Blessings


#1

From my understanding, to bless something means to set it aside for God. (Please correct me if you have a better definition). With that in mind, I have several questions regarding blessings:

1.) What is the purpose behind blessing inanimate objects such as bibles, crosses, or rosaries? Does a blessing somehow make it more useful or powerful?

2.) What does blessing a person really do? Does God choose to alter a person’s life or reveal himself better to a person who has had somebody else say to them “God bless you.”

3.) Why are people so eager to have something blessed by a priest, bishop, or the pope? Is the blessing somehow worth more when the pope does it? If so, how is it worth more?

4.) How are blessed objects any different than fetishes? Similarly, how can this not be classified as magic or superstition?


#2

Technically, that’s “consecrated”, not so much “blessed”. To “bless” something is to invoke God’s Spirit upon it.

With that in mind, I have several questions regarding blessings:

1.) What is the purpose behind blessing inanimate objects such as bibles, crosses, or rosaries? Does a blessing somehow make it more useful or powerful?

Not necessarily more “useful”, but it does make it a more powerful deterent against evil. A crucifix is an ugly thing to a demon to begin with. Add God’s spirit to it and it’s all the more effective a deterant…(Which, I guess technically would make it more “useful”. So…:slight_smile: )

2.) What does blessing a person really do? Does God choose to alter a person’s life or reveal himself better to a person who has had somebody else say to them “God bless you.”

Yes, I would say that a person who has been blessed has their life altered in some way, however “minimally”. They also have the evil in, on and around them dispelled to some degree.

3.) Why are people so eager to have something blessed by a priest, bishop, or the pope? Is the blessing somehow worth more when the pope does it? If so, how is it worth more?

:slight_smile:

Here’s where we get into some intense speculation. And, in fact, I am out of time for the moment. (Saved by the bell?? :wink: ) I’ll try to get back later today and toss you an answer.

4.) How are blessed objects any different than fetishes?

Chigga-what??!?!?

:confused: :frowning: :confused:

Similarly, how can this not be classified as magic or superstition?

More on that later also…

SK


#3

fetish –noun

  1. An object that is believed to have magical or spiritual powers, especially such an object associated with animistic or shamanistic religious practices…

#4

Firstly it’s got nothing to do with magic at all.

Secondly, when an object is blessed it’s not that the object ITSELF has any sort of powers, rather that there is a blessing attached to it, but separate from the object itself. Rather like a priest doesn’t have any power in himself, rather in certain situations God works through him due to his having received Holy Orders.

If the object is sold, for example, it loses the blessing as one cannot sell blessings, so it’s not that the object itself has any inherent powers. I’d say that makes it different from a fetish.

And to say blessed objects are used in religious practices - well apart from the Eucharist (which really becomes a Person and not an object) we don’t particularly use blessed objects in religious devotions. We can read a non-blessed Bible or pray with a non-blessed Rosary etc just as well as with their blessed counterparts.

Ultimately, regardless of whether it can be called a fetish or not, scripture clearly permits and endorses the blessing of objects and the use of blessed objects - Acts mentions people being healed by handkerchiefs and cloths that were blessed by Paul, so the practice dates from the earliest days of Christianity.


#5

People get magicians to cast a spell on a fetish that will give it supernatural powers to fight off invisible spirits. Other people get priests to say some words that will bless an item, such as a rosary, that serves as a supernatural deterrent to invisible demons that prowl the earth. What’s the difference? (Other than you believing that demons exist and spirits don’t?)


#6

It’s HOW it’s done that makes one important difference. Magic is about people (magicians) by their own power or skills or practices manipulating or controlling either natural or supernatural forces.

Blessings have nothing to do with the priest himself having any special power or skills in his own right, or controlling any power of any kind at all, rather He merely acts as an agent or conduit for God, and everything that the priest is and does comes purely through God’s grace and God’s gift of the sacrament of Holy Orders and no merit or skill or power or manipulation inherent in the priest.

Besides which, of course doing such things in the service of the One True God who really exists makes all the difference. If you want to argue whether He really exists that’s a whole other thread.

