What does it mean for an article of devotion to be “properly blessed” as stated in the Enchiridion of Indulgences? Many of our sacramentals have been blessed by priests or deacons, and two by bishops (my daughter’s crucifix and an icon of Christ Pantocrator). However, only a handful were blessed according to a given formula. Most (including the two by bishops) were generally blessed with a quick sign of the cross and perhaps a brief off-the-cuff prayer. I have no doubt they are blessed, but I do wonder what the Enchiridion means by “properly” blessed and whether this has any bearing on indulgences.
The Latin says: “N. 15 – Christifidelis indulgentiam consequi valet si devote utitur aliquo ex sequentibus pietatis obiectis, rite benedicto: nempe crucifixo vel cruce, corona, scapulari, numismate.”
In the concession in the Enchiridion, I sense that “rite benedicto” probably means something along the lines of “blessed by a priest or bishop” rather than “once touched to a relic or the tomb of a saint or dipped in Lourdes water, or waved with kisses at the Pope’s receding back”, etc. Get my meaning?
The key here is “rite benedicto“. The adverb “properly” is used to render the Latin adverb “rite“. Properly is “fitting, suitably” and “according to the circumstances”, etc. Rite is the same, but deeper. You will see the connection of rite with “rites” and “ritual”. Rite is properly insofar as it also has reference to the fitting way of doing things according to the rites that are prescribed. Latin rite is, literally, “according to religious ceremonies or observances” and “in the usual way, manner, or fashion; according to custom or usage” and again, “especially in the manner or form prescribed by law, legally, formally, solemnly”.
In English we might say something along the lines of “we built a bridge” or “we built a proper bridge”, as in the Bridge Over The River Kwai. Of course the irony there, is that it wasn’t at all a proper bridge, from the get go. But that’s one way: doing the job well (in the movie they did a bad job well, a job that ought not to have been done at all).
A “proper” cuppa involves hotting the pot, having the right amount of tea, etc., rather than dipping a bag. Are both products cups of tea? Sure they are. One is arguably better than the other.
However, with devotional objects which are sacramentals by the blessings they received, we are into a whole other level of proper. We have to have due respect for the sacredness of the devotional object and respect for the beauty and dignity and needs of the souls of those who use them.
It is possible for a priest to bless something on the fly, as for example many times when, caught by a visitor in St. Peter’s Square as I flew off to an appointment, asked me to bless a Rosary, saying with intent and the sign of the Cross, “Benedictus benedicat!… May the Blessed One bless this!”, as I learned from my old boss the late great Card. Mayer.
Those things were properly blessed, in that they were truly blessed, but not properly blessed in the better sense of duly, what is owed on a deeper level, Latin rite. Even in audiences with Pope’s, when at the end he gives the blessing with the intention of blessing objects, he gives the Apostolic Benediction, with the responses as so forth. There is some due rite in there.
There are blessings for many things designated by the Church, in the Rituale Romanum, as good ways to bless objects. The Rituale was intended as a model for local books, but it is hard to improve on for what it is. Of course it can’t cover every possible thing, so it also includes a Blessing for All Things.
I think that there are levels of rite, but they ought to involve ritual. Even when I blessed on the fly, I would stop and do what I did slowly and with obvious intent. Otherwise, the prepared priest – semper paratus – gets out his stole and holy water, if he has it (the blessing for a Rosary does not call for holy water, by the way) and says the designated (proper) prayers. I have an app on my phone that has many of the common blessings and, just as priests would do well to memorize a Mass formulary in view of their future incarceration, priests would do well to memorize the Blessing for All Things.
Rite benedicto… implies that a thing is truly blessed. When I blessed things even on the fly, they were truly blessed. However, that rite goes farther than just up to the edge of efficacy. It involves proper and due rites, rites which are owed to the meaning of the moment.
This is part of the problem with the Novus Ordo, isn’t it? Utilitarianism… the reduction of rites to the minimum for efficacy.
We should all strive against that minimizing attitude.
One of the things that I do in the parish in the announcements is tell people that it they have objects to be blessed, to bring them to the sacristy directly after Mass where I will bless them. We use the proper prayers in the Rituale and holy water when needed and do it right. When we are done, there is no doubt in the person’s mind that these things were properly blessed.
Father, bishops, when blessing, when possible, do it right (rite). Put on the stole you no doubt carry and say the prayers which you have memorized or have on a card in your wallet, etc. Make a bit of a deal out of it, even if it isn’t a huge deal or a big deal.
And, please, Fathers, if people ask for a blessing for themselves, don’t ramble or struggle to recreate the wheel as if what you come up with is meaningful. Just use the good old formula. Please?
Lastly, yes, you can gain the indulgence using an object that was truly blessed, even if not very ritually blessed.