Lay ministers offering “blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion” at Mass – Nooooo…..

Prof. Ed Peters, canonist, has been put used his elucubrations to good effect.

He has provided his opinion on why lay ministers of Holy Communion should not attempt "blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion" during Mass.

Frankly, I don’t think the time of Holy Communion is the time for individual blessings.  That is not a hill I would die on, of course.  And if requested for a blessing I stop and give it.  But that is not the moment.

But Peters is dealing with the question of lay people, who should be attempting to do what priests properly do.

Here is a bit of his piece, which you should read at his place.  And tell him Fr. Z sent you!  o{]:¬)

Lay ministers of holy Communion should stop offering "blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion" at Mass

Concerns about swine flu have prompted many parishes to discontinue the routine administration of the Precious Blood. Okay, fine.* But there’s another Communion rite practice that should also cease if only out of concerns for public health. This time, however, it’s a practice that (unlike distribution from the Cup) is an abuse per se, namely, that of lay ministers of holy Communion purporting to confer "blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion" on every Tom, Pat, and Harriet who comes up in line.

Lay ministers of holy Communion (by definition, extraordinary ministers thereof), in response to people approaching them without the intention to receive Communion (maybe such folks are non-Catholics** or are Catholic kids prior to First Communion), currently do one of three things: they (1) speak and gesture a sign of the cross over such folks, [The usual] or (2) lay hands on such persons’ heads or shoulders while voicing a blessing, or (3) waive the Eucharist over them while purporting to confer a blessing. I think all three actions are liturgical abuses.

Let’s consider them in order of gravity:  [I will just include the usual one you see.  Read the others at Peters’ blog.]

3. Ministers of holy Communion have, I suggest, no authority by their office*** to confer any sort of blessing on anyone. Neither the General Instruction on the Roman Missal nor the Book of Blessings (which later source makes provisions for laity to administer certain blessings) authorizes ministers of Communion to confer blessings during Mass. Given that lay persons serving as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion have no liturgical duties besides the administration of Communion, the introduction of a mini-blessing rite to be performed by them seems to me a plain violation of Canon 846. This practice should, I think, be halted pending a study of its liceity by qualified persons and, if appropriate, its authorization by the competent authority (1983 CIC 838, 1167).

+ + +

*** Clergy enjoy a spiritual authority over their people, as do parents over their children. Such figures may and should extend blessings to their charges at appropriate times (1983 CIC 1167-1169). But what authority do extraordinary ministers of holy Communion have over the faithful? None. Who put extraordinary ministers of holy Communion in charge of anything besides distributing holy Communion? No one. Liturgical experts should explore whether the Communion procession ought to be allowed to morph into a "blessing procession" in the first place but, even if "blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion" during Mass are found licit, surely they should be conferred only by priests or deacons.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Garrett says:

    Can parents really bless their children? I know that this is a practice common amongst some Eastern Catholics (and Eastern Christians in general, I believe), but the 1983 Code seems not to allow for this. In fact, it clearly states that “the minister of sacramentals *is a cleric who has been provided with the requisite powers* (Canon 1168).

    I’m sure parents with children want to know: can they, or can’t they bless their children?

  2. susan/sc says:

    Don’t you think that when the lay person is giving a blessing that they are actually asking for God to bless the other person just as when we say, “God bless you.” when someone sneezes or when we ask the Lord to bless someone in mourning. Is the idea that noone but a priest can ask for someone to be blessed?

  3. Lee says:

    Well, after applying and accepting to be a lector for the 7:30 Mass at the Cathedral here in Portland, I was informed that the lector for that Mass is also an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

    The page of instructions given to me stated that when someone presents himself before me with his arms crossed over his breast, I should say a blessing of some sort over him- the wording and the gesture are up to me, EXCEPT that I am not to use the gesture the priest uses. It hasn’t come up yet, but I have decided that if an adult I would simply place my hand on the persons shoulder and say “God bless you and keep you,” or if a child, say the same and trace a cross on his forehead.

    It hasn’t come up yet, but I am not allowed to do this? I have no authority to do this? But the instructions have been given to me by competent authority. And, moreover, the Lord says, “Bless and do not curse.” And for that matter, when someone sneezes, we say, “God bless you?” There is no authority for this?

    This practice of people coming forward at Communion time and receiving only a blessing seems an altogether wonderful thing.

    Certainly human respect often carries people forward with the rest of the throng at Communion time, especially at weddings and funerals. It seems very likely that many sacrilegious communions are prevented when they can simply ask for a blessing, feel like they are part of things, and return to their pew.

    This makes non-Catholics, Catholics in irregular situations and children more a part of the liturgy and carries them somewhat deeper into the heart of Mother Church. It is a gesture of good will and respect both on the part of the Church and the non-communicant, is it not? This is bad?

    Obviously it is better for a priest to give such a blessing, but there are many places where due to the shortage of priests extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are necessary, or seen as necessary.

    Obviously, the distinction betweeen the ordinary priesthood and the priesthood of the faithful needs to remain clear in everyone’s mind, but I doubt very much that any extraordinary minister offering such a blessing or any of the faithful or non-faithful receiving it have any notion that it carries any more weight than it would if uttered in a less formal setting, for example saying good-bye to relatives and saying, “God bless you!”

    Mr Peters would probably disagree, but I doubt very much that Our Lord would frown on lay people using words and gestures of blessing much more plentifully in every circumstance.

    He seems to think there is a very grave problem here. For the life of me, I cannot see it.

  4. Girgadis says:

    If someone cannot receive Communion but would like a blessing, they should get
    in the line where a priest is adminstering the sacrament. Better yet, why not
    stay in the pew and wait until the conclusion of Mass when the priest will
    deliver a final blessing to everyone, regardless of whether they are Catholic,
    in a state of grace, etc.

  5. malcolm says:

    As an EMHC I know that I have no authority to bless anyone apart from thre general power of a christian to bless another christian. And thats’s what I say in Mass – God bless you – just the words with no other gestures. That’s what our priests have advised us to do and as he is the presider I am obedient to that direction. If the magisterium has the same view as Fr. Z and Prof Peters they should come out and say it explictly.

  6. tzard says:

    If you look at the form of blessings in the book of blessings, Priests can extend their hands. Laity (when it’s appropriate for them to bless) have folded hands.

    Not all law is included in Canon Law. Some are in the liturgical books like the book of blessings (and the Roman Missal!). The church laws do not permit lay blessings as part of Mass.

    Now, if a parent, or a catechist, or a grandparent wants to bless little children outside, before mass or afterwards. That’s a salutory act. Asking God for blessings of others is also good.

    But the participants in Mass are part of a set ritual. It’s like if someone started singing “my country Tis of Thee” or even “Amazing Grace” while the National Anthem is played. Both are good on their own terms, It’s not the right time.

  7. xathar says:

    Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum, Prot. N. 930/08/L

    Dear [names omitted],

    This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments acknowledges receipt of your kind letter of 13 August, 2008 and would like to thank you for your interest and suggestions. This matter is presently under the attentive study of the Congregation.

