"Blessings" given by EMHCs?

OK… this has been bugging me for a while now. What’s the deal with EMHCs giving a little cross-on-the-forehead blessing to the little children and babies in the recieving line? Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with this? Am I missing something? I thought only rightfully ordained ministers could give a blessing.

You’re right to be disturbed.

Only a priest (and maybe a deacon?) can give a blessing.

I don’t think people do it out of disobedience, however, but only out of a lack of instruction. They see the priest do it and who can refuse a child asking for a blessing?

I’m sure the Lord blesses the children in any case, as he is very close to them naturally…but EMHC’s don’t have the authority to convey this blessing.

This happens in my parish which is huge and has an abundance of EMHC’s actually by necessity…although I think too many. We currently have recently recieved the grace and blessing of 3 relatively newly ordained and very orthodox priests, and one of them has been assigned our pastor after only a year of service.

I know change will occurr and I hope to ask him about this particular issue…but I’m sure he is already aware.

Unfortunately, change is slow as the new Pastor has to figure out how to make the changes for the better without alienating the parish, most of whom are likely not very well educated and would take offense to any change in what they precieve as being appropriate.

It drives me crazy, too.

As JCPhoenix so elequently put it, only an ordained minister can give a blessing. The EMHC may, however, say a prayer over the child. That would be better than doing nothing, and certainly better than pretending to give a blessing.

Sorry, anyone can give a blessing! There is a book called the Book of Blessings which is the offical ritual book for various blessings. While there are some that are reserved to a bishop, some to a bishop or priest and some to a bishop, priest or deacon, most can be given by a layperson.

Do you say grace before meals? That’s a blessing for the food. Do you say “God bless you!” when someone sneezes? That’s a blessing called down from God!

A lay minister may most certainly give a blessing. The real question here is not whether or not a lay person can bless, but whether or not such a blessing has a place in the context of liturgical worship. Again, the Church has provided an answer: under certain circumstances, yes a lay minister may bless – provided he or she is actually leading the community in prayer.

A lay person never blesses as a cleric would (making the sign of the cross with the hand). Using the thumb to trace a blessing is quite legitimate and has historical precedent.

Finally, the issue of a lay person giving a blessing at Mass is problematic. First, there is the idea that one who cannot receive communion is coming up in the communion procession (yes, I understand infants sometimes have to). This in itself is not liturgically correct and began as a process to allow those who could not come to communion to “receive something.” They are receiving grace just by being at Mass – and will get nothing extra from this blessing.

Yet, it seems to be a tradition (lower case “t”) that is not going to go away. Frankly, it’s not of significantly great importance that one should waste time fighting a battle that, in all likelihood, cannot be won!

Deacon Ed

Thanks for shedding light on this subject Deacon Ed. I didn’t really think of it like that.

Thanks, Deacon Ed, for clearing that up. As always, your words are full of wisdom.

:blessyou:

[quote=Deacon Ed]Do you say grace before meals? That’s a blessing for the food. Do you say “God bless you!” when someone sneezes? That’s a blessing called down from God!
[/quote]

How would you relate all you were saying to having a priest bless a set of rosary beads verses having a layman bless it? Or like the blessing on a chalice?

[quote=Pug]How would you relate all you were saying to having a priest bless a set of rosary beads verses having a layman bless it? Or like the blessing on a chalice?
[/quote]

Pug,

As I said, there are blessings that are reserved to the clergy. Blessing objects such as rosaries or water are, indeed, reserved to the clergy. Blessings of things associated with a church (altar, bells, doors, etc.) are reserved to a bishop. So, my statements above provided a context for explaining why a lay person could validly bless another person, not a general statement that a lay person could bless anything.

Deacon Ed

[quote=Deacon Ed]Pug,

As I said, there are blessings that are reserved to the clergy. Blessing objects such as rosaries or water are, indeed, reserved to the clergy.
[/quote]

I wasn’t quite clear in what I wanted to know, sorry! Um, what is the priest doing to the rosary when he blesses it? I mean, I’ve heard a priest bless a rosary, so I know what he says, but what happens to the rosary…what is imbued into it or, um, is it just reserved to a purpose or made sacred? Also, when a blessing is reserved to clergy, is that because of something like the Church has decided to release her powers for the clergy to do that, or what exactly? Is this connected to the Keys or what? I don’t really understand blessings very well, that’s why I’m asking. I didn’t mean to imply that you were denying some stuff was only for the clergy!

