ASK FATHER: Why did Father skip blessing children at Communion?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

A priest blessing young children at mass, is it something that they should do? Is there a reason they would skip over a child? We had a homily today about the importance of blessing children and then our priest (this is a Novus Ordo parish, the closest TLM is 1.5 hours away) didn’t bless either of my younger children (my children were the only children at the mass). My husband who rarely comments of this sort of this made a comment, he actually noticed it before I did. I am guessing it’s not mandatory for priests to bless children who come up with their parents for communion, but I don’t know what the expectation/standard is. What is reasonable to expect from my priest?

My son noticed, he’s 5. He was walking in front of me, right behind his 8 year old brother. The priest reached over him to give me communion and then just went to the other people in the other line. We moved, and he skipped my daughter (who my husband was holding) and just gave my husband communion and then moved back to the other line.

I don’t want to read too much into it, I’m sure it’s nothing. It is just not sitting well with me so I’d like to understand fully what is proper. Thank you.

Yes, there is a good reason why a priest would “skip over” blessing children at Communion time.

It’s Communion time, not blessing time.  It is a counter-sign that cancels the significance of the Communion procession of the baptized.

Part of the problem with this practice is that it serves to reduce Mass to a sentimental moment.  People have to “get something”.  People want to feel “good”.   Some priests cave in under all of this.  Other priests just haven’t thought it through and they go along, without consideration of what the contradiction is.

There is a blessing at the end of Mass.  You can ask the priest for a blessing outside of Mass. Communion time is for Communion.

Let Communion time be Communion time.

PS: I know about the case of the priest being accused of something because he touched the head of a child when imparting a blessing.  It was all in public, etc.  Crazy stuff.  Crazy times.  There are now priests who are nearly afraid of children because of the nut jobs in their parishes.

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32 Responses to ASK FATHER: Why did Father skip blessing children at Communion?

  1. L. says:

    My mother believed in cleanliness, and did not like receiving communion from the same hand that had just been on top of a kid’s head when the Priest blessed him.

  2. MrsMacD says:

    “PS: I know about the case of the priest being accused of something because he touched the head of a child when imparting a blessing. It was all in public, etc. Crazy stuff. Crazy times. There are now priests who are nearly afraid of children because of the nut jobs in their parishes.”

    This breaks my heart on so many levels. In order for us to foster vocations the priests need to play with the children, talk to the children, listen to the children, so that the children grow up thinking being a priest is really cool and they want to be like him. Priests give up having children of their own but they can have some consolation in the fact that all of the children in their parish are in fact their children. My boys love children. I want them to be priests but I don’t want them to be seen as perverts when they love a child. I hate what evil men have done to the perception of the priesthood. God have mercy on us! St. John Bosco, pray for us!

  3. Pius Admirabilis says:

    Both priests at my FSSP parish bless children during Communion (be it the small Altar boys who haven’t gone to First Holy Communion yet, or the children of the christifideles). Honestly, I find it dreadful. So thank you for this article, since it perfectly reflects my own sentiments against blessing *anyone* during Communion.

  4. fishonthehill says:

    The image in this article of the person with crossed arms caught my attention, and reminded me of situation that once occurred in my parish.
    An adult came forward at communion and folded his arms in front of me and stood there, I attempted to place the host in the mouth, to which I got the head nod saying no. I was perplexed.
    The individual came up to me after Mass and said “you don’t know what that is?” I responded quickly, “Yes, the posture of the Orthodox and Uniates before reception of Communion.” Now he was confused. He said “I just wanted a blessing” well that’s what happens at the end of Mass.
    Communion lines are for the reception of Communion!

  5. tzabiega says:

    Thank you Father Z for answering the way you answered. My pre-First Communion children (except the very little ones who are liable to do mischief when we go to Communion) stay in the pew. But this phenomenon is mainly due to the “everyone goes to Communion” trend that unfortunately priests (liberal and not so liberal) have perpetuated in the U.S. for decades. In one parish (where the priest was actually a pro-life leader in the diocese who started Eucharistic Adoration and increased confession in his parish), at Sunday Mass the ushers were basically forcing everyone to go to the Communion line. I told my children to stay put, but everyone else went (even adults who did not want to go). I wonder how many people who wouldn’t have gone to Communion because of their sins went and, feeling ashamed in front of everyone else, received the Body and Bloody of Our Lord Jesus Christ not in the state of grace and committed sacrilege.

