QUAERITUR: priest asks people to bless child to be baptized

This is from a reader:

I have a question regarding the Rite of Baptism for Children. Our
parish priest asks us, during baptisms, to “raise our right hand” in
union with him while he is asking for some of the blessings for the
child. This all sounds very suspect to me, but is it proper, or does
it at least have any basis in historical practice? I do not feel that
my raising my hand has any effect on the blessings imparted on the
child since I am a layperson and that is not my child (I understand
lay parents can validly bless their children). What’s the scoop? [I am
not in the USA but in Canada… do not know if these things vary be
episcopal conference]. Thank you and God bless.

I would like to have the priest pick up the book and turn to appropriate page and point while reading aloud to the rubric which instructs him to invite people to do that.

I suppose he thinks that is “meaningful”.  This is probably another example of sentimentality shoving theology and common sense out of the picture.

If you have a photo or video of the baptism, and I suspect most baptisms are being recorded these days, you might put your question in a brief respectful letter to the local bishop asking him to explain this practice, which seems not to be a part of the Latin Church’s rite of baptism.



When you have had a tough day watching the Church’s rites toyed with according to the whims of a priest, why not settle your nerves with a large WDTPRS mug of Mystic Monk Coffee?

And why stop there?  When you find a priest who is doing this sort of thing, you could get him a large WDTPRS mug and a few pounds of Mystic Monk Coffee!

May I suggest the Say The Black – Do The Red coffee mug?  Canadian link to mug here.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Ugh. There was this practice at my old parish. The congregation looked like it was heiling Hitler.

  2. teaguytom says:

    Same here Scott. My old parish use to ask people to do that before baptism and it happened as well at Easter Vigil. Asking the congregation of the sponsers/Godparents of the elect to raise their hand in blessing. After I saw it the last time, i refused to return to that parish and officially joined the EF community. Why does this sound like a “priesthood of believers” moment where we can all bless others.

  3. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I see that all the time here in the Bay State. In addition to baptisms, some parishes bring those who are sick up in their wheelchairs, etc. and have the whole congregation join in extending their hands in blessing as those poor souls are anointed in the sacrament of the sick. This is part of a regularly scheduled Mass, not a special healing Mass or anything. Sometimes people applaud after the anointing…

  4. chatto says:

    Can parents bless their children, in the same way that an ordained minister can? I must admit, I’ve never heard of that.

  5. DavidJ says:

    I’ve always been taught that a parent may (and should) bless their child as they have authority over them, and that this prayer is highly efficacious, but I’ll admit I couldn’t point you to a document that says that.

  6. MrD says:

    My parish, run by the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, always has us do the group blessings for baptisms and other events.

    The Oblates tend to be into “Active Participation” and it is stated on our bulletin. One of the priests was shocked when I informed him that my other parish in town uses Latin here and there. We also conclude mass with the prayer to St. Michael. He was aghast and said that wasn’t approved by the bishop.

  7. MrD says:

    Here is the mission statement… why reference Vatican II specifically? Isn’t Catholic more than just what happened in Vatican II? Notice it is the “…vision of Vatican II…”


    IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, a Catholic Faith Community,
    is called to be the presence of JESUS CHRIST in our world today.

    Guided by the vision of Vatican II and empowered by the HOLY SPIRIT,
    we respond to this call through:

    Worship, centered in the celebration of the Eucharist

    Formation in Scripture and Tradition


    Compassionate service


    Through the exercise of stewardship of time, talent and treasure,
    we fulfill our mission to love GOD and our neighbor with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.

  8. Kate says:

    We were invited to do a similar thing at our old parish at “children’s Masses”. The CCD teachers would lead the young children out of the church into the hall while the adults listened to the Gospel and the homily (The children would get a dumbed-down version of the reading and a craft to do). As the children were being led out, the congregation was asked to raise their hands “in blessing”. Not only did we look like we were “heiling Hitler”, I always had a creepy sense that we were facing a Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang-like future with no children.

