Here is a liturgical question that wound up in the ASK FATHER Question Box, which I moderate.
AFQB – The ASK FATHER Question Box: Liturgy, Music & The Seven Sacraments: Should they give blessings? By hermitmcdermit on Sunday, November 19, 2006 – 10:41 pm:
In our parish the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion give “blessings” to children not old enough to recieve, and to people in the line who do not receive Communion but come up for a blessing. A new Associate Pastor corrected a EMoHC and the Pastor got angry with him and said that lay people should be “included” in these types of liturgical actions. What is the truth concerning this practice?
By Fr. J.T. Zuhlsdorf (father_z) on Friday, December 01, 2006 – 9:20 am:
Anything that confuses the roles of lay people and priests (or deacons) should be avoided. While it is true that any person can ask God to bless anyone else, and while it is true that parents should bless their children, lay people cannot bless in the manner of priests. Lay people ought not do anything which resembles blessing in the manner of the priest, such as making the sign of the Cross over people as a priest would do.
To suggest that lay people bless in the manner of a priest reveals a lack of understanding of their roles and dignity. Many people think that for lay people to have “dignity” or “equality” in the Church, they must do things that pertain to the priest. Is this anything other than saying that lay people have no dignity of their own unless they are made to imitate priests?
This isn’t “inclusion”, this is a subtle form of condescension.
Another thing. This is my personal opinion, and I know a lot of priests have a different approach, but I don’t think the moment of Holy Communion is the proper time to give blessings. There is nothing wrong with blessings. Blessings are good! However, in the sacred action of the Mass, there are times for things in proper order. Communion time is for Communion. The old adage is “ubi maior, minor cessat… where the greater things is, the lesser thing gives way.” At the end of Mass the priest imparts the blessing. That is the time for blessing people during Mass.
The bottom line is that anything confusing the roles of laity and priests should be avoided. This is confusing the roles. This should be avoided.
I should add another note. In a way this might be a sad result of two factors, the elimination of a longer Eucharistic fast and row by row Communion.
Once upon a time, when the fast was longer, if a person stayed in the pew and didn’t not go forward for Communion, the reason could have been that he ate breakfast, or something. Now, the fast is so short (one hour before the time of Communion… not before the beginning of Mass), that there is barely any reason not to assume that the person is properly physically disposed. So, if he stays in the pew he must have committed a sin! Moreover, the row by row process of Communion puts head pressure on people. Everyone in the pew is to get up and go at the same time. While this is orderly, I think it “forces” people to go so as to not create an obstacle or to avoid embarassment. While Communion here is Italy can be a little disorganized, people chose the if and when to go forward. It is not obvious that you are refraining.
PS: I sure wish I could get a couple more solid priests who would help answering questions in the ASK FATHER Question Box!