ASK FATHER: At end of Mass Father says “May Almighty God bless US…”

bless and splashFrom a reader…


Our modernist priest blesses the congregation at the end of Mass with “May Almighty God bless us …” where can I find the directive that he should be saying, “May Almighty God bless you …” ? And, is his blessing at all efficacious, in any event?


The Council of Trent taught:

“If anyone shall say that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church accustomed to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments may be disdained or omitted by the minister without sin and at pleasure, or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones: let him be anathema” (DS 1613/856).

Vatican II taught that, beyond the Pope and to some extent bishops,

“Therefore, absolutely no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (SC 22).

The Code of Canon Law says:

“The liturgical books approved by the competent authority are to be faithfully observed in the celebration of the sacraments; therefore no one on personal authority may add, remove or change anything in them” (CIC, can. 846, §1).

The CDW’s 2004 disciplinary document Redemptionis Sacramentum, says:

59. The reprobated practice by which priests, deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) also says:

Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass. [GIRM 24]

Father’s antic may be relatively innocent, but it is also evidence of a flawed understanding of the hieratic role we priests have.

We bless. We consecrate. We absolve.  Christ, acting in us, does these things.  They are His word and acts and our words and acts.  We are priests for you in a way that the baptized cannot be for themselves.

We are here for you, dear laypeople, not just for ourselves, though our vocation is our road to heaven.

For you… we follow the rubrics and the texts the Church, in Her wisdom, gives to us. For you… we don’t make up things on our own volition or change things because we think it sounds better our way.

When a priest refuses to use the Church’s text and decides to bless “us” rather than you, his blessing becomes a mere wish, an expressed desire.

At Mass, in the Ordinary Form, at the end of the penitential act, the priest says, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” This is a prayer, and an expression of a pious desire of the priest. It is not a blessing.

When the priest says, using the texts the Church gives him, “May Almighty God bless you…” he shows that he understands his role and the nature of the priesthood

It might be fun to get a little passive-aggressive with Father. When he sneezes, say, “Bless us!” When he does something nice, go up to him and say, “O, thank us very much, Father!”

Or else, “Hey! Hey Faddah!  You know that thing that you make up at the end, that ‘Bless us” thing?  I can’t help thinking of Gollum saying [in Gollum voice…] ‘Bless us and splash us, Precious!”

After that… I’ll be he will too… maybe until he stops.  Maybe after one more week when he hears himself in Gollum voice in his head.

Oh yes… pray for him.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    All that said, in many places it’s like the song: “Anything goes.”

  2. Supertradmum says:

    This exact thing, and two other aberrations like this, happen daily in one parish with two innovative priests. Two of us at least have complained to the chancery office but nothing has been changed over the months and, indeed, years, in this diocese.

    I have been told not to be a liturgical policeperson, and that the priests do not like the “new” NO and therefore change words on purpose.

    I have given up and no longer go to that parish. However, the one priest is a “daily visiting” priest from another diocese across the river and he says the exact wrong words in his own parish.

    Fatigue sets in trying to deal with such things…

  3. acardnal says:

    “let him be anathema”

    Aaah, the good old days. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Pope Francis used that phrase in his pending Apostolic Exhortation on the Family? “Anyone who gives holy communion to the divorced and remarried, let him be anathema.”

  4. WGS says:

    It must have been forty or more years ago, and our pastor had been to some sort of retreat. He returned and greeted us at the Sunday 7:00 a.m. Mass with “The Lord be with us.” Surprise!
    The next Sunday, I was prepared and serving as lector from my position in the sanctuary, I firmly replied to the same invocation with “And also with us”. As far as I know, the reverend father never used that wording again.

    Why would he use such an awkward expression? I could only imagine that his use of “us” must refer to the clergy, so it seemed appropriate that I proclaim that the Lord was also with “us” laymen.

  5. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    I believe that the correct response to “The Lord is with us.” was “And also with them.”

    Now, I believe it is: “And with their spirit.”

  6. Sonshine135 says:

    I have seen silly things like this more than I care to admit. I know of a Priest to this day who ends the prayers throughout Mass, “and let us say….Amen”. He has been known to replace Sunday readings with his own, politically correct rewording of said readings. Not cool! This Priest committs a lot of irregularities, and the payoff has been the loss of a great deal of his flock.

  7. majuscule says:

    If a priest takes liberty with the Eucharistic Prayer (adding, subtracting or changing words, let’s say) I have thought of innocently approaching him after Mass to ask him which Eucharistic Prayer he was using. Even though I know full well he had simply mangled EP II…

    Would this be passive aggressive? Would it be a sin?

    (I have approached the priest after Mass who used the Roman Canon to sincerely tell him that I noticed and appreciated it.)

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    One priest who used to say Mass sometimes at my parish would say “the Lord is with you!” My response to it (I didn’t feel good about it, but I did not know how to respond) was “And may He be with your spirit also!” I was near the front and said this loud enough that the priest may have heard. Again, nothing about this made me happy.

  9. ChesterFrank says:

    A somewhat (?) liberal deacon from a parish I attend frequently adds a little word play to his spoken parts. I often think of it as a newscaster using a signature phrase to sign off. Sigh.

