I talked to our parish Director of Liturgy today about our 12 (!) Eucharistic Ministers who routinely bless children and adults. She informed me that this has been approved by our bishop, and then berated me for my lack of charity (apparently I don’t want little children to receive blessings).
She went on to say if the practice was wrong, then it is the Vatican’s fault for not letting the American bishops know. [So, anytime "the Vatican" is silent about some particular thing, it is permitted? That's just dumb.]
Should I pursue this by writing to the Vatican…at the risk of getting everyone in my parish mad at me?
It has been said that liturgists are raised up by God so that those who have not yet had the opportunity to suffer for the Faith may do so.
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. That’s bad. B-A-D.
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. This is the same as saying that lay people have no dignity of their own unless they imitate priests. That is a form of clerical condescension.
The moment of Holy Communion is NOT 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 their 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 is supposed to impart a blessing. That is the time for blessing people during Mass. Communion time for Communion. Blessing time for blessing.
Also, take a look at this good entry HERE, wherein many of the issues about blessings at Mass are covered.
In 2008, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments received a letter asking precisely this question. The congregation responded in a private reply with five observations on why this practice is not permitted.
That entry also deals with the issue of large numbers of unnecessary ministers of Communion.
If you wanted to write a respectful letter to the pastor of the parish or to the local bishop asking by what authority lay people are giving blessings in the manner of a priest at Holy Communion time, you might get an answer back, in writing. Save it and all correspondence on the matter. I have tips for writing to ecclesiastical authorities HERE.
UPDATE 25 Feb 16:49 GMT:
Over at his place, Rev. Mr. Kandra has chimed in:
[...] when confronted with a child (or sometimes an adult) who seeks a blessing instead of the Eucharist, I prefer this formula: “Receive Jesus in your heart”—which is not a blessing, but an admonition. It could be said by a priest, deacon or lay person. And it fits. [Fr. Z approves... provisionally... since there is no rubric about saying anything in that situation. Still, good approach.]
Until the faithful can be properly catechized on this, I don’t think flat-out refusing a blessing is helpful. It certainly doesn’t do much to advance the cause of evangelization.
But meantime: EMHCs (and for that matter, deacons) have no business blessing anyone during Mass.