    For the present, therefore, this Dicastery wishes to limit itself to the following observations:
    The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments subsequent to the distribution of Holy Communion.
    Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; can. 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).
    Furthermore, the laying on of a hand or hands — which has its own sacramental significance, inappropriate here — by those distributing Holy Communion, in substitution for its reception, is to be explicitly discouraged.
    The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n. 84, “forbids any pastor, for whatever reason to pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry.” To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.
    In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church’s discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin).

    Please continue to pray for the Church’s ministers that they ever become more worthy of the mystery they celebrate.

    With every good wish and kind regard, I am,

    Sincerely Yours in Christ,


    (Fr. Anthony Ward, S.M.)

  8. Jimbo says:

    I haven’t studied this deeply, but my conclusions fall in line with what Ed and Fr. Z. are saying. When a priest gives a blessing, it is effective because of his office. The person receiving it, receives its graces to the extent to which he or she is spiritually disposed.

    With non-ordained persons, the efficacy of their blessing is directly tied to their personal sanctity. Scripture tells us that the effective prayer of a righteous man much avails. The distribution of Holy Communion is not the time for such blessings, however effective or ineffective, depending on the personal sanctity of the individual, and the practice did not develop organically…therefore it should be stopped.

  9. Lucy says:

    It would seem to me, after reading all these posts, that we wouldn’t be in this pickle had we maintained that only a priest be on the alter to distribute Holy Communion. Then all these questions would not even be relevant. One of our diocesan priests who also says our traditional Mass told us from the podium that we were not to approach to receive a blessing, that Communion time was for strictly Communion.

  10. Maureen says:

    Re: this pickle

    No, this might still be a pickle if it were just the priest on the altar and every church had Communion rails.

    The problem is the idea that every person sitting in the pew MUST get up and get in line. I also blame many churches for setting up the pews or chairs so inconveniently that nobody can go to Communion unless everybody goes to Communion.

  11. serafino says:

    In my diocese, when the bishop is called upon to bless a new parish hall, CCD building etc., he invites all the faithful to join him in the blessing by raising their hands.

    During ordinations, when the bishop and priests raise their hands during the prayer of ordination (The form of the sacrament of Orders) many of the laity do the same thing. If correction does not come from the top by word and example, can you really blame the laity?

  12. Ann says:

    I agree with Ed Peters. This is not a good thing for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to be doing. Those who need a blessing should present themselves in the line for the priest.

    Parents throughout the Bible are portrayed blessing their children, especially the Fathers of the families–I think this may be part of the image of the family mirroring the Trinity–parents have a powerful position in the lives of their children and blessings seem clearly to be part of that.

  13. Lee says:

    Re: Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum, Prot. N. 930/08/L

    Well that’s pretty clear cut, reasonable and completely maddening. It seems obvious that even so well informed a person as Ed Peters has no notion of the existence of this document. Why not?

    What good are such decisions if they are not widely promulgated and worked into the practice of the Church?

    Am I to assume that this has already crossed the desk of my archbishop and been ignored, or that he never got it in the first place? My guess is the latter.

    I don’t know who is responsible, but somebody’s carelessness, or the inertia of the institution, is tinkering with the unity of the Church here.

    A lot of people’s teeth are going to be set on edge when they hear from the pulpit or read in the bulletin(if they ever do), “We know that many of you have been coming forward for a blessing at Communion time, as we have encouraged you to do. However, this practice is no longer allowed, and we ask you not to come forward unless you are receiving Holy Communion.”

  14. Central Valley says:

    What a great topic. Thank you Fr. Z. From reading the post and the comments, I would think several of the writers live in the diocese of Fresno, Ca. where these abuses are present in many many churches here. The civilians giving “blessings” is a common sight here. I once asked a pastor about this and he responded “this diocese (Fresno) likes to give a lot of blessings”. At funerals, some priests in the Fresno diocese will invite all present to extend their hands to the remains of the deceased to convey a blessing with the priest. The above mentioned pastor was recently names a Monsignor with the recommendation of Bp. John T. Steinbock. I sent a letter to the Fresno diocese asking for clarification of the whole laymen blessing thing some time ago and I am still waiting for an answer. This is not uncommon in the Fresno diocese. Regarding the washing of feet of women on Holy Thursday, Bp. Steinbock again would not respond to inquiries. Some extraordinary ministers seem to fall for whatever “Fr.” Tells them, even though it is clear what “Fr.” Is telling them is in direct violation of Church law…So goes the diocese of Fresno under the current bishop. Two more years….

  15. Jayna says:

    “In my diocese, when the bishop is called upon to bless a new parish hall, CCD building etc., he invites all the faithful to join him in the blessing by raising their hands.”

    Same thing happens in my parish. I’m dreading it tomorrow, because I know whoever is celebrating Mass is going to ask everyone to extend their hands of mothers/women in general (it happens every Mother’s Day).

    As to lay “blessings” during Communion, they also do that in my parish. Even if they’re not doing it intentionally as a blessing, it sure looks like one to me, and that’s reason enough not to do it.

  16. Ed Peters says:

    “It seems obvious that even so well informed a person as Ed Peters has no notion of the existence of this document. Why not?”

    Ha ha ha! Because of the maddeningly primitive methods the Holy See uses to announce and organize legal and administrative texts! [And everything else, btw.] Technically, this private letter is not binding, but it clearly points us in the direction I would like to see us go on this topic. Anyway, Lee’s point stands (more than he realizes) and, as one trained in civil legal research before I went into canon law, I am constantly frustrated by how slow technical research in conducted in the Church. Much of my own work, indeed, has been oriented to trying to improve things. Alas, there is so much to do.

    If Lee is in a position to help, there is more work to do than can be done in a lifetime.

    Anyway, I updated my post to let folks know about this private letter.

  17. Suibhne says:

    I know that some lay ministers of Holy Communion are well-intentioned when they perform these “blessings,” but it drives me crazy when some of them practically claw after my children to do so. Indeed, I’ve been given dirty looks because I don’t stay long enough for them to “bless” my children. Let me receive My Lord without “blocking my escape” to my pew to offer my Thanksgiving.

  18. Bill in Texas says:

    Here’s the problem. I know I can’t give a blessing. All the other EMHCs at our parish have also been instructed properly, so they also know they can’t give a blessing. Father has told the parishioners more than once that if they want a blessing instead of receiving Communion, they are to get in his line and he will bless them.

    So what happens? The EMHCs are doing what they are instructed to do, and every small child that has not received their First Communion, and a significant number of adults, come up to us with their arms crossed, looking at us expectantly. If you just look at them and say nothing, they continue to stand there, waiting. I have had adults say, “Please bless me.” This is not the moment for instruction.

    The solution I’ve decided on, and it isn’t perfect, is to look at the person, smile, and say “Peace be with you” or “Go in peace.” No sign of the Cross, my right hand does not leave the ciborium, no touching of head. Then I will look to the person standing behind them. Should work every time — they should smile back and move on.