  9. my kidz mom says:

    Scott W: this is also the practice at my former parish.

    Their mission statement is similar to MrD’s: “Centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, St. [It’s All About Us] Parish empowers its members to grow in faith and act in love. Rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition and embracing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, we are a faith community where all are welcome.”

    And all will bless. Ugh.

  10. xgenerationcatholic says:

    Those silly blessings make my arms hurt. Don’t even get me started on the priest carrying the baby around the church thing. I suppose they think this is cute.

  11. sullibe says:

    This particular action was done at my wedding (I have pictures with my parents, who are not Catholic, not participating in it); should it have been done then or does this action have a place within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony?

  12. traditionalorganist says:

    My day is ruined completely whenever we are told (!) to bless the child (who incidentally is most often far from being a newborn) and the family. I refuse to raise my arm and I become, shall we say, very uncharitable in my thoughts.

    I feel the need to rant: I’ve spent my entire life (as have millions of others) ever-conscious of liturgical abuses and I have to admit that I’m pretty worn out. I really want to be able to go to any Mass, and have it be the same as every other Mass. Instead, every Church I go to is different. I shouldn’t have to research the parish website to determine if I am going to commit some sin against charity by attending. I feel that this is a bad example for my children too. While teaching them, I may have to tell them that what a certain priest does is wrong. But, by having them distrust one priest, I may inadvertently cause them to distrust all priests!

  13. hawkeye says:

    This happens all the time in parishes in my diocese. My family and I would just keep our hands folded. One priest at daily Mass was going to bless a couple and some religious articles before the final blessing. When he asked us to raise our hands in blessing over the couple, my daughter and I just kept our hands folded as usual; however, this priest refused to bless the couple until we all raised our hands. He embarrassed both of us until we finally raised our hands slightly. He kept his eyes on us the whole time. Had I not been with my daughter, I would have walked out. Never went to another of his Masses again. It is a very goofy practice. Now travel nearly 25 miles to Mass where these practices don’t exist.

  14. cothrige says:

    Our parish also does this during baptisms and whenever a new EMHC is installed. We are also told to shout out our personal intentions during the prayers after the creed. It does take on a circus atmosphere at times. Fortunately, though, the priest has never called us out for not participating in these things, like the Hitler blessings as we call them. Confronting people for not joining in during a Mass doesn’t sound very “pastoral” to me.

  15. Thomas S says:

    My deacon uncle does this for a Nuptial Blessing at all weddings. I, too, have thought it looks like a rally in 1939 Germany.

    At Baptisms he has EVERYBODY in attendance process up and make the sign of the Cross on the baby’s head. And I can assure you, not all are even Christian, let alone Catholic.

    I HATE this nonsense. And I HATE that an ordained Catholic clergyman backs me into a corner to either participate in what I thought was liturgical abuse or sit on the sidelines and cause tension in the family.

  16. TJerome says:

    it’s trite. I NEVER participate in this kind of sentimental nonsense

  17. I DESPISE the practice of laypeople giving a blessing. We’re a royal priesthood, yes, but we’re not that special!!!!
    I feel sure that someday a non-Catholic is going to see this aptly named “Hitler blessing” and trot off to the nearest newspaper office and tell them what a horrific thing they just saw. And Hell’s Bible will get a hold of it…. and it just gets worse.

  18. Elly says:

    Can grandparents bless their grandchildren? Can godparents bless their godchildren?


  19. Parents have always been able to bless children. It’s in the Bible a lot. The Book of Tobit/Tobias has some good stuff there.

    It used to be customary in a lot of places that, if a child was introduced to an adult, especially an elderly adult, the child was supposed to ask for a blessing. There are a lot of fairy tales where dire things happen if you’re a rude child who doesn’t ask for blessings. :) Naturally we’re all familiar with the blessing of someone who sneezes, asking for good health for him (Gesundheit! Bless you!) In most languages in Christendom, the normal greetings and farewells were prayers of blessing. (Goodbye = “God be with you”. Adios/Vaya con Dios = “Go with God”. Gruss Gott. Etc.)

