Father Z you are one of the very few people I can go to when I have a question about our faith (I’m still learning) and I had my head bitten off today when I asked if this was ligit: Our priest blessed the candles after mass then had a nun administer the throat blessing for St. Blaise day alongside him. He did one side of the aisle, she the other. Is the blessing from the nun just as efficacious as from the priest? Thank you Father Z for all you do, I pray for you regularly.
Thanks for the prayers. I need them.
Traditionally that is unthinkable. Thus, I don’t know what a “blessing” from a nun does. I don’t have to wonder what a blessing from a priest does.
The problem here is that the new rites are in line with the theology of the Book of Blessings, or De Benedictionibus, which in its preliminary comments, radically departs from the Church’s perennial understanding of blessings and their distinction as constitutive (making something a blessed thing) and invocative (calling down God’s blessing).
In The Book of Blessings (which I think ought to be eradicated) we find a difference in what priests or deacons do and what all laypeople (including all women religious):
PRAYER OF BLESSING
1647 A minister who is a priest or deacon touches the throat of each person with the crossed candles and says the prayer of blessing. Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. [The “+” indicates that the priest or deacon makes the sign of the Cross.]
Each person responds: Amen.
During the blessing suitable psalms or other suitable songs may be sung.
1648 A lay minister touches the throat of each person with the crossed candles and, without making the sign of the cross, says the prayer of blessing. Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Each person responds: Amen.
1649 After receiving the blessing each person may depart.
1650 If all cannot be blessed individually, a minister who is a priest or deacon, without candles, may extend his hands over the assembly and say the prayer of blessing. A lay minister says the prayer proper to lay ministers without making the sign of the cross.
Other than the fact that the priest makes the sign of the Cross, or extending a hand, does this look different?
But… something is different here. It’s just not easy to put one’s finger on it.
On the one hand, anyone can ask God at anytime to pour His blessings down on anyone or anything. When a priest does that, however, as a man whose soul has been ontologically conformed to Christ the High Priest, who acts in persona Christi capitis, I think something else happens than when a lay person does it. What is that “something else”? First, I think it has to do with our assurance that the petition for blessing has been heard. In an analogous way, though this limps, we can all earnestly pray to God to forgive our sins and, we hope God will do so. We can even tell a friend about our problems and receive consolation and advice. Great! On the other hand, in sacramental confession, when the priest gives you absolution, you don’t have to wonder if your sins are forgiven.
On the other hand, it must be noted that the Rituale Romanum indicated that a lector (in the older sense, not the installed modern lector) could bless bread and first fruits… but he wouldn’t be ordained as either a deacon or a priest! So, apparently Major Orders are necessary.
Moreover, lay people are baptized, which means that they do participate in the priesthood of Christ, though not in the way that priests and bishops do. Laypeople have vocations which, frankly, call on them to call down blessings. I have especially in mind the duty of a father to bless his own children. In the ancient Church, catechists would bless catechumens (cf Traditio apostolica). There is clearly a hierarchical distinction that must be observed: If a priest is present, the priest should give blessings before a deacon would, or layperson. Keep that in mind in the family home: perhaps the father of the family customarily begins the meal blessing… if a priest is your guest, he should do it.
CCC 1669 says:
Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; [However…] the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).
Does the St. Blaise blessing have a great deal to do with the ecclesial and sacramental life of the Church? I don’t think so.
In the final analysis, we have to accept that the efficacy of blessings depends on the authority and authoritative prayers of the Church. Furthermore, we have to admit that the efficacy of the blessing must rely in large part on the will, disposition and desire of the recipient.
Keep in mind that the St. Blaise Day blessing isn’t efficacious because of the candles… this isn’t magic.
In sum, I think there is a difference between what Father does and what Sister does. I think Holy Orders matters. What that difference is…. I don’t know.
But if it were up to me I’d get in the line with the priest.