QUAERITUR: priests not blessing children at Communion

I got a question by e-mail:

I’m a new subscriber to your blog, so naturally I thought of you after a recent conversation with our parochial vicar. He does not give blessings to children during communion. When my 3 year old asked why he didn’t receive a blessing Fr. M said (and I’m paraphrasing), that by not touching him, he "does not get host crumbs on your skin." I can respect the rationale behind his decision.

But when I asked, "why not just motion the sign of the cross and bless them?" He claimed that, "technically priests are not supposed to give multiple blessings during mass – that the blessing at dismissal should be the only one." This brought my next question, "then why do you place the host in parishioners hands (our family receives by mouth, but we are the minority), since the crumbs are bound to spill – not to mention all of the disastrous possibilities of giving someone the host?" He replied, "I know, and I feel strongly that people should receive in the mouth."

I felt a bit let down. I’m not sure if I should be offended – he won’t bless kids but he’ll place the host in someone’s hands. Why not stand up then and insist that parishioners at his mass receive only by mouth (since he’s calling the shots anyway). I probably wouldn’t be all worked up about it if it wasn’t for our other pastor and eucharistic ministers who DO bless the children.

What is your take on blessing children?

First, the people who help distribute Communion are not "Eucharistic Ministers".  They are "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion".   But let’s move on.

The priest is correct is saying that the moment for blessing people, other than the deacon about the read the Gospel, is at the end of Holy Mass.  You yourself referred to this moment saying: "He does not give blessings to children during communion".

Communion time is for just that… Communion.

I wonder sometimes about this practice.  

Perhaps it evolved because people were going forward who knew they shouldn’t receive, but were embarassed not to go foward.  Getting rid of row by row Communion would help with that, as would reviving the three hour Eucharistic fast.

Perhaps it evolved because children fussed that "they didn’t get something too".  So, people came up with something for them to get.  That of course would have come from parents always bringing all their children forward.  

Once upon a time it might have been that many people could more easily get to Mass even by walking, and mom could watch the kids while dad went to Mass, and vice versa.  So.. there weren’t as many small children at Mass.  With the advent of travelling across town to a Mass you "like", parents have to bring their children along… everyone goes to Mass and… well… you see.

I think people should ask priests for blessings… outside of Holy Mass.  Holy Mass ends with the priest’s blessing, in the proper moment. 


Let Communion time be Communion time.

Finally, I think the priest’s argument was not very good: I don’t bless because of particles of the Host… etc..  But then he gives Communion in the hand.

Two things.  First, it is an unhappy fact that the law allows people to receive in the hand.  Father may not deny them Communion simply because they stick their hands out, unless there is danger of profanation.

However, nothing in the rubrics of Mass or the Church’s laws say that priests should give a blessing at Communion.

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  1. quint1 says:

    But there is a blessing during Communion or am I wrong? The priest makes the sign of cross with the host towards the communicant and says: “Corpus Domini nostri Iesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam.” What’s that, if not a blessing? So if every communicant is blessed, why not bless the children?

  2. John Enright says:

    I must be a little behind the times, although I thought I was current with contemporary liturgical practices. I’m from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed this Communion “blessing.” In my view, the only people who should approach the altar during Communion are those that intend to receive the Holy Eucharist. I don’t think the Priests and/or Deacons should be required to multitask so that attendees feel fulfilled.

  3. James Garrison says:

    I’ve always wondered about this too. Notwithstanding any legal arguments for or against, I do not mind the practice of a priest offering a blessing to a child, especially when it is spontaneous (a young baby in its mother’s arms, for instance). The thing that irks me is when lay Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion offer such blessings. They don’t, as I understand, have the faculties or ability to offer a blessing in that sense. Of course anyone can pray for the blessing of God to come upon someone, but the Priest or Deacon, due to their ontology, can effect a blessing in a different way.

    (CCC 1669) 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; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).

    Last time I checked, communion time concerns the sacramental life quite a bit.

  4. TNCath says:

    This “blessing the kids at Communion” custom also extends to those adults who are not receiving Holy Communion for whatever reason (non-Catholics, those Catholics who are not in “a state of grace”. Often these folks get into the Communion line and, upon reaching the priest, cross their arms to receive a blessing. I think this is all part of the mistaken understanding of “full, active participation” that has been the bane of liturgy since Vatican II.

    In our diocese, we have a priest who literally calls the Mass to a halt at the Sign of Peace to invite any children present who have not made their First Communion to come up to the altar where he gives them a holy card, medal, or other religious good to the delight of many and to the groans of few who know better. This, of course, draws all kinds of “ooos and ahhs” from the congregation to see Father being so kind to the children. Unfortunately, anyone who might challenge this doesn’t have a chance lest you be labeled and ridiculed as heartless and insensitive to children.

  5. RichR says:

    I understand the reasoning of both the priest and Fr.Z., and I consider myself a traditionalist. However, this is the one practice that has cropped up in recent times that I am not against – and that is for one reason – ushering people out of the pews.

    In other countries, people just get up and go to Communion when they feel ready. It’s very disorganized, and you never know who’s gone and who hasn’t because it’s not single-file. This may be chaotic, but it allows those who choose not to go to Communion to have a certain anonymity.

    In this country, there is tremendous pressure to get up and receive. If you stay behind, you can feel the eyes boring into the back of your head – especially since most people don’t understand about receiving unworthily. You really stick out and draw attention to yourself. Yes, you can say, “Better to be ashamed than commit a sacrelige!”, but there is also the fact that you should not have to reveal the state of your soul to the whole public. Blessings at Communion, at least in this country, provide a charitable way for people to avoid the public shame.

    In other countries, they don’t have to deal with this. So it is not as big an issue. Here in the USA, we need to see what the greater good is instead of being too legalistic.

    If you want to be a hardliner about it, then you should discourage ushering people at Communion time. I know priests who do this for precisely this reason.

  6. Fr. BJ says:

    As an associate pastor I am not the one to instruct the people on why we should not give blessings in the communion line when the pastor does not see it to be a problem. Besides, this is one of those “lesser issues” that I would not address until I had addressed many other far more important things, were I the pastor.

    For that reason, I give blessings in the communion line. However, I do not trace a sign of the cross on the forehead like some priests do, precisely because I do not want to leave particles of the Blessed Sacrament on some kid’s head. So I just make a regular blessing in the air and everyone seems to be happy with that. (I do, by the way, occasionally remind the people that they need to check their hands for particles after receiving that way…)

    Some day I will be in a position to address this matter, that is, after addressing many other far more important and pressing things. Let’s face it, blessings in the communion line are fairly innocuous compared to some of the liturgical abuses that are taking place regularly. I was just thinking the other day that the first thing I might do when I get to a parish is change the lock on the tabernacle, hide the new key, and then have all who fashion themselves in any way as EMHCs or “ministers to the sick” in for a “back to basics” meeting. Lots of work needed!

  7. Jack007 says:

    Quint1: Well, you don’t want to open a can of worms…I think the blessing you refer to is part of the “third Confiteor”; a source of much debate on this blog. [No. It’s not.]

    As far as the blessing of children at communion, I never saw this practice until the late 60’s and early ’70s, always by younger priests. I suspect it may be a post VII custom.

    Having said that, I have concluded that this is a GOOD practice, especially for young children. Why? Because I have seen the effects it has on them. They LOVE to approach the communion rail with their parents and older siblings. They become accustomed to the piety of kneeling with their arms crossed (the custom in our FSSP parish) and receive Father’s blessing. It gives them a sense of what is to come when they get a little older and are able to partake of the Sacrament. Why relegate them to Mom back in the pew, or just to kneel at the rail and watch while only “older” people “do something”?

    I might also add that there are other side effects as well. It NEVER fails that a first time visitor to our TLM will remark about it. Believe it or not, there are plenty of modern Catholics who have little or no concept of getting a blessing from a priest, other than, “Hey, Mass must be finally over. He’s doing the blessing thing.”
    In addition, the non Catholics eagerly studying the Faith and discerning have remarked to me about feeling moved towards holiness and virtue after kneeling and receiving a PERSONAL blessing; not to mention the “awe” at being so close to those “receiving God”.

    I can see how a priest might get a little tunnel vision about the rubrics etc., but from the “view in the pew”, the custom of these blessings at communion is a good one. Most FSSP priests that I have seen have the custom. I applaud them, and that’s coming from someone who wishes they had never reformed the Missale pre 1947!
    Jack in KC

  8. dominic1962 says:

    I too think that ushering people during Communion time is a bad idea, however, I don’t see what the big deal is with not going up for Communion. There are a number of reasons for not going that do not invole some seedy, sinful doings and people should not assume that someone is a horrid sinner because they do not go up for Communion. I always figure, first of all, that it is none of my business anyway but if I do start to wonder I will assume that they broke the fast, aren’t Catholic or already went to a number of Masses.

    Maybe I’m thinking with my Trad-cap on, but I don’t see the big deal or shame factor. For instance, I went to 5 Sunday Masses this weekend at my assigned (I’m a seminarian) parish and, obviously, remained seated for most of them. With a cassock on, you’re much more visible than the usual layman. In all reality, most people won’t even see who goes and who doesn’t because they’re simply not paying attention to that.

  9. Peterk says:

    “Once upon a time it might have been that many people could more easily get to Mass even by walking, and mom could watch the kids while dad went to Mass, and vice versa. ”

    I grew up on the cusp of Vatican II, and I can remember the days before I received my First Communion when I would sit respectfully in the pew while my parents went up for Communion. no blessings and if you were non-Catholic you stayed in the Pew.

    so much of what I see in non-Trad parishes just reeks of Protestantism

  10. Ben D. says:

    Father, I’m wondering if I understood you correctly; it sounds like you said that it’s a good thing for small children to stay at home and parents to hear mass separately. I think this is something to be avoided when possible. Obviously it’s necessary at times (sick child, whatever)… but Catholic couples who are following the Church’s teachings and have no health problems are likely to have small children at home for decades. That’s a long time to be going to mass separately. [That’s a long false conclusion from what I wrote. Read carefully please.]

