ASK FATHER: Can deacons use the Rituale Romanum to bless things?

From a  deacon….


Is it your opinion that a deacon can use most of the blessings contained in the older form of the Ritual?  I took this for granted during formation for diaconal ordination, and totally dismissed the Book of Blessings as a fundamentally impotent book.  Just prior to Ordination I stumbled onto a blog that suggested that while deacons & priests can use the Book of Blessings, only priests can use the blessings in the older Ritual.  This person stipulated that a Bishop would need to impart faculties for deacons to use the older Ritual for blessings.
During our formation the liturgical formator (who is general pretty solid and orthodox) suggested we bypass the Book of Blessings and use the older Ritual for blessings “if we indeed actually want something blessed”.  Today a person asked me to bless their car after Mass, and I used the generic blessing in the Book of Blessings, chagrined!  I know there is a blessing for that in the older book and it actually blesses the vehicle!

The new-fangled Book of Blessings (De Benedictionibus) is problematic.  If you read the introduction, you find an attempt to change the theology and praxis of blessings, to eliminate the distinction between constitutive and invocative blessings.  Effectively, it reduces all the blessings to invocative blessings.  If memory serves there is only one blessing (one the options for a Rosary… the traditional prayer…) which actually blesses something.   The prayers in the Book of Blessings call God’s blessing down on someone who might look at a sacred image, rather than bless the image itself.

That said, for what it’s worth, there 21 (I think I got that right) things in the Book of Blessings which deacons can bless.  They include, medals, small crucifixes statues or pictures that will be displayed elsewhere than in a church or chapel, scapulars, rosaries, or other articles used in religious devotions. Deacons may bless rosaries.  With this Novus Ordo book deacons may also bless holy water… well… “happy water”, but only outside the context of Holy Mass (obviously at Mass a priest is present). Deacons may bless private homes.

Deacons may NOT use most of the blessings in the older, traditional Rituale Romanum.   The Rituale says that deacons may only bless things they are expressly allowed to bless.  However, try to find one in the Rituale.   There is no provision for a bishop to give a deacon the ability to bless things with the older Rituale.

So, I regret to say that deacons really cannot bless much, since there is but one constitutive blessing in the Book of Blessings and, I think, none in the Rituale Romanum.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Interesting, I’ve never heard of constitutive vs invocative blessings. Is there a good place to read about this?

  2. Fr_Andrew says:

    The older Rituale gives deacons four (or five) blessings they can give.

    The first is explicitly mentioned not in the Rituale but in the ordination of Lectors in the older Pontificale : “Lectorem siquidem oportet legere ei quæ prædicat, et lectiones cantare et benedicere panem, et omnes fructus novos.[Not in the Ritual.] The blessing of bread has two form for Paschaltide (Tit. IX, cap. 3, no. 11.3 or no. 11.4), and outside of paschaltide (Tit. IX, cap. 7, no. 1). The blessing of new fruits is the same in Paschaltide or outside (Tit. IX, cap. 3, no. 11.5).

    The Rituale itself (Tit. V, cap. 2) in the rubrics (no. 10) indicated “Ritus superius descriptus servandus est etiam a Diacono sacram communionem ministrante.” So when giving Holy Communion outside of Mass, either during a sick call or at the altar, the deacon gives the final blessing as a priest would, or, if there is a host still in the pyx, with the pyx, saying nothing.

    There’s also Baptism, which is permitted to a deacon with it’s blessings (Tit. II, cap. 1, no. 15), and the only thing he does not bless is the salt, which must be previously blessed by a priest.

    So, that’s not nothing, and even very interesting that the deacon can give a blessing as a priest when giving Communion outside of Mass, nevertheless, it’s not much.

    [It’s not much and they are invocative blessings, not constitutive.]

  3. jwcraig11 says:

    I was taught that deacons could bless objects (cars, houses, rosaries) but not anything that was alive (people, animals). That was meant as a quick summary, not comprehensive. The new Book of Blessings is basically useless, like the new Rite of Exorcism.

  4. The image in this post does not seem to be of a deacon—I can see no stole. In addition, he does not seem even to have a maniple. Or is my vision going?

  5. I suspect this is the article referenced (he also provides an ok solution)

    “ There is a similar short prayer of blessing for any devotional article, where the word “rosary” is substituted with whatever the article is… … I suggest making use of the short formulary for the blessing of devotional objects, or the prayer over the people given in the appendix, as concluding formulas for any blessings given to make up for whatever may be lacking in the prescribed rite.”

  6. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    The new-fangled Book of Blessings (De Benedictionibus) is problematic. If you read the introduction, you find an attempt to change the theology and praxis of blessings, to eliminate the distinction between constitutive and invocative blessings.

    Exactly, Fr. Z. For a scholarly essay on this point, see:
    Uwe Michael Lang, “Theologies of Blessing: Origins and Characteristics of De benedictionibus (1984),” Antiphon 13:1 (2011): 27-46.

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