  10. keithp says:

    The worst for me is when the Agnus dei is changed.

    Some time “Lamb of God” isn’t even said.

    “Behold, Jesus, our brother and friend.” Or, “Bread of Life” is substituted.

    I used to get angry, then sad. Now, all I do is make silent reparation.

  11. John Nolan says:

    In a talk about the 2011 ICEL translation, Mgr Bruce Harbert made the point that Dominus vobiscum, lacking the verb, could be either indicative or subjunctive; the fact that the priest extends his hands implies the subjunctive Dominus (sit) vobiscum. The deacon, however, sings Dominus vobiscum with his hands joined, which could imply the indicative Dominus (est) vobiscum.

    ICEL suggested that Sursum corda be more accurately rendered as ‘let our hearts be on high’ but the bishops demurred since the traditional version (Cranmer’s) was too deeply ingrained. The erudite classicist Fr John Hunwicke has an even better version – ‘hearts up!’ He likened this to the traditional Navy call that announced the rum ration, sadly abolished in 1970; ‘up spirits!’

    All the more reason for using Latin. I have yet to hear a priest alter the Latin text ad libitum.

  12. Matthew says:

    I’d like to be able to find a parish where they don’t change the Mass. Everybody wants creative control.

  13. Dick Verbo says:

    I must warn you that if you do say anything, you should be prepared to hear a sermon about your being a Pharisee.

    Instead, just change parishes. Travel (for an hour or so if necessary) to a Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

    Yes, it will use up your entire day, but it is not really your day; it is the Lord’s day. Remember your ancestors who walked, maybe barefoot, to Mass in all weathers. And remember your ancestors who risked their lives to hear Mass.

  14. WYMiriam says:

    Ah, well. We used to have a priest who consistently (read: always) would end Holy Mass with “May God bless us….” It drove me wild, but the only thing I could think to do in protest was to sign myself after he was done stating his “expressed desire.”

    Now we have to put up with (from a different priest — and I quote verbatim): “I invite us to join in singing. . .”; “I invite us to pray the rosary. . .”; “I invite us to kneel for exposition. . .”

    I still haven’t figured out how to counteract that.

  15. Hidden One says:

    Pray for seminarians.

  16. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    While “May almighty God bless us…” is common, perhaps even more common are:

    “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and

    “May almighty God bless you/us, [the] Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

    In both cases, it’s “…the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

    [Separate issue: I have also heard, “May almighty God bless you, in the name of the Father…”]

    This particular blunder has deep Trinitarian implications. (Over and above annoying the Trinity.)

  17. JamesM says:

    @Dick Verbo

    Whenever I feel unhappy about anything to do with Mass, I am grateful I am able to attend at all. Here in the UK, it wasn’t that long ago that Catholicism was suppressed. We only have to look further afield as well to see what is happening in places like the Middle East.

  18. acardnal says:

    I’m sympathetic to Dick Verbo’s comments above.

  19. Mike says:

    I must warn you that if you do say anything, you should be prepared to hear a sermon about your being a Pharisee.

    In which case you should be prepared to respond to it. Presumably you are not setting yourself up as superior, or making an ad hominem argument as is the sermonizer. Rather, you are asking that the celebrant not distract worshipers from the business of active participation.

    That may very possibly engender a new argument about what active participation is anyhow. There are any number of texts, comprehensible to non-scholars, in which the subject is discussed; you can arm yourself with some of those. The Mass and Modernity, by Oratorian Father Jonathan Robinson, is particularly accessible, and its author’s Novus Ordo preference lets you dodge another ad hominem accusation of antiquarianism.

    You may not want try any of this, by the way, without the advice of a spiritual director faithful to Tradition and to the Magisterium. The bonus there is that having found a faithful director, you’ll probably also have found reverent worship rather than loosely scripted “performance art,” and thus a resolution to your problem.

  20. Facta Non Verba says:

    Dear Fr. Fitzpatrick – I’m trying to learn now what I should have learned long ago. If you can take a moment, would you please explain what is wrong with the “separate issue” you identify above. I think I hear that phrase every Sunday at the Mass I attend. Thanks for your help.

  21. Joseph-Mary says:

    We have a retired priest who fills in. I call him Fr. Ad-Lib. And ad-lib he does, all through Mass and no two Masses are the same. He also does the “God bless us”. He has been shown the instructions not to add, change, etc. the words of the Mass but he absolutely refuses to honor that and continues to do what he wants. The servers hardly know when to ring the bells at the consecration because of his antics and the way he chops up the words and adds, etc. Sigh. I avoid his Mass when I can. When he was a pastor at a parish, they had invalid matter for the Eucharist and invited in heretical speakers. I always avoided that parish as well but go there often now. However the ex-priests and other ‘liberals’ who had their sway there are still somewhat around but some went into schism and started their own church that meets at the very liberal episcopal church building. That is where heresy leads—out of the Church.

  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Facta Non Verba,

    Regarding Fr. Fitzpatrick’s, “separate issue,” the correct form is:

    May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    It is wrong to say:

    May almighty God bless you, in the name of the Father…

    In the first case, we are asking the three persons of the Trinity to bless you; the second form is the heresy of modalism or even tritheism (three different Gods, with three different names).