    By the way, in regards to blessings, I love the priests who will always give you a blessing after even having a conversation with you or after any dinner or outing with others. We need blessings from priests (and only priests, not lay people) as frequently as possible, only not at Communion.

  6. YoungPriest says:

    Well, there are other reasons priests do this… Some of us do it because we are young Associate Pastors and our (older) Pastors have told us we are to do it. Unfortunately we can’t fight every battle over every goofy practice. Not as an Associate…

    I don’t lay my hand on the kiddo’s head; who knows how clean their hair is, and I am using those same fingers to touch the Blessed Sacrament that will go in peoples mouths. I just kind of hold my hand over the kids and give a generic ‘may God bless and protect you’ type of blessing. If there is a group of kids, I do it once for the whole group. Some kids and even some parents look at me like I’m forgetting something by not touching each of their heads, but I just keep going. No one has ever complained to me or about me after Mass.

  7. hwriggles4 says:

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. I recall Sacramentum Caritatas covered some details on reception of Holy Communion. However, training by EMHC’s and guidelines from my own experience tend to vary from parish to parish.

    As far as showing affection, I am a CCD teacher. I will not hug any child these days (even a six year old who is a little upset) and it is sad that a teacher cannot pat a kid on the back to say “good job”. I have noticed today that good priests and well formed permanent deacons will often give a blessing without touching the person (Years ago when I was about 12 we had a parish priest who would sometimes greet female parishioners with a kiss – my mother didn’t like that – even though it was circa 1980).

    I do find it okay for a parent to take a baby or a four year old with them up to the communion line, but I don’t agree with 7 year olds receiving blessings (although I do find at some parishes kids are often asked to bring envelopes up during the offertory, and most of the time I have seen this the kids behave. )

  8. mcferran says:

    A well-known priest blogger recently posted that, “custom gains the force of law when it is practiced over a significant period of time (the current legislation allows for customs that have been in place for 30 years to obtain the force of law).”

  9. APX says:

    My pre-First Communion children (except the very little ones who are liable to do mischief when we go to Communion) stay in the pew.

    Thank-you. I wish more people did this, which was the practice at my parish growing up in the 90s. Our communion rail is frequently clogged up with large families consisting of only two or three people actually receiving communion, with another 5-8 children not needing to be there, meanwhile a long line up of people waiting to actually receive communion. I guess it gives the priest his daily exercise walking back and forth from one end to the next.

  10. Cincinnati Priest says:

    I wish our ordinaries would take Fr. Z’s sound advice and offer regulations to their priests regarding this practice (i.e. abrogate it).

    The blessing of people who want to feel “included” certainly interrupts the flow of the Communion procession. Couldn’t agree more with Fr. Z that this is about sentimentality, not correct theology.

    In our diocese,unfortunately, the ordinary approved a letter written by the worship office that authorizes extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to offer blessings during the Communion rite.

    It’s bad enough that priests are expected to interrupt the communion rite for blessings, but just plain wrong for EMsHC to do so.

    Not the worst of liturgical abuses around, but still one which should be corrected.

  11. Matthew says:

    I’ve often wondered if the same people stand in line at the bank to not cash a check, or stand in line at the post office to not mail a letter.

  12. MrsMacD says:

    @Mattew you know it’s not the same thing. A blessing is not nothing.

    Father Z, sometimes it is charity and not sentimentality. Enough people curse the children that wiggle and make noise at Mass, that it is necessary to counteract that with a blessing to maintain the peace. [Ummm… no.] Of course it should be the priest doing it all, this is his cross and gift, and our gift, that our Father feed us.

  13. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    “PS: I know about the case of the priest being accused of something because he touched the head of a child when imparting a blessing. It was all in public, etc. Crazy stuff. Crazy times. There are now priests who are nearly afraid of children because of the nut jobs in their parishes.”

