Sunday, August 19, 2012

PEOPLE RECEIVING BLESSING DURING HOLY COMMUNION WHEN THEY CANNOT RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION; PRAYTELL I HAD A BRAINSTORM






For a few decades now, the custom has arisen (which is neither prescribed nor forbidden by the rubrics) in many Catholic churches for people who are not able to receive Holy Communion to come forward during Holy Communion to receive a blessing. This would apply to baptized Christians from Protestant Churches, Inquirers, catechumens, candidates, those who broke the Communion fast, children of pre-Communion age and those who are in a state of mortal sin and thus should not receive Holy Communion. In fact in the latter, this allows them more dignity in at least approaching the Lord for a blessing rather than remaining at the pew as others go forward wondering why "Johnny" isn't going and what sins he committed that keep him from going.

At Praytell, the discussion was more on what the lay Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion would say to such people. Here are some examples that someone suggested in light of the fact that laity who distribute Holy Communion cannot give a priestly blessing with the "Sign of the Cross":

May Christ, present in the Eucharist,
bless you and remain with you always.

May the Lord who feeds us
Fill your heart and your mind with a knowledge of his love.

May the gift of faith in the Risen Christ
abound and overflow in your life.

May the Holy Spirit grant you spiritual communion
with all who partake of this holy meal.


Those blessings above inspired me to write my own comment on Praytell and this is it:

A little less than half of our elementary school kids are Protestant (we have a Messianic Jew and an Reformed Jew as well). For at least thirty years we’ve encouraged them to come forward for a blessing. But we keep it brief. If I’m doing it, I simply say “May God bless You” with a “small” Sign of the Cross hand blessing. Our retired bishop simply says “God Bless You” and touches the back of his hand to their head. I’ve instructed our EM’s to say what seems natural, “bless you” or “God Bless You” or simply hold their hand over the persons head without the Sign of the Cross or to touch the head as our retired bishops does with the back of their hand. At our normal Masses the same procedure is in place.

I find the longer blessings above a bit much but only in light of the Ordinary Form’s truncation (for the laity only) of the formula for distributing Holy Communion which was “May the Body of Christ keep you safe for eternal life,” but in Latin of course. The other versions for the blessings shown above are reminiscence of the old Latin formula and thus would be more appropriate in the Extraordinary Form not the Ordinary Form. But if we restored to the laity their version of what the priest says prior to his Holy Communion in the Ordinary Form, I would suggest, “May the Lord keep you safe for eternal life.” Otherwise the Ordinary Form’s formula “The Body of Christ” for those not receiving should be ” The blessing of Christ.” This September I’m meeting with our EM’s for a workshop and I think that’s exactly what I will recommend to them, not to touch, but simply look at the person requesting the blessing and say, “The blessing of Christ” which ties in nicely with “The Body of Christ” in the Ordinary Form. And if the EM, deacon or priest happen to be holding the host for the next person, all the better “symbol” of making a “spiritual communion” by tasting through seeing.


So, what do you think?







25 comments:

Mark Nel said...

Why come up for a blessing? They will get a blessing at the end of Mass, won't they? Stay in the pew on your knees and pray if you can't or don't want to receive Holy Communion! This action of giving blessings is, I believe, increasingly diluting the meaning of Holy Communion.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I would agree with you but somehow, somewhere and in many somewheres this has become a widespread custom and I've even seen it in other countries and bishops doing it. However, when a parent with a small child in their arms comes to Holy Communion, it is almost natural to want to acknowledge that child and offer a token of a blessing. I prefer simply making a small "gestured" Sign of the Cross with no words. But at any rate, if it is to be suppressed we need that suppression from on high with a descriptive similar to what you indicate.

Gene said...

I agree. It is redundant and, I think,tends to trivialize Holy Communion.

Henry Edwards said...

The same principle here as elsewhere: The liturgy should not be diluted with trivial or meaningless words and gestures. And a priest should not need instruction from "on high" to know what is right and proper in such simple matters.

Anonymous said...

I'm not in favor of coming forward for a Blessing.
It does indeed dilute the Eucharistic experience, and promote that enabling mentality that facilitates so many sins of our current culture.

However, since people are doing it, then EMHCs need to have guidelines to follow, and your proposed one seems like a good idea.

Regarding how the EMHC's actually do distribute Holy Communion...it truly, really, and substantially bothers me that they hold the Host so low and make person-to-person eye contact with the Communicant. It becomes a moment of "Hi Mary/Joe". How odd that as they say "The Body of Christ" they are making eye contact ...as if they themselves are the Body of Christ...weird. And one them them told me that she was TRAINED to do this. hmmm..

It seems that if they would hold the Host up for the Communicant to momentarily adore and contemplate before receiving that it would be more fitting to the sacredness and awesomeness of the moment.
The Communicant would look at the Host while hearing the words" The Body of Christ". Consistent in word and action.
Less of me (the EMHC) and more of thee (Jesus in the Host).
Hope these thoughts are worthy of consideration.Thank you.

