From a reader…
I recently witnessed our parish deacon blessing an image of St. Francis. Do deacons have the power of blessing images. And if not, does the image to be “re-blessed” by a priest?
Given that this is the season for ordinations, this is a timely question.
What can deacons do?
Deacons may preach, witness marriages, baptize, expose the Eucharist and give Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, lead the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. They may give invocative blessings, and bless some few things, in accordance with liturgical books (can. 1169 §1). A deacon “can impart only those blessings which are expressly permitted to him by law” (can. 1169 §3). For example, a deacons can give blessings at all the rites at which they preside (Liturgy of the Hours, Communion outside Mass, etc.).
In the Extraordinary Form, the deacon is the extraordinary minister of baptism, but only with the expressed permission of the local bishop or pastor, and only for a just cause. He must use salt that is already exorcised and blessed by a priest.
Otherwise, I think that deacons can bless some “irrational creatures”.
The truly dreadful Book of Blessings, De Benedictionibus, which should be abolished as soon as possible, lists 21 “blessings” that deacons may give. Read the prayers. Read the introduction. The book is founded on the notion of eliminating constitutive blessings. Thus, I don’t think they actually bless anything. Instead, the prayers ask for God to bless those who look at something, etc. This, to me, undermines radically our distinction of, sense of, the sacred and the profane. I will not use De Benedictionibus. I never have and I never will. Moreover, if I hear that someone had something “blessed” with DB, I am happy to bless it.
But, back to the 21 things. They include, medals, small crucifixes statues or pictures that will be displayed elsewhere than in a church or chapel, scapulars, rosaries, or other articles used in religious devotions. Deacons may bless rosaries. Come to think of it, if I remember correctly, one of the alternate prayers for blessing a Rosary in De Benedictionibus is actually from the older Ritual, so that prayer would actually bless the Rosary. Deacons may also bless holy water, with the Novus Ordo rite, but only outside the context of Holy Mass (obviously at Mass a priest is present). Deacons may bless private homes.
However, DB says deacons are prohibited from blessing large images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, or those of the saints that are to be displayed in churches or chapels.
To be blunt, however, if you can get a priest to do it, or even better, a bishop, that’s the better option.
Moreover, if you can get the priest or bishop to use the older, traditional Rituale Romanum, that even better.