    Plus it deprives the children of the riches of the liturgy. The other day my two-year-old “elevated” his cereal bowl at breakfast and said “This is my body”. Future priest? That would be lovely. At any rate it’s a great blessing that those sounds and images are in his imagination already at so young an age.

  11. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    Here is a radical solution to the problem–

    Abolish the communion of the faithful (and holmily/sermon) DURING MASS, returning to the nineteenth century practice of the Communion Rite outside Mass with sermon either very early on Sunday/Holy Day morning or later in the afternoon for Catholics who desire to receive the Eucharist.

    Yes, I know that conditions and emphases have changed since the pontificate of St. Pius X, but this would clean up quite a bit of nonsense as well as shift some emphases back into a sounder direction.

  12. mao now says:

    I have seen the custom of blessing babies and children at Mass in both ehe OF and EF. I thought it was A practice that had been around since “back in the day”. seems harmless enough… But what I do see at the OF that is disturbing is EMHC’s or Eucharistic ministers/ministeresses…(more of the latter) or whatever they are called. I see these LAY people giving blessings! AS NIF I would jujst as soon my dog Spot put his paw on my forehead as one of these misguided people. It would probably be more efficacious…LOL

  13. Larry says:

    Fr. Z,
    I am not too clear on exactly when you think that the kids were left at home wiht one parent while the other went. I never heard of such a bunch of … The Church has always and everywhere encouraged parents to bring their children to Mass. Good grief!
    While there is no rubric to say no to the blessing there is also no rubric to forbid it. In point of fact at the TLM I attend the children do in fact go to the Communion Rail and kneel and receive a blessing! Oh my goodness!!!! Is God mocked because the children are blessed? Seems to me Jesus had an oped on this and I remember He rather enjoyed giving His blessing. But then He is God and not just a priest. Or are you allowed only so many and then you ain’t got no more? I don’t think so.

  14. Quanta Cura says:

    Fr. Z,
    I love this post. Here in the diocese of Fresno Ca., I was told by a Pastor that the diocese likes a lot of blessings so that is why everyone comes forward at communion for a blessing, a blessing, from the Priest, or the Deacon and yes even the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist give blessing to people who approach them. Maybe you could answer Father, but I was instructed the only lay person who can actually convey a blessing is a parent blessing a child.
    I usually attend the Extraordinary Form and it is a rarity to see anyone approach the rail with their arm crossed or other nonsensical gestures. You are either prepares for communion or you are not. If you are not, prepare for the next time. Usher going row by row for “chow line” communion calls is another disgrace you rarely see in the Extraordinary Form.
    Sadly these abuses have gone on so long the average person in the pew knows nothing else. Many of these abuses can be traced to Cardinal Mahoney’s annual festival of dissent in Los Angeles. I have seen abuse after abuse brought back by catechists and catholic schoolteachers who have attended the dissent fest at the expense of the parish and always at the expense of souls.

  15. Carolina Geo says:

    I know of at least one priest who not only actively encourages Catholics who aren’t receiving the Eucharist to come forward for a blessing but who also actively encourages non-Catholics to do the same thing. This, to me, smacks of ecumenism run amok.

  16. Ray from MN says:


    In the 1950’s it was extremely common for one parent to stay home with infants while the other went to Mass with the older children. By the time I was old enough to baby sit, the youngest was no longer an infant.

    At the height of the baby boom, can you imagine what it would have been like in a church without a “crying room”, the norm in those days?

  17. Tom Lanter says:

    Fr. Z.
    I agree with the Prochial Vicker in this instance, he would be placing sacred crumbs on the babies when he touched them during a blessing. Secondly there is the issue of hygiene. What lurks on the heads of these little guys? Would we permit those preparing our food to touch many heads as they work? I don’t think so. The Church has not instructed our priest to give this hands on blessing. Do the red.

    Tom Lanter

  18. When the priest blesses those who do not receive Communion while holding the Body of the Lord in his hands, he makes a countersign to the presence of the Lord in the Sacrament Who gives the perfect blessing Himself by being sacramentally present.

    If the pastor and the people insist on a blessing then I ask the child to make the sign of the Cross to receive the blessing which the Lord Himself gives them through His sacramental presence. If necessary, I will make the sign of the Cross myself to show them how to do it.

    Many, many of your young people and adults do not know how to make the sign of the Cross and this provides an opportunity for catechesis on the Eucharistic Presence and the Sign of the Cross.

  19. It is a practice at Assumption Grotto in Detroit. I’ve seen Fr. Perrone and, really, all of the priests doing this.

    I’ll have to watch in the future for something I’m curious about though: Does the altar boy shift the paten under the hand of the priest? Or, is the priest doing the Sign over the ciborium? I know that it is not a wide cross, but a very narrow one. I’ve just never paid attention to how they would ensure that no particles fall in the process, or at least fall onto the paten or back into the ciborium.

  20. Terry says:

    The absolute worst is when Extraordinary Ministers give their blessing to kids and adults who are not able to receive… it is not a blessing. Where did that come from? It is nothing and has nothing to do with the sacrament. It reminds me of school sports and competitions where everyone is a winner and everyone gets their special notice.

  21. dymphna says:

    This all comes from the dorky “go up with the crossed arms and get your goody” actions that started up in the 70s. As for the kids it certainly does them no harm to realize early that the whole world doesn’t revolve around them.

  22. Gerry Scheid says:

    Blessings and Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers

    Canon 1169
    1. Persons who possess the episcopal character as well as presbyters to whom it is permitted by law or by legitimate concession can validly perform consecrations and dedications.
    2. Any presbyter can impart blessings, except those which are reserved to the Roman Pontiff or to bishops.
    3. A deacon can impart only those blessings which are expressly permitted to him by law.

    A blessing is a good conferred by a higher personage on a lower personage. All true blessings ultimately come from God, though they come through those whom He has placed over others. In the family parents bless their children, as God has given them natural authority over their children. In the Church spiritual blessings are conferred in God’s Name by those to whom He has given spiritual authority over His People. As is evident by the above, blessings are given by priests (who have the power of the keys), though some are reserved to bishops (high priests). Deacons may also bless, but only where the ritual books, and thus the Church, provide the authority by law. Since the laity do not possess spiritual authority in the Church they cannot confer blessings. The laity can impose some sacramentals (ashes, St. Blaise blessing), but using objects previously blessed by the ordained.

    So, the blessing of anyone by an EME at Communion time is a vain gesture, which does nothing for the recipient. Furthermore, by a gesture which suggests priestly authority in a sacramental setting, it confuses the role of the laity and the ordained minister, something prohibited by the Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests.
    Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

  23. Gerry Scheid says:

    Last week, I recd while I held my baby as i turned to walk back another extraordinary Eucharistic minister stepped out of his place to ‘bless’ my baby since i guess he saw the minister whom I recd from did not?


  24. Sorry, but I could never, ever, in the communion line or at the rail, refuse a blessing to someone, child or adult how was expecting it. Even in the womb — which a mother was obviously requesting for her child today at our Gregorain Chant Mass.

  25. RichR says:

    I would ask people this question:

    What is your solution? Seriously?

    As long as we are requiring people to be ushered up in pews, we are creating this situation where souls are put on display. They must endure the scrutiny of uncatechized eyes in parishes that simply do not understand the concept of “Confession before Communion.”

    Do you stop ushering pew by pew?

    Do you teach people to assume the best of individuals? (eg. they broke the fast, not that they are in a state of grave sin)

    You can’t just tell people to stop asking for a blessing and expect them to “suck it up” in the pews. That is uncharitable to those who should not have to face public shame. This is a problem created by the American tendency to keep things orderly (thus, the “pew by pew” issue).

    I say, if you aren’t going to get rid of ushering pew by pew, then deal with the fact that people are going to ask for blessings. At least they are trying to avoid sacrelige while saving face.

    Sorry to be so adamant about this, but I see it as a natural solution to an American problem. People who are against it should offer a solution instead of a complaint.

    I understand the whole “EMHC’s shouldn’t be giving blessings,” and I totally agree, but I don’t see priests or bishops offering a solution, either.

    What would you do?

    This is a great forum to discuss this because many will see it and think about it.

    I’m all ears.

  26. dcs says:

    so much of what I see in non-Trad parishes just reeks of Protestantism

    Surely Protestants are not blessing people with the Sign of the Cross!

    Anyway, I have seen trad priests bless children at the altar rail as well. My son has gotten quite a few blessings this way.

    Leaving children in the pew is an option if they’re a bit older (like 5 or 6), but not so with the little ones.

  27. Fr W says:

    Interesting discussion.
    I consider myself faithful in every rubric I can find (except for signs of the cross before receiving Communion – because the Pope now does it) – but I now realize that I DO bless the children! So I guess I’m a lib! I don’t touch them for the reason given by the priest. Maybe I am out of line, but – maybe its a true organic development! :) Why do I do it? Its been a custom in parishes I’ve been in, but more – I am always ‘talking up’ having babies, and this is a simple way for parents to see that I mean it: I love their children. On the Feast of the Holy Family, when I asked them to consider more children, I said ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have homilies drowned out again by crying children!’

  28. Kat says:

    How about some general civility by the laity. I was actually asked this Sunday by a woman sitting next to me why I didn’t go up to receive. How is it anyone’s business?

  29. carl says:

    I’m very much in the traditional vein, but I think the blessing of children is a great good. I am godfather to my best friend’s baby, and she [the mother] isn’t Catholic. She will go to Mass with me occasionally though, and she makes sure I take Yalena, when I go for communion, to be blessed. Perhaps she sees everyone else doing this with their kids, and is just trying to fit in, but I do think she realizes that it is a good and wants it for her child. I feel very good taking Yalena to be blessed; it seems to me I’ve done a good thing for her as her godfather, by taking her to get that blessing. In my mind, the practise demonstrates to non-Christians and separated brethren the importance of a blessing bestowed by someone in Orders. Father, am I just waxing nostalgic and focusing too much on feelings? Ought I just accept that this isn’t in the rubrics, and quit doing it?

