I received a somewhat convoluted note about blessings, which contained several implicit questions. I will tease out the essence.
He can’t find a priest to bless things in Latin and it would be very far to drive to find one.
QUAERUNTUR: Why not just use the English translation provided in “Weller” (a three volume set that translated the traditional Rituale Romanum). Or should the Book of Blessings be used?
I don’t think the Book of Blessings should be used for anything other than a tire block when parking on a slope. There is only one prayer in the book that blesses the object. Otherwise, it expresses happy thoughts about someone who might see it or use it someday. In the Praenotanda there is an explicit repudiation of the Church’s teaching about invocative and constitutive blessings. It is appalling.
That said, the Church has always been concerned lest people fall into the trap of seeing blessings and sacramentals and sacraments as a kind of theurgy or magic.
We are confident that, when the priest blesses, God blesses in the person of the priest. We are confident that, when the priest exorcises, God exorcises. We are confident that when the priest consecrates items or places or persons, God acts in the priest to constitute them as blessed or consecrated, to tear from from the grip of the Prince of this world and set them apart for the King and the advance His Kingdom.
The efficacy of the blessings depends ultimately on God, who desires what is good for us.
However, we do our best to bless and consecrate through outward signs, the gestures and words of, especially, the priest who is alter Christus.
If our blessings are not magic, neither are they nothing. Gestures and words count. Latin makes a difference, as exorcists will confirm. Moreover, the Rituale Romanum, in the edition that was in force at the time of Vatican II and after explicitly states that if Latin is not used the blessing is void. I am not making that up.
The Rituale Romanum, Title 8, Chapter 1 gives the general rules for blessings. These are also presented in Weller, vol. 3, pp. 2-5.
Note that n. 2 states:
“Benedictiones sive constitutivae sive invocativae invalidae sunt, si adhibita non fuerit formula ab Ecclesia praescripta.
Both constitutive and invocative blessings are invalid if the form prescribed by the Church is not used.”
Weller’s English translations were never approved for use, even in that interim time after the Council when more English could be used. The translations are for reference, not use. The LATIN is approved for use.
The apparent meaning of that, read as it is, is that if priests are using the Weller translation to bless things, Holy Water, etc., they aren’t blessing. At the end, you have salty water.
- We cannot limit God.
- We don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.
- People are not bound to do the impossible.
- God gives us strong guidance in how to worship Him in a way that pleases Him and we see the fruits.
- If there is a way to do things better, we should strive to perfect them.
- People can improve themselves and, for example, learn Latin.
If a priest doesn’t use Latin and instead uses the English translation is something blessed or not?
All I know is that I will always use Latin when I bless holy water. I will always use Latin to bless objects. I will always use Latin for the important bits, such as forms of sacraments and exorcisms.
I am never going to leave anyone with the slightest whisp of a doubt about what just happened. When you come to me for blessings or sacramentals or sacraments, I owe that to you. It is my duty to make sure that you have no doubt as to what happened. Latin always resolves that and the vernacular can resolve that.
Latin, for me, is now second nature. It isn’t for a lot of priests.
These are troubling times.
When the People of Israel broke covenant after covenant with God, God eventually imposed Law on them which reflected not just their state of being chosen by Him, but reflected also their wickedness. This is why, for example, God allowed for divorce, which, as Christ says, was not so before.
It seems to me that the Church is so messed up right now, and our Catholic identity is so violated and wounded and scrambled, that latitude has to be provided, because Deus providebit.
How do I mean this?
Take analogy of our sacred liturgical worship as, now, having been forced onto a continuum of Catholic identity, ranging from clueless to well-informed and dedicated.
Using Paul’s image of the newly converted being like children who can only take milk, not ready for solid food, in these our times we have to work within reality, not fantasy.
The hic et nunc has to be considered. We have priests of the Latin Church, the Roman Rite, who have no idea about how to celebrate in their Church’s Rites and don’t know Latin. This was purposeful on the part of those who both wrote and then warped what was written for the reform of the liturgy. This was systematically done by those in charge of priestly formation. They destroyed Catholic identity guttatim. Drop by drop. They undermined priesthood, brick from brick. The result, hic et nunc, is what it is, and it is not what it isn’t. That sounds tautological, I know, but we have to sober ourselves with this smelling salt and get the cobwebs out of our heads.
So, today, if a well-meaning priest, who through no fault of his own, blesses something using the English translation in Well, does he bless or not?
Here are the factors I put into the scales of my mind.
- God loves us and wants us to have blessed things.
- The Church without doubt said that the approved text, meaning Latin, has to be used.
