QUAERITUR: Blessings at Communion… again.

From a reader:

In the OF some Priest’s will bless those who present themselves in the
Communion line with their arms crossed. (Although I am doubtful to the legality of this) So can a Priest who is celebrating the EF bless those who present themselves with their arms crossed?

If it shouldn’t be done in the Ordinary Form, because it is out of place at Communion time to give blessings, why would it be okay to do it during the Extraordinary Form?

No, this should not be done in the Extraordinary Form either.  But keep reading.

I encourage you to use the links I post in answers to the same questions about blessings at Communion time.  Here is a handy link to an article about blessings at Communion time.  That article directly addresses the issue of EMHCs and blessings, but it also covers the issue of whether or not blessings should be given at all.  It provides an answer from the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome that, no, blessings should not be given at all at that point during Mass.  Communion time is for communion.  There is a blessing at the end of Mass.

This is not one of those hills I think priests should get ready to die on.  There are a lot of things we have to clean up in our liturgical worship that are more pressing.  However, just because there are other and more serious abuses that trouble our worship (e.g., the improper employment of EMHCs), that doesn’t mean that we can just let this slide.  We should start working against this practice slowly but surely.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The worship guide for the Christmas Eve service I attended included a suggestion to visiting non-Catholics to come up during Communion for a blessing. There were also 20 EMHCs.

  2. APX says:

    None of the literature handed out at my parish on Christmas Eve suggested this, nor did our bishop make an announcement that people should. I know our EF priest won’t do it, and stated on two separate occasions it’s not permitted, and that the proper time to receive a blessing is at the end of Mass.

    Even the evil OCP Hymnal, “Breaking Bread” doesn’t make any encouragement or even mention of going up to receive blessings in its instructions for receiving communion on the back of the front cover.

    Father Z, is it possible to get a better search function? One that permits codes such as (” “), (+), and (-)?

  3. pelerin says:

    I remember when the blessings at Communion time were introduced. I understood the idea was so that people who for one reason or another were not able to receive Communion would not feel ‘left out’ and could still join the ‘queue’ instead of remaining conspicuously in their place as we once did. At the time I rather liked the idea but not so sure now.

  4. Wise words from our sponsor:

    This is not one of those hills I think priests should get ready to die on. There are a lot of things we have to clean up in our liturgical worship that are more pressing.


  5. Louis says:

    This is one of the things that i have to let slide. Since I grew up when CCD was all about Jesus loves you and married a Southern Baptist, i do not mind it. But that is just me personally. After years of learning and reading this blog, I agree with doing away with the blessing.

    One good note, because I would carry my children to get blessed, it made it easier to start receiving on the tongue….

  6. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Every once in a while, I give a few minutes before the homily to explain what the Communion line is about. And I give a comment along the lines of: “Although in the parish you have come from, you have been trained by your priest(s) to cross your arms over your chest and ask for a blessing in the Communion line, I would ask that you refrain from doing that at this Mass. When I give blessings in the Communion line, I have to ignore our Eucharistic Lord for a moment in order to give my blessing instead of giving that person the Blessed Sacrament. Please remember that we call it a Communion Line because those who are walking in this line are coming to receive the Sacrament of Our Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. And the priest’s total thought and concentration should be on the Host, not on giving any blessings. We do not call it a blessing line. Instead of leaving the pew to ask for a blessing, I would ask that you prayerfully invite Our Lord into your heart, in a prayer which we call a Spiritual Communion. At the end of Mass, all will receive a blessing, and I also bless people at the doors after Mass if they have some special need.”

  7. My practice has been not to bless but to greet: i.e., when someone comes forward who isn’t communicating, but seems to present or be presented to me, I look at the person and say, “may you receive Jesus in your heart.” (I’m tempted to say, “may the Holy Spirit inspire you to become Catholic” but let’s save that for another day.) It’s not a blessing.

    For years we had all the kids come forward at school Masses, including whole grades who don’t communicate; this year we ended that, now K-2 don’t come forward. Non-Catholic students do come forward and they get my greeting.

    We have extraordinary ministers of holy communion who have been instructed different ways over the years. I’ve tried to instruct them not to do any pseudo-blessings but when we have get-togethers for updates, too many don’t come–the very ones who need to! I’m hoping my example will have its effect, and I think it has. I don’t know what the other priests who offer Mass in my parishes do, however.

  8. Ttony says:

    “This is not one of those hills I think priests should get ready to die on.”


    After forty years of lack of clarity and obfuscation by men in Holy Orders, now is not the time to tell people who are no longer in formal communion that they may not approach the altar recognising that their communion is impaired: at least these people are still coming to church and recognising that they are not in full communion. [And they can come to Communion and remain in the pew at Communion time, just like any one else who chooses not to receive.]

    Goodness only knows how we will regularise so many irregular relationships, but banning people from acknowledging in their sinfulness Jesus in physical form when they have been permitted to do so for decades is a way of driving them to spiritofvativan2ism. [Be careful: non-reception of Communion could be from having eaten something.]

    Hell gapes open, of course, for those responsible for leading them to this position.

  9. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    My priest, a former FSSP, who is in the process of incardinating into our diocese says both the EF & OF Masses. His OF Masses are as orthodox as I have ever seen with ad orientum as often as not, only male servers, traditional music, Latin chant for most of the common prayers, limited EMHC usage, and everyone receiving kneeling at the Communion rail (and >50% receiving on the tongue).

    When I have my 18-month-old son with me at the EF Mass, I have noticed this priest inconspicuously makes a sign of the cross above my son’s head and sometimes touches his forehead with the dorsum of his little finger before proceeding to administer to me the Blessed Sacrament.

    I had not realized the priest should not be blessing my son at that time.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    If we followed the Byzantine custom, your little boy would be receiving Communion instead of getting a blessing. Returning to the distribution of all the Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism, Communion and Confirmation at one time, would end the blessing problem, at least for children.

  11. Kathleen10 says:

    I have learned something else on this blog, thank you.

    We were once taught children coming up with parents, too young for Communion, approach with their arms crossed and were given a blessing. I was always grateful for the blessing (who doesn’t want their child blessed?) and I think it made my son feel part of everything, and gave him a somewhat rare opportunity for a very brief “one to one” moment with a priest, also a good thing. I guess these are minor points. It is truly more important for the priest to maintain focus on what he is doing at that time, I agree.

  12. anilwang says:

    To reinforce what both Supertradmum and Fr Martin Fox said,

    In the Byzantine tradition, it’s customary to have blessed bread for non-Catholics/non-Orthodox/people who cannot receive for other reasons. It fulfills precisely the role of crossed hands at communion without having people who are not in good standing coming up for communion. If this practice pulled from Church Tradition were adopted in the Latin Rite, there would be no reason to have the crossed hands, even pastorally, and even for children.

  13. NoTambourines says:

    Further to Fr. Z’s responses in red above, I’m allergic to wheat gluten. I’ve gotten some looks for staying in the pew. I’m sure there are people wondering and speculating what’s wrong with that woman (me) who stayed behind and why she bothered coming to Mass. It’s humbling. I “offer it up,” for all the times I casually and ungratefully went through the motions at Communion time in my youth (before my diagnosis).

    But I won’t go up for a blessing. In my experience, that’s been something that was highlighted for non-Catholics to feel included. I’m Catholic, and I don’t need that to feel “included” in something I know I’m a part of.

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