    Father has told us that we may, carefully and using only the back of our hand, with no Host but keeping index finger and thumb together, touch the top of the person’s head. I don’t like to do this, because (a) the person could well go away thinking that I had blessed them (only sustains the behavior and the confusion/abuse), (b) some people put the most amazing things on their hair (not pleasant to touch, even with the back of the hand, and besides it just seems creepy to me), and (c) sweaty bald-headed men (I don’t think I need to say more).

    I am not a priest, I don’t want to be a priest, I only want to assist as appropriate and as permitted and as instructed. When the end of my commission as EMHC comes to an end this year, I will happily let someone else take my place. It’s a big responsibility, and I didn’t ask for it. I’m still nervous each time I serve — can never forget WHO I am holding in my most unworthy (and unblessed) hands. I am fine with the people who walk around the pews or cross over the aisle to get in Father’s line at communion, rather than mine — I understand perfectly.

    I think the reason this blessing quandry happens is something Father Z has addressed here in the past. In the U.S., we go to communion row-by-row, instead of all communicants standing up to go receive at the same time. This means that someone who is not planning to receive (not feeling well, not properly disposed because they ate less than an hour before, whatever) feels pressured to get up and get in line anyway. So then they get up to the front, and what can they do but ask for a blessing.

  19. Michelle Marie Romani says:

    Actually, the letter from the CDWDS is not a private matter since it carries a protocol number and it has already appeared in Notitae, the official publication of the Holy See. To dismiss this as merely a private matter would, as I read it, ignore the importance of what this document is trying to say. [I don’t think that the observation that that letter is “private” is in any way a dismissal. However, it remains a “private” letter, sent to an individual. It is not an act of the Congregation, signed by the Prefect and Secretary. Dicasteries of the Holy See immediately assign Protocol Numbers to correspondence when it arrives, so that the fact that it has a Protocol Number doesn’t mean anything special. That number allows them to find the letter again in the archive if there are follow ups. That’s all. The letter is an explanation of the Church’s existing law to an individual. The Congregation considered it opportune to publish it in Notitiae as a useful instruction. In that sense it is not “private”, but it remains “private” in the sense that it was not an act of the Congregation and it was not sent to any ecclesiastical juridical person, etc., who was being directed to change an abusive practice.]

    We form a line to receive Someone, not something. The [Under-Secretary of the] CDWDS is very clear [when he explains situation] that the blessing will come at the end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and will be applicable to all. [We don’t need an official act of the CDWDS to tell us that, btw.] If someone is compelled to want an additional blessing, then, they can certainly approach the priest after Mass.

    Furthermore, just because this “blessing” is not in the GIRM that does not give us carte blanche to insert and imbed things into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as we see fit. It is also a poor understanding of why the line exists in the first place.

    Furthermore, the fact that the letter references Ecclesia de Mysterio and other documents of the Holy See is already reinforcement enough that this practice should not continue.

  20. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    The Mass has become an arena of sloppy sentimentality and catering to people’s apparently insatiable desire to be cooed over, touched, and smiled at. This is simply not what the priest and other ministers are there for.

    I have always believed this practice was an abuse, even when done by priests, simply because the Communion line is for Communion, and the final blessing at Mass is when the priest blesses everyone. And deacons may give blessings of persons only when presiding at a liturgy, such as a baptism, or one of the Hours. I have resisted it except when it appeared to be urgently expected. I had a child in his mother’s arms throw an instant tantrum, because I did not make a cross on his forehead, as the previous, just-departed pastor was wont to do. He screamed for ten minutes. It was only after Mass that I found out the reason.

    These abuses metastasize and morph if they are not constantly resisted. “You’ve got to nip this kind of thing in the bud, Andy. In the bud!” Once it becomes habitual to say, “The Body of Christ, Ethel…The Body of Christ, Fred…” then comes a person unknown to the priest, and you hear, “The Body of Christ, Hon.” True story.

  21. Jane says:

    During a homily our priest told us that EMHCs were called to a higher standard of holiness than we poor schmucks sitting in the pews. OK, he didn’t call us schmucks, but he said the rest of it. Is this true? I think we are all called to a high standard of holiness no matter who we are.

  22. Central Valley says:

    A M E N !!!! Fr. Fitzpatrick, if only more priests would follow the rules and stop being Fr. Touchy and Fr. Feely…The 60\’s are over.

  23. CarpeNoctem says:

    If I remember correctly, yes, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are explicitly mentioned as ministers who offer ‘blessings’, to include the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and the pronunciation (but no sign of the cross) for the ‘blessing’ on St. Blaise’s day blessing of throats, so to say without exception that EOMHC cannot give ‘blessings’ does not seem to be correct in accordance to (at least the current English edition) of the Book of Blessings. (I don’t have my book handy, so I will accept correction if my recollection is incorrect.)

    These narrow situations (along with parental blessings of children, which I would presume would take place outside the presence of a cleric?) would not imply any further authority to ‘bless’ under any other circumstance. It would seem to imply that there is, indeed, some power to ‘bless’ which presumably comes from one’s baptismal dignity. This would be contrasted with the power of a bishop, priest, and deacon to bless, which comes not only from baptismal dignity, but also from his relationship with and ministry in the Church–a relationship and ministry which is fuller with each successive order (and thus explaining why there are some blessings denied to deacons and reserved to bishops.)

    Of course, I put the word ‘blessings’ in quotes, as the current book of blessings is a confusing mess where it is hard to tell who or what is being ‘blessed’ and what kind of spiritual effect there is, if at all… I say this not to undermine legitimate Church authority over her sacramentals and blessings or to cast doubt on a formulary progulmated by legitimate authority, but simply to say that as a priest, I tend to be confused when I read or give these blessings. I would hope that the powers that be go back and re-examine these texts, not only to get them out of “see Dick and Jane” language, but also to focus and, if necessary, intensify the expressed intention and resulting effect of the particular blessings.

    On another note, back in the seminary, there was a tale that went ’round and ’round that I don’t think was ever verified or on the other hand, shot down. Apparently back in the day, ordained Lectors had the priveledge of blessing the First Fruits of Easter? That, of course, opened the question of whether ‘instituted’ (lay) Lectors had that same power. It would seem not, but there were those who insisted that yes, they could. Rabbit hole, anyone?

  24. CarpeNoctem says:

    I am interested in “Michelle Marie Romani’s” comment above and agree with what she says, esp. about receiving “someone” rather than “something” and how receiving a blessing muddles that focus…

    But there is one thing that complicates the whole question a bit, which I witnessed for the first time this year. Pope Benedict DID bless youngsters not receiving Holy Communion at the televised Midnight Christmas Mass!

    Now, of course, I would not presume to take to myself the plenary authority and discretion which the pope alone enjoys, but as an example to his brother bishops (yes, my bishop blesses youngsters) and thus to his priests, there is a precedent for priestly blessings of those not receiving Holy Communion.

  25. Melody says:

    While I shudder in disgust at the practice of EMHCs giving blessings, in situations where the priests are distributing, I think a blessing is spiritually beneficial for non-communicants. When given by a priest of God, blessings have a real effect upon the soul.
    If the person is an adult catechuman or a child before first holy communion, receiving a blessing can help them grow in the faith, help in spiritual struggle, and assist in teaching the proper attitude and reverence for receiving the holy sacrament.
    If the person is abstaining from holy communion because of a need of confession, the blessing can help that person with the spiritual warfare taking place within their soul.
    While I understand Father Fitzpatrick’s thoughts that the “Communion line is for Communion” it seems to me that these practices can aid in the worthy reception of Holy Communion and arise from a longing for the sacramental life of the Church.

