deacon/extraordinary ministers blessing children during communion

is this going off the deep end or am I being a prude.

background: I attended the parish mission with my wife and children (ages 1 and 3) and the visiting priest gave a great homily on the sacredness of the eucharist etc…

My issue was this; when I went to recieve communion the deacon, procedes to make a big event/deal out of my little daughter, blesses her and smiles etc etc… (I thought for a second he was going to kiss her as well) He then decides to offer me the host sort of after the fact. I am human as we all are, but I really felt like he took away from my experience with receiving Christ. It was very distracting and I know in my heart it was out of his love that he treated my daughter that way. I just feel like there are times and places for proper emotional control and when serving as a eucharistic minister there is a proper mindset/posture so that the people receiving Christ can receive Him in a holy way.

This discussion has come up on the radio show before and I thought I heard Jimmy Akin or Karl Keating basically voice a similar opinion and that even priests should not be offering separate blessings for young children during communion.

This is not the first time this has happened to me as it seems very common among many of our extraordinary ministers/deacons and priests (included).

whats your experience and opinion?

In our parish blessing the children is done…
After the adult receives communion the children are blessed; which is just a simple placing of hand on head and saying something along the lines of “God bless you”, if Father even speaks at all to them.

My children being older walk up by themselves arms cross and fingers on shoulders; Father then knows that they just want a blessing. Adults in the parish do the same thing, especially those in RCIA.

All of the extraordinary ministers will bless children but I have the problem with that… Therefore I just tell the children to go to Father. If Father happens to be on the “other side” then the children just sit in the pew and wait for our return. When visiting other parishes we have the children stay in the pew because we know that not all parishes do this…

My children know the difference… They have been asking when they can actually receive the Eucharist.
I think it’s good for them to be able to go up because they can actually see what we are doing…
Blessing will not hurt them. However, it should not be made into a big production. That’s why I like that fact that Father just simply touches their heads after giving the Adult communion. Sometimes he may say “God Bless you” others times he’s just silent.

On a different note: This past Ash Wednesday we took them to Church and they receive ashes on their foreheads like everyone else. We had a hard time keeping them quiet after words because they were like “Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa etc… I got ashes just like you”. They were in awe that they got to do the same thing has the Adults and older children.

I may be reading too much into your subject line, but by combining the ordained office of the deacon with extraordinary ministers, it may be that you don’t see deacons as clergy. If it was written “priests/deacon/extraordinary ministers blessing…” I don’t think I would have the same response.

Given a church that blesses noncommunicants in line (its worthiness as a practice a separate topic, indeed), EMHCs should definitely not be blessing, IMHO. But deacons can, like priests, by virtue of their holy orders.


I do see deacons as clergy, no harm in you wondering though! the subject should include priests as you stated above; more correct by all means. I guess the heart of my discussion was whether or not this whole practice, whether given by clergy (priests AND deacons) or by extraordinary ministers is distracting or even allowed.

in your last sentence above, I agree that priests and deacons ‘can’ give blessings, but is the communion line the right time and place?

This is common practice at our parish as well…
And it’s not only for children, but for non-Catholics (and/or those in RCIA awaiting full initiation)…
I find it to be a beautiful practice that is INCLUSIVE instead of EXCLUSIVE of those who decide not to receive (based on age, or whatever)… in many ways I think it helps evangalize to those visiting a Catholic church so they don’t have to feel akward sitting alone in the pew while the rest go up for communion.

I don’t find it particularly distracting, maybe because I’m just used to the practice and find it to be very beautiful…

smithtg, my personal opinion isn’t solid on the matter. I understand those who say it is very out of place in a communion line – and I agree with that. I also tend to like when celebrants follow the GIRM to the letter.

But pastorally, I can see its benefit, as do Mommyof02green and Em_in_FL, especially for those in RCIA and young children not yet allowed to receive Holy Communion. I’m torn. (Not on the EMHCs giving blessings part – I’m heartily against that.)

So am I (the part in red-bold)! That’s why I have my kids go up to Father and if Father is on the “other” side they stay in the pew.

To be honest there as a few times myself that I recieve the blessing and not communion…for my own reason clearly. So it’s just not Non-Catholic adults going up.

Good question. I’m wondering what else can the priest do when known non-Catholics or people who cohabitate together come to receive?

This is not an issue in our church. I was blessed once four and a half years ago (when I joined RCIA,) the next week the pastor said NO to blessings. Personally every one gets blessed by the priest. And many times I think and I might be wrong that people don’t want to sit in the pews if they can’t receive becuase of what others might think of them.

This is done in my parish, too.

I train my RCIA Inquirers to make an Act of Spiritual Communion in their pew, instead (most of them actually prefer to do that, and weren’t aware before that they could) but if they do go forward, they are instructed to cross their arms over their shoulders and request a blessing from the priest.

I would definitely consider it inappropriate for a Catholic to go forward to receive a blessing, since from what I understand, it is only supposed to be for those who have not yet made their First Holy Communion, if it is licit at all.

