QUAERITUR: The traditional Roman Ritual and “reserved blessings”: can priests use them?

From a priest (slightly edited):

Dear Fr. Z,

I was talking to a fellow priest the other day regarding blessings. I was relating to him how I loved using the Extraordinary Form blessings from the 3 Vol. set [translated by Weller], to which he said he prefers them as well. I then asked if he had used any of the blessings to make sacramental healing water yet, e.g. on the feast of Ignatius the Confessor. He replied that he hadn’t because those were reserved. I responded that I had heard that all reserved blessings had been lifted since circa Vatican II. Personally I should have fact-checked hearsay before using some of the EF blessings; yet, here is my attempt at resolving this liturgical legal conundrum.

Reverend and Dear Father, on 26 Sept 1964 the Sacred Congregation of Rites, on September issued an Instruction stating in par. 77:

“The blessings in the Rituale Romanum tit. IX, cap. 9, 10, 11, hitherto reserved, may be given by any priest, except for: the blessing of a bell for the use of a blessed church or oratory (cap. 9, no. 11); the blessing of the cornerstone of a church (cap. 9, no. 16); the blessing of a new church or public oratory (cap. 9, no. 17); the blessing of an antemensium (cap. 9, no. 21); the blessing of a new cemetery (cap. 9, no. 22); papal blessings (cap. 10, nos. 1-3); the blessing and erection of the stations of the cross (cap. 11, no. 1). reserved to the bishop.”

So, any priest, not just a member of the Society of Jesus, can use the blessing of water in honor of St. Ignatius.

There are lots of spiffy blessings in the book, Father!  Use them!  Lay people, check ’em out!  Figure out a way to integrate these sacramentals into your lives.

Those blessings that were formerly reserved can be found on the great website maintained by the Canons of St. John Cantius, HERE.

Finally, thank you, Pope Benedict, for the provisions of Summorum Pontificum!

The older Roman Ritual is a mighty tool for the promotion of the New Evangelization.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


    This permition you mention was issued in 1964 under Paul VI.

    The document was not drafted directly by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, as you mention, but by the Consilium charged with implementing the liturgical reforms. It was later approved by Paul VI after consultation with the Sacred Congregation for Rites and the Consilium itself. By order of the Pope, it endered into force on March 7, 1965. It is the same instruction that suppressed the Leonine Prayers. It also suppressed several gestures, gave the initial order for preparation of “vernacular translations of liturgical texts” in general (thus creating the possibility of Masses entirely in the vernacular), and it DIRECTED THE OMISSION OF PSALM 42 FROM THE PRAYERS AT THE FOOT OF THE ALTAR and COMMANDED THAT THE CANON BE RECITED ALOUD (see item 48, f).

    So, the permission you mention is contained in item 77 of that document, but that document is already a document of the liturgical reform.

    Indeed, the instruction you quote, Father, from September 26, 1964, is an instruction from Bugnini’s Consilium for the execution of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy. It is titled “Inter oecumenici” after its incipit, and is subtitled “First Instruction on the orderly carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy”. The last such instruction is “Liturgiam authenticam”, the fifth instruction for the orderly implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy.

    Given that this document “Inter oecumenici” was issued already during the reform of the Roman Rite and in implementation of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium we must ponder carefully whether or not the norms of that Instruction really apply to the EF.

    And we certainly cannot pick and choose only parts of that document. For the reasons below, it seems to me that the above mentioned Instruction is NOT part of the patrimony of the EF.

    Are the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, that mention the use of the ancient form of the Roman Rite, codified by St. Pius V, with the modifications made until 1962, in the reign of bl. John XXIII, intended to include the modifications/permissions, etc., made/given already under Paul VI in 1964, in the transitional period between the promulgation of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy in 1963 and the adoption of the Novus Ordo in 1970?