    As a side note, the way in which people typically file up for communion makes it difficult for non-communicants to maintain a sense of anonymity.

  26. Seeking a “blessing” during Communion seems to me a well-intentioned but seriously misguided attempt to deal with the situation wherein some congregants are in situations wherein they canot receive holy Communion. It is misguided because while it “saves” them from embarrasment, perhaps such embarrasement is healthy and salubrious. Having them come for a blessing can only encourage them to remain in their unhealthy situation without repenting.

  27. Kimberly says:

    I have learned from experience that when children go up to receieve before First Holy Communiom they drop the arms because; 1. Pier pressure 2. Curiousity (It’s possible adults do the same) and receieve the Eucharist. I believe that to stay in the pew is part of learning the depth of what the Eucharist is all about.

  28. Fr. Angel says:

    The church allowed this to go on for too long, and now it is ingrained everywhere as near dogma. Even traditional Catholics see the Communion line blessings as cute. And once the kids see something at Mass that they like, you can’t take it away without parents getting very angry. [Exactly!]

    The last time this subject came up, some of the posters implied that if you don’t bless children at Communion time, you hate children or are maybe even pro-abortion (LOL). I have been complaining about this abuse for more than 10 years, but at this point I just throw up the white flag.

    Lay blessings? fine. Sign the cross? fine. Bless with the Host? fine. Heck, pull out the pontifical and do it solemnly if you like. If I so no, you’ll accuse me of being a pro-abort.

  29. Dan Soderlund says:

    There is a continual undermining of the sacred office of the Priest. The blessing of people by the EMHCs as well as the use of “altar girls” are both points on the slippery slope to replacing Priests with the unordained…beware…

  30. REMINDER: Please don’t post “anonymous” comments on the blog. We are anonymous enough as it is.

    Please use a real name of some kind or a handle.

  31. Athanasius says:

    Mr Peters would probably disagree, but I doubt very much that Our Lord would frown on lay people using words and gestures of blessing much more plentifully in every circumstance.

    I would suggest that He would, since the Church does (He who hears you hears me). Moreover, the laity have no power to bless where they have no authority. If the Church granted the laity the power to bless then it would be different but has not happened, nor has it in the Tradition east and west. This is nothing more than a usurpation of clerical offices by the laity (even if it is not intended as such)

    The blessing of fathers on their children differs in that a Father has authority over his wife and children to bless them, and he may, but that is a natural law authority to bless them. He may bless in the trinitarian formula, and there is nothing wrong with it since it proceeds from natural law in his authority. However, children can not bless their parents, and mothers can not bless the fathers, because it is contrary to the authority structure. But such blessings are eminently traditional.

  32. Supertradmom says:

    Thank you so much for this blog. I have been trying to help other lay people see that this is an incorrect thing to do when I have been involved in RCIA. This is actually taught by some of the RCIA training groups which travel across America giving workshops. These groups tend to want to take priestly duties and give them to the laity. I have attended these in the past for various pastoral reasons and have been put-off by the emphasis on the laity in certain quasi-liturgical gestures. What is also distressing is when the pastor asks the congregation to bless someone and all the people in the church raise their hands in what always resembles to me the Nazi salute. This is done many times in my former parish when the RCIA candidates are standing in front of the sanctuary.
    But, that diocese prefers the clericalization of the laity to real priests, I\’m afraid.

    Lay people, except for parents, as you state, cannot bless.

  33. Ed Peters says:

    Michelle, my characterization of the letter is accurate, you are using the word “private” equivocally. I understand your confusion, tho, as it arises from Rome’s inconsistent practices here.

    Athanasius, right, if folks would just read the introduction to even the “Shorter Book of Blessings”, they would see these points made well.

  34. Marcin says:

    Fr. Edward McNamara, of the Regina Apostolorum university, comments on the Letter:

  35. Marcin says:

    As a side note, the way in which people typically file up for communion makes it difficult for non-communicants to maintain a sense of anonymity.

    Why do they need anonymity in the first place? There is no shame in withdrawing from Communion if one is unworthy. Unworthiness is our condition after the Primal Fall, and we should be acutely aware of it. Only Grace of the sacramental Confession can alleviate it.
    Who should be ashamed is someone who gives in and receives unworthily, for eats one’s own condemnation. And those who do so while publicly sinning are scandalizing others, and ought to be dealt with by “the dogs” of a Shepherd (to borrow from one of the comments in a thread on Pelosi et al.)

  36. Rob says:

    The laity have absolutley no business distributing Holy Communion, whether it’s permitted or not, let alone giving out ersatz blessings…just another of the many reasons to supress altogether EMs and lay lectors and lectresses, serviettes and all other Novus Ordo nonsense…

  37. Athanasius says:

    The laity have absolutley no business distributing Holy Communion, whether it’s permitted or not, let alone giving out ersatz blessings…just another of the many reasons to supress altogether EMs and lay lectors and lectresses, serviettes and all other Novus Ordo nonsense…

    That wouldn’t be hard if bishops had the political will to install men with minor orders of acolyte and lector, which are still present in Canon Law, and institute them in the parishes for these purposes. That was the intention in the beginning. But people would scream about their “rights” (which they don’t have) being taken away.

    If Catholics spent as much time preparing to reverently receive Holy Communion, and making thanksgivings afterwords, rather than their “right” to be ems or bless, there would be enough openness for the preferred mode of the Church.

  38. Instituting men who aren’t seminarians as acolytes and lectors isn’t worth the bother. Far better just to let the priest do the readings, and for boys to do the serving.

  39. Michelle Marie Romani says:

    The letter in question came about because of a rather spirited debate in the Catholic Answers Forum. Two members of CAF wrote the letter back in August 2008. Three months later, they received a response. The letter bears this, Protocol No. 930/08/L. This letter has also been published in Notitae, thus, no longer a private matter. [It isn’t private in the sense that it was in Notitiae, but it is private in the sense that it was sent to an individual and that it is not an act of the Congregation.] Thus, with all due respect, Mr. Peters, I am not confused about the definition of the letter. [I think you might be a little confused about. You seem to think that the letter has some sort of special authority. It doesn’t. It is an explanation of the existing laws. It doesn’t change anything and it is not an official act. It doesn’t establish norms. Don’t get me wrong: It is mighty useful in dispelling false notions about the abuses in question and proper practice. That is why the Congregation chose to share this private letter with a wider readership.] In fact, I have shared it with some of the priests in my diocese, many of whom have received it with a sigh or relief.

    For those who still believe that laity are somehow empowered to impart a blessing during the context of the Mass, the letter from the CDWDS makes it perfectly clear that this should not happen.

    Now, there will be some who will use the Holy Father as justification for continuing this practice. This is the wrong approach to take. The Holy Father, by virtue of his office as Supreme Pontiff, certainly has his privileges. But, these do not extend to anyone else but him.

