Should blessings be given during Communion?


#1

Recently a new priest was appointed as administrator of our parish and he refuses to give blessings to children and non-Catholics who attend Mass. This is a very common practice on the West Coast and especially in Oregon. The priest claims that “this is not in the rubrics of the Mass” and technically he is correct.

Nevertheless, this practice is very common in all of Oregon. Since we are a vacation community and receive a large number of visitors, many people line up with their arms crossed expecting to be blessed. Some bring their children to be blessed when they receive Communion themselves. Sometimes small children come up to the altar expecting to be blessed but are simply ignored. Our previous two pastors were more than happy to give these types of blessings, and this seems to me to make everyone feel like they are a part of the Mass, even non-Catholics.

What is the problem with giving blessings of this nature? It certainly has created a schism in our parish and, along with a number of other very conservative changes, has resulted in a large
drop-off in attendance.


#2

As your priest has explained and as you have conceded, it is not in the rubrics of the Mass for blessings to be distributed during Communion. And, as the Church has reiterated many times, it is not in a priest’s authority to add to or subtract from the liturgy on his own initiative, even when the proposed extra-rubrical change has previously been done or is popular with the congregation or is commonly done by other priests. Your priest is to be commended for standing firm for liturgical fidelity.

That said, this particular liturgical practice of giving blessings to children and non-Catholics during Communion does pose a pastoral problem. Visitors to the Mass who innocently expect such blessings because they are common elsewhere may be embarrassed and hurt to be refused a blessing in front of the congregation. Although your priest is liturgically correct and should not be pressured into giving extra-rubrical blessings, pastoral sensitivity suggests that he may want to invest time in re-educating the parish about why liturgical fidelity is important (e.g., homilies, retreats, adult education classes) and in letting visitors know what to expect before they approach the altar for a blessing (e.g., pre-Mass or pre-Communion announcements, notices in the bulletin, a protocol sheet stuffed into the missalettes).

Recommended reading:

Blessings at Communion Time by Jimmy Akin


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