  30. vexilla regis says:

    Reverend Dear Fr Z,
    The post by Gerry Scheid is spot on. The great Archbishop Chaput has written very sensitively but firmly on this same point. It is a pity that so many get carried away by “niceness” and “cuteness” at the expense of principle, which they are generally not accustomed to considering.

  31. Gil Wright says:

    Hmmmm. Interesting discussion. Here (in Australia), there are specific occasions where parishioners are *invited* to come up for a blessing. In particular, when children are receiving a sacrament (first communion, baptism, confirmation), the parents are encouraged to front up with their kids and to cross their arms if they are not Catholic. The *priest* then blesses them and the people in the congregation are none the wiser (they can’t see if the parent was blessed or given communion). This was put in place as an alternative to non-Catholics receiving communion. It works most of the time.
    As mentioned by at least one person above, I like the way it encourages children to be actively part of what is happening (instead of wiggling in the pew) and in the case of my kids it encouraged them to look forward to receiving communion in the future.
    Finally I heard a very strong protest about *blessing* by non-priests (and non-deacons) from a priest before the WYD mass. The practice (right or wrong) in my parish is that the priest may *bless* but the acolyte / EHMC simply places a hand near the person and says something like “Jesus loves you” – not really a blessing.

  32. Folks: I think discussion of this is good, so long as it remains measured and respectful.

    Also, among the various things which may not be strictly by the book… this is about the least worrisome to me.

  33. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Well, this option certainly gives a priest the opportunity to give Pelosi a blessing when she next presents herself for Communion…

  34. John says:

    Regardless of whether or not priests should give blessings during communion, and they shouldn’t. The Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist absolutely should NOT give blessings, ever.

  35. Melody says:

    While I agree that a blessing by non-priests is atrocious, I have to agree that blessing non-communicants at mass carries much good. Ideally, at the communion rail without EMCs.

    Firstly, as others have mentioned it helps maintain anonymity.
    Second, it teaches children the proper postures and reverence for the reception of the Holy Eucharist, and makes them long to receive themselves.

    What I have not seen mentioned yet is the spiritual benefit of the blessing. When I am in a state of mortal sin and receive a blessing rather than the Host, it gives me a interior consolation that helps me to approach the priest later for confession.

    Like Father W, many priests of my acquaintance give the blessing but do not actually touch anyone.

  36. JM says:

    Just curious, but what does Father mean by “row by row” communion, and what is the alternative? At both the OF and EF masses I attend, at two different churches, the pews empty row by row, meaning the communicants form a line, each row taking a spot in the line behind the row in front of them. Is this row by row communion? How else do you form a communion line?

  37. As long as we have EMHCs I am firmly convinced the various abuses that crop up will never be resolved. The system as we have it it is inherently susceptible to spinning out of control.

    Priests spend at least four years in formation before they are considered prepared to dispense the Eucharist and celebrate the liturgy in comparison with a few minutes spent preparing the laity to handle the Body and Blood of the Lord.

  38. Tina in Ashburn says:

    There is a certain charm and generosity associated with receiving a blessing at Commuion-time. But I think it is odd. And the practice can get out of hand. I am under the impression that it is forbidden in our diocese of Arlington, so these blessings are never given in the two parishes I attend here.

    I raised my son in the Byzantine rite where he was baptized/confirmed. When he was an infant-in-arms, and well before the age of reason, he was given Communion Itself. Better than a blessing!

    After a point, he stayed in the pew. And so did I – when I was little, I sat in the pew along with all the other little kids in the church.

    When one is finally allowed to approach the Sanctuary, it is with a definite purpose of receiving. How much more special and reverent this makes it all.

    Up to about 50 years ago, perhaps approaching the Sanctuary was much less common? Approaching the Sanctuary related to receiving a Sacrament: Confirmation, marriage, Communion, etc. Nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be any prohibition for anybody to be in the Sanctuary, including women and laity. Maybe this is coloring our thinking in the vein of “everybody get up and participate!”

    Is it better to focus on Holy Communion at Communion-time? Just a couple of weekends ago, the priest chased down a ‘communicant’ into the pews and demanded back the sacred Host which this person did not intend to consume. It occurs to me that every focus needs to be on the reverent distribution of Holy Communion at Communion-time.

    A priestly blessing is a gift and we should seek it often.

    None of this is a big deal, but my discomfort comes from it being a departure from the past. Perhaps irrelevant.

    Wm. Christopher Hoag: what an interesting tidbit on the Communion Rite. Gee whiz, how our practices have changed. This was also before our era of frequent Communion when it was more common to receive once a year, correct?

  39. BTW – As far as I can recollect, the bishops have asked that there be no clearing of pews by the ushers at Communion.

  40. The irony of these “blessing-mad” EMHCs is that the “blessing” they give to the children is exactly the same “blessing” that any parent or lay person could give to the children, so why be so fraught or neurotic about it? It is certainly innapropriate while holding the ciborium with the Body of the Lord to abandon one’s place of giving communion to go chasing after a parent with child who didn’t get a “faux” blessing from another EMHC.

    Why doesn’t someone clear the air and properly instruct everyone involved? It is a great disservice to leave these folk in ignorance!

    Again, a formation and education issue that our laity are not equipped to handle although their good intentions are certainly never in question

  41. Limbo says:

    Confusion reigns,

    Is there any official direction on this matter.

  42. Maynardus says:

    “…the ‘blessing’ they give to the children is exactly the same ‘blessing’ that any parent or lay person could give to the children…”

    I am on vacation in the wilds of Vermont without any sort of reference materials but I am fairly certain that the only “blessing” that a layman can impart is that of a parent to HIS OWN children.

    We stopped attending the new rite (it wasn’t called the “Ordinary Form” then) when our first child was about 18 mos. Four children later I have noticed that it is almost ubiquitous for priests at the E.F. to give blessings at the rail to younger children and hence my younger ones *expect* this through no fault of their own.

    I cannot say what my reaction would be if I atteended the O.F. and some E.M.E. attempted to “bless” one of my children. Knowing my own intolerance for fools I’d rather not speculate on what it might be.

  43. tradone says:

    It brings to mind the purpose of the priest holding his thumbs and index fingers together from consecration until after communion. How can touching and waving the hand around for a blessing be appropriate? I have seen the host in hand and waved above the head of a child walking away from the priest and countless other idiotic manuevers.
    This is how liturgical abuses begin and continue. So I vote NO! Everyone can receive their blessing at the end of Mass, like it is as I follow the Mass in my 1954 & 1962 approved missal.

  44. tradone says:

    Father Z,
    I really can’t believe this doesn’t bother you.

    [I think I made my position clear.]

  45. Maynardus – You say, “I am on vacation in the wilds of Vermont without any sort of reference materials but I am fairly certain that the only ‘blessing’ that a layman can impart is that of a parent to HIS OWN children.”

    I think we are in agreement? You may recall that in the Baptism rite the parents and godparents are invited to make the sing of the Cross on the forehead of the child to be baptized. Heartily encouraged.

    Happy vacation.

  46. BTW – Another case where, if I understand correctly, the bishops have asked that blessings during the rite of Communion cease but general disobedience reigns and priests who do NOT bless are sometimes “corrected” and, in so many words, told to bless those parents who present their children in the communion procession for a blessing.

    The situation continues because those in leadership simply do not present the teaching of the bishops on the matter and encourage compliance.

    These days it’s liturgical “whack-a-mole”. Disorder and mayhem.

  47. Dave Wells says:

    Fr Z, thank you for this discussion. I have often gone forward for a “blessing” if I am not prepared to receive Communion. Like many others, I do it because I don’t want to call attention to myself by sitting in the pew while the rest of my family goes up for Communion, and I don’t want to receive unworthily. I always present myself to the priest or deacon, unless there is not one available in my “line”. (I do wish the Church would abolish EMHC, even though I am one!).

    An interesting practice in the Eastern Rite is the giving of the antidoron, after Communion. Everyone goes up – even children – to receive the leftover bread from which the Lamb (used for the consecration) has been taken. I’m not sure how this practice developed, but it does serve a spiritual need for those unable to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. Obviously, I don’t think this would work in the Latin Rite, but I tend to think of our practice of “altar blessings” as somewhat analgous.

  48. Felix says:

    I suggest that there is an essential problem with this practice – tat it leads to people equating the reception of Holy Communion with receiving a blessing. It’s a case of how you pray affects how you believe.

    And, if we look to the source of the practice, it seems to be a case of sentimentality. It’s sweet that the kiddies also go up, just like Mommy and Daddy. But the result is that they will place less importance on the on when they also start to receive Communion.

  49. carl says:

    I don’t think receiving a blessing is equated with receiving Communion through this practise. Adults who choose to go up for a blessing see this as a second-best. You know you can’t receive Communion, for whatever reason, so you want to get a blessing instead. It differs from abuses such as priests giving children cookies, or lollipops, or what-have-you, at Communion time, because this is a spiritual good, while those are material. It is much harder to equate what looks like bread with a blessing than with some other form of food. If parents are catechizing their children well, instructing them why they can’t take Communion yet, and why blessings are second-best, then their placing less importance on Communion when they do get to receive it is much less likely to happen. This practise could even be used to emphasize the Real Presence; parents could encourage their children to accompany them simply because they can get them excited about having such close proximity to Jesus in the Eucharist.

  50. IngoB says:

    When I go up to the communion, I’m taking my three year old along. No, mum doesn’t go to Church – would you prefer me to leave the little one at home with her on Sundays? (BTW, mum was literally belted to church when young. There are many ways of destroying faith, not just “liberal neglect”.) Am I supposed to leave him in the pews, or not receive myself?

    Now, I always line up where the priest or deacon stands when I have my son with me. Because I know that nothing more delights them than to give my son a blessing. This is Germany, Europe. I’m already an exception because my hair is not gray, but outside of “social” occasions there are few or no kids in church (and this is a big church in a sizable town).

    I take a bit less time than two adults with receiving myself and having my son blessed. He likes this part a lot (otherwise mass is not that interesting to three year olds, frankly). The priest or deacon loves it. If other people notice at all, they smile.