    The CDWDS makes it perfectly clear that the blessing will occur at the end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, its appropriate and proper place. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, reinforced by Redemptionis Sacramentum, notes that no one, not even the priest himself, has any right to add anything to the Mass.

    The blessing imparted at the end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is probably the most inclusive part of the liturgy because this blessing applies to everyone. No one is excluded. If people feel compelled to have some sort of special blessing, nothing precludes them from asking the celebrant or the deacon for such a blessing after Mass. [This is the second time you use “compelled” about seeking a blessing. It is also entirely possible, in fact more probable, that people simply want to receive a blessing!]

  40. Steve B says:

    This nearly ubiquitous “problem” is simply a consequence since Vatican II from the laity performing more and more sacred roles and ministries previously reserved to the Priesthood.

    With that, is it no wonder that – as Dan Soderlund said above “There is a continual undermining of the sacred office of the Priest.” – and as a consequence we have a dire shortage of Priests?

    Wouldn’t a re-emphasis by the Church on giving more exclusive and extensive roles of the Ordained Priesthood (i.e. a more traditional emphasis) help with encouraging more men to consider a Priestly vocation??? Seems like a no-brainer to me, especially since the traditionally oriented seminaries are nearly busting at the seams. With the current Priestly shortage, however, we’d have to be prudent where, when, and how to make these role changes so as to not inundate our Priests further in their responsibilities….

    Along these same lines of what is/isn’t “proper” for the laity to do wrt what has traditionally been the exclusive role of the Priest, how about other areas like the following:

    Is it the “proper” role of a lay person to say the part of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ.” – in other words, shouldn’t a Priest exclusively be leading this particular part of the devotion (as well as other prayers where Our Lord is being offered to our Heavenly Father, like in the traditional Catholic prayer before Holy Mass)?

    Keep up the great work Fr. Z! Our family LOVES your blog!

    Steve B
    Plano, TX

  41. JeanS says:

    JeanS apologizes for the use of ‘anonymous’ and promises never to use it again on this forum.

  42. Ed Peters says:

    “Thus, with all due respect, Mr. Peters, I am not confused about the definition of the letter.”

    Yes, you are Marie, but at this point I will come across as defending myself on a small issue not germaine to my post, so, perhaps someone as qualified can explain it better for you. Kind regards, edp.

  43. Athanasius says:

    Instituting men who aren’t seminarians as acolytes and lectors isn’t worth the bother. Far better just to let the priest do the readings, and for boys to do the serving.

    I agree, I’m just saying if one feels they have a “need” for ministers of communion, that is a canonical route that maintains the clerical role. On the other hand I couldn’t gauge whether there is or is not a need since I not been to the NO in three years, and that was once in a year, so functionally it has been four years. It should be, to maintain the Tradition of the Roman Rite that no one below a deacon touches the Eucharist period.

  44. Karen says:

    Once again, is IT POSSIBLE on to discuss ANY “Abuse” issue without being snarky with “serviette” comments from men who’s sister could roller skate faster then they could. EVERY time problems (and I agree this come-up-for-a-blessing business IS a real problem) come up, it seems there are certain men that will always grab the chance to dump on women and/or girls as THE problem.

    The problem is two fold: It is wrong. Even in dioceses where there HAVE been instructions given not to do it AND priests have asked people NOT to do it. The people in the pews keep coming up for this. [And believe me, it doesn’t help when your parish is located in a high traffic tourist area, where you get people from all over the world, many in the diocese where the bishop more or less encourages it.] It’s ingrained in some of them., Not to mention the child who will stand there rooted to the spot and either throws a tantrum or you “offend” the parents by saying “father will bless your child after Mass after you ask him to.” Then they go away in a huff. I’ve had this happen. and NONE of it is fun. The adults are bad enough. Am I ready to die on a hill for this either? No. When the “go away” treatment doesn’t work..I have had to on occasion say “God bless you” — no gestures just to get the person to MOVE. Otherwise if I hadn’t said that people would STILL be standing there. I don’t know who started the mess, but I’d love to bang their collective heads together.

  45. Rob says:

    Karen deary,
    Oh you don’t like the serviette thing? Then how about girl altar boys?
    geez, lighten up.

  46. Mark says:

    I understand and agree with the fact that I, as an EMHC, can’t bless anyone. However, as others have mentioned, it has become customary fort he vast ajority of the congregataion to present themselves either for Communion of for a blessing. I also believe that the Communion line is not the place to argue, even though it should change. But the situation, for now, is as it is. How best to deal with it then?

    There are some good solutions to the situation offered here. But what can an EMHC do? An EMHC is a lay person, of course. Can a lay person confer a blessing? Or just the wish for a blessing?

    What I have been doing is tracing a cross with the thumb of my right hand across the forehead of the person who wishes to be blessed. I have copied that custiom from our parish’s MC. I don’t say anything, while I do that, and the people are fine with that. I do fear, however, that some believe I do bless them. Which I can’t, of course.

    So, if anyone knows what I am allowed to do as an EMHC, and what not…

  47. Kimberly says:

    Mark – Check post #7.

  48. dcs says:

    It really is amazing to me how quickly this business of non-communicants coming up for a “blessing” has caught on. I came into the Church 11 years ago and presenting myself for a “blessing” never crossed my mind, nor did anyone on the RCIA team mention it (and this particular RCIA program is not one that I would have called “conservative”). I haven’t assisted at the Novus ordo regularly for six or seven years now but I don’t recall ever seeing this done anywhere except on TV.

  49. Charivari Rob says:

    Maureen –

    “The problem is the idea that every person sitting in the pew MUST get up and get in line. I also blame many churches for setting up the pews or chairs so inconveniently that nobody can go to Communion unless everybody goes to Communion.”

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a church (or a building used regularly in lieu of a church) where it wasn’t possible for people who were receiving to get out of the pew past people who were not (or for people who were not to get up, let people out, and sit back down).

    Please, what did you mean by an inconvenient setup that results in ‘nobody can go … unless everybody goes’?

    About the only exception I can think of is a stadium-event Mass, gut that is by definition not a regular occurence.

  50. It seems to me that this abuse could be reduced in part were the time of the Eucharistic fast lengthened to say, three hours.

  51. Dr. Eric says:

    Even in the Eastern Churches the people come up to get a blessing by the priest if they are not Communicating, so I’m a bit confused as to why this can’t be done by a priest. I was almost blessed by a Maronite priest, until he realized that I was there for Communion like the rest of the Lebanese people. Also at a Ruthenian Catholic Church there were many people who came to get blessed instead of receiving Communion, the priest rested the Chalice on the head of the person and pronounced a blessing.

    I fully agree that extraneous Eucharistic Ministers should NOT be doing this nonsense. This is a further blurring of the lines between the Ministerial Priesthood and the laity.

    I am going to echo something that someone else wrote above, this is a new practice in the Latin Church. When I was a kid and a teenager in the 80s and 90s, Latin Catholics who weren’t going to receive Communion stayed in their seats. I blame Mundelein; mostly because I live in downstate Illinois! ;-)

  52. I have people come up who are not going to receive and simply venerate the chalice by kissing it. It is a beautiful act of devotion.