    I mean, of course changes to the liturgical books happening AFTER Summorum Pontificum (such as the 2008 Good Friday prayer for the Jews), without question must be followed: (1) Summorum Pontificum clarifyed that the Roman Rite as it existed in 1962, with all the changes until John XXIII, is what was never abrogated and is now to be used as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite; so (2) the 1962 rite was liberalized and regulated in 2007; (3) changes made to the EF after its regulation in 2007 will of course affect the rites recognized (as the 2008 Good Friday prayer affected them); BUT (4) in my opinion the rubrical changes, changes in liturgical law, etc, introduced between 1963 and 2007 have no effect regarding the celebration of the EF

    Of course the acts of 1969-1970 that introduced the Novus Ordo are not part of the EF. But the acts of the transitional period (1963-1970) are also not part of the EF. An example: the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite does not include the changes made when the 1965 Ordo Missae was approved.

    Therefore, given that Summorum Pontificum mentions as the EF the Roman Rite as it existed in the pontificate of bl. John XXIII, and given that this 1964 Instruction is already an act of implementation of the Vatican II liturgical reforms, I don’t think that the said instruction is liturgical law for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

    Accordingly, I would conclude that a priest cannot invoke number 77 of the Instruction Inter oecumenici to give reserved blessings in the Extraordinary form, as the said document is not a part of the liturgical law governing the EF.

    If it were, then the Canon would have to be recited aloud, the Leonine Prayers ommitted, etc, etc.

  2. Father K says:

    The Canon of the Mass was to be spoken out loud only after ‘Tres abhinc annos’ in 1967; ‘Inter Oecumenici’ did suppress Psalm 42 and the Last Gospel, which in my opinion was a good thing; if you speak to any priest who remembers the before and after, as a celebrating priest I doubt you would find one who lamented those changes. Also their is a difference between rubrical changes and legislative changes; the legislative changes regarding reserved blessings do not impact on the rubrics in force for using the liturgical books mentioned in Summorum Pontificum; likewise the use of tonsure and the 4 minor orders according to the liturgical books then in use does not mean the seminarian becomes a cleric, as in former times. He becomes a cleric when he is ordained a deacon.

  3. John UK says:

    Leaving aside, for a moment, the legislative points raised by the erudite commenter above, may I thank you for the link to the St.John Cantius site, where at
    I found this prayer in the Blessing of a Telegraph:
    Let us pray.
    God, who ride on the wings of the wind, and who alone work wonders; just as you have empowered this metal to carry messages to-and-fro more quickly than a lightning flash; so also grant that we, inspired by these new inventions and aided by your bounteous grace, may in a similar way come more swiftly and easily to you; through Christ our Lord.
    All: Amen.
    The priest sprinkles the telegraph with holy water.

    which would seem also appropriate for a computer? [But I think it needs an additional rubric, inserting after “water” , taking care where the water falls, lest it enter the machine. :-) ]

    Also interesting to discover yet another translation of Et cum spirito tuo.

    Kind regards,

    John U.K.

  4. Bthompson says:

    With regard to Prof. Basto’s analysis: could you “get around” the question of whether using these blessings in the EF is OK, but just using the RR but doing it in the OF? (I know plenty of priests who use the old RR for OF blessings, as they explicitly mention blessing things as opposed to the more nebulous language of the Book of Blessings)
    This two sets of laws in the same rite is confusing at times…

  5. ipadre says:

    Besides, the “Book of Blessings” is deficient.

    Here is something from the CDW:


    On always making use of the sign of the holy Cross in blessings

    Since, from the established usage, the liturgical custom has always been in force that in the rites of blessing the sign of the cross is employed by being traced by the celebrant with the right hand over the persons or things for whom mercy is implored, this Congregation for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments, in order to dispel any doubts, has established that, even if the text of the part of the Roman ritual entitled “The Book of Blessings” remains silent about the sign itself or lacks an express mention of the appropriate time for this action, nevertheless the sacred ministers should adopt the aforementioned sign of the cross as a necessary element for performing every blessing.

    Without a mention, however, the appropriate time should be regarded as when the text of the blessing uses the words blessing, to bless, or similar or, lacking these words, when the prayer of blessing itself is concluded.

    Anything to the contrary not withstanding.

    From the office of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on 14 September, 2002, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

    GEORGE A. card. MEDINA ESTEVEZ, Prefect

    ? Francesco Pio Tamburrino
    archbishop Secretary

    The original text: http://notitiae.ipsissima-verba.org/pdf/aas-2002-684-684.pdf

  6. Prof. Basto says:

    Dear and Reverend Father K,

    You mention that only with “Tres abhinc annos” did the Holy See order that the Canon be recited aloud. With all due respect, that recollection does not seem to square with the precise text of Inter oecumenici. Father Z provided a link to Inter oecumenici above.