Worshipping or serving false gods whether by invoking blessings or anything else in their name is offensive and wrong, calling on the One True God isn’t. Just as for my child to call any other woman her ‘mother’ (assuming I’m both her biological mother and have been the sole female raising her during her childhood) would be both wrong, inaccurate and offensive to me. But for my child to call ME mother is both accurate and a good thing.

Let me draw an analogy. If I try to jam an electrical plug into just any random spot in the wall of course it’s not going to work and may damage either the electric plug or the wall itself. So it is both a stupid and harmful thing to do.

If I correctly plug it into the RIGHT spot on that wall where the electric socket is then it will work like … well, magic! But it’s not really magic, it’s forces operating exactly as they should and were intended to.


#7

My guess is that magicians will claim that they are acting as a conduit for the spiritual world.

Why is it that people push and shove to get close enough to be blessed (or have something blessed) by the pope? Is it somehow more powerful? Will God fight off twice as many demons when the pope says blesses my rosary than when I do?

Besides which, of course doing such things in the service of the One True God who really exists makes all the difference.

So then it all comes down to what you believe in?

I guess I just think tribal groups that practice magic and sorcery. Catholics would come in and tell them they are being foolish and blasphemous for believing that an object can hold good luck, allow prosperity in war, or protect against spirits. But then at the same time, Catholics would hand them a crucifix blessed by a priest and tell them to keep this by there bed so that demons (evil spiritual beings) will be deterred. It just doesn’t seem to be any different to me.

If you want to argue whether He really exists that’s a whole other thread.

No, I’m not doing that. I’ve already had many threads about the existence of God and they haven’t gone anywhere. :slight_smile:

Worshipping or serving false gods whether by invoking blessings or anything else in their name is offensive and wrong, calling on the One True God isn’t. Just as for my child to call any other woman her ‘mother’ (assuming I’m both her biological mother and have been the sole female raising her during her childhood) would be both wrong, inaccurate and offensive to me. But for my child to call ME mother is both accurate and a good thing.

Let me draw an analogy. If I try to jam an electrical plug into just any random spot in the wall of course it’s not going to work and may damage either the electric plug or the wall itself. So it is both a stupid and harmful thing to do.

If I correctly plug it into the RIGHT spot on that wall where the electric socket is then it will work like … well, magic! But it’s not really magic, it’s forces operating exactly as they should and were intended to.

So if somebody didn’t believe in the Christian god (or didn’t know of the Christian god), would it be blasphemous to hold a fetish to keep away evil spirits?


#8

I am going ot offer pure opinion here based on my own readings and experiences.

  1. A blessed object such as an image, rosary or medal etc. increases the efficacy of any indulgences granted since it is a more integrative form of reverence, piety, worship and devotion. Of course the person using these objects must also be in a state of grace and be sincere or be faithfully trying to repent from a condition of sin. Blessing certain religious medals also is a way of consummating a devotional promise that may be associated with that particular religious article. Normally there is no differentiation made in the merits or the rank of the “blessed” article since it is Jesus that permits the blessing. However in some instances a papal blessing can be superior to a priest’s blessing for articles that have a special plenary promise associated with it and can make the difference between being granted a full vs. a partial indulgence (though we normally never know if we were granted a full one). Don’t ask me for a reference here since it has become retained “knowledge” that I gleaned over the years from lots of reading.

  2. A person asking God to bless another person is offering his intentions of Good Will on that person and is offering whatever merits he has with God to be taken into consideration in God helping in anyway that benefits the person. This can remove divine disfavor from the person who is in a state of sin by opening up new channels of grace to that person to repent. It can also remove any curses or demonic influences that are on a person.

  3. See #1. Normally a deacon, priest or bishop can bless an object and it has the same efficacy but there are special devotions where a bishop of the region associated with the devotional or the pope may be in force (st. Michael has one devotional for example where one should get a priest from a specific holy site to bless articles used in a special devotional prayer).

  4. Blessed articles have nothing in common with fetishes and magical charms etc. because the latter are not of God and if not demonic are nothing but superstition.