  53. Dr. Eric says:

    Fr. Deacon,

    Khrystos Voskres!

    Is this a Ukrainian tradition or a general Byzantine tradition.

  54. Bill in Texas says:

    Father Z, in my opinion, lengthening the fast to 3 hours might make the problem worse. People who hadn\’t fasted for 3 hours, but were otherwise properly disposed, would then come up just for the blessing. That could be a *lot* of people presenting themselves in error for a blessing by EMoHCs. It will take some guidance from the parish priest, at least in homilies once a month or so and maybe even in the way that is done now at funerals and weddings, to get this under control.

    Or am I missing the point? If so, I apologize. As an EMoHC who does his best to do things correctly as long as the Church supports the use of EMoHCs, I really want to see this confusion about blessings resolved.

  55. Girgadis says:

    I am wondering if this abuse is a regional issue. Here in Philadelphia, I have
    never once seen anyone present themselves to an EMHC for a blessing. In the
    Episcopal church, however, everyone is encouraged to come forward at communion and
    while only those who are baptized may receive, those who are not baptized are given
    a blessing. Since the ordained as well as lay people distribute communion, a person
    can be “blessed” by either. Maybe this is another example of a Protestant practice
    creeping into the Catholic church.

  56. Ed Peters says:

    Spot on, Fr. Z, re Michelle’s points.

    Bill in TX, part of the solution here is to extend the fast to 3 hours, if only to reduce the current pressure on everyone to get up and go forward for SOMETHING. See my:

    Fr. Dcn. The Mass is not be collection of beautiful devotions, it is the highest act of worship (not devotion). Else, there would be never-ending intrusion of personal devotions in it. Eg, why not kiss the ciborium?

  57. Dr. Eric,

    Voistinu voskrese!

    I have seen it done in many different jurisdictions, both Catholic and Orthodox, but I do not know if it is universally practiced…

  58. Rachelle says:

    Presently the custom in my church is that the entire pew files out for communion, pew by pew. The line includes non-Catholic spouses of other denominations or even of no faith affiliation at all, unbaptized children (cousins), couples living together common-law, gay couples at a parent’s funeral, etc.

    The Blessing does offer an alternative to people receiving Communion unworthily, and people do not feel humiliated and subject to the looks of others by staying conspicuously put.

    Not offering a blessing as an alternative could encourage abuse of the Holy Eucharist.

  59. Bill in Texas says:

    Ed, I understand what you’re thinking about the 3 hr. fast, it just seems to me that it won’t work to eliminate people erroneously believing that EMoHCs can give blessings.

    Actually, I don’t even think it’s going to reduce the number of people coming forward for Holy Communion (and why would we want to do that, provided that they are properly disposed?). When the 3-hour fast was in effect previously, I seem to recall that practically everyone still received, which was, after all, the reason the Church replaced the old “from midnight” fast with it.

    No rule about fasting will keep those who are not properly disposed from coming up for communion anyway. But if the rule is onerous enough, it *will* succeed in discouraging those who are otherwise properly disposed from receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion at all.

    It seems to me that the way to correct this is for parish priests to do some teaching.

  60. Bill in Texas says:

    Ed, I should add that I don’t disagree with your other points (in the article you linked to) about the value of the 3-hour fast when someone does actually observe it. I’d hate to see us go back to the “from midnight” fast, mainly for health reasons. Firstly, that rule was horribly hard on priests — the youngest priest was the one who said the late morning/early afternoon Masses, and many of them (so I heard from Father Mitch Pacwa) developed ulcers or other problems because of not being able to eat in the morning. Also from a purely selfish standpoint, I am a diabetic and a “from midnight” fast rule might well mean that if I couldn’t get to a Mass before 9 am, I might not be able to receive Holy Communion at all.

  61. Matt says:


    Presently the custom in my church is that the entire pew files out for communion, pew by pew. The line includes non-Catholic spouses of other denominations or even of no faith affiliation at all, unbaptized children (cousins), couples living together common-law, gay couples at a parent’s funeral, etc.

    The Blessing does offer an alternative to people receiving Communion unworthily, and people do not feel humiliated and subject to the looks of others by staying conspicuously put.

    Not offering a blessing as an alternative could encourage abuse of the Holy Eucharist.

    The solution to an abuse is not another abuse. Communion should only be approached by those who are disposed and so it MUST be reasonable for those who are not to avoid doing so. The problem is your procession, not anything else.

    as Fr. McNamara suggests this abuse:
    \”is more often that not provoked by the bad habit in many parishes of insisting on an orderly pew-by-pew communion procession when a bit of confusion would be enough to help such people pass unnoticed.\”

  62. Romulus says:

    Bill — not to pursue a rabbit hole, but I think most Catholics willing to take control of their appetites will find themselves capable of a fast from midnight, including young priests having to postpone breakfast till early afternoon. Those incapable for reasons of health can be dispensed. For the rest of us, it is really not such a big deal.

  63. Ed Peters says:

    I don’t recommend the midnight fast. For a number of reasons. Just the three-hour fast. For a number of reasons.

  64. priest up north says:

    Blessings to those who cannot receive communion, whether to children or adults who are not receiving, in my opinion, are nothing more than a placebo. Give it time, and they will disappear (as people become more informed on the meaning of Mass and in particular, the reception of Holy Communion, vs. not receiving.

  65. wsxyz says:

    Bill, as Romulus already mentioned there is a thing called a dispensation. I find it interesting that during discussions of discipline, almost always someone will object to a former stricter discipline on medical grounds. But there were always and still are dispensations available for those who legitimately cannot abide by a strict discipline.

    I once heard a story of a Catholic village in Korea during the Korean War. The Allied forces were retreating and passed through a Korean village in which almost everyone was Catholic. The villagers were urged to flee south before the advancing Communist forces but refused to leave their homes. A military priest offered to say Mass for them give them Holy Communion, since there was no telling when they would have the opportunity again, or even if they would survive the next 24 hours. The villagers refused Holy Communion on the grounds that they had already broken the fast, but the priest indicated that in this extraordinary situation he could dispense them from the fast, did so, and offered Holy Mass for the protection of the village before rejoining the military forces heading South.

  66. stigmatized says:

    please, please, pLeAse do not say that i cannot receive a blessing from them. we are supposed to bless and not curse one another. when i attend mass said by a priest who has completely ignored my request for mass in the extraordinary form i do not feel welcome to receive and sometimes seek a blessing instead. a lay minister who attends a liturgy committee meeting, already on the committee because they agree with the priest, helps the priest to prevent people from having access to their rite and also access to worship ad orientem in the new rite. if a lay minister is so empowered that they can prevent people from having access to their rite then surely they are empowered enough to offer a blessing to a person who approaches them. if the very priests who intentionally refuse to celebrate the extraordinary form now think that such blessings are useless then that is a sign that they do not want to minister to us in Any way. when the clergy do not want to say mass in your rite, say hello to you, or even offer you a blessing that means that you do not exist.