- God knows that 99% of priests don’t know Latin because the Church has, manifestly contrary to the law, cheated them out of that critical aspect of their formation and identity.
- God is not limited by the Church’s positive law concerning blessings.
- Priests of the Roman Catholic Church ought to pray like Roman Catholic priests.
- The Rituale Romanum itself states that it is a starting point, a reference point for the development of local rituals.
- It is extremely important to maintain the categories of constitutive and invocative blessings against modernist encroachment and the campaign against them.
- We are our rites!
- The wider world is affected by what we do regarding sacred objects, places and persons. Getting it right is more important than our comfort zone.
Putting all of that into the mental hopper and letting it macerate, when a priest blesses (constitutive) using some other form than what is in the book, I am not sure what happens. I am inclined to think that, God being merciful, something happens. If, for example, someone were to walk up to me and ask me to bless the Rosary she was holding out, and if I were to make the sign of the Cross over it while saying something like, Benedictus benedicat (which I got from my old mentor the holy and late, great Card. Mayer), I am inclined to think that the Rosary was blessed.
You will object, why shouldn’t I have just memorized the Latin prayer for the blessing of a Rosary?
We have to fight to recover these things and use them properly. In the meantime, we have to be smart and flexible.
Allow me to go back to my food analogy for liturgy. This might seem a little insulting but it is just intended to make a point about the continuum we are on.
In 99% of a man’s day and activities, it is beneath his dignity to scrunch up his face and make airplane noises while moving a spoon around with his hand. People would think he was nuts. OR… if he is sitting in front of the high-chair of his little son, who can only eat goop and must sometimes be convinced to eat it, then that man is not doing anything beneath his dignity. On the contrary, he is performing a sacrificial act of love for his child. He sacrifices his dignity – becoming more dignified yet – for the sake of his boy’s eating something that will help him to grow out of the need to eat that sort of thing in that sort of way. He helps his boy move up the food and eating continuum to more complicated foods eaten in a more human way. Infants eat in the way that infants eat, not in the way that adults eat. To force an infant to eat steak and cabernet is abuse, not love.
This is our situation with a large number of those who miraculously still self-identify as Catholic. Some can take the solid food of the Vetus Ordo, with its greater challenge and deeper apophatic approach to an encounter with mystery. Some are still pretty much bound up in the emphasis on the immanent in the Novus Ordo. Some are ready to make a move quickly and others need more time. Some are ready for steak and cabernet and others still need goop, or perhaps SpaghettiOs if they are into the Novus Ordo with some traditional elements. Eventually, they can handle a slice of bologna and maybe stab at it with a fork that they have to hold in various ways while they learn and their dexterity improves. You get the idea. Eventually, it is china, linens, crystal, sharp knives and bistecca alla fiorentina with a bottle Tignanello.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that the toddler with Spaghetti O’s is bad because he can’t handle spaghetti all’arrabbiata. Do not make the mistake of thinking that mom and dad who give their toddler SpaggettiOs are bad. They would be bad if, once junior is grown and able to take more and better, they keep him eating pureed carrots in a special chair. They would be infantalizing him, which would be abuse of their child and beneath their own dignity as parents. Of course if the parents had been kept in an infantile state themselves, they wouldn’t know any better.
Keeping people down liturgically is just plain wrong. However, if priests and bishops don’t have a clue themselves… what to do? Priests and bishops are included in this. Some priests are at the level of the boy in the high chair when in comes to liturgical identity. Remember: we are our rites! Alas, they listen to the “experts” who did the infantalization in the first place and the closed circles just grinds on and on.
To move this into the plain of the Church’s teaching on morals, while we acknowledge that some people are in sinful situations, we don’t leave them in sinful situations. Understanding that movement and improvement takes time, we don’t just excuse what they are doing because, after all, the ideals we have been presented are just too hard for some people. No. We are our rites and our rites are doctrine. With the help of authority and of grace, we must be working toward the ideal, even if it is painful. This is true for our moral lives and also our sacred liturgical worship, by which we individually and collectively fulfill the virtue of Religion.
Our Catholic identity is a mess. There are correctives and remedies. But the therapy will have its painful moments. But they MUST be undertaken.
I’ve had injuries that required painful therapeutic exercises. Oh, how I didn’t want to do them. But I wanted recovery enough so that I was willing to deal with the discomfort. In the long run, it paid off. I never want to have that pain again, but it worked.
I am reminded of the Lord’s words in John 16, using the image of painful child-birth:
21 When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child[b] is born into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. 24 Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
We have to get through this dark time together, in solidarity, with joy, hopeful determination and elbow grease.
Are you asking for restoration of our Catholic identity and sacred worship in the Holy Name of Jesus?