Now ask yourself why you wash your hands before you eat and see if you do not see some parallels. Hint - its not just because of hygene - its about respect and courtesy for others and other things…

James


#9

Conduit? Probably not. They’ll more likely claim that they control and can summon up the spirits and/or the natural elements, not that they’re mere conduits.

As for Papal blessings - we believe all blessing and spiritual power ultimately comes from Christ through His agents on earth, the Pope, bishops and priests. The Pope is the supreme Vicar (agent) of Christ on earth, by virtue of his unique office and its unique privileges, so some feel he has unique access to the divine.

Myself I’m not all that fussed, and a lot of Catholics aren’t. I get a lot out of meeting any holy priest though, from the humblest to the grandest, and I’m sure the Pope is that. :shrug:

So then it all comes down to what you believe in?

It comes down to what you know is true. Small but important difference. I can believe with all my might that there’s a country out there called Horseyland, all that belief won’t make it true.

I guess I just think tribal groups that practice magic and sorcery. Catholics would come in and tell them they are being foolish and blasphemous for believing that an object can hold good luck, allow prosperity in war, or protect against spirits. But then at the same time, Catholics would hand them a crucifix blessed by a priest and tell them to keep this by there bed so that demons (evil spiritual beings) will be deterred. It just doesn’t seem to be any different to me.

‘Luck’ is a different thing entirely to God’s blessing and protection. For that matter I doubt that a fetishist would say anything about ‘luck’ either, instead it’s all about spiritual power.

And I don’t think most Catholics criticise the general idea of blessed objects protecting or healing from evil or illness (which after all is there in the Bible), rather they’re merely criticising the idea of placing credence in false gods, which IS offensive for us who know the one True God.

Although on the whole we DON’T believe in objects giving material prosperity or ‘luck’ in any way.

So if somebody didn’t believe in the Christian god (or didn’t know of the Christian god), would it be blasphemous to hold a fetish to keep away evil spirits?

If through no fault of their own they don’t know of or believe in the Christian God, but are nonetheless genuinely striving to serve God as best they know how, God won’t hold it against them that they use a fetish as a means of doing so. But it still hurts him. Kinda like if your 6-month-old child kicks you in the knee by accident, it hurts, but you’re not going to punish them for it.


#10

I don’t understand this analogy at all. I wash my hands before I eat to get rid of any bacteria on my hands.


#11

:rolleyes:


#12

I don’t know how much experience you have with animistic or shamanic practices, but, as they are a loose collection of varying beliefs, with no central authority, or uniform theology, you’ll find that what one shaman/magician/whatever believes makes the fetish efficacious isn’t what another one believes.

In other words, there are some pagan traditions that believe the power in fetishes come from binding spirits to the will of the magician. Or that the power comes because one has met a certain set of conditions (incantations, objects, motions, etc.). Ultimately, the fetish works because of something the human did. The human bent the spirit world to his will.

This, clearly, is not what sacramentals do. God is not “forced” to do anything for me, listen to my prayers more attentively, help me win the lottery, whatever, because I had a priest recite a specific set of words over my rosary. Blessed objects do not bend the spirit world to our will.

As for whether the blessing of a “lowly” parish priest is less “powerful” than that of a Pope- how does one measure that? How does one quantify the usefulness of a blessing? Do some people perhaps seek the “celebrity status” of certain clergy and assume that fame=power, even in matters of the spirit? Sure. Is this right? Probably not. Does it render all blessings by all men of God invalid? No.

Do some people turn sacramentals into fetishes by their use of them? Yes. But again, to think that because some people do this it renders all blessed objects as void as, say, a voodoo doll or “lucky” rabbit’s foot is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.


#13

Ok, where was I…?

Yes. It is “worth more”. I’m gonna leave it at that for now other than to say that the reason why has nothing to do with any “innate powers” a priest possess himself that a lay person does not. It has to do with the office he holds.

4.) How are blessed objects any different than fetishes?