    If this really is an “abuse” of the law, then the law simply needs some changing. There really is no disrespect to God, His people or their liturgy in all of this. It’s fine to defend the law against abuse, but if you do it without discernment, then you end up with the Pharisees.


  51. Rob says:

    How does ushering and pew-by-pew progression ‘force’ anyone to approach the altar?

    The usher comes to your pew. If you intend to receive, you get up and join the line. If you don’t intend to receive, you stay in your seat (or get up, let folks out, and resume your seat). I’ve seen a few odd things, but I can’t recall ever seeing ushers force people to join the line.

    In my experience, if you don’t have a priest distributing communion by going back and forth along the rail (and a deep enough space between the front pew and the altar rail), having a simple, orderly routine of what pews go up (using ushers, if necessary) is preferable. Otherwise, you have the chaos of ‘cattle call’.

    Currently, our parish is consigned to an abyssmal ‘lower Church’ for Mass. It’s a relic of the ‘glory days’ when our urban neighborhood was densely populated, overwhelmingly Catholic, and those Catholics attended Mass regularly. People were (on average) skinnier, too, in the old days. So, we’re in a space with cramped pews and narrow aisles, where moving gracefully is a challenge (actually, moving at all, I’ve been contemplating dropping a dime to the Fire Dept. inspector).

    …And – the space is only tenously accessible to the handicapped, but that’s another gripe for another day…

  52. Fr. Angel says:

    Fr. Z:

    When you mention that Communion time is for Communion, you enunciate a simple but extremely important liturgical principle. That is a moment of special intimacy between the priest and our Eucharistic Lord. The priest’s task is to focus on the Blessed Sacrament and nothing else. Like every other liturgical action, it is meant to teach without words and is meant to keep a simple focus without accretions of new words and new gestures being added.

    Any addition of any blessing means the priest must put the Host back in the ciborium and now focus on someone needing an attention for something different.

    As the liturgical action of giving Communion has been practiced for 2,000 years, it is simple and to the point. You come to receive the Blessed Sacrament. You consume the Blessed Sacrament right there and return to your pew. If you are not prepared and are not receiving, you do not approach–for a blessing or anything else. Let the priest prayerfully focus on the Blessed Sacrament being given to the members of his flock who are receiving.

    Now, the priest gets confused by the weird things people do. Are they receiving? Do they just want a blessing? Do they want a cross with the hand? Do they want to have the cross traced on their forehead? All this time Jesus is laying there in the ciborium ignored as if He is just a cracker and some people could care less. The priest, at a moment when he must be serene and focused is confronted by people, and now has one more moment in the liturgy when he has to please people, indulge them, answer to them, assuage their ruffled feathers. It is ridiculous.

    It is one more example of something gimmicky being introduced into the liturgy but it is far more delicate because it often involves children. People take this personally now and get after the clergy because somehow this shows a rejection or dislike of children, or being mean or unfair to them.

    Guess what, this is not about children and making them feel good and they think this is neat or you think this is cute. This is about the Roman Rite being on trial before everyone’s feelings and sensitivities.

    What is pathetic about the whole matter is that the beautiful Missal of 1962 was hacked to pieces and numerous elements consigned to the dust bin because they were the “accretions” of ages and took away from the simplicity and “sign value” of liturgical actions. So, now what do we do with the 1969 Missal. We start adding accretions! At least the “old accretions” focused on God, adoring the Blessed Sacrament and begging forgiveness for our sins. The new accretions focus on “you better make the liturgy feel good for me and my kids or else!”

    And we get angry at the trads who call the New Mass the New Mess. I’m sorry–they are right on this one.

  53. don Jeffry says:

    I said Mass at a summer camp where parents were present with their children. I do not give the blessing for the same reasons stated by Tom Lantner.

    “…he would be placing sacred crumbs on the babies when he touched them during a blessing. Secondly there is the issue of hygiene. What lurks on the heads of these little guys? Would we permit those preparing our food to touch many heads as they work?”

    So, since it is permissible to bless outside of Mass, I invited all the children to come to me and I gave each one a blessing after Mass and all the children came and were happy. I really do not think it is right to risk picking up germs and then giving the next person in line Holy Communion.

  54. “Suffer the little children to come unto me”, as someone once said.
    It is simply mean-spirited for a priest to not give a blessing to a child brought to the Communion rail.

  55. sacerdos helveticus says:

    “…he would be placing sacred crumbs on the babies when he touched them during a blessing.”
    This is a silly argument!
    This can you avoid if you bless the children “pollicem et indicem non disiungens” what the rubrices of EF prescribe for the celebrant after consecration until purification.
    I have also seen in Switzerland or Germany priests of FSSPX who bless children/babies this way duront communion

  56. Dominican says:

    I went to the TLM in the 70’s-90’s almost daily. Father always blessed the small children who were carried up by mom or dad or holding onto them. It was always a quick blessing in the air sort of thing. Thumb and finger were always held together. I never saw this in a regular parish so I always assumed it was an old tradition that got “purged” after VII.
    Then I began to see teenagers and adults going up to the communion to receive a blessing. Found it rather odd.

    Children going up with mom or dad makes sense (security issues aside it takes a little tyke about 30 sec to get into trouble without mom or dad watching!)

    EMHC doing a blessing is odd EXCEPT not so long ago it was traditional in many Catholic countries for parents to give this same sort of blessing to their children.

    I think what we have here is a tradition brought over from Europe and now “Americanized” and no one rememberes where it came from or why it was done. At least here on the East coast we are just coming out of the “Ethnic” parish experience and so these customs are around–we just don’t remember why.

  57. Tom Seeker says:

    I am really frustrated to see priests defend their right to do what is not theirs to decide. Especially on this site where I know so many want to do what is right. The Liturgy belongs to the church, guided by the magesterium. Not to me, you or even the speaker of the house (joking!!). It could be suggested that this could be an issue of Pride.

    Please read:

    “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 22, repeated in documents like Sacram Liturgiam; Tres Abhinc Annos; CIC 841, 846; and many other laws and regulations). Deviations from the Order are illicit, and when done intentionally they’re a grave offense both against the Church and the faithful who have a right to an authentic liturgy (Inaestimabile Donum, CSDW, April 3, 1980).”

    Say the black – do the red. Purple means do what you feel like??? Note there is no purple. If this is something you want, then get the bishops in union with the Holy Father to agree to the change.

    I say this with all charity to those who like this practice. There are ways to make this licit. Until that time, it is illicit.

  58. With respect Tom Seeker, a priest blessing a small child held in its mom or dad’s arms at the communion rail, is not on par with liturgical abuses such as disco Masses etc.
    I presume you have no children yourself, based on your comments.

  59. Tina in Ashburn says:

    How does ushering and pew-by-pew progression ‘force’ anyone to approach the altar? – Rob

    I think what most here recognize is the force of the effect of the “group”, not that anyone is being manhandled and roughed up to get in line for Communion.

    Most people who stay behind at Communion feel obvious. An exaggerated example would be if the entire congregation got up and one person stayed in the pew. It would be pretty obvious that this person is not approaching the altar. Nobody likes to be singularly left out of the group. Although this doesn’t happen, anyone staying in the pew, feels like everyone sees them doing this.

    I really think this is how these Communion blessings got started here in the States.

    An excellent example is the school Mass where all the kids line up en masse to go to Communion. How many peer-pressure-sensitive kids have the fortitude to stay in their seat when everybody else is going to Communion?

    Here we have peer-pressure working to our disadvantage. Instead of feeling left out or being observed, and therefore staying away from sin so that we can leave our pew and receive, the effect has been turned into a reason to let everybody approach.

    FR ANGEL: I liked your argument.
    Tom Seeker: This is how I look at it too. Its not a rubric.

    I like kids! I like blessings! That’s not the point here. The question is, “is this the correct thing to do?”

  60. RichR says:

    What did people do in the old days? Were they ushered? Did people step all over their neighbors trying to get out of pews?

    Granted, the average level of catechesis was higher back then, and so there were probably more people who refrained from receiving pending their confession. However, nowadays, everyone receives, so the dynamics are changed.

    This, IMHO, is one of the many fruits of crumby CCD in the 80’s and 90’s, and it will not go away without intervention.

  61. Jenny says:

    “With the advent of travelling across town to a Mass you “like”, parents have to bring their children along…”

    Just a little quibble, but those of us who live in the South often have to travel 15-20 miles to the next town to attend the only Church around, whether or not we “like” that particular Mass. The neighborhood Catholic Church is just about non-existent in the South.

  62. I have a problem with people making the argument that “people will feel on display” or “awkward” if they remain in the pews. The time is “communion” and only those who are in full communion may receive Communion. Those who aren’t Catholic are not likely to feel “left out” since this isn’t their religion. Thus they should feel no shame. If they do, then they need to be catechized by their friends. Those who are in RCIA or haven’t made their first Communion yet know that they are working towards that first Communion, thus they should feel no shame. Those who are in the state of mortal sin … well, maybe they should feel a bit of shame or “left out” since they have willingly cut themselves off from the grace of God. Sometimes guilt can be good motivator to get to confession and make things right.
    I really believe that these “commuion blessings” allow people to persist in their state of sin since they don’t have to be embarassed and they get to go up and “get something” too. Doesn’t it seem odd that a priest is seen as giving his blessing to someone in sin?
    In some Eastern liturgies, right before Communion they proclaim “Holy things for the holy!”

  63. mpm says:


    In the old days people would just get up and move down to the altar rail. Some
    would dart out to be first, others would wait. There were no ushers, and not
    everyone went to Communion all the time.

    That, and as Fr. Z mentions, the longer fast, provided a “fig leaf”, so that one
    had no need to make an “excuse” why he didn’t go to Communion at that Mass.

  64. paul says:

    I think that blessing kids at mass who can’t go to communion, lay people lifting up hands in immitation of the priest, holding hands at the Our Father, and other inovations are perfect examples of people doing their own thing and trying to “improve” the liturgy. If people cant go to communion because they are not Catholic, in mortal sin, or have not made their first communion they should stay in their pews and pray. By staying in their pews they are giving a good example of humility and obedience to the Magesterium which has not authorized these changes. God Bless you all.

