Blessings by the congregation

I’ve going to the same parish for 3 years now and I’ve noticed something that’s become quite a bit of concern for me:

During certain masses when people or objects are blessed the priest invites the congregations to raise their right hands in blessing. As I was made to understand it we as laity have no power to bless with a few minor exceptions. Why then do the priests do this? This seems to me to be a case of liturgical abuse, but the whole congregation does it, and sometimes even without the invitation of one of the priests. Not to be crude but to look around and see this gesture reminds me of Nazi’s and the Sieg Hail symbol adapted from the Roman salute.

Can anyone clarify the legitimacy (or lack thereof) concerning this practice, it’s origins, and how it is viewed by the CDWDS at the Vatican? Am I right to see this as liturgical abuse? Has anyone else experienced this problem? Is it a regional phenomenon*?

I’ve only just begun RCIA there and don’t really feel it’s currently my place to bring this up with the priests and church staff which seems to be moderately “spirit of Vatican II” in terms of liturgy. But I do not raise my hand for these blessings personally, and encourage my brother also not to when we are at mass together.

*I’m located in the Diocese of San Bernardino

The priests suggest this also at my church, to raise your right hand to the canidates. I don’t know if there is anything wrong with it, but I don’t think…

Does anyone have an answer? I’d really like to know along with the OP.

if the congregation can join the priest in offering the sacrifice of the Mass, the ultimate blessing (not in the prayers reserved for him but in the offering) then they can join in certain blessings in which they are intented to participate. A good example of these occasions actually is within certain of the RCIA rites, which have a provision for the sponsors and the congregation to join their prayers for the catechumens with that of the priest. Unless you know for sure that the particular blessing being done is one specifically reserved for the priest, withold your judgment and assume he is acting properly in inviting the assembly to participate. You will be glad of this when it comes time for you to benefit from their prayers for you.

Just because some horrible people co-opt a universal symbol of blessing for their own evil ends, does not make that gesture evil.

The laity cannot confer blessings within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  1. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).

Here is the section from Ecclesia de Mysterio that this statement from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciplinie of the Sacraments references:

  1. To promote the proper identity (of various roles) in this area, those abuses which are contrary to the provisions of canon 907 are to be eradicated. In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers – e.g. especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology – or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant. It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest which is necessary to secure validity.

The conferring of a blessing within the context of a liturgical celebration is proper to the clergy alone. The blessing within the context of the Mass is reserved only to the priest/bishop.

This practice is not something that is common with the good Catholic parishes that I have been blessed to be a member of throughout my nearly 60 years.

It creeps me out when a priest asks the congegration to raise their hands in a blessing and everyone extends their right arm straight out, palm down. It looks like a bunch of Nazis saluting the Fuhrer. :eek:

So since it’s probably wrong for the laity to stretch out their arm during a blessing, how could this go past a priest as not being liturgical abuse? Like, if it’s happened a few times, wouldn’t they know it’s therefore wrong to confer blessings?

What would happen if the priest asks us to do this again at my church? It only happens when the RCIA is to receive a special blessing at Mass. Very seldom does it happen any other time.

Should anyone be blamed for letting this continue?

This is what bothers me the most. I don’t lose sleep over people being asked to join in blessings in other contexts, even if they don’t specifically have any authority to confer the blessing. My feeling is that even if it isn’t a “real” blessing, it is still a prayer. But during Mass (or any other liturgical celebration), it’s a whole different thiing. The blessings in Mass are special and specific. They shouldn’t be turned into the church equivalent of a group hug.

Don’t follow along. This should not be happening within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The problem is that when someone decides to get creative and add something to the Mass on his own authority, this goes squarely against the authoritative documents of the Church (SC, GIRM and RS). We try to get creative and innovative in order to make “improvements” on the Church’s liturgy.