My unbaptized daughter-in-law in California goes up for a blessing in the parish my son’s family belongs to. She reacts very positively and I am convinced, although it may be illicit, that it will really help to bring her into the Church eventually. I frequently discuss Faith issues with non-Catholics and the feeling that a large Catholic Parish as opposed to the usual much smaller NC congregation is so cold and unwelcoming is almost universal.

     **Canon 1169**
  1. Persons who possess the episcopal character as well as presbyters to whom it is permitted by law or by legitimate concession can validly perform consecrations and dedications.
    2. Any presbyter can impart blessings, except those which are reserved to the Roman Pontiff or to bishops.
    3. A deacon can impart only those blessings which are expressly permitted to him by law. A blessing is a good conferred by a higher personage on a lower personage. All true blessings ultimately come from God, though they come through those whom He has placed over others. In the family parents bless their children, as God has given them natural authority over their children. In the Church spiritual blessings are conferred in God’s Name by those to whom He has given spiritual authority over His People. As is evident by the above, blessings are given by priests (who have the power of the keys), though some are reserved to bishops (high priests). Deacons may also bless, but only where the ritual books, and thus the Church, provide the authority by law. Since the laity do not possess spiritual authority in the Church they cannot confer blessings. The laity can impose some sacramentals (ashes, St. Blaise blessing), but using objects * previously* blessed by the ordained.
    So, the blessing of anyone by an EME at Communion time is a vain gesture, which does nothing for the recipient. Furthermore, by a gesture which suggests priestly authority in a sacramental setting, it confuses the role of the laity and the ordained minister, something prohibited by the Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests.

Priests can bless unless the blessing is reserved for bishop or Pope. Deacons can bless if it’s allowed to them explicitly. Non-clerics cannot bless.

This is not to say that parents can’t bless their children or something like that. This is, however, to say that an extraordinary minister can’t bless with a host. He should not be offering blessings the same way a priest or deacon does, as he does not receive any special authority from the Church for that.

Now, I’m not saying this to criticise people for a sincere desire to bless children or people in general. But there are rules for that. I don’t know about putting your hand on a child’s head and saying, “God bless you.” It’s not a Eucharistic blessing. And I’m not a liturgist or a proper canon lawyer.

My parish has blessings at Mass. Father gives the congregation the “instructions” before communion begins: To receive Communion, you have to Catholic, received your First Communion, and you have to be in a state of Grace. If you are not, please get it my line and place your hand over your heart as a sign of blessing"
My fiance “takes communion” with me that way, and I think it makes him feel more included. But as someone stated above, when we have attended other masses, he remains in the pew.
As for child blessing, most churches I have been to do that, but always after the adult has received. I have never seen a child blessed before the adult receives. That seems a little odd.

A Deacon can most definitely give a blessing. A Deacon is not a lay person…

I know… I know… in todays world there are “permanent deacons” so there seems to be some confusion over them and a lay person, especially since many of them are married with children.

However no lay person can bless, ext. mins included.


My parish priests give blessings during communion.
My associate priest, before he offers the sacred host to a child’s parents, blesses the child by making the sign of the cross with the host.
Like a sort of mini-benediction.

EMHC’s on the other hand…
Those in my parish who are (me included) are smart enough to know that only someone with authority can bless someone, and in the context of the mass, that would only be the priest.

In my parish, the priests will bless a small child who accompanies her parent up to Holy Communion. I haven’t seen adults being blessed. However, I have seen a few EMHC’s bless children, and my understanding is that they have no authority to do so.

Hopefully, they are just praying to God to bless the child. This is what they do at my parish.

The EMHC is allowed to say, “May God bless you,” but only a priest or deacon can say, “I bless you.”

I am an EMHC and at my parish, none of the EMHC’s give blessings. I think that most parish’s offer enough training so that this isn’t hopefully a large issue. As long as I have the attitude that I am there to serve, and not to play any role I don’t think there will ever be a problem.

No one has ever asked me for a blessing thus far, but if someone were to, I would be more then happy to point them in the direction of the priest or deacon.

And yes, I know that in theory I or any other EMCH could bless my (or their) own children, but I would think that would be a bad idea in this particular service because:

  1. there may be people present who don’t know that EMHCs should not be giving blessings, leading them to ask EMHCs for blessings;

  2. there may be people there who don’t know that they are my children and may think I am commiting sacrilege;

  3. it’s not the right time and place (in my opinion) for a parent to exercise that particular privilege.

If you see it happening in your parish, I would bring it to the attention of the priest. Let’s be charitable and presume that it’s simply a matter of education for the particular EMHC.


I totally agree with your postion & your thoughts about why people don’t want to remain in the pew during Communion at the Novus Ordo. At the tradtional
Latin Mass, which I attend, that isn’t a problem. Perhaps because we know that we are all sinners & because the way we kneel to receive on the tongue seems more sacred. I’m not sure about the “why”, but I know that one is so caught up in the Sacrament of the Eucharist & it’s reception…that we don’t notice who goes & who doesn’t, nor do we automatically assume that their choice to not receive is based on the commission of a mortal sin.

Some of us like to receive confession at least monthly,& don’t receive the Eucharist if it’s been longer than that since our last confession.

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