ASK FATHER: Blessing sacramentals over a live stream on the internet

From a reader…


During this time of plague, may priests live-stream the blessing of sacramentals? A priest has asked parishioners who want to have these objects blessed to prepare water, salt, etc., view the blessing ritual online, and presumably follow any instructions given. Would such a blessing be efficacious? The area of this parish is under lockdown and people cannot bring the objects to the priest for blessing.


I am convinced that this would result in nothing.

There is a difference between an invocative blessing, that calls a blessing down on people or perhaps critters, and a constitutive blessing or consecration, that results in a lasting state. We can bless or consecrate some things and places and some people (in the case of religious, priests) such that they are sacred things, places or persons.

The blessing of water, salt, oil, etc., is meant to remove these things from the realm of the Prince of this world and hand them over to the King. They are constituted as blessed things so that they can be of use in putting to flight demons and to help the state of our bodies and souls. To do that, they first need to be exorcised. Then they are blessed with a constitutive blessing.

That can’t be done over the internet.

I’m afraid that attempts to do this will result in nothing special. However, people will use things that haven’t been blessed, and that’s problematic in itself.

It would be wrong to offer such a blessing and, in a lasting way, harmful for our understanding of what sacramentals are and what they are for.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. JustaSinner says:

    Can Holy Water be cooked after it is blessed? I’m thinking the Priest can bless it, place in Mason jar, then regular canning procedures ensure pathogen-free container until opened.

    [If Holy Water is heated, I do not think it loses its blessing. There is not, however, Holy Steam or Ice. And when you dilute it, there is the risk of it no longer being Holy Water.]

  2. Percusio says:

    Just another incrementalist attitude toward Protestantism and everyone is a priest. Please give us confession over the phone also in these times! Or perhaps even better, confess to your spouse and have him/her provide absolution. Hmmm. Perhaps that might lead even more toward hatred of the Catholic Church in not letting them “get out” of their marriage. I think the Church has it correct, no, I know the Church has it correct in her teaching on the priesthood. What peace and contentment there exists in obedience!

  3. Clinton R. says:

    It a very short amount of time, we have been deprived of assisting as Mass, receiving the Sacraments and Sacramentals. We cannot even go to Church to pray, the doors are locked. Some bishops are telling the faithful they are able to eat meat on Lenten Fridays. The situation has become so dire. Lord have mercy on us. Please, Blessed Virgin, pray for an end to this virus. +JMJ+

  4. Oddy, papal blessings may be received by television.

    [Yes, but papal blessings are invocative, not constitutive. Furthermore, people can gain the plenary indulgence anywhere they are (under the usual conditions – or now, probably unusual) if they are following it “live”… or as live as it is. There is always some delay in a broadcast. We should remind people that confessors can commute some of the work to be performed for indulgences. No. 24 in the Handbook of Indulgences says: “Confessors can commute either the prescribed work or the conditions in favor of those for whom these are impossible because of a legitimate impediment.” No. 25 in the Handbook of Indulgences says:
    “Hierarchs or local ordinaries can grant permission to the faithful over whom they exercise legitimate authority and who live in places where it is impossible or at least very difficult to go to confession or Communion to gain a plenary indulgence without confession and Communion, provided they have contrition for their sins and have the intention of receiving these Sacraments as soon as possible.” If individual confessors can handle individual cases, the diocesan bishop or the vicar general (also a “local ordinary”) could issue a decree for all the subjects in that diocese regarding how to receive a plenary indulgence.]

  5. robtbrown says:

    Anytime I have ever had a new Rosary blessed by a non Dominican, the priest simply made the sign of the cross over it. Then told me to put holy water on it.

    Was that a constitutive blessing?

    [I would say not. The priest has to say something. I picked up a really fast blessing from Card. Mayer, who would occasionally be stopped and asked to bless something: Benedictus benedicat. Of course it wouldn’t be too onerous to memorize the Blessing ad omnia or the rosary blessing. Also, it is ironic that he said to put Holy Water on it, since, oddly, the rosary is about the only thing which the Rituale says that you don’t have to sprinkle with Holy Water!]

  6. JPD says:

    Sorry putting this question here but desparate. Wife’s uncle is very sick; needs a priest; priest is too sick and nursing home not letting anyone in; can a priest give absolution outside, can he be physically outside the building and call on a phone; do you have to see the priest physically or just hear and be physically present.

    [If there is danger of death, the priest should go in. Also, yes, absolution could be given from a distance, but there must be at least a moral presence. I’d say that if they cannot hear each other, that’s too far. The USCCB says that the CDW says that phones should not be used to amplify voices of those who are a bit distant, but still present to each other. That’s more for secrecy than for validity.
    It would still be valid, provided they are present to each other. It would not be valid, say, across town. If there is a problem of the sick person not being able to make a confession at all because of the distance and secrecy issue, general absolution (without confession) can be given in danger of death. If the sick person is dying and is not not conscious, then the Sacrament of Anointing should be administered, because in those circumstances it can also forgive sins.]

  7. JPD says:

    The uncle is on the third floor; so is that close enough to hear my absolution.

  8. JPD says:

    Opps; what is the distance for the uncle to hear a priests absolution; not my absolution. Typo.

    [We cannot solve this for you at a distance. IF there is DANGER OF DEATH you need to contact your parish priest. In danger of death, the priest should go there. I cannot give you calculations of distance and launch angles of absolutions. I don’t know the situation. But if the person is well enough to be at the window, then I should think that the priest could absolve from that distance. Contact your local priest, friend. Right away.]

  9. JPD says:

    Thank you; working on it; trying to get a novus ordo priest, so far no good, but I know SSPX have a chapel in Potsdam so putting in a call there.

    [Hang on… remember… a priest is a priest is a priest.]

  10. robtbrown says:

    In so far as the blessing of a Rosary would not be constitutive, a Papal blessing of it could be imparted over TV or radio, n’est-ce pas? [No. It is constitutive. Afterward, the rosary is a blessed object. The blessing is lost through breaking or selling it, etc.]

    And Benedictus benedicat doesn’t seem to contain an exorcism. [The Church has designated that only certain things must be exorcised before being blessed or consecrated. For example, salt, water, oil, some places like buildings intended to be churches, and people: there are exorcisms before baptism.]

  11. JPD says:

    Got hold of a priest; never heard of general absolution; but willing to go, is it the same formula as normal absolution. In a very rural area here not many priests around.

  12. Netmilsmom says:

    What about Easter Basket blessings?
    What about the Oil in those?

  13. Sportsfan says:

    My neighbor told me yesterday he did a house blessing via internet and used water that was blessed over live stream. It sounded fishy to me but I didn’t say anything. I guess I better say something to him now.

    [You cannot bless sacraments over the internet. You cannot bless someone’s home over the internet. Lay people can’t bless in the manner of the priest.]

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  15. n1tr0narc says:

    This online blessing is being promoted in the Philippines by the Office of Exorcism of the Archdiocese of Manila and other fellow exorcists in the Luzon island. This in my opinion is misleading and faithful. Dangerous practice… when asked on the FB page, none of the exorcist priests directly replied to the query regarding the efficacy of the blessing. You can see recordings on their FB page, wherein they tell the faithful to just rewind to the point that their transmission got cut. By the way, during the blessing their signal was going haywire. Thanks for your comment in advance.

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