    Please take a look at the IMMEDIATE reforms commanded by item 48 of Inter oecumenici:

    48. Until reform of the entire Ordo Missae, the points that follow are to be observed:

    a. The celebrant is not to say privately those parts of the Proper sung or recited by the choir or the congregation.

    b. The celebrant may sing or recite the parts of the Ordinary together with the congregation or choir.

    c. In the prayers at the foot of the altar at the beginning of Mass Psalm 42 is omitted. All the prayers at the foot of the altar are omitted whenever there is another liturgical rite immediately preceding.

    d. In solemn Mass the subdeacon does not hold the paten but leaves it on the altar.

    e. In sung Masses the secret prayer or prayer over the gifts is sung and in other Masses recited aloud.

    f. The doxology at the end of the canon, from Per ipsum through Per omnia saecula saeculorum. R. Amen, is to be sung or recited aloud. Throughout the whole doxology the celebrant slightly elevates the chalice with the host, omitting the signs of the cross, and genuflects at the end after the Amen response by the people.

    g. In recited Masses the congregation may recite the Lord’s Prayer in the vernacular along with the celebrant; in sung Masses the people may sing it in Latin along with the celebrant and, should the territorial ecclesiastical authority have so decreed, also in the vernacular, using melodies approved by the same authority.

    h. The embolism after the Lord’s Prayer shall be sung or recited aloud.

    i. The formulary for distributing holy communion is to be, Corpus Christi. As he says these words, the celebrant holds the host slightly above the ciborium and shows it to the communicant, who responds: Amen, then receives communion from the celebrant, the sign of the cross with the host being omitted.

    j. The last gospel is omitted; the Leonine Prayers are suppressed.

    k. It is lawful to celebrate a sung Mass with only a deacon assisting.

    l. It is lawful, when necessary, for bishops to celebrate a sung Mass following the form used by priests.


    I agree with you that the suppression of the Minor Orders is a different matter, but the suppression of the Minor Orders is not LITURGICAL LAW, it is law on the Clergy, that impacts indirectly liturgical practices.

    But the permission for priests to give reserved blessings is STRICTLY LITURGICAL LAW, and it seems to me that not only actual rubrics, but strictly liturgical norms of law, issued after 1962 do not form part of the patrimony of the EF.

    The intention of the legislator, with Summorum Pontificum CLEARLY was that of re-establishing the PRE-CONCILIAR form of the Roman Rite, without any changes that were made in the wake of the promulgation (by Paul VI) of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy in 1963. Hence the Pope’s explicit mention of the changes introduced until the pontificate of John XXIII.

  7. Prof. Basto says:

    Father K,

    You are right regarding the Canon. Only now I took time to read what I had posted, and only the doxology is the object of item 48, f of Inter Oecumenici.

    Anyways, a priest, when celebrating the EF, is to omit the Last Gospel as required by number 48, j? Is he to say only “Corpus Christi”, when distributing Communion? I don’t think so.

    Why, because Inter oecumenici was issued after the end of the Pontificate of John XXIII, and the Pauline reforms, even the early ones, are not within the scope of the Usus Antiquor, as per the text of Summorum Pontificum. Otherwise, the Ordo Missae 1965 could have been adopted as the EF, but it wasn’t.

  8. Speravi says:

    I became very nervous when Universae Ecclesiae was published because of this very question. It said we need to follow the laws in place in 1962. However, I use the reserved blessings with a clear conscience on several grounds: the document cited above; the FSSP do it; if you asked your bishop permission to bless a rosary, he would probably laugh; this is a very confusing time and I can hardly imagine that the Church would actually consider it an offense for a priest to bless a Rosary or medal of St. Benedict coupled with the fact that it is certain that these blessings would be valid for a priest, as it says in the introduction to the section for blessings in the Ritual.

  9. dominic1955 says:

    I think this is certainly one area in which we need to leave Neo-Conservative legalism behind. In my experience, traditionalist clergy and laymen have a good and proper sensus fidelium in this regard. Love God and do what thou wilt in this case.