  67. stigmatized says:

    blessings are not a ‘placebo’. they allow you to know that you exist when actually receiving communion from people who have ignored and denied your continual requests for mass in your rite seems to confirm your nonexistence.

  68. Seroteamavi says:

    “Once again, is IT POSSIBLE on to discuss ANY “Abuse” issue without being snarky with “serviette” comments….”

    “Karen deary,
    Oh you don’t like the serviette thing? Then how about girl altar boys?”

    “See these Christians, how they love one another!” (Tertullian, Apology 39) Forgive me, but I do not see that mocking and belittling individual people, or an entire gender, should be acceptable in this forum. I don’t believe that our path to holiness lies in intolerance. And Father, respectfully, you ought to have said something about it. Qui tacit consentire videtur.

  69. michigancatholic says:

    Laypeople have no power to bless others in a priestly fashion. Period. If I want myself blessed by a layperson, I’ll do it myself, thanks.

  70. michigancatholic says:

    Saying “bless you” after someone sneezes is an ancient CULTURAL CUSTOM tied up in the language. Even the pagans do it. It has nothing to do with being blessed by a priest.

    Blessing your children isn’t a sacerdotal blessing, I hate to tell you. YOu are always allowed to pray for your children. In fact, YOU SHOULD! But you’re not presiding over them in a priestly fashion unless you happen to be both ordained and a parent, which probably would mean you’re not roman rite (one would hope).

    If you’re a “lay minister” you’re not acting in a priestly capacity either, in any way shape or fashion. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read: INSTRUCTION ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING THE COLLABORATION OF THE NON-ORDAINED FAITHFUL IN THE SACRED MINISTRY OF THE PRIEST

    In a few parishes in my local area, the public prayers during mass are for vocations–priestly (good), to the consecrated life (good) and lay (GAG!). I can’t bring myself to pray these prayers in their entirety for good reason: “Lay ministry” is ABSOLUTELY AND UNEQUIVOCALLY NOT A VOCATION. It’s temporary, it’s a stopgap, it can be done by anyone in a time of need and should be done by NO-ONE most of the time. The real vocation of laypeople is to bring Christ to the world in their families and daily work, which is for the most part, OUTSIDE THE CHURCH BUILDING.

    Yes, a few laypeople work for the church as lawyers, accountants, secretaries, teachers and the like. This is also NOT A VOCATION. It’s a JOB. Even those laypeople have a layperson’s vocation–to live a layperson’s life properly, chastely in their station in life and take the Church to the world in the world.

  71. Geoffrey says:

    michigancatholic: Thanks for the shouting, lol!

    Seriously, is there a document that discusses blessings, both priestly and otherwise (parental, etc.)? I’ve checked the Catechism but I can’t seem to find anything decent…

  72. Karen says:

    Seroteamavi: Thank you. Would that Father Z could manage to police that stuff better himself. I am sick and tired of “calling” people on it — but those comments seem to slip past Fr. Z’s otherwise eagle eye repeatedly. He normally quashes things he doesn’t agree with, so I am left with the conclusion he agrees with those snary comments. In my mind he turns a blind eye to the “boys will be boys” claque. Which is frankly, why I don’t link to him. He has many interesting threads of discussion. But I don’t like the nasty anti-female bias some of his readers constantly get away with.

    stigmatized: Technically the pope has said that the Latin rite has two forms. Both forms are valid. The church you are attending doesn’t happen to offer your *preferred* rite. Why that is, I do not know. Perhaps the priest is a) hostile b) hasn’t had the training c) no one else has asked and he doesn’t want to learn “all of that” for one person. Or any number of reasons.
    [The priest in my home parish is “a.” I was present in the sacristy when someone asked him “does this parish do the Mass in Latin, ever?” And he said “Not as long as I am pastor of the church.” He may as well have thrown down a gauntlet. I told the person (and father chimed in in agreement after he realized how hostile he sounded) where he could find an EF Mass. As it is I have been attending the EF Mass on occasion for a daily Mass.]

    WHATEVER THE REASON….if you are otherwise well disposed to go to Communion i.e. in a state of grace, and have met the fast requirement — why would you want a BLESSING rather than Communion? Go to Communion! That is why we go to Mass in the first place – to ADORE and recieve Communion, if we can. “feel good vibes” I can get from a bowling club. Don’t forget the priest already gives everyone a blessing at the end of Mass anyway.

    In my own diocese, there has been a directive issued that such Communion line blessings are to stop. [Admittedly it is not, unfortunately, enforced .. due to lack of catechisis, etc. for the many reasons outlined above.] NO ONE is supposed to be blessed at Communion time.

    Father will, however, unless he is a complete jerk, be more than happy to give you a blessing after Mass if you ask — REGARDLESS of if he is willing or not to say the EF. [Maybe his latin is terrible? Just thought!]

  73. michigancatholic says:

    I’m not sure at this point that a 3-hour fast would work, actually. Something like 80-90% of fertile-aged Catholic contracept and know they’re not supposed to, BUT it doesn’t keep them from getting in line. Why would changing the fast from 1 hour to 3 make any difference to them? Mind you, it’s a reasonably common occurrence, at least here, to sit in church and watch people chewing gum all the way through Mass. I don’t see them spit it out to get in line either. Ponder that.

    I don’t know what should be done.

  74. michigancatholic says:

    I was just reminded of my years as a Catholic school teacher as I was typing before. At the church next to the school, under the pews, was the most amazing collection of chewing gum ever. Warning: don’t put your fingers under the pews if the church is next door to a high school. :p

  75. stigmatized says:

    i did not institute the practice of giving blessings to certain people at communion and would not have thought to receive one until i gave our petition with 30 names for mass in the extraordinary form to the pastor of the church where i attend daily mass (and where they have five or six or seven priests) and it was completely ignored. as most of the people on the petition also attend mass at the cathedral i also presented it there…where they have several priests trained to say it…and also without response. so i wrote the cardinal and his secretary said that the ‘council of priests’ would decide how best to implement the motu proprio. but summorum pontificum says that the bishop MUST provide a priest if there are people who want the mass. so i wrote to ecclesiadei and also received no response. after this i made numerous calls ecc. also with no results. i began to realize that summorum pontificum may actually be fraudulent and really meant to allow them to see exactly who wants the old rite of mass in order to develop a policy of dealing with them. in the meantime i was also told i was ‘schismatic’ by numerous people in the parish. i do not find this to be christlike. i also do not understand why they also refuse to celebrate mass ad orientem under any circumstances. one would think that so many requests for the old rite of mass would cause them to be more sensitive to people’s needs in whatever way they could. their desire to entirely ignore our needs gives me a cold and sickening feeling which i do not wish to repeatedly associate with the eucharist. i also must say that the tridentine rite mass is not my ‘preferred’ rite. i would not have returned to the catholic church except for the indult mass and my no longer having access to it causes me to be shipwrecked on the same island i swam away from in terror years ago.

  76. Bill in Texas says:

    wsxyz, I do know what a dispensation is. Please do not patronize me. I am much older than you think I am, and a sight more orthodox in my views.