    The diocese this commentator resides in has a “no touching” policy, apparently to prevent incidences like the one above described. Yeah, these are crazy times, so one has to protect oneself and one’s diocese from those crazy people, otherwise a diocese could wrongly be sued and be forced to close parishes. Unfortunately even the bishop in this diocese appears to ignore the no touching policy.

    At the same time, though, lots of people just don’t like to be touched, and it appears as though more than a few priests are willing to overstep boundaries. For example, I was praying a thanksgiving after Mass with my eyes closed one day when a priest came over and put his hand on my inner thigh and asked me a question. I had never spoken to the priest before. I keep to myself and go to Mass and chapels to pray.

    Think about that for a second – you are praying with your eyes closed and suddenly a priest approaches you and puts his hand on your inner thigh. That is why dioceses should rightly have no touching policies. It protects everyone in the long run.

  14. APX says:

    Enough people curse the children that wiggle and make noise at Mass,

    Not me. I look down on the parents who don’t parent their children. Children will be children and need their parents to step up to the plate. Do you know what it’s like to sit in a church at 6:45 am having heard Practically no sound for over 14 hours and all you hear is this loud child voice reverberating off of the empty pews for over a half hour while the parents just leave the child in the church throughout low Mass?

  15. Fr_Andrew says:

    @Matthew

    Your analogy is almost perfect.

    It’s more like a parent bringing their child into a bank to cash a check, and the teller not offering a lollipop, then people getting all flustered that the teller so uncharitible and unfeeling as to refuse to give children candy.

    @APX

    Children will be children and you will hear some fussing and misbehavior. Most good willed people will understand that a bit of fussing and cries will escape even a vigilant parent’s supervision.

    Parents need to be parents and as you say, correct and train the children. A few cries are par for the course. Running about, eating during Mass, talking, or fussing so it disturbs others without any effort to correct … those are inexcusable.

    @ MrsMacD

    Why not have Father turn around every time a child acts up and give an exor .. I mean, blessing? If we should interrupt Communion, why not the Canon, or the Offertory, or Gospel.

    How does a blessing at Communion time at all relate to or make up for the frustrations of others over the child’s bad behavior?

  16. APX says:

    Think about that for a second – you are praying with your eyes closed and suddenly a priest approaches you and puts his hand on your inner thigh. That is why dioceses should rightly have no touching policies. It protects everyone in the long run
    Any person who does that deserves to be reported for inappropriate touching. Common sense dictates that your hand doesn’t belong there.

  17. Deacon-X says:

    So how about a parish that uses Eucharistic ministers who then give blessings to those tots and people who cross their arms? Where is the authority at all for a blessing?

  18. un-ionized says:

    APX, I’ve been excoriated for telling people the practice used to be to have one parent stay home with the smallest children. I was told “I want my family with me,” as if they were at the movies. I was accused of being anti-life and told I didn’t know what it’s like to have a family. I was raised by wolves? With my brothers Romulus and Remus? Just nasty.

  19. Sword40 says:

    Just goes to show that the Novus Ordo has infected many people including priests.

  20. Lauren35 says:

    I have spent many a Mass in tears when parenting pushed me to the edge of sanity. At one particularly rough Mass, after a painful miscarriage and when my toddler was enjoying hearing her voice echo off the walls and would not yield to my attempts to quiet her, I carried her into the crying room and cried over my rosary beads, asking Our Lord and Lady for Their help…when my child proceeded to grab and break my 30 year old treasured rosary. I felt as broken as those beads. A failure as a mother. Like I didn’t belong there. I left the church building and sat on the steps, waiting for my husband and older children when Mass was over. A kind usher came to find me on those steps. He patted me on the shoulder, and with a smile he told me he remembered “those days,” and that it would get better.

    I will forever treasure that moment.

    May I kindly suggest that we all strive to bring a moment of beautiful grace to the parents in the pews. Their tired souls could use the support and understanding, believe me. We raise children for Heaven in a world that hates life and hates God. Please let our churches be our refuge from a hostile world. I’m sorry that my children can be loud and obnoxious sometimes. I am sorry that they disturb your prayer. Please, when they interrupt you, could you just say a little prayer for them? For the grace to be attentive to Mass, to grow to love Our Lord, to become the nuns who will pray for you and the priests who give you the Sacraments? Please, maybe throw in a tiny prayer for me if you can? I need it more than you know.