  65. Rob says:

    Tina – I couldn’t comment on Catholic grade school, as I went to public elementary and junior high school. I did go to Catholic High School (and on -campus Mass in college), and I seem to recall there were always some who did not present themselves for Communion – and never any comment or gossip or peer pressure on it.

    RichR – I guess I haven’t really seen it lately. At our usual parish Mass, on any given Sunday, as much as 1/4 or even 1/3 of the of-age congregation present at Mass might not present themselves for communion.

    The neighbors you need to step over to get out of your pew – that’s a newar-universal problem. There’s a few in every crowd, simply must have a seat on the aisle.

    Unfortunately, that’s not a problem at our usual Sunday Mass. We’re a bit thin on the land right now – each person can have their own pew.
    I had a refreshing change from that lately, though. I missed parish Mass due to travel, no wait… I overslept, that was it! Anyway, I went that evening instead to the nearby monastary of the Poor Clares, to their public Mass. In fact, I think they were in the midst of a 3-day mission leading up th the feast day. Their little chapel was packed out. When I came home, my wife asked me how it had gone. I told her it was fantastic and that it had far too long since I had practiced “elbow-to-elbow Catholicism”!

  66. Tom Seeker says:

    To communion rail:

    Have you ever broken apart the word assume?

    I have three children and have had the priviledge to serve the Novus Ordo, Extraordinary as well a the Byzantine rites. My sons have been Altar Boys since the age of reason as have I. The difference is that I understand that 1 mini abuse tied to another and that is what caused this whole issue. No – a blessing is not as bad as other abuses but we were asked about this one in specific. I made no assertions to rate it to any other abuse. It is, by definition, an abuse though.

    The liturgy is about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The time for blessings is spelled our in the GIRM. This document exists specifically to keep out church in synch. If we have some offering blessings and others not, have they been mistreated? If they are not union with Rome, then they are what?

    If you want a special blessing for your children, then simply do this:

    …wait for the words “mass is ended …go in peace” and wait patiently for the priest. Then it is simple, licit and good for all to say “father, may we have your blessing.” That is the appropriate time when it is about YOU. After we have changed and left the sacristy, we often ask father for a blessing and then go about our business. No abuses – and yet we still get our blessing. Imagine that…

  67. Fr. Angel says:

    Tina in Ashburn said: I like kids! I like blessings! That’s not the point here. The question is, “is this the correct thing to do?”

    Tina: Thank you for keeping the correct issue in focus.

    My family moved around a bit before settling in California. We lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, and then in Central California where we settled in the mid-70’s. We saw every kind of experimentation going on as the Pauline Missal was being implemented.

    At no time did we see children being blessed at Communion time. At no time were we invited forward for a blessing. It was not part of the liturgy. For some odd reason, what people did at Communion time, at the rail or in line, was go up and receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Odd, isn’t it? Communion time was simply Communion time.

    If we were not receiving, we stayed put and made a “spiritual communion” in the pew, understanding that “going up” was only for those prepared and in the state of grace.

    Little did we know that the Church at the time was so “mean-spirited” for not including us. It did not occur, was not even in the ballpark of our mindset, to go up after Mass and challenge the priest, either pastor or associate, “why did you not bless the children?” [Thanks for posting your sound common sense in this thread! – Fr. Z]

    It did not occur that we should advertise our state of mortal sin by going up and getting just a blessing (speaking of those of an older age group). It would have been sacrilegious to drag non-Catholics in the Communion line with us and demand that the priest “do something” for them.

    A principle of liturgy is to keep an action simple, without accretions, and presenting that “outward sign” that communicates the mystery which is interior to the sign. The liturgical action in the Communion line is that ultimate intimacy and union of the faithful with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. That intimacy, its importance, and the “sign value” are compromised when any further action is mixed in for the interest of some other group, and which is not directly related to receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

    As I said, “This is about the Roman Rite being on trial before everyone’s feelings and sensitivities.” How I wish people could get away from their feelings, their need to refer to an opposing opinion as “mean spirited,” and stick with the principles of the liturgy.

  68. Fr. Angel says:

    Tom Seeker said: …wait for the words “mass is ended …go in peace” and wait patiently for the priest. Then it is simple, licit and good for all to say “father, may we have your blessing.” That is the appropriate time when it is about YOU. After we have changed and left the sacristy, we often ask father for a blessing and then go about our business. No abuses – and yet we still get our blessing. Imagine that…

    Tom, this is an excellent idea. This is what the people do after the Mass in Spanish. They love to ask for blessings for their children, and since Mass is over there is plenty of opportunity for the many kids and babies who surround the priest. There are no complaints from parents, no challenging or standing up to the priest for having just offered Mass “saying the black, doing the red,” and both priest and faithful are happy.

    Oh, but wait. There is a problem. Your answer is not anti-clerical enough. It assumes too much respect for the clergy. It might even lead to excessive respect of liturgical guidelines over and above what I feel is sensitive and pastoral.

    No, second thought, your idea is too simple and easy a solution, which would resolve this question in the wrong way. Don’t you know it is so much more enjoyable to insist on getting that blessing at the Communion rail or in line, where we can get in the priest’s face and stick it to him again for pharisaically defending empty rules and then afterward have plenty of fodder for carping on some priests and the Church on blogs for how much they hate children?

  69. Michael J says:

    Fr. Angel

    While I agree largely with what you write, there are practical considerations that you have not addressed. I bring my two year old to the communion rail with me not to get a blessing, but instead because there is no way I could leave him behind in the pew.

  70. leutgeb says:

    Parents and children going to different Masses. It went like this every week.
    Early 1980s SE London.
    8.30 Mass Mum
    10.30 Mass Dad, me 10, brother 7,
    Meantime, Mum puts the Sunday lunch on, then when we get back(we had 1 car), returns to Church to teach children at non Catholic schools, returning at lunch-time.
    Baby brother at home all morning.

    That said, lots of children are at Mass from a very early age, behaving wonderfully, thanks to their parents.

    The regimentation of Communion lines just seems like an opportunity to give people who need a job something to do. Ushers just aren’t necessary at all, even in a very busy Cathedral. It’s not as if people are going to push or not give way to others, after all.

  71. jarhead462 says:

    Dominican said: “I went to the TLM in the 70’s-90’s almost daily. Father always blessed the small children who were carried up by mom or dad or holding onto them. It was always a quick blessing in the air sort of thing. Thumb and finger were always held together.”

    That is how my (ad orientem) Priest does it. In my parish, we thankfully have no one comming up with their arms crossed. the only children who come up that have not made their First Holy Communion, are the small children and babies being held by parents.

    As for not getting up for Communion, I cannot receive Communion due to the fact that I came back to the Church a couple of years ago, after I had been married to my wife (a Methodist) who has been divorced. Since we are going through the “anullment” process, and it may take a few years, I cannot receive our Blessed Lord.
    I personally feel this whole “intimidation to receive” stuff is a bunch of bunk. I sit front row, isle seat EVERY week and come time for Communion, I get up, let people exit the pew, and kneel back in my spot. If anyone asks me about it, I see it as a teaching opportunity, and explain as best I can about the proper disposition for receiving Our Lord. Also, I sometimes have to explain why I won’t hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer, as this occasionally comes up.

    Semper Fi!

  72. John Hudson says:

    I’ve seen plenty of traditional priests give blessings to children during communion. They keep finger and thumb firmly together, and touch the child’s head with the side of the hand. It never struck me as problematic, and with finger and thumb together there is no more possibility of fragments of host being dropped or transferred than with any other gesture that the priest makes between consecration and ablution.

    That said, I think this is something that should be reserved for children. In the long period at which I attended Mass as an adult catechumen before being received into the Church, I did not go up to receive a blessing during communion. But it seems to me that there is a benefit in families going *as families* to communion, and the youngest members can develop an appreciation for the difference between blessing and communion and of the proper attitude in which we approach our Lord in the Sacrament.

  73. Fr. Angel says:

    Michael J:
    I instruct parents that only children who will receive kneel at the rail. The children who will not receive stand slightly to the side or in back of their parents. No one complains and it works fine.

    John Hudson: You stated, “I think this is something that should be reserved for children.” And so we now get into the murkey waters that this innovation causes us to wade through. From an adult who likes the blessing could come the question, “who gives you the right to restrict this to children? In my parish adults are blessed too.” What if people come to the rail and notice that a particular priest did not bless the children, even in your “approvable” method? Some will stay to challenge the priest, no matter how much you catechize that the priest does not have to do this, because as one writer put it here, not blessing the child is “mean-spirited.” What of the Novus Ordo children who very rarely have catechesis? I will tell you from experience. They say, “I would rather get the blessing than the bread, because my mom says I have to confess and I hate confessing.” Other children, who started First Communion preparation but have delayed will look at the Host and say, “I don’t what that! Give me a blessing.” The Novus Ordo adults have the same lack of catechesis and are just as clueless. Even when RCIA is finished they will skip confession, and not feel bad, because they still go up the aisle and “feel good” when they get their blessing. The whole blessing thing has no rubric(s) but no matter how clueless people are, when they don’t get what they want by way of their blessing, they don’t hesitate to show their disgust. How nice, how beautiful, that such a moment is the cause of disgust and confrontation with the priest who would have rather just gone down to give the Body of the Lord and not deal with the fights that people pick because now the liturgy always has to cater and indulge.

  74. Father John Horgan says:

    When I was growing up in Boston in the 1960s and 70s, many “traditional” priests blessed infants in their mother’s arms at Communion time by touching their three fingers to the top of the baby’s head, with thumb and index finger closed, as per the old rubrics. They did not make the Sign of the Cross, they simply touched, with a silent smile. They told me that this was a long-standing pious custom — to touch the babe with the hand that consecrates, but not with the fingers that actually held the Sacred Host. It was a way of bringing the little one into a kind of “spiritual Communion ” through the consecrated hands of the priest. As such, it seemed a beautiful pious gesture. After my ordination in 1986, numerous “traddy” priest friends, old and young, encouraged me to do the same.