  77. Karen says:

    Stigmatized. I’m really sorry for what you are going through. I hate to say it, but I think you will have to “shop around” to find the best NO place. Check around if you have to, but usually *somewhere* in the diocese there is a parish which can manage to do the NO without abuses. I can say that the SP *overall* seems to have a lukewarm reception — BECAUSE the priests (in the main) are frightened of it OR afraid to speak up that they want to do it and will get flack for it OR are honestly cowed as to how much “power” they have to do it and to “go against the ingrained hippies” that control who gets assigned where the ones who’d like to do it (who are probably the more orthodox in faith anyway) are afraid to rock the boat and get sent out to the back of beyond.

    I can say that I do not think the SP is fraudulent, but I concur that a lot of bishops are trying to tamp it down. I don’t know what to make of my own bishop, to be frank. At first he tried to reinterprete the MP to say what it clearly did not say {Bishop Brom of San Diego] — Fr. Z did a good fisk of the letter he had sent out — wherein he basically tried to say that priests DIDN’T have the right to say the EF without his explict permission. [Didn’t even occur to the man that there were priests who ALREADY had been ordained SAYING that form of the rite — like a 75 year old priest would need HIS permission if he’d already said that form for 10 years as as a young priest? Excuse me? Then he tried to claim the SP said all sorts of things it didn’t say.

    BUT, last Nov. a dilapidated parish was given over to the local Latin Mass society, who for decades had their masses in Holy Cross cemetary in San Diego.
    [The then auxilliary bishop, Cordileone, was friendly to the EP — He’s to be the new bishop in Oakland.] The new EF parish is growing AND there is a youngish enthusiastic FSSP priest there. The parish is starting to form and take shape (there was a long standing and active LAtin Mass society, that had the indult for the Latin Mass – but they had no good place to worship and priests were catch as catch can) — the building is being restored, new altar rails put in, new flooring, things were/are being done to make it more structurally sound. There was a need for more office/class space. During lent they saw a house right in the same block was for sale…BUT the funds they had were committed to refurbing the church — which is first priority – the pastor noted it it the bulletin and asked the parishioners to “keep the item in their prayers” and low and behond IN THE NEXT WEEK the parishioner had come up with 53k the parish did have 3k to spare, and the diocese lent the extra 100k to be paid back over 5 years. They just closed last week and the property will be cleaned up shortly – and they hope to get a 2nd priest in the next year. And now they will have more space for the current rectory/office to just be the rectory for two priests, and they will have expanded office and classroom space and even more space for home schoolers to meet. I attend this parish myself during the week. Frankly it is a relief after Father “Mr. Personality” Pastor puts us all through on a Sunday at my own parish.

    I also know there are some priests (on the younger side, but no spring chickens exactly) who have learned the EF and sometimes say it at their parish. There are a few in north county in Oceanside and Escondido. [And elsewhere for all I know!]

    BUT for the BLOGOSHPERE I would know NONE of this. I bet 90% of the people who go to my regular parish don’t even know the pope said priests COULD say the EP. [And it would surprise me none if that figure held up throughout the diocese.]


  78. stigmatized says:

    it is not easy living in a clerical bureaucracy. but if summorumpontificum were real, even to those who wrote it, we would all have access to the old rite of mass by now. the fssp said it would send a priest here but the priest put in charge of ‘organizing’ masses in the old rite said that was ‘not necessary’ because we have a number of priests willing to say it. but they will NOT say it. so why were they trained?

  79. Phil Steinacker says:


    Issues regarding the implementation of SP have NOTHING to do with the legitimacy of lay blessings. If you revere the EF (as you should, IMHO) surely you accept the legitimacy of the applicable instruction that prohibits lay ministers from doing so. We already suffer the abuse of too many of them to begin with, since they’re only to be utilized when truly needed. Usurping the role of the priest any further only hurts all of us. Frankly, I don’t want a blessing from a lay minister. If I want one that badly I’ll ask for one from my roommate.

    As for your feeling the need for a “blessing” in lieu of receiving Communion, I must tell you that I had shared with a priest a similar decision I had made once when I was quite upset with the way Mass was being disprespected by those in attendence. His response was an admonishment that by giving into my feelings at the expense of Communion I was wallowing in deep pride; that is, I was taking the decision out of Christ’s hands to make Himself available to enter my heart instead of receiving the graces He offers. My refusal to accept Him because of the faults of others was an act of pride becaseu I elevated the importance of my feelings over the importance of His presence within me.

    Father Abel told me I should not receive Communion without first receiving the Sacrament of Penance. He concluded with the words, “Don’t deny Him again!”

    Perhaps others can articulate this better than me, but somehow the idea is that receiving His Gift is far more important than my own feelings about admitted imperfections I witness during the Mass. I’m trying to say to you that His presence overcomes all – including problems that put me into a tailspin.

    So, to Fr. Abel’s words I can only add, “Turn your troubled emotions over to Him by receiving Him. That’s why He gave Himself to us, you know. He doesn’t want you to deny Him becase of the shortcomings of others. He sacrificed Himself for us, so He doesn’t ask you to sacrifice your receiving Him.

    Besides, He can handle it, don’t you think?”

  80. stigmatized says:

    do you think he wants the words of his vicar on earth in the document summorum pontificum to be ignored?

  81. stigmatized says:

    if people claim their rights to the old mass as stated in summorum pontificum with the result of being considered ‘schismatic’ by others in the church then they may not wish to receive so as to prevent scandal to these others. some may wish to receive a blessing as this is customary for those who outside the church.

  82. Karen says:

    Why would you be “scandalizing” “these others?” Don’t let THEM make you feel like you have to deny yourself Communion. Don’t cut yourself off from grace.

  83. stigmatized says:

    i am outside the church. by desiring mass in the old rite and mass ad orientem in the new i have failed to accept what the holy spirit has spoken to the church through the majority of people who do not want these things. indeed, this whole blog is dealing with these issues…how bishops are slowly bringing americhurch into her fullness through the will of the majority. i do not consider myself to be a member of her.

  84. stigmatized says:

    i cannot receive on those days and in those places where my gut feeling says “this is americhurch”. so i could only receive a blessing.

  85. Melody says:

    Does no one but me believe a blessing from a priest has an actual spiritual benefit? That was the point of 90% of my post earlier and yet only the last line was discussed earlier.

    I want to eliminate EMHCs altogether, but the practice of a blessing itself is not simply “feel good” theology on my part. A blessing by a priest has an effect on the evil one and many people need it. So many in fact that asking them all to go to the priest after mass would make life difficult for the priest. I should also note that the priests where I go to mass hold their thumb and forefinger together when giving such blessings so that no particle of the host is profaned.

    Secondly, if at any moment approaching the altar a person has a moment of conscience and realizes they cannot receive, they can always make the sign requesting a blessing.

    My answer to why anonymity is important comes from a bit of personal experience. I stayed behind in the pew during communion a few times because I couldn’t get to confession about an argument where I had badly lost my temper. Later I was dismayed to overhear two ladies of my acquaintance gossiping about why this might be so. One thought I had found a boyfriend, while the other thought I was being scrupulous.

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