  21. Alice says:

    As a child, I was annoyed when blessings started to be common. By the time I was old enough to sit in the pew for a couple minutes while my parents went to Communion, I felt keenly what I was missing. Now, my own children will pitch a fit if they don’t get a Blessing. If priests wish to change this practice, which goes back before this parent’s First Communion, they need to speak up and explain why. I can explain to my angry child why we didn’t do the Gloria and that it will be back at Christmas or that we don’t sing “Alleluia” during Lent, but most people only know that they’re supposed to go up for a Blessing because Father said so. If Father is now going to change the rules, he needs to explain why. Otherwise, he commits the sin of silence!

  22. un-ionized says:

    APX, I was invited by one lovely family to remove my hearing aids. This is all just a result of the self-absorption of people who really don’t believe what the Mass is. A priest here recently wrote in the bulletin that it was wonderful when people complained of not being able to hear the homily, that it was like Jesus preaching. But we are not Protestants who go to church to hear a sermon and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Calvary. Not many toddlers were there. People are just clueless and insensitive and, the bottom line is, unbelieving.

    I’ve been accused of being anti-life and hating children. I give up in disgust. I don’t hate children, I hate YOUR children, ha ha.

    [Parents with small children walk a tough tight rope. It may be that little Stupor Mundi will quiet down in seconds. It may be a lot longer.
    Parents, I’m sure, would like to have the whole family together and, I’m sure, those who drive quite a distance for Mass can’t just leave the little ones at home. It is necessary for them to remember that the church isn’t their private family chapel and that other people are there as well.]

  23. un-ionized says:

    Fr. Z, I was told that it was common practice for one parent to stay home with the smallest children. That is what has fallen by the wayside with the new attitude. There has always been a dispensation for child care the same as for illness.

  24. rhhenry says:

    Yes to Lauren35’s ultimate paragraph, times a million.

    Lauren35, I’m praying for you.

  25. roma247 says:

    Un-ionized and APX,
    Nowhere in your comments did either of you mention something to the effect of, “when I was raising my children, we…” so I can’t help wondering whether in fact you did have children of your own. Most people who have suffered through the experience tend to be a bit more charitable than you are being.

    Perhaps I am wrong, and you both just forget how hard it was. Perhaps you have some concrete suggestions for young families about strategies they can use to help them, instead of just telling them to miss Mass because they are inconvenient to you.

    Father Z makes an important point in his response to you, that many families have to travel a long way to get to a solid traditional Mass, and they can’t very easily leave some at home. Moreover, I wonder how you expect children to learn how to behave at Mass, if they never attend.

    We have six children, all of them thankfully beyond those frustrating years. When our family made the transition from a lax parish that had a huge cry room full of kids that ran roughshod the whole time, to wanting our children to learn to pay attention, people were merciless to us. This was not due to a lack of parenting skills or the lack of an earnest desire to keep our children from disrupting your serene pleasure in the Mass–it was quite simply that there are only so many things a parent of several very young children can do within the context of the Mass to enforce perfect behavior, without merely encouraging a flare-up five minutes later when Junior’s latest distraction becomes tiresome.

    It is unforgiving folks like you that drive parents to bring things to Mass that DON’T BELONG THERE like cheerios and juice and any number of other paper or electronic distractions that pacify the children and temporarily keep them quiet, but end up teaching them the very opposite lesson of what they should be learning about the Mass: which is that it is a SACRIFICE.

    There will always be families that have no discipline with their children in or outside of Mass, and who expect everyone else to put up with Junior’s temper tantrums. But to lump those parents who really are doing their very utmost, and are already mortified about Junior’s latest end run past their ultimate efforts, with this sort of parent, is not only uncharitable but shameful.

    The reason we brought our children to Mass EVERY Sunday despite the exhaustion and tears it caused us, is not because we are self-absorbed and don’t believe in what the Mass is, but the precise opposite: the Mass is so important to us that neither we nor our children ought to miss it simply because one or more of them were toddlers and had not yet learned the skill of sitting still. We made the sacrifice to be there anyway and simply took turns taking them to the back of church to do our best to keep them quiet for you.