~SqueekerLamb

rcg said...

FrAJM, you circumstances and your worthy goal to manage you ecumenical relationships in Macon may be weighing on this position. I have to add a 'Me, too" to the nay sayers. The ECMH is already a sort of touchy subject and I think this muddies that water. The blessing at the end of Mass can be pointed out as the 'cover-all' for the non-Catholics, or those Catholics who are not taking communion for some reason. The babe in arms with the mother who can take communion is, hopefully, baptised and the small blessing is part of the child's heritage. If anything it should incite the people who want to make that walk to become inquirers.

Yankee Padre said...

As a priest, I have stopped doing this entirely. I found it helpful to be able to focus upon the privilege of distributing Holy Communion instead of trying to please everyone who came forward. In my experience there were plenty of mischievous little boys who would take great delight in trying to confuse me when coming forward for their blessing -- or was It for Holy Communion? One little guy approached in a seemingly pious way with his hands crossed over his chest (as if to request a blessing) only to thrust out his hands at the last minute to request Holy Communion. Why do we open ourselves up to this sort of tomfoolery? Priests should distribute Holy Communion and leave the friendly gestures to the front door after Mass. And Extraordinary ministers have enough to keep track of without having to know the formula for their pseudo blessing de jour.

Pater Ignotus said...

Oh, Henry, you have said a mouthful indeed: "The liturgy should not be diluted with trivial or meaningless words and gestures."

Yankee Padre said...

Sorry -- du jour.

rcg said...

Dear Yankee, (I mean that in a nice way) you are so right. Solution? have the little fellow on his knees, hands under the cloth.

Anonymous said...

You are all amazing. Do you think that Jesus would say "Stay in your pews you wretched sinners!". Or would he not say "Come unto me all who are wary and humble of heart." it is not for us to judge or restrict when or how a person approaches our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament , but simply to be a minister of His love and acceptance. Jesus never, ever was unapproachable...who are we to stand in his way.

Bill Meyer said...

At the risk of being very repetitious, eliminating EMHCs would eliminate the "need" for them to address the issue of giving a blessing. Some time ago, the Canon lawyer Ed Peters wrote at length on why the EMHC is not empowered to give a blessing. I think that these alternate solutions are a sort of tap dance around the real issue.

As to whether people should approach for a blessing at all, as a catechumen, I did, and valued it highly. However, I stipulate that the catechesis in the parish was quite horrible, as I have mentioned here before. Proper instruction would have resolved this for me, years ago.

The Mass, in its every detail, needs to cease being the object of experimentation and adaptation, and the time wasted in these endeavors invested instead in proper catechesis.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

We should keep in mind that everyone is invited to Mass and being in the nave of the Church is indeed coming to Jesus, but we do exclude some people, such as Catechumens from even participating in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, by dismissing them prior to the Creed, which I believe is a common practice in many parishes. Would that liturgical practice be considered "amazing?" But I don't think we need to give into liturugical rigidity in this regard. If people wish to come forward on their own and especially when they come with a child in arms, a simply acknowledgement of them is no big deal. But I don't think we need to contrive situations for people to do this and tell them they should--that's how the practice began, by well-intentioned priests thinking this was a good idea and the next thing you know....

rcg said...

Anon, I think actually Jesus placed some very high obstacles for people. For example He told people a lot of very difficult things to believe, not the least of which is that he was the Living Bread from heaven, per today's Gospel Reading. People who accepted that would be inclined to approach Him. But until they heard and accepted it, they probably didn't. He healed all sorts of people, many who probably only wanted to be healed physically and didn't buy into His Gospel. But He made a big deal out of the folks who were healed through Faith. People of Faith he asked to come closer. Therefore He must have been discriminating in some manner. It's Grace on request, not on demand.

Father Shelton said...

I like your point about the "noble simplicity" mandated by Sacrosanctum Concilium.
But it also seems to me that the sole purpose of the Communion Procession is to distribute Holy Communion as a sacramental participation in the Sacrifice of the Cross. I don't understand what these blessings have to do with that, unless they consist of giving a blessing with the Host to a Catholic physically unable to receive due to some illness (in which case nothing is said in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament). If non-Catholics want what Catholic priests have to offer, then they should become Catholics. RCIA people should just wait; they'll be fine (I was once one of them). And if a child is old enough to know what a priestly blessing is, then he is old enough to understand what Holy Communion is, and so should receive the Sacrament. Catholics who are both divorced and remarried also tend to come forward, but they are in a state of mortal sin and so cannot receive Holy Communion or blessings.
But my main concern is, why does anyone care what the priest or deacon is doing with his hand when the Most Blessed Sacrament is just inches away? Surely if there is a blessing to be had, it is from being so near to the Substance of the Savior. You don't shake the prime minister's hand when you're standing before the king.
I won't even mention lay ministers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous at 1:07pm

As I posted above, "...that enabling mentality..".
Which means essentially that I should get what I want without having to do what it takes to receive that thing worthily. It's a rather selfish and self centered point of view, which became prevalent in the Church as it also became prevalent in society at large.