I do know what a layperson is doing to another when they bless them, but what is a priest “doing” to an object when it is blessed?

[quote=Pug]I wasn’t quite clear in what I wanted to know, sorry! Um, what is the priest doing to the rosary when he blesses it? I mean, I’ve heard a priest bless a rosary, so I know what he says, but what happens to the rosary…what is imbued into it or, um, is it just reserved to a purpose or made sacred? Also, when a blessing is reserved to clergy, is that because of something like the Church has decided to release her powers for the clergy to do that, or what exactly? Is this connected to the Keys or what? I don’t really understand blessings very well, that’s why I’m asking. I didn’t mean to imply that you were denying some stuff was only for the clergy!

I do know what a layperson is doing to another when they bless them, but what is a priest “doing” to an object when it is blessed?
[/quote]

Okay, that’s a different question from the one I thought you were asking.

When lay people bless they actually are saying a prayer to God that He will, in response to the prayer, send grace upon the person that is prayed for. When a lay person says grace before meals (or, in fact, even after meals) he is still asking for God to send grace upon the people who will partake of the meal through the agency of the food that God provided.

When a bishop or priest blesses an object he “sets it aside” for a particular purpose. That is, a blessed rosary is blessed so that when someone prays using that rosary extra graces are given to the person (there is, in Eastern theology, the understanding that simply using an object, e.g., praying the rosary, will actually bless that object). Deacons can bless objects, but do so by asking God to do the blessing. There is actually no difference in what is said, but the method of action is slightly different.

That’s a long way of saying that blessings given to objects are designed to set the object aside for a religious use. Icons, statues, medals, etc. are blessed not for themselves but for those who will use or look at the objects. For example, when I bless a rosary I’m not blessing just the rosary, but all those who will pray using that particular rosary.

Does that help?

Deacon Ed

From the old Catholic Encyclopedia:

II. MINISTER

Since, then, blessings, in the sense in which they are being considered, are entirely of ecclesiastical institution, the Church has the power to determine who shall have the right and duty to confer them. This she has done by entrusting their administration to those who are in sacerdotal orders…Priests, then, are the ordinary ministers of blessings, and this is only in the fitness of things since they are ordained, as the words of the Pontifical run: “ut quæcumque benedixerint benedicantur, et quacumque consecraverint consecrentur” (That what-ever they bless may be blessed, and whatever they consecrate shall be consecrated). When, therefore, laymen and women are represented as blessing others it is to be understood that this is an act of will on their part, a wish or desire for another’s spiritual or temporal prosperity, an appeal to God which has nothing to recommend if but the merits of personal sanctity. The ordinary greetings and salutations that take places between Christians and Catholics, leavened by mutual wishes for a share of heavenly grace, must not be confounded with liturgical blessings…

newadvent.org/cathen/02599b.htm

The problem with EMHC’s giving blessings and what kind of blessings to give, and whether it confuses the clerical and lay states, could be solved by instructing people not to get in the communion line unless they are going to receive communion. (Infants in arms excepted.)

But, as Deacon Ed said, that’s a battle that’s probably already been lost.

[quote=Deacon Ed]I’m not blessing just the rosary, but all those who will pray using that particular rosary.

Does that help?

Deacon Ed
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Thank you, yes, for I had forgotten that part I quote from you! I think I need to do some thinking about blessings, to get back up to speed.:o

A interesting read “The Emasculation of the Priesthood” by Fr. James McLucas

latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_emasculation.html

In time there will be no need for priests…the laity will do all

james

Deacon Ed,
In your opinion, if someone wanted to do what was ‘correct’, should they avoid going up for a blessing in the communion line if it is a regular practice in their parish?

In the diocese of Phoenix, Bishop Olmstead has directed the parishes to not allow EMHC’s to bless the people anymore, but to instead say a simple prayer for the person. The prayer is, “May the Lord give you the fullness of life.” We are not to touch the person at all. I know this change was made at Easter in my parish.

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