Here is the link to the complete text of Ecclesia de Mysterio:

The sad reality is that, more often than not, the laity need to bring these issues to the attenton of the clergy. I am reminded of a line spoken by Errol Flynn in “The Advenutures of Robin Hood” when Robin (Flynn) rips King Richard the Lionheart (whom he is trying to save) for going out on the Crusades. He tells the king that he takes off on these jaunts and leaves the defense of England to “rouges and thieves” like himself. Sadly, it’s the same concept. There does not seem to be a flow of information from the top down and even the official from the CDWDS whom I spoke to said that this was a problem. So, the information winds up flowing in reverse, from the bottom (the laity) to the top (clergy).

I’ve always found it funny that so many priests do this. Its as if they are saying that they are not any different than the congregation. How easily it seems some priests forget that they have an “indelible mark upon their soul,” having received the sacrament of Holy Orders. They are different than the congregation. They, like the laity, serve their own purpose within the Church’s liturgies.

So, is it wrong to accuse someone of this going on if they had no knowledge that it was abuse? For example, the priests. If they didn’t know it was abuse, they shouldn’t be blamed, right? If they did know it was abuse, however, then of course they should be blamed.

So, should I try bringing this up to them? I’ve always had a problem with the raising of hands during a blessing for someone.

What I am saying is that we should not, on our own authority, be tacking on things to the Mass. It is clearly stated in the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (SC) and reiterated in Redemptionis Sacramentum. If it is not written in red nor black, it should not be done.

I have been in your shoes and have brought this up, and, I have seen it stop.

The priest at my parish invited the congregation to raise their hands in blessing during the Rite of Welcome. What is in writing about this rite?

Yeah, it goes on in the parish a few blocks away. Certain Saturdays are either Wedding Blessings (for people married that month) or Birthday blessings (born that month), and we’re asked to extend our right arms and bless the person/couple closest to us. I never do this. I bow my head and pray the intentions that the priest is confiring, though. This is usually done when the announcements are made, right before the benediction.

Creeps me out, too.
Also, it’s a pretension to participating in the ministerial priesthood (vs. the royal priesthood). I wish priests would stop pandering to congregations because they assume the congreagation is composed of frustrated priests.

Do your job, Father. The congregation has plenty on their plates if they’re striving for the sainthood to which each of them is called. That’s a full-time job. No need to apologize because you have a slightly different (but not completely opposed) job.

these are RCIA occasions are liturgical rites, if the priest is doing nothing more than asking the assmebly to participate as those rites direct, it is correct. One element of liturgy cannot contradict another. What others are speaking of I believe are those ad hoc blessings that the priest makes up on the fly. If it is part of a liturgical rite, or one of those in the book of blessings that specifically invites the assembly to participate, it is liturgically correct. Even those in the book of blessings are not all intended for use in the context of the Mass, but some are. Any that are part of a sacrament celebrated within Mass, for instance. Very often the priest begins with something like Raise your hands and pray for God’s blessing. The individual manner some people find comfortable to make that gesture varies, some prefer the orans posture with both hands raised, others lift one hand, and there are not too many ways to do that. It was a prayer gesture long before some people turned it to an evil meaning, so don’t let that historical cultural remnant affect you.

Only if the priest knows it’s wrong to do so. It’s very possible the priest doesn’t know. If you’re going to be the one to tell him, you’d better do so with the utmost charity and respect.

That is the last thing you should be thinking about right now; it’s starting in the wrong direction. Assume that your priest is without blame if you are going to approach him about correcting this matter, because if you treat him as though he is to blame, your entire attitude towards him will change and negatively affect your behavior toward him.

Of course, the congregation joins in praying for the candidate (or whoever). But need that prayer necessarily be externally manifested by a gesture of a hand raised over the person, nearly imitating the priest?

Funny you should mention that. When my old parish in Austin was doing this, the explanation was that this was part of our “common” priesthood. This flies in the face with what is noted in Ecclesia de Mysterio. Granted, at baptism, we are annointed priest, prophet and king, that does not give us the right to take on the duties of the minsterial priesthood when it comes to the liturgy, appropriating things for ourselves that are not within our purview.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit