From a reader…
At Mass yesterday, I saw an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion dispensing “blessings” for those in line who have not yet received their First Communion or were choosing simply to come up for a blessing. As my wife and I expect our first child, I’m concerned that other well-intentioned EMHCs will try to “bless” our child (especially later in the future, when our children walk up with us to bow before the Lord). Short of a Heisman Trophy stance or going to an “ordinary” minister, do you have suggestions, especially later when children are more independent and walking up there on their own?
In my opinion, when it is feasible, the best course of action for those who are not going to receive Holy Communion is for them to not come forward for Holy Communion.
Ideally, one parent can sit with the kids while the other goes forward, and when that parent returns, the other goes forward. As the children get older, they can be trusted to stay in the pew and behave themselves when Mom and Dad go forward to receive.
What makes this tough is the widespread practice of row-by-row Communion, almost enforced by draconian ushers… err, excuse me, hospitality ministers. We should end that practice. While it is orderly, it creates more problems (especially psychological pressure to go forward with everyone else – when you shouldn’t) than it solves.
The ever more widespread practice of “blessings” at the time for Holy Communion can seem like an unstoppable juggernaut. Fathers! Just stop! Add to this the flawed theology of blessings that we have thanks in no small part to the dreadful Book of ‘Blessings’ and we have some major confusion.
A hand on the child’s forehead might discourage a would-be blesser.
As you rightly note, these blessings are usually given by well-intentioned persons. Nothing evil is imparted by someone giving such a blessing. I don’t children need to be protected from them.
A simple bit of catechesis afterwards can help, too, “Now Doris, that man who traced a cross on your forehead is not a priest or deacon, so he didn’t actually bless you, but he meant well. He is confused. Do you want to pray for him?”
Side note… I had this from another reader:
From their youngest age we taught our children to form a cross with their fingers and hiss (as if warding off a vampire) if an EMHC tries to “bless” them. We’ve found that this gets the point across (excuse the pun), while causing only limited disruption in the Communion line.
I hope they don’t use the vampire-warding hiss when a layperson says, “God bless you,” after a sneeze. Seriously, I know the fellow who sent this and he was being jocular.