suitable gesture of blessing should be used - e.g. a hand placed on the shoulder or held over the head (but not touching it, for reasons of
hygiene) - accompanied by an appropriate form of words – e.g. “May almighty God bless you and give you peace.” Ministers should not make the sign of the cross over, or in front of, communicants receiving a blessing, and especially not when holding a host.