Yet another weird anomaly for our Modernist parish is having laity assist the priest in blessing throats on St. Blaise’s Feast. The laymen make no “Sign of the Cross” at least, merely place the candles across the throat and repeat the prayer. Is it efficacious? I suppose NOT. And no, the priest and/or bishop will automatically dismiss complaints as “pharisaical”.
I have written about this before.
Traditionally this is unthinkable.
Thus, I don’t know what a “blessing” from a layperson does. I don’t have to wonder much what a blessing from a priest does, all things being equal.
The problem here the theology of the new, uselessly innovative, Book of Blessings, [HAH!] in Latin De Benedictionibus. In its preliminary comments, the BoB departs from the Church’s perennial understanding of blessings and their distinction as constitutive (making something a blessed thing) and invocative (calling down God’s blessing).
In the BoB (which ought to be eradicated, extirpated, eliminated, exterminated) we find a difference in what priests or deacons do and what all laypeople:
PRAYER OF BLESSING
1647 A minister who is a priest or deacon touches the throat of each person with the crossed candles and says the prayer of blessing. Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. [The “+” indicates that the priest or deacon makes the sign of the Cross.]
Each person responds: Amen.
During the blessing suitable psalms or other suitable songs may be sung.
1648 A lay minister touches the throat of each person with the crossed candles and, without making the sign of the cross, says the prayer of blessing. Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Each person responds: Amen.
1649 After receiving the blessing each person may depart.
1650 If all cannot be blessed individually, a minister who is a priest or deacon, without candles, may extend his hands over the assembly and say the prayer of blessing. A lay minister says the prayer proper to lay ministers without making the sign of the cross.
Other than the fact that the priest makes the sign of the Cross, or extending a hand, does this look different? No.
BTW… The Book of Blessings (may it soon be trashed, deracinated, expunged, abolished, ) says that “an acolyte or reader [lector] who by formal institution has this special office in the Church is rightly preferred over another layperson as the minister designated at the discretion of the local Ordinary to impart certain blessings” (18, d). So, some sense of hierarchy even among the laity remains.
Something is different. It’s just not easy to put one’s finger on it.
On the one hand, anyone can ask God at anytime to pour His blessings down on anyone or anything. When a priest does that, however, as a man whose soul has been ontologically conformed to Christ the High Priest, who acts in persona Christi capitis, something else happens than when a lay person does it. What is that “something else”?
First, I think it has to do with our assurance that the petition for blessing has been heard. In an analogous way, though this limps, we can all earnestly pray to God to forgive our sins and we hope God will do so. We can even tell a friend about our problems and receive consolation and advice. Great! On the other hand, in sacramental confession, when the priest gives you absolution, you don’t have to wonder if your sins are forgiven.
It must be noted that the Rituale Romanum indicated that a lector (in the older sense, not the installed modern lector) could bless bread and first fruits… and he wasn’t ordained as either a deacon or a priest! So, apparently Major Orders are necessary for some blessings.
That said, lay people are baptized, which means that they participate in the priesthood of Christ, though not in the way that priests and bishops do.
Laypeople have vocations which, frankly, call on them to call down blessings!
I have especially in mind the duty of a father to bless his own children. In the ancient Church, catechists would bless catechumens (cf. Traditio apostolica). There is clearly a hierarchical distinction that must be observed: If a priest is present, the priest should give blessings before a deacon would, or layperson. Keep that in mind in the family home: the father, head of the family, should begin the meal blessing. If, however, a priest is your guest, he should do it.
Continuing on my point about the call of lay people to bless, CCC 1669 says:
Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; [However…] the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).
So, we come back to the question about the Blessing of Throats for St. Blaise.
Does the St. Blaise blessing have much to do with the ecclesial and sacramental life of the Church? I don’t think so.
In the final analysis, we have to accept that the efficacy of blessings depends on the authority and authoritative prayers of the Church.
Furthermore, the efficacy of the blessing must rely in large part on the will, disposition and desire of the recipient. What is received is received according to the mode, manner, capacity of the one receiving it.
IMPORTANT: The St. Blaise Day blessing isn’t efficacious because of the candles. This isn’t magic.
In sum, there is a difference between what Father does and what lay people do, even when imparting the St. Blaise blessing. I think Holy Orders matters.
What that difference is…. I don’t know.
But … if it were up to me … I’d pass by the laywoman and get into the priest’s line.