    And of course, in early medieval Irish law, it was obligatory for everybody to bless everybody and everything all the time practically, with big fines for anybody who watched anybody else working on something without saying “God bless the work!” This was not only polite and Christian, but assured people that you weren’t silently cursing the thing they were working on with pagan curses. (Lay blessing — it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.) You probably know that even today there’s plenty of “God bless all here!” and so forth.

    None of this is the same as an ordained cleric’s blessing, to my understanding. It’s a prayer, though, and God listens to prayer.

    OTOH, when something rightly belongs to the realm of clerical blessings with actual sacramental power from Jesus Christ, it’s presumptuous for us laypeople to jump in, and it’s clericalistic nonsense for clerics to try to drag us away from doing our proper job and into doing theirs. How dare they insinuate that we’re not fulfilling our job unless we do theirs!?

  20. AnnaTrad51 says:

    I was at a wedding reception when the Priest asked us to all raise our right hands to bless the food then bless the Bride and Groom. I earned a( I don’t know a better way to put it) dirty look from the Priest when he saw me quietly say “Grace before meals”and cross myself.

  21. PaterAugustinus says:

    I wonder if this has been lifted from the Southern Baptists.

    ::Ahem:: I used to be Southern Baptist (hey, I repented, already!), and many congregations have this custom. It comes from the congregationalist belief that baptism incoprorates a member into the *local* Baptist congregation, and the congregation (being autonomously ruled by the members) must approve of every new member. The pastor asks the people to assent to the baptism of the new member before he performs it, and the lifting of hands is literally a vote.

    I learned this, when our travelling Orchestra played a concert for a rather traditional (ha! relatively speaking, of course…) congregation in Phoenix; there was a baptism that morning and I raised my hand, thinking we were just wishing the person well. I was scolded later for butting in to the congregation’s business!

    President Carter also once famously left his congregation, when it did not “bless” (i.e., vote for) the baptism of some black people.

  22. benedictgal says:

    Sadly, this phenomenon has reached the South Texas hinterland, specifically, my dad’s parish. We sometimes have Quince Ano celebrations imbedded within the Mass. This odd “ritual”, for lack of a better word, does not show up in the Rite approved by the CDWDS. When I pointed this out to my dad’s pastor, he told me that I am not the bishop and he takes his orders from the Ordinary. What is worse is that whenever there are secular events like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents’ Day (as well as back to school), he has the faithful do the one-armed salute. My father and I refuse to participate in it, as do a handful of other parishioners.

    This is a bad practice. What part of Redemptionis Sacramentum’s statement about how “we should not add things to the Mass on our own authority” do these priests not understand? What part of Ecclesia de Mysterio do these priest not understand?

  23. irishgirl says:

    I remember going to a wake for a deceased member of the Third Order Franciscans and seeing the members doing the ‘Hitler blessing’ [good description for it] over the body in the casket. I didn’t do it, as far as I can remember; I think I just folded my hands quietly.
    When I read stuff like this, as well as the ‘horror story’ experiences that ‘ordinary Catholic’ people have gone through-why can’t priests just ‘SAY THE BLACK AND DO THE RED’, as Father Z always says?

  24. kradcliffe says:

    A protestant friend of mine saw this done at a wedding and she says that they were told to “Sieg Heil.”

  25. Jayna says:

    A couple of years ago I went to Mass on Mother’s Day and the celebrant asked the entire congregation to hold their hands over any mothers/women around them in the pews. Other than the “liturgical dancing” that occurred in the middle of the Good Friday service, I can’t tell you when I’ve felt more uncomfortable at Mass. Well, maybe the bongo drums on Pentecost.

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