From a reader…
I was just at a “seminar” that took place in a catholic church this past weekend and I knew right away that I was in the wrong place (thus the lower case c) when the parish priest introduced the speaker and asked all of us to extend our hand in blessing over this speaker, as though we had the power vested in us to confer blessing!
I spoke to my friends about this, and why it was so inappropriate, but it got me to thinking: I have long been in the habit of saying “God Bless” instead of “Good Bye” both in speaking and in writing…but if it’s inappropriate for me to bless someone in the way this priest was asking us to, then wouldn’t it be just as inappropriate for me to use this phrase? Of course, it is just me asking God to bless them, not pretending that I have the faculty to actually confer a blessing, but still…would it just be more appropriate for me to avoid saying this?
Saying “God bless you,” when someone sneezes has a long history in Christian civilization – spoken by cleric and laity alike. It’s a kind wish and a good thing to do. Similarly, saying “God bless you,” at the end of a conversation, or when tucking a child into bed at night, is laudable.
It’s an entirely different category to pretend one is a priest, extend one’s hands and attempt to “bless” another person. That’s something which the Church rightly reserves to Her ordained ministers, who act in persona Christi.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are now gurgling. “Pope Francis himself asked people to bless him when he was elected and he’s the most wonderfulest, fluffiest Pope ehvur! He’s the first Pope who ever smiled or kissed a baby! You hate Vatican II, don’t you?!”
Yes, we all recall that awkward moment at the election of Pope Francis when on the balcony he said:
And now I would like to give the blessing. But first I want to ask you a favour. Before the Bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence.
Note that the Pope asked people to pray for the Lord to bless him, not that they would extend hands or make the sign of the Cross and bless him as priests might. Just to be clear about that. It was, however, confusing … for the easily confused
Avoid at all costs the silliness of simulating a priestly blessing. This veers close to sacrilege. I think it smacks of an effort by a certain element in the Church to downplay the ordained priesthood.
Keep on saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes, and keep on asking God to bless friends and family members in your conversations.