The Blessing of Objects

One of my husband’s uncles is a priest. My husband asked him to bless something for him, and was given the following argument:

Items are blessed to make us feel closer to God, but the item itself isn’t actually changed in any way. It’s not more “holy” just because of the blessing. If you have the family car blessed, it doesn’t mean the car will keep passengers any more safe than it would without the blessing, for example. So, the priest asked my husband, did he want the item blessed because he thought the item would be made more special, or because he wanted to feel closer to God? If it was the latter, there are many other ways for us to grow closer to God, rather than just having special objects blessed. It sounds to me like this argument is saying that blessing objects is unnecessary and even superfluous

That argument just hasn’t sat comfortably with me, but I haven’t been able to find the words to explain exactly why. Growing up, my family had our parish priest bless many things for us. Each time someone bought a new house, the house was blessed. Our cars were blessed, family pets were blessed on St. Fransis of Assisi’s feast day, etc.

So what’s the official stance on blessing items? Is it really just this extra thing, like icing on the cake, or is there some deeper meaning?

I’m no expert however:
Holy water is used to bless rooms and houses to keep away evil spirits.
Some evil spirits associated with evil people might be attracted to the possessions of the human. For instance, if you unknowingly bought a used car that was owned by a pornographer or satanist etc, I’d feel uncomfortable until it was blessed. If you started a business in a location that was a former womens health center, then you’d want a blessing for it. My idea here, which could successfully be argued, is that buildings are no different than possessions and objects.

This link is pretty good: newadvent.org/cathen/02599b.htm

My priest blessed my car for me and didn’t seem to find anything wrong with it in anyway. Doesn’t the Pope bless things (for wont of a better word) for people at the Vatican on a daily basis, I remember watching Papal programming and announcements being made for people who brought stuff to be blessed and such.

Material objects can have things of a spiritual nature attached to them. For example, a human is both body (material) and soul (spiritual). The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was the dwelling place of the presence of God, etc. With this in mind, when a priest blesses an object, the basic idea is that the object carries the priest’s blessing with it. Where the object goes, the blessing goes. This is why people take holy water from a church and use it in their homes. A St. Benedict Medal can actually be blessed and have a special exorcism prayer placed upon it as well.

In Acts 19:11-12 we read about this sort of phenomenon: “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”

Furthermore, when an object is blessed, there is usually the expectation that it will be set aside for spiritual purposes from that moment on. For example, it is improper to use a blessed Communion cup to drink beer from while watching a football game. If people desire an item to be blessed that can’t be set aside solely for spiritual use (practically speaking) then the blessing is usually worded in a way in which the priest invokes a blessing specifically upon those who use the item.

For example, in the Book of Blessing, the shortest formula for blessing a crucifix is has the priest say these words, “May this crucifix and the one who uses it be blessed, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Notice that both the crucifix and those who use it are to receive the blessing. A crucifix, of course, can be set aside for exclusive spiritual use (such a reminder of the sacrifice of Christ, a tool for prayerful meditation, etc.). It should not be used as a door stop or a hammer.

But when a car is blessed, the words of the blessing are solely for those who utilize the vehicle (i.e., that they travel in safety) and the car doesn’t actually become a blessed object (although most people observing the ritual are probably unaware of this distinction). After all, a car is used for a variety of functions, and such functions normally do not have a spiritual application.

Such a distinction also has a very practical consideration as well. For example, what does one do with a blessed item that has become broken or worn out? We would not, for example, want to throw a blessed rosary into a garbage can (and maybe not an unblessed one either). But what if a car blessing actually meant that a car was a blessed object? When the car was no longer functional, would it be proper to let it rot on top of a pile of garbage in a junk yard? But because a car blessing does not actually mean the car, in and of itself, is blessed, this is not a concern.

So what’s the official stance on blessing items? Is it really just this extra thing, like icing on the cake, or is there some deeper meaning?

Based on what I stated above, items such as medals and crucifixes would carry a blessing with them. Once a religious item receives a blessing, it has a spiritual quality that it did not have before. Nevertheless, there is an unfortunate tendency for this to result in a superstitious attitude of treating blessed items either as good luck charms or excuses to exercise a mediocre (or poor) spiritual life (i.e., “I don’t have to pray because I’m wearing a Miraculous Medal"). In other words, blessed items should be tools of the practice of our faith, but not substitutes for an actual faith life. Such objects should be an outward material symbol of an internal and personal spiritual reality. Because of this, when some priests are asked to bless an item, they may feel the need to emphasize what a proper attitude should be concerning blessed objects, and I suspect this is what was on the mind of the priest you described in your original post. (Note that I’m not suggesting that your husband may have been confused about what such a proper attitude is, but that his uncle may simply treat all blessing requests as an opportunity to provide a little lecture on this subject).

So on one hand, I agree that an object is blessed to help us “feel closer to God” (among other reasons). But on the other hand, in my humble opinion, I think this priest went a bit too far in stating that a blessed object is “not actually changed in any way” (unless the object in question was something like a car). I asked a Benedictine monk about this, and he said that although he is also concerned about people treating blessed objects in a superstitious way, he would not go so far as to say that nothing actually happens to an object that is blessed.

Thank you for such an informative post. :slight_smile:

You’re very welcome. And since my last post I remembered that I once heard Fr. John Corapi comment on this subject. In terms of blessed religious objects, he plainly stated that where the object goes, the blessing goes as well. Then he mentioned that his mother’s house is filled with such blessed objects and therefore, according to Fr. Corapi, “If the devil goes into that house, he’s gonna take a beating!”

It is my understanding that when a blessed object is touched, you receive the original blessing that was placed on the object.

I think there was also a thread under “Ask an Apologist” that discussed whether or not an object can be cursed. And I think the answer was yes, but I cannot find the thread now.

Whenever I purchase a holy medal or rosary, I always take it to our priest to have it blessed.

Even our meals are blessed when we say grace:
Bless us O Lord and these Thy gifts that we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.

vatican.va/archive/catechism/p2s2c4a1.htm

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