    As a priest, i found the practice widely used in my Archdiocese, which is known to be the most conservative in Canada. The reasons have perhaps changed and now include diverse situations: non-Catholic spouses at Mass; non-Catholic students at Catholic school Masses; catechumens in the last stages of RCIA, etc. When offered as an option by the priest together with the reminder that only practicing and prepared Catholics can receive the Eucharist , it is also used very effectively at weddings and funerals to prevent non-Catholics and non-practicing Catholics from receiving Holy Communion. To call it a blessing is incorrect; to proffer the Sign of the Cross is to add something to the liturgy. But simply to touch the head or forehead with the three “non-liturgical fingers,” — or even to approach the hand, without touching the head — is a gesture that signifies and facilitates SPIRITUAL COMMUNION. Of course, this is best done by a priest or deacon; but since EMHC are part of our lived reality, it is something that they can do — without falsely attempting to bless. If something has to be said, “Christ bless and be with you,” is sufficient and appropriate. (In the case of little children, a smile is usually enough). The gesture is a significant and tender one. Can it be misused or over-used? Yes!! There is nothing more incongruous than a priest making a large and ostentatious Sign of the Cross over someone not receiving the Lord — with a gesture more elaborate than that of giving Holy Communion. But that does not mean that it is bad or useless in itself.

    If we use the right language (spiritual Communion) and remind our flocks of what is really required to make good and fruitful sacramental Communions, we could use this question as a golden opportunity to enrich preparation and thanksgiving.

  75. Observation:

    There is no reason why the priest, in imparting a blessing at Communion time (like it, agree with it, or not) he should have to touch anyone. He could simply trace the sign of the Cross. Sure the usual way of imparting a blessing ends by briefly touching the persons head, but there is no reason why that should have to happen in this situation.

  76. Central Valley Catholic says:

    Go Fr. Angel, Go Fr. Z. Thank you for speaking the truth.

  77. Tina in Ashburn says:

    This thread of comments is full of widely differing opinions and experiences. Some claim a personal right to the blessing. Some claim a tradition. Some say this blessing should be only for tiny children. Some say this blessing should include varying classes of non-receiving adults. There are even cases where the laity feels an angry entitlement to it, while some clerics grant it in kindness. Some clerics may be afraid not to grant it. Many of us don’t like it for varying reasons. Everyone appears to have a different impression of what it is or how they have experienced it.

    Good strong examples exist of those that have no problem staying put when they don’t receive, or those that don’t entertain themselves with why so-and-so isn’t receiving. Good! That’s how it should be.

    There are examples of controlled behavior as well as situations of too much emphasis on this practice.

    Is this because there has never been a defined rubric for this blessing? I have never seen this defined or proscribed anywhere. We have seen the effect of ambiguous teachings in the Church today [meaning even when something is somewhat defined, we can mess it up!]. Here is a practice that is completely undefined and ripe for distracting over-use.

    Perhaps there should be a definition on this before this practice continues? We don’t really know the intent of this blessing, nor when it should be applied, how it got started or why it exists.

    This tells me that this Communion blessing, where it is a common and expected occurrence, is rogue behavior [even for those well-intentioned in a quiet manner]. That may be putting it strongly in light of worse abuses we see. However, it is what it is. Another outcropping of playing with the Liturgy.

    Meeting-Christ-In-The-Liturgy may be correct that bishops have stated that this blessing is not to occur at Communion. If that is the case, perhaps we should start from there?

  78. Memphis Aggie says:

    I can’t imagine that blessing a child is contrary to Christ’s will. The priests behavior, as described here ( it may be better in context), borders on the uncharitable even Jansenist. [Ridiculous.] If fear over the loss of tiny particle of Christ interferes with charity, I think it’s safe to say it goes too far. [Others have pretty well-formed views to the contrary, as this thread demonstrates.] Christ is a God of Mercy who welcomes children near Him, past the protection of His Disciples. Is our Merciful loving God going to the hold the priest accountable for the potential loss of a minuscule fragment of the Eucharist if done so unintentionally during an act of charity performed for His Glory? I doubt it. [Easy for you to say.] Where is the care the priest, who represents Christ, for the model he gives to the impressionable child? Such a slight, however small, might put distance between the priest and the family and the priest and the child. Of course much depends on the manner of the priest, which is not communicated here, a warm and generous spirit could overcome this kind of thing easily. [sigh]

  79. Jackie says:

    I feel bad for priests put in this position. Neither of the sides are trying to do any harm but there is a break over what needs to be done. I actually like the idea of blessing children during the Communion line, but I can understand that if it is not liturgically correct then it must go. The only thing I have a problem with is the idea people going up in the Communion line when they are not receiving. I think properly done it is okay as long as we have the ushers ushering people into the line. My parish is very big and it is difficult for people to get out of the way, especially since the usher stand RIGHT behind your pews so you can’t move backwards. When I need to refrain for whatever reason, I go up and when I am past the first pew I break left and go back to my pew. I see no harm with this. It causes the least amount of confusion for people not used seeing others abstain.

  80. Phil Steinakcer says:

    I must support Fr Angel, Tom Seeker, Tina in Ashburn, and all others who maintain that the Mass is NOT about me or you or what we want or prefer. We are there to worship the Lord for about an hour – that’s all we are asked to give Him each week. Therefore, demanding certain practices or features not ordained by the Church to please ourselves (the ONLY lawful authority over changes to the Liturgy) is nothing more than pandering to ourselves at the expense of the focus and attention we owe Him.

    I am unsympathetic to suggestions by those invested in having things their own way amount to insensitivity of some kind to the needs of children. As Fr Z. has famously said elsewhere, “B as in B, and S as in S.” I was once a child, as I recall, and was properly chatechized by my mother. I NEVER was blessed in the manner described here, and there was no mention of it in my home. My mom was more intent on steering my focus onto the day I would be ready to receive Our Lord – not making an issue over why Father refused to cooperate in making me feel good rather than feeling left out. I was excited about that day to come – not hurt over a perceived slight by the priest – because in those days priests didn’t step outside the rubrics, and Catholics NOT ONLY KNEW BETTER
    Than to ask for blessings, it never occurred to them

    What is this focus on receiving the Eucharist row by row – how else are we supposed to do it? The only logistical difference I see between now and pre-Vat II is everyone receives standing versus everyone kneeling at the communion rail. We ALWAYS approached row by row. If you didn’t receive, you remained in your pew, and as observed elsewhere on this thread, no comment made by anyone else. No one would have dared. Things have deteriorated since then.

    This is how broader abuses develop. Begin with a small, rather innocuous deviation (and, in truth, Fr. Z is correct that this is small potatoes relative to more serious offenses) that becomes popular, and then at the first sign that it might be reined in the flood of typically cafeteria-style Catholic protest(ant)s threaten to overwhelm. It’s just like a so-called “temporary” domestic aid program that inevitably creates a constituency that will now emerge to fight to make it permanent as the expiration date approaches.

    Step back, and see for a fact that it is nothing more than the same raft of rationalization my mother warned me against years ago (she was warning me against my own impending rationalization as a teen, but the lesson applies to all).

    Yes, this is a relatively small abuse, but it IS an abuse – as is the EMHC addressing me by first name as a prefix to, “The Body of Christ.” These EMHCs who obviously know me are devout Catholics who nonetheless have surrendered to exalting their own opinion above the clear rubrics of the Church. After a while, that attitude becomes more pervasive and eventually contaminates one’s position on other more serious issues and practices.

    Besides, it’s been mentioned here often enough that priests are allegedly not allowed to make changes by addition or subtraction to the Holy Mass. Just because it makes some kind of sense to you, where do you get the authority for yourselves to do so on your own? This is NOT about heart. It IS about the proper practice of our Faith in its liturgy.

    Fr. Angel is exactly right: wait until after Mass is over and approach with a request for a blessing. THAT is YOUR time – It is NOW about you. During Mass – including Holy Communion – it is NOT about you or me – it’s about HIM.

    Communion Rail and RichR – I wish you’d go back and examine the snide and judgmental tone of your remarks and challenges to others. I don’t object to your disagreeing with others, but you each display a rather intense leaning to a “feel good” mentality as the basis for determining a position here. Also, each of you seems to display a decided tendency to chastise others for bringing you news you quite obviously are unable to graciously hear. Please take another look, perhaps with a mind towards seeing your posts detached from your actual position (as separate from your feelings). God bless you both.

  81. Fr. Angel says:

    Fr. Horgan:

    Congratulations on finding a method that works for you. I have also been doing something that works for me. Yet, what about our visiting priests who don’t do what we do and “get in trouble?” What about our visiting laity who find something totally different going on their parishes and wonder why we don’t do what their pastors do? Even with catechesis, and I catechize till I’m blue in the face, the numbers of those approaching who have no solid Eucharistic devotion far, far outweighs the people we reach with our instructions. The “blessing thing” we have going on here is still, in the final end, going to be the cause of a fossilizing of the mentality that I can interrupt a liturgical action for a personal need which I want to be catered to. Just looking at the judgmental and feeling-based reaction of posters here, the “traditional” end of the spectrum, is scary when you realize the great majority of the Novus Ordo-ites are not nearly as patient with what they do not liturgically understand.

    Tina writes: Perhaps there should be a definition on this before this practice continues? We don’t really know the intent of this blessing, nor when it should be applied, how it got started or why it exists.

    Tina, again you have gone to the heart of why this practice is a wade into murkey waters. It, “the blessing thing” means different things for different people, is applied to children or adults, Catholics or non-Catholics, with touching or not touching, making a sign of the Cross with the hand or the Host, given by priests or given by laity in an apparently equal way, imparted to those who love the Blessed Sacrament and want to be better prepared for Him and those who think It is a cracker that can wait while I get my blessing (that is meant quite serious, as various blessing seekers have said to me, “I was told not to get the cracker, but that the blessing is okay.”).

    When an outward sign in the liturgy has become that murkey and disagreed upon, it is not a truly liturgical sign but an accretion which should not be there.

    Memphis Aggie: What can I say? We have gone from mean spirited to uncharitable to Jansenist. I’m waiting for someone to accuse me of hating children or performing clandestine abortions because I don’t even want them to be born.

