I’ve been a Catholic for 12 years. Ever since I was baptized, extra-ordinary ministers of communion (in addition to the priest or deacon) have given blessings to those who are not receiving the Body of Christ. The most common one I have heard is “May God bless you and keep you safe”. A priest friend of mine recently commented that this was actually a liturgical abuse, although widespread and “accepted”. I guess the question boils down to are lay persons permitted to give blessings and is giving this blessing during Communion appropriate?
In the Indian subcontinent, annual festivals are held in honor of the god Vishnu and his avatar Krishna. Great, massive wooden carts are built, and an image of Krisha is transported from one temple to another in the city of Puri. Similar processions are made elsewhere. There is competition among shrines as to who can build the biggest and most impressive float for transporting the idol. Sometimes, these floats are so large and the frenzy of the celebration so great, that hapless devotees fall on the street and are overrun by these massive carts. In this festival, Vishnu is referred to by the title “Jaganath,” meaning “Lord of the Universe.” It is from these festivals that the word “juggernaut” entered into the English language. A juggernaut is a force that seems to be unstoppable and crushes anything put before it with dispassionate cruelty.
No, I am not talking about the upcoming Synod.
On to the topic of the question.
The notion of giving blessings at the time of Holy Communion originated No-One-Knows-Where. Perhaps it was a well-intentioned priest giving a kind blessing to a baby in the arms of his mother. Perhaps it happened when someone whom the priest knew was not Catholic, unwittingly came forward at Communion time and the priest, rather than embarrass the poor misguided soul, gave him a quick blessing and sent him back to his pew.
Then it became expected.
The rubrics of the Mass do not make any provision for blessings at the time of the distribution of Holy Communion.
On the grand scale of liturgical abuses, something like this ranks far below using invalid matter for the Eucharist, or giving the last blessing whilst dressed as Barney the Dinosaur, but it still needs to be recognized as something that ought not be done.
Further complicating the issue is the presence of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who have been improperly instructed to “give blessings” at this moment to those who come forward with their hands crossed across their chest.
The blessing “May God bless and keep you,” is more of a kind wish than a blessing. It so may be given by anyone (without any accompanying sign of the cross). Then again, the rubrics do not make any call for a blessing or a kind wish at this point of the Holy Mass.
There is a blessing at the end of Mass. You can also ask the priest for a blessing outside of Mass. And you should!