    But here’s something you also need to keep in mind: discipline requires setting expectations. A toddler’s job in life is to test those expectations constantly. Good parenting means that you must consistently enforce the expectations. (This is another reason why avoiding Mass will not fix the problem.) Therefore in order to reach the point where Junior understands the concept I WILL BE STILL AND QUIET AT MASS, the parent cannot give in and let the child do whatever they want as long as they are quiet. We took the children to the vestibule where their noise would be less disruptive and we refused to let them get down. Yep, if they wouldn’t sit still and be quiet, they got the clamp-down. We did not reward disruption with freedom. Mom will hold you no matter what, until you are ready to pipe down and go sit in the pew quietly. Don’t care if you don’t like it. It worked like a charm in the long term. In the short term, the resistance was huge and yes, sometimes noisy. For the sake of both your needs and mine, we underwent the short term pain for the long term reward.

    So yes, if there are children in the congregation you will have to expect that there will be some noise. There is no way around this. But would you rather have young families around who care enough to raise the next generation of Catholics, or would you rather have empty pews and parish closures? Because following your suggestions, we are more likely to have the latter.

  26. un-ionized says:

    Roma, I think APX and I are talking about those parishes which are so out of control due to constant cacaphony where the noise is constant and deafening. Not just one or two out of control children but ten or fifteen. And no, it isn’t a blessing that this is considered okay.

  27. un-ionized says:

    It should be noted that the dispensation for child care is there for a reason.

    [It’s really not a dispensation. Someone who is genuinely impeded has no obligation to be dispensed.]

  28. MrsJackson says:

    These comments, while not all the most charitable, are fantastically helpful/insightful for a new catholic and mother of young children. The blessing isn’t just advertised by the priest’s practices. While I was thinking about becoming catholic, well meaning catholic friends (cradle and convert) would tell me to go up to receive a blessing during communion. It was advertised as “the thing to do” and this was by conservative NO Catholic’s. As a new catholic I received very little formal education (I put myself through an online RCIA youtube class which while being very helpful, was youtube) and no one talked about the orans position (which many in my parish do – and it’s predominantly an aging population), or the blessings or anything particularly formal (bowing at particular times etc). Because my husband is a fallen away cradle catholic with horrifically poor catechesis we are both really learning together. I am grateful for this blog as I see these contradictions every mass I attend in our “conservative” (borderline mission) NO parish. You have to be really careful not to do things just because everyone else is and it’s very hard especially if you don’t know that there is another way. I am also grateful for the comments, even the ones which are less charitable, as they likely represent the thoughts and feelings of people present at my parish. It helps me have more compassion for where everyone is coming from, because even though I have young children, there are occasions where there are 4+ year old children making a ruckus and no one is piping them down or removing them (and I get upset, because we work so hard with our own children…albeit not always successfully…I forget that there could be things I don’t understand going on). God bless.

  29. Deacon-X says:

    God bless you, MrsJackson. Keep at it. You are there for a reason.

  30. TonyO says:

    I was told that it was common practice for one parent to stay home with the smallest children. That is what has fallen by the wayside with the new attitude. There has always been a dispensation for child care the same as for illness.

    It should be noted that the dispensation for child care is there for a reason.

    As Fr. Z says, there isn’t a “dispensation”. There is the common sense application of the rule.

    I disagree with the BASIC attitude of “don’t take 1 to 3-year olds to mass, one parent stay home with them.” It was a bad idea “back in the day”, and it still is, for the most part. (There are exceptions.)

    This was not due to a lack of parenting skills or the lack of an earnest desire to keep our children from disrupting your serene pleasure in the Mass–it was quite simply that there are only so many things a parent of several very young children can do within the context of the Mass to enforce perfect behavior, without merely encouraging a flare-up five minutes later when Junior’s latest distraction becomes tiresome.

    I’ve been there, got 6 of my own, had days when I spent more of mass outside with a toddler than inside. Once got a compliment that we “seemed to be able to snap our fingers at the kids with ‘different tones of voice’ ” to quell their various disorderly behaviors.