If someone is hurting and in need of some Jesus, there are other ways he comes to a person while they do what it takes to be able to receive Him in the Eucharist. Sometimes we gotta just suck it up.

There are still parishes where 1/4 of those present actually do stay in their pews instead of getting in the Communion line.

And there are people who go to the trouble to go to daily Mass, yet stay in their pew at during Communion. They could have easily chosen to stay at home and not bothered to go to Mass if they couldn't receive Holy Communion. Yet they do trouble themselves to go to Mass and receive Jesus in His Word and in His people present there also. Those people have my deepest respect.

And BTW: it is no insult to you that you have your viewpoint...it simply reflects the erroneous catechesis you have been exposed to. Hope you continue your good efforts by engaging this blog and other brain retraining activiites. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is inspiring you to rethink some things.

~SL

Bill Meyer said...

Fr. McDonald, in the parish where (last year) I was baptized, the catechumens were indeed dismissed before the creed, except during a few weeks in summer when no catechists were scheduled to take dismissals, apparently because the scheduling would have been too laborious.

John Nolan said...

The second picture (adolescent girls distributing Communion, the one nearer the camera with a have-a-nice-day expression I would normally associate with a drive-thru McDonalds) is a tragic reminder of the utter debasement of Catholic liturgy over the last half-century. The trouble is that now two generations have been brought up to regard this sort of sacrilege as being nothing out of the ordinary.

Joe Potillor said...

hmmm, maybe make a "blessing line" I don't know...where this line would strictly be for "blessings" but I'm against the practice.

Gene said...

A "blessing line?" How about out in the highway...

Carol H. said...

Why not have the blessing line lead to the confessional? That would be a wonderful blessing!

rcg said...

I grew up in the South and recall that a 'blessing out' was to be avoided. A blessing line? Sounds scary.

Fran Gamez said...

This is very helpful:

I have in the past written about the wide-spread practice of giving blessings during Communion time. This is not to be done, because it is outside what is prescribed at this very important moment during holy Mass.

Of course this practice is so wide-spread now that a priest who doesn’t give blessings at Communion could be thought to be “mean”.

Furthermore, lay people, EMHCs, distributing Communion imitate priests and give “blessings” in the manner of priests, which they have no business doing. I suspect some EMHCs are told to give blessings.

In any event, we could use more and intelligent conversation about this wide-spread practice.

A contribution to the conversation comes from the blog Omne quod spirat by Fr. Cory Sticha.

Why I refuse to bless children at Communion

By Fr. Cory Sticha

I’ve been thinking more and more about my concerns around giving special blessings to children at Mass. There are a number of people here who are continuing to express concern because of my stance on not blessing children in the communion line. To be clear, this is a position taken not out of spite, but out of a respect for the liturgy and for the documents of the Second Vatican Council. In paragraph 22, Sacrosanctum Concilium states, “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” A priest does not have the authority to add a blessing to the liturgy for anyone, because a priest does not have the authority to add anything to the liturgy. It doesn’t matter if other priests go beyond their authority and do it in disobedience. In my mind, it is inappropriate, and I will not. Period.

Of course, people don’t like to hear that. They think it makes the kids feel “special” that they receive this blessing. (As an aside, I think the parents and grandparents get the warm-fuzzies more than the kids do.) Of course, they can’t be blamed. For 30+ years, they’ve been fed a mindset that the liturgy is malleable to whatever we want to do with it. Blessing for kids? Sure, we can add that right during Communion. Having kids come up for the homily and sit with the priest on the sanctuary steps? Sure, we can do that. Holding hands during the Our Father and running around the nave greeting people during the Sign of Peace? Absolutely! Whatever makes you feel good!

As I’ve studied more about the theology of the liturgy, I’ve come to the realization that this “feel good” approach is sending the wrong message about the liturgy. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] I’ve also become concerned that this has dangerously damaged their relationship with God, and they are blissfully unaware that any damage has been done. Instead of liturgy being the community focusing their minds and hearts on worship of God, it has become a social activity, focusing on ourselves. Now, we don’t come to liturgy to turn to God, but to ourselves. For this reason alone, I despise blessing children (and yes, I chose that strong language very carefully), and encourage other priests to stop immediately. [I am sure he is still talking about blessings during Communion.]

There’s another reason, more cultural, that should be of concern to these same parents and grandparents: the culture of entitlement. One of the arguments frequently given in defense of blessing children is, “They feel like they get something.” Yes, because we wouldn’t want our children to learn how to do something without getting something in return.

Fran Gamez said...

I have in the past written about the wide-spread practice of giving blessings during Communion time. This is not to be done, because it is outside what is prescribed at this very important moment during holy Mass.

Of course this practice is so wide-spread now that a priest who doesn’t give blessings at Communion could be thought to be “mean”.

Furthermore, lay people, EMHCs, distributing Communion imitate priests and give “blessings” in the manner of priests, which they have no business doing. I suspect some EMHCs are told to give blessings.

In any event, we could use