    Does it occur to you that a staunchly Catholic people like the Mexicans, who are having most of the kids amongst all the Catholic groups in the USA, have always had the tradition of getting their children blessed after Mass? Does it occur to you that this practice works very well for them and for their priests, who love to spend time after the Mass being greeting by all the children? Tom Seeker’s suggestion was perfectly in line with this practice which causes no confusion to the liturgy.

    Perhaps after my Spanish Mass on Sunday, I will have to tell them that you have a better understanding of Christ’s Will and that they have been wrong all along.

  82. o.h. says:

    The elderly priest who says the EF at our parish gave Communion yesterday to a young lady with Down Syndrome. She was a little distressed as her mother brought her to the rail, but upon receiving Our Lord, she visibly calmed down. Father, who is no friend of modernism or innovations in the liturgy, unhesitatingly patted her gently on the head, calming her further. Perhaps some small particles of the Host were put at risk; but Father seemed all right with that possibility.

  83. Memphis Aggie says:

    Fthr Angel,

    Sorry Father I did not intended to offend you and I’ll gladly cede to your superior knowledge and experience on liturgy especially. I spoke from my own gut and from my own background. I’m a convert from Judaism and perhaps my oversensitivity to what I subjectively perceive as hyper-legalism gets the better of me. I apologize. [No need. However, take into consideration that our “gut” is only a small element in the interpretation of the Church’s liturgical law. Our “gut” or “instinct” also needs to be formed by and conformed to the mind of the Church and her laws. So, please know that there are very important dimensions which the “gut” cannot override. o{]:¬) ]

    I’d never heard of the Mexican practice, but it is my observation in our parish that Mexicans receive much more rarely than Americans.

  84. Fr. Angel says:

    Memphis Aggie:

    I was not offended, just taken aback at the intensity of emotion. As a matter of fact, I bless children all the time in the Communion line. I also allow the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to do the same. However, I know that I am doing something not permitted by the rubrics, that it is not in keeping with proper liturgy, and I have no illusion that there is anything traditional about it, in spite of the stories here of traditional priests who have taken to doing the same.

    What I feel very strongly about is the skewed and misguided attempt by Catholics into shaming priests who don’t do this and will not do it. I can understand the Novus Ordo crowd who accepts that innovation in the liturgy is their God-given right. They, a priori, do not accept that tradition, continuity, or rubrics should stifle their creativity. It is understandable that they pick fights over these matters, and I just get tired of being drawn into another fight, so sometimes I will just cave in to the “creativity.”

    What I find appalingly hypocritical is the “say the black, do the red” crowd members who I expect to back up the priest, and instead invent rationalizations for this gimmick or tell syruppy sweet anecdotes about the “Communion-line blessing priests” who are unimpeachable in Tradition and therefore can get away with inventing a new liturgical practice. It logically follows that if said priests decide to start dancing around the altar with bowls of incense at the Offertory, that also must be all right as long as it was seen somewhere before in a traditional chapel.

  85. Memphis Aggie says:

    Thank You Fathers

    Maybe in time, when I have formed a clearer description of my concern I’ll post it or email it. It’s more than gut but its still not thought through, as is obvious. However it makes a world of difference to me that the rubrics do not allow it. I presumed it was optional, not a matter of obedience. That changes everything.

  86. Fr. J. says:

    Here is a little background on the traditional ban on giving blessings in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. As anyone can verify for themselves, the traditional rubrics forbid the blessing of incense (during Benediction) precisely because the Blessed Sacrament is exposed; i.e., the Source of all blessing is fully and immediately present, so that His minister may not presume to give his blessing. A similar rubric governed the giving of the last blessing at Mass in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (during Forty Hours, for example). Finally, it’s worth noting that a simple priest was not even allowed to give the last blessing at Mass when celebrating in the presence of the Holy Father (and other high-ranking prelates); giving the blessing was reserved to the attending prelate. How much more, then, was any sacred minister expected to refrain from giving a blessing in the presence of Christ Himself? Although it may seem a small matter, I think it is simply another way that the traditional practice of the Faith preserved good order in all things, especially when protecting the reverence due to the Eucharistic Christ.

  87. RichR says:

    Phil Steinacker wrote: RichR – I wish you’d go back and examine the snide and judgmental tone of your remarks and challenges to others. I don’t object to your disagreeing with others, but you each display a rather intense leaning to a “feel good” mentality as the basis for determining a position here. Also, each of you seems to display a decided tendency to chastise others for bringing you news you quite obviously are unable to graciously hear. Please take another look, perhaps with a mind towards seeing your posts detached from your actual position (as separate from your feelings). God bless you both.


    I guess my tone is not conveyed well in the written form. I never had a snide (ie. malicious) intent, nor do I judge those who have contrary views. The point of my questions was not to beat people over the head, but rather, to stimulate thought. I like open-ended questions because it encourages people to post. I guess I came off as strong-willed, but my intent is to challenge people to think. I’m sorry if anyone felt offended.

    BTW, I am the last person to base his liturgical opinions on mere feelings. Ask the 10 guys in the men’s Gregorian chant group that I help lead. I consider myself fairly well-read in these matters, and I’m a stickler for rubrics as they apply. But, as I posted originally, this issue is the one area that I have a concern with (as do many good priests such as Rev. Peter Stravinskas of the Catholic Answer fame).

  88. Marcin says:

    Quanta Cura
    I usually attend the Extraordinary Form and it is a rarity to see anyone approach the rail with their arm crossed or other nonsensical gestures. You are either prepares for communion or you are not.

    Absolutely, you are or you aren’t. That’s easy and I refuse to feel any peer pressure from wholesale communicants if I happen to stay in the pew. As for the blessing, I can understand if it is given to children carried or accompanying, but not the to those of age that might indicate that they could be otherwise receiving Communion. As Fr.Z. pointed out – it’s about Communion. Those who are unable because of broken fast, or unrepented sins (the latter could do much better than receive a blessing by going to Confession), and Non-Catholic fiancees or spouses should stay in the pew. An Orthodox priest once told me if he deemed an approaching person unworthy (he should know his flock) or he found that it was not an Orthodox, he would deny and make a sign of cross with Chalice. And of course after the Liturgy he would instruct not to present oneself to the Communion if not prepared. Plus, there is an antidoron for those who don’t receive, which is a blessing.

    As far as arms crossed go, that’s a puzzle for me despite having lived in the US for 10 years. I have asked couple of times on various internet forums (shouldn’t it be fora?) about origin and provenance of this custom, and I never got the answer. I would appreciate one.

    Anyway, in my native Poland it’s not uncommon to assume this posture while receiving. It may be an influence of the Orthodox neighbors (it is a proper gesture when receiving Mysteries there), especially that I can’t speak of Western Europe. Many times when I forgot about this awkward reversal of meaning on the American soil, I have seen an expression of great confusion on the face of the minister, and once I had to request Communion repeatedly from a deacon to convince him.

    This blessing business together is really messy.

  89. Fr. Angel says:

    Memphis Aggie:

    Perhaps what you are concerned about is the perceived slight being made toward children. Traditional Catholics love children, and in this age of widespread contraception and abortion, the traditional Catholic families offer a testimonial of welcoming children as a blessing from God. The image of a child asking for a blessing, and not getting one from the priest, is jarring and naturally upsetting. What we must remember, however, is that other groups in the Church have asked their children to approach the priest for a blessing, but have done this after Mass instead of during Mass, and it works well. The Church’s love of children is affirmed and the Communion line maintains its aspect of adoration to God intact without accretions.

    Fr. J: Thank you for that excellent reference. It reminds all of us that when the exposed Blessed Sacrament is present, nothing else should be happening but adoring and eating the Sacrament.

    Phil Steinakcer wrote: Yes, this is a relatively small abuse, but it IS an abuse – as is the EMHC addressing me by first name as a prefix to, “The Body of Christ.”

    Phil, many thanks for your words which reminded me that blessing children is not the only innovation going on at the Communion line. Besides having people call the communicants by their first name, (e.g. “Phil, the Body of Christ”) so that Communion is more “personal,” there is another action which some priests insist upon. The minister must “look the communicant in the eyes” so that they don’t have the “selfish” idea that they are there just for Jesus, but to realize that the Host is there to help us “bond with each other as church.”

    Now, some lay people, in addition to correcting priests for not blessing children when they should have, are also asking, “why did you give me the Host without looking in my eyes? That was very impersonal and made me feel that all you focused on was the Host, instead of appreciating my presence as a real presence of Christ also.”

  90. Phil (NL) says:

    Fr. Angel noted people asking ““why did you give me the Host without looking in my eyes? That was very impersonal and made me feel that all you focused on was the Host, instead of appreciating my presence as a real presence of Christ also.” ”

    I thought I’d heard just about every nuttiness conceivable. Obviously not…
    Time for a homily titled ‘It’s not all about me”?

    As for blessings, if the priest is willing, I see few problems if it’s done for children and in a smart way. There are a lot of children present which cannot be left unattended, Christ did say that we should let the children come to him, so blessing those not old enough for their first communion does make sense on several levels. (understood in light of that verse, one can even argue it’s not about the Child receiving the blessing, but of Christ giving one to those too young to receive him fully.) Ofcourse, there are arguments against it too, but an option in the rubrics would in my opinion be an organical development. I’ll leave it to people more learned on this front to come to conclusions. But whatever happens, the lack of deference to the priest and granting everything that has ever happened once as a right for all eternity from that point on needs to be stamped out.

  91. mcitl says:

    Christ truly present in the Sacrament at Communion blesses the children. We can instruct them on this truth and teach them how to accept his blessing by making the sign of the Cross.

  92. Memphis Aggie says:

    Father Angel,

    You’re right it is “jarring”. My sense is that concern over the Eucharist is the love of God and concern for the child is the love of neighbor and while the love of God takes precedence, the two loves should never conflict. If they do, it must point to some fault. I think that fault is in the understanding of the laity (self inclusive), lack of proper education etc. The Mexican practice is a good solution, but it must be explained.