    But it is important to remember that that qualifying phrase “within the context of the Mass” can be a failure to think outside the (church) walls. For one thing, what are you doing to require the kids to learn to be quiet and still for a half-hour or 45 minutes APART from being at mass? Are you trying to train them – not on Sundays but other times – to get that there are “sit still and quiet” times? Also, use weekday mass. The kids can see a lot better, the immensely quieter ambiance will impress itself on 3-year olds at least, and you will find it easier to get out of the pew into the vestibule quickly and with less fuss. Also, practice makes perfect, and kids who get the training manual on a daily basis won’t forget “from week to week” like they tend to if the only time they are exposed the “it’s time to be quiet and still” is once a week for 45 minutes.

    Let’s admit that the (wrong) attitude of “don’t bring your kids to mass” came from somewhere: parents often are NOT doing everything they can to train the kids. Let’s also admit that the wrong attitude of “Christ said to “permit the children to come to me” so get off my back about how disruptive the kids are, kids make noise!” is insufficient also. There is a middle ground: take your kids, but be sensible about how their actions disrupt mass and respond promptly and with attention. TRAIN them. Yes, it takes time, but not forever. And if some of the time you spend most of mass outside or in the vestibule, that’s OK.

    For the truly exceptional circumstances (like a kid who is severely autistic and cannot be trained to be quiet, keeping them home may be right, but for normal squirmy and noisy children, training them in the ways of God means taking them to church and teaching them to be quiet, which means some failures along the way, but failures should get parental discipline, not a permissive shrug. So, here’s the admonition for those who are bothered by kids who are being disruptive and are not being dealt with: the other side of that coin is that you must be positively encouraging to parents who DO deal with their kids promptly and intelligently. Feedback works: if you want parents to deal with the little blighters, show that you appreciate it when they do.

    For those of you who are stuck in parishes where there are scads of noisy kids and parents not bothering to correct it: either complain to the pastor because he needs to “set the right tone”, and TEACH those parents what they are forgetting to do, or (if complaints don’t work) leave and go to a better parish. There are parishes with lots and lots of little kids but still plenty of peace and quiet: many traditional latin masses are like that. If they can do it, so can other parishes, it just needs to be made a priority. Frankly, I think that about every 4 years or so, nearly every pastor should be doing “remedial going to mass” preaching / teaching from the pulpit, taking 5 minutes out of the homily each Sunday, every Sunday for 3 months. To explain what the Mass really is, and how a Catholic truly “assists at Mass”, the true active participation intended by the VII Fathers, which is interior but flows into exterior posture, mien, behavior, preparation, and follow-up.

  31. Mr. Graves says:

    The age-old argument: For whom is Mass said? This little gem of a disagreement always divides normally sane people.

    FWIW, if thinking parents of young children should consider the welfare of others during the Mass (Can others concentrate on prayer? Can they hear the homily? Is Junior blabbering through the consecration without one step toward the crying room?) = being anti-life, well, sign me up for “anti-life.” When I was growing up (yes, when we walked to school both ways uphill with no shoes!), families were both larger and parents better behaved.

    Yes, parents.

    Kids will be kids, but if you brought them into the world and into the Mass, you’re where the buck stops. When someone says s/he “got a dirty look” during Mass (on the plane, in the restaurant, etc.), TRUST ME, it’s because the first dozen gentle reminders of proper etiquette were ignored.

  32. Mr. Graves says:

    As an aside: What is “charity” and “good will” in the context of the Mass? Why do we (and I include myself in this) assume that anyone who disagrees on this or other issues is being “uncharitable” — as the word is used several times in this post?

    I confess, my first thought about almost all Mass disruptors (e.g., the scantily clothed; noisy, chattering groups; the perpetual latecomers; parents of misbehaving children) is to interiorly think, “Ugh, how narcissistic and/or entitled.” It’s Bulverism, plain and simple. I have to consciously remind myself that — although some people think of Mass as their own personal playground — there *are* people of good will who simply don’t know better. I don’t know where charity (to wit: willing and doing the highest good of another — including those around you in Mass) comes in.