    The Chicken

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    …or, maybe, even trithelitism (three different wills of God).

  24. robtbrown says:

    Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    I believe that the correct response to “The Lord is with us.” was “And also with them.”

    The tribal version is: But not with them.

  25. Imrahil says:

    What I sometimes hear is: “The Lord is with you.”

    The correct answer is: and may He be with your spirit.

  26. dominicop says:

    Besides being mistaken, contrary to the texts, in violation of the authentic spirit of the liturgy, and all the rest, priests screwing with the texts SCREWS UP OTHER PRIESTS. Something like ordinary formulas for blessing are not things Father ought to have to read out of the Missal, he should clearly have these memorized. In fact, most of us who have been attending Mass regularly have these texts memorized, but when priests alter the text they wind up messing up people’s auditory memory. I don’t want to be a wacko, but when I go on autopilot (which every priest does some of the time) I want what comes out of my mouth to be what the Church has given us, not what my last pastor thought was better, or the superior I had one time had mistakenly appropriated.

  27. KateD says:

    Keithp- I just say the correct thing under my breath and remain silent during the improvised bits.

    We have moved and now live in a parish where the priests are valiantly holding the line, despite vicious attacks by the liberal minded minority. And though few they are LOUD.

    It is comforting to know that the influence of that generation is fading. This is it’s last gasp….before going down in the annals of Church history as an aberration. With the next generation, the Church will stand up, dust off and carry on. Because the ones who remain will be the children of the traditionally minded. They are properly catechized and well educated. They teach themselves Greek and speak Latin to eachother ~for fun.

    Like Pope Benedict XVI said: smaller but stronger.

  28. MikeM says:

    Ah… Praying for himself in the time he was called to bless others. What a sign of service and humility!

    But, seriously, it seems that a lot of priests really do see it that way… When I see priests doing stupid things that they mistakenly think make people feel more valued (or whatever they think), I try to find ways to politely but plainly tell them how it really comes across. I’m stuck (due to traveling, odd schedules, etc.) doing an unfortunate amount of parish hopping, so I’m not sure how many take it to heart. One priest that I know well did actually amend some things afterwards, though. I try to keep it in the spirit of doing them a favor… I don’t think that the things that they do have the effect that they intend and they’re better off knowing that. I would want to be (gently) informed if I were publicly making a fool of myself on a regular basis so that I could adjust. Or, rather, I do publicly make a fool of myself on a regular basis and I’m glad to have friends who point that out so that I don’t embarrass myself more than is inevitable.

  29. rhhenry says:

    Dear Chicken,

    I read Fr. Fitzpatrick’s post to mean that omitting the words “and the” (as opposed to the proper form “In the name of the Father *and the* Son *and the* Holy Spirit”) is theologically inaccurate.

    Could anyone give a “theology for dummies” explanation of the difference between 1) In the name of the Father, Son, etc., 2) In the name of the Father, and the Son, etc., and 3) In the name of the Father, and of the Son, etc.?

  30. The Cobbler says:

    I thought Fr. Fitzpatrick’s comments referred to the particular formulation, “May God bless you in the name of …” — but I’m not actually theologically educated enough to tell you whether there’s a problem with the idea of God blessing you in His own name or the name(s?) of His Persons. (I’m not sure that the difference between “of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” and “of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” could be rendered in Latin. Genitives, man. And they don’t even have articles like “the”.)

    Then again, I also thought the correct response to, “The Lord is with you,” was “But was he with you?” (You can try to update that to refer to the priest’s spirit if you like, but as far as I’m concerned if they haven’t updated the error there’s not much point in trying to update the response.)

  31. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    I see that I made a gigantic blunder:

    The correct words in the Sign of the Cross are:

    “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    In the Final Blessing, the words are:

    “…the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit…”

    It is important to use the correct words because the three Persons of the Trinity are not three beings or three substances, sharing the divine nature as three men share one human nature. God is one substance, whose nature is to be three Persons. Allow me to plug the greatest book ever written on the Trinity. (And, yes, I know that Augustine wrote one.) It is The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

  32. sparks1093 says:

    I was just talking with a young lady who is in the process of planning her wedding and she had just found out that couples may not use their own vows during the ceremony (she had actually asked a non-Catholic about it, but in my presence so of course I injected myself into the conversation). I confirmed what she had heard and her response was “well, that’s weird”. And I said, “if you were getting your baby baptized would you even thing about changing the wording used?” “No” was her reply. “It’s no different than the wedding vows, it is a sacrament and may not be changed”. I think she got it.

  33. eulogos says:

    Mike 11/3 9AM. Fr. Robinson may have used the Novus Ordo for the discussion in his book, but I can assure you that he does not have a “Novus Ordo preference. ” I was at the Oratory for their summer school when Summorum Pontificum came out and we read it in class. I remember Fr. Robinson saying what it meant to him to say the same mass as was said by St. Phillip Neri (the founder of the Oratory.)

    As for that book, I found it a long slog through the “modernity” part before I got to the mass part!
    Susan Peterson

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