  10. Fr_Marc says:

    After having talked to Fr. Gero P. Weishaupt, a renowned canonist from Germany, I have to agree with Prof. Basto on the matter.

    The Instruction “Universae Ecclesiae” states:
    “Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962. ” (UE, Nr. 28)

    So with regard to the reserved blessings, nothing changed. You cannot apply “Inter Oecumenicis” on the liturgical books from 1962.

    A reserved blessing is a reserved blessing is a reserved blessing.

  11. Speravi says:

    I know and love Fr. Z’s famous motto, but for the record the “red” (actually black in this case) says, “Benedictio reservata quae a Presbytero detur sine necessaria licentia, illicita est, sed valida, nisi in reservatione Sedes Apostolica aliud expressit.”

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  13. Boniface says:

    This is a conundrum that has baffled, fascinated, and frustrated me for a long while, now. A great thread. Anyway, I am inclined (not that my opinion on this carries any special weight) towards agreeing with Prof. Basto.

    There are other questions that this raises, to which I have found no definitive answer: can priests use the approved English translations in the Collectio Rituum of 1964 for blessing things like holy water? (To say nothing of the other Weller translations in the books from the 1950s and up to 1962). Permission for the vernacular in that case was also not given until 1964, and by the American bishops. So are the ONLY options either to 1)use the Book of Blessings (which I know most here would prefer to avoid if possible) or 2)use the 1962 RR in Latin only? If a priests uses the 1964 English translation, is it valid? Is it valid and licit, both?

    For the blessing of St. Benedict medals, for a non-Benedictine to use the reserved blessing in the ’62 RR is clearly valid, even according to the 1962 RR (as Speravi rightly pointed out), but given the obvious confusion of the state of things now, can a priest opt for the more generous interpretation and assume that the Sept. 1964 lifting of almost all the reservations still applies? There was an English version of the St. Benedict medal blessing/exorcism (a very lean translation) approved by the bishop of St. Cloud in 1984 (and there is no blessing for the medal in the Book of Blessings). So since that is the equivalent of an “OF” blessing of the medals, does that mean then that non-Benedictines can licitly (since in the OF, the 1964 ruling about reserved blessing applies) bless the medals only using that English form?

    I am genuinely interested in any answers Fr. Z or readers can give. Am I – are some others here – obsessing? Maybe, but I don’t think so… I know we want to be obedient and in line with the Church, but it sure is difficult these days to know what the options are!

    May God bless Pope Benedict XVI and grant him health and long life.

  14. Papabile says:

    There was some permission for the vernacular to be used in the Administration of the Sacraments in 1959. It pretty much allowed the vernacular throughout, while demanding the specific form remain in Latin, if I remember correctly.

    If I remember correctly, the NCWC did not have the “function” of authorizing specific translations and that came only post ICEL. So it was pretty much up to individual bishops to regulate this.

    One of the biggest changes to the Sacraments that occurred was in 1962, which broke Baptism up into a 7 stage process (catechumenate) for converts/adults, thought it allowed the old reception oc converts, Baptism of adults to be used if all the rites were administered at one time.

    A couple links that might be interesting/ helpful:

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~autocrat/ritual/ 1960 trilingual Irish Rituale

    Additionally, here are a couple sites to think about.

  15. Andrew Lomas says:

    What about Permanent Deacons?

  16. Speravi says:

    With deacons it gets even less clear. While the traditional Roman Ritual says that a priest’s use of a reserved blessing without permission is illicit but valid, it says that a deacon’s use of blessings which he does not have permission to do is illicit AND invalid.
    One wonders what the source of the invalidity is. Is it a different theology of the diaconate? Is it a different theology of blessings? Is it simply a disciplinary decision of the Church?

    The question becomes whether it is purely liturgical law according to the form used that determines this, or does the fact that deacons are permitted to give the blessings in the new rite intimate that they would do so validly in the old. Furthermore, I have been told many times (but have never actually looked at the reference myself) that the new ritual permits the rite to be adapted so widely that you can do just about anything so long as it is similar. On this ground, I have heard that deacons use the old ritual, not qua old ritual, but qua “these or similar words” to the new ritual.

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