Ok, so you were thinking definiton 1a. I had no idea 1a existed. I could only imagine you were talking about 1b and 1c and that threw me, as you might imagine. :wink:

Obviously I am not familiar with the usage of 1a. Going strictly by Webster: 1 a: an object (as a small stone carving of an animal) believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner; broadly : a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence, there would be no difference between a blessed object and an object “regarded with reverence”. As for the other parts of the definition, though, the difference lies in the difference between “magic and miracle”. A perfect segue to your next question…

Similarly, how can this not be classified as magic or superstition?

The difference between magic and miracle (or blessing) is the source. A blessing is the work of God or angelic forces. Magic is the work of fallen angelic (demonic) forces.

Blessings are not supersitition in that superstition is to assigning spiritual power (or a level of spiritual power) to something that doesn’t have it, essentially. Blessings do have power.

Now, that said, superstition can still enter in. Say someone has a blessed crucifix on their front door to aid in keeping their house free of demonic influence. Fine. Beautiful. That’s the whole purpose. If, however, that same individual places the crucifix on the door, believing that anyone that walks past it is automatically holy or “of upright moral character” because they wouldn’t be able to physically get passed the crucifix otherwise, that’s supersititon. If they had the crucifix there, believing that that meant that nothing bad would ever happen to them again in life, that would be superstition.

See the difference?

Peace,

SK


#14

It is subtle.

The analogy is that humans make things with their hands. In our daily lives we come in contact with less than pure things. We can become physically as well as morally dirty, unclean etc. The idea is to let God take something man has made and impart His blessing on it in a co-joined effort.

Washing one’s hands can be a physical pragmatism to prevent the spread of infection to ourselves but also to others - especially if we are preparing food or making something to be worn by others. It can also be a sign of respect and concern for others well being as well as ourselves since its a minimal act one can do even if one is reasonably “clean”.

Now consider a religious article made by unknown hands - it is impersonal and the product of “some one’s labor”. Often we do not personally know its pedigree, or the intent of the person who made it and “sold” it. Was it made by an unbeliever for a simple wage? Was any aspect of the base materials (metal, beads, pigments etc.) made by an evil person who hates Christians or who was in a state of mortal sin? Did anyone curse the material or the object itself?

In essence “blessing” something asks God to accept the good intentions associated with the object and to make it become a sacramental, “clean” and acceptable to Him irrespective of who made the object or if it has any negative history associated with it (e.g. any aspect manufactured by pagans, those still in original sin [not baptised] or a morally corrupt company who uses slave labor, etc.). Since God can make a greater good come from even evil God makes the object “right” and acceptable in His eyes as a means of worshiping Him and venerating His goodness. Blessing is a way of safeguarding against an “unacceptable” sacrifice (ref. Cain and Able) where we can never presume that anything manufactured by the sweat of our brow is acceptable to God. Blessing is a means of asking God to co-join the labor of human hands (which was originally cursed by original sin) to make an object morally clean and to make it an object of divine-human cooperation of good-will between God and man. Asking God to bless an object is a an admission that only God and God’s people are holy and only God can make us acceptable in His eyes and we can never create anything that he finds acceptable and pleases him without his blessings and our willful submission to His partnership.

By the way - this same principal applies to us when we approach God in proper prayer. We should always wash our selves of venial sins (and certainly all mortal sins via sacramental confession) by praying for forgivness of our sins before petitioning God or worshiping God.

But using a blessed sacramental as an instrumental in prayer (or as an outward sign of respect and devotion) can be like having a bar of spiritual soap that helps put us in a more respectful state of contrition that is acceptable to God. But that said, a sacramental will not always help a person who does not have nor desires to have a clean and sincere heart. However again, on a different matter all together seperate from this discussion, a blessed sacramental can be useful with a person who has succumbed to a degree of real demonic influence and possession. In which case the blessed sacramental can become a means to discern demonic influence by making it very spiritually uncomfortable to be near it and the condition obvious. There are known cases of dieing people tearing the blessed brown scapular off themselves when loved ones gave it to them in hopes of “saving” the individuals soul but the person had decidedly rejected God in their lives. No one can buy themselves into heaven by wearing blessed objects. But they can certainly help in protecting a person from demonic influence and from falling away once making a conscious commitment to God.

James


#15

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