    There was only the most minimal education about the proper reception of the Eucharist and next to no discussion of the real presence in my 7 month RCIA class (I converted in the San Francisco Diocese). I’ve had to pick it up myself and I came to that belief well after formal conversion.

    Father Z

    While it is “easy for me to say” that I doubt God would punish a priest over the loss of a “crumb” of the Host if done unintentionally, [This discussion has been dragged into a rabbit hole, for this is not really what is being discussed. This is a side issue. But I must respond. The key here is “intention” if it is truly unintentional, there is no guilt. But priests do have the duty to safeguard the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore they should take adequate steps so that nothing of It be treated improperly. Every measure should be taken that no particle be lost. If the priest is negligent in this regard, then he is culpable for his omissions.] to believe otherwise paints a picture of a petty vindictive God at odds with His portrait in the Gospel. Granted fear of the lord is wisdom and fear of the loss is strong evidence of faith in the real presence. It is also evidence of a lack of trust. Of course over confidence can become presumption, but we’re talking about a modicum of trust here. While He has meekly transformed Himself to appear as bread He has done so expressly so that we would not fear to approach Him. In this context, a balance between Holy fear and trust should, in my view , tend toward trust.

    When I read of this level of obsessive fear [No one is talking about “obsession”, here. That is a term you have introduced… unfairly, I think.] I’m reminded of the strict adherence of the Sabbath among the Orthodox. Christ drew a clear line in that the charitable “work” of healing is more important than the strict observance of the Sabbath. Likewise, the Pope has drawn a clear line at obedience when it comes to the liturgy (in reference to SSPX), obedience to rightful Authority exceeds the virtues of the old liturgy.

    One of the many good things about this site is that you know the boundaries. You made the argument that reverence for God is diluted by the distraction /interruption of the reception for blessings. That makes sense and does not have that compulsive dimension of the crumb fear. Further when it’s made clear that a ban on such blessings exists it becomes an even stronger argument. No doubt the lesser good of love of neighbor still needs to be attended to , but it is very reasonable to say and crucially to teach that “this is not the proper time”.

    I think I got it, although it sometimes takes a while.

    [This rabbit hole is now closed.]

  93. Jenny says:

    A small anecdote…

    My father was born and raised a Southern Baptist. He has attended Mass with my mother and the family for their entire marriage, but he has never converted. The priest at their parish recently invited non-receivers to come up for a blessing during Communion and explained a procedure. This opportunity excited him since he had been left in the pew for years. But, after he thought about it, he realized that he and my mother never sit where the priest gives Communion. It is always a EMHC. He decided to remain sitting in the pews because if he could not receive a blessing from the priest, there was really no point in it. Even a Southern Baptist recognizes the difference!

  94. Memphis Aggie: Well said!
    The Gospels are replete with examples of
    pharisees using the law to
    try and deny Christ’s mission and teaching.
    I am NOT accusing anyone on this forum of being
    a pharisee, but SOME traditionalists use the
    letter of the law to attack the spirit of the
    And that reminds me, in all this talk about rubrics,
    instructions etc, we must remember that
    “Lex suprema est salus animarum”.

  95. Fr. Angel says:

    Communion Rail wrote: “I am NOT accusing anyone on this forum of being a pharisee, but SOME traditionalists use the letter of the law to attack the spirit of the law.”

    Rail, there are some also who uphold neither the letter nor the spirit. This is the case of all the Catholics insisting on getting children blessed at Communion time because this shows the Church’s love and appreciation for children.

    On the other hand, they have no problem with contracepting, aborting, or supporting the pro-abort politicians. The statistics are shameful and staggering–how many Catholics believe it it fine to practice contraception or vote for pro-aborts. These folks then go to Mass and harangue the new assistant because he’s not blessing kids at Communion time?

    I would like you to go to the typical Novus Ordo Mass, and 99.9% of Catholics are Novus Ordo, and point out to me how many of these people insisting on the child blessings are following Church teaching away from the rail or the Communion line. How many are showing their love for children by not contracepting them or voting for politicians who keep abortion legal and appoint pro-abort judges?

    But my goodness, tell them you don’t want to do the liturgical novelty they insist on and they act as if you hate children. If some here react against the impression that children will be slighted–and I understand that emotion–I cannot help but react to see the liturgy become another occasion for appaling hyprocrisy and tongue lashing at the priests who are trying to be obedient to what the liturgy is.

    The pharisee is often seen as the “religious leader” so it is easy to accuse the priest of rigidly following rules and being a pharisee.

    But I propose that the lay person who uses outward show of love of children (at Communion time) while accepting contraception and the pro-abort status quo is more of a pharisee than the priest who is simply trying to say the black and do the red.

    In the US, our birthrate is dropping more and more while we rejoice in these “child blessings” at the liturgy. I dare say that Ireland has nothing to brag about in regards to birthrate either. Why don’t you ponder the implications of this kind of pharisaical reality?

  96. Margaret says:

    I’m a little torn on this matter. On the one hand, my DH & I only bring our smallest, youngest children up to communion with us, not to seek a blessing for them, but to keep them out of mischief. Our children generally remain in the pews from about age three or so until First Communion. If the priest blesses the child in my arms, lovely, and if not, that is perfectly fine too. It’s not in the rubric and no feelings are hurt or feathers ruffled.

    One wedding I attended, however, deviated from the rubric rather far, in that the pastor specifically announced at communion that only Catholics in the state of grace were permitted to receive the Eucharist, but anyone who liked could come up with arms crossed to receive a blessing. Background: the bride and groom were both recent converts to Catholicism (thanks to the HS and my apostolically-inclined DH.) Very, very few of the guests at the wedding were Catholic. Many were not even Christian, and had as likely as not never set foot in any kind of church before. Through the priest’s announcement, the bride and groom were attempting to a) prevent reception of communion by non-Catholics but also b) make the non-church-goers feel very welcome and that they could come back again. Now, I know how touchy-feely that sounds, but I can’t argue with the intent…

  97. karen says:

    I just came upon your blog while looking for other information on your site. It caught my attention because we have this “blessing” thing going on in our church. I’m 44, brought up with CCD and didn’t even really know my faith until about 6 years ago. Through 4 years of excellent adult formation I have learned so much.

    With this “small” problem, larger problems begin and like telling a lie enough, people then think it is the “truth”. Everything snowballs. I miss the bells at consecration, tired of the congregation “holding hands” during the Our Father, tired of so much loud singing especially when the priest is blessing the bread and wine and during communion that I can’t even think to pray, and 90% of those going to communion (about 99% of the congregation) going up to communion, receiving and not even thinking about going to confession during the year!

    I think we have to get back to going to confession more often which our Lord Jesus gave us to receive so much Grace and Mercy. Going to confession and communion should go hand in hand. So many feel they don’t need confession (or reconciliation) anymore. I’m sorry if this offends anyone on the list as I’m new to this forum, but I just had to voice my opinion, as it is a minority one in my church. Thanks for this forum and great comments. Thank you Fr. J for the description on blessing while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

  98. Fr Angel: thank you for your comments. We must always remain charitable in our responses to one another’s comments.
    I am not one of those Catholics you refer to
    who expect blessings of their children whilst
    ignoring the rest of the Church’s teachings on
    contraception etc.
    I live my vocation as husband and father by keeping the precepts of our Holy Mother the Church.
    But if ‘saying the black, do the red’ endangers souls (even only one on one occasion) than it behoves a priest to ignore the ‘red’. [Oh really?]
    I believe that a priest who wilfully ignores a child
    with its parents at the Communion Rail may be
    endangering souls. How? Well imagine that the parent
    becomes so disillusioned by the priest’s behaviour and decides to stop attending Church. Now parent and child are risking their eternal salvation due to
    a rigid adherence to rules above a desire to save souls. Even if there is only a one in a billion chance that this could happen, it must be avoided.
    After all our Lord told us of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to go and look for one that was lost.
    If I may also observe, Ireland has a remarkably good birth rate, one of the highest in Europe and it is not all made up of immigration. Irish families still average about three children, with much larger ones still commonplace.
    Finally, I have exhausted my interest in this post and will not be commenting further. [Perhaps for the best.]

  99. Fr. D says:

    I always thought that the priest blesses in the name of Christ, but when Christ Himself is present in the Eucharist, it is inappropriate for the priest to bless with his hand. For example, we do not bless the incense at Benediction. And if the Eucharist is exposed at the end of Mass we skip the blessing.

    Secondly, I remember when instituted as an acolyte, we were permitted to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament as extraordinary ministers, but by no means give a blessing with the Eucharist. Eucharistic blessings are a priestly function and by delegation also diaconal.

    So, when a person seeks a blessing at Communion time, I sign them with the Host over the cibroium as is done before administering the sacrament in the extraordinary form. [Such a practice natural is forbidden to extraordinary ministers.] [I don’t buy the only one blessing at Mass argument. It is based on the impoverished Novus Ordo mentality which removed the Indulgentiam and blessing of objects. Anyway, don’t we bless with ashes on ash Wednesday. What about when priests bless couples renewing their vows after the homily?]

    Touching a persons head in blessing seems irresponsible to me for 3 main reasons: it is disordered since the priest ignore the Lord whom He is holding, it is dangerous because of particles (even if Communion is given in the hand, the presumption is that the communicant will not let any particles fall), and it is unsanitary.

  100. Fr. D says:

    To Margaret:
    I’ve known priests who’ve done that. It was suggested to me.
    Eventually, I realized that most non-catholics are not insulted not to take part in our sacrament.
    Put the shoe on the other foot. Would you be insulted at a Jewish ceremony not to be treated like a Jew?
    Hypothetically (because I think it would be best not to go) if at a Hindu ceremony, it would be terrible if I were expected to participate in the pagan worship. I would welcome the Hindu priest’s saying that non-Hindu’s can remain in their places while Hindus come forward for whatever.
    [I’m not arguing against blessing Catholic children and other Catholics, only against inviting non-Catholics forward.]People will respect our “rules” if we explain them without malice.
    The desire to be “nice” sometimes betrays the root of the word. Fr. Groeschel always points out nice is from nescire meaing to not know or be ignorant. Sometimes in thinking we are being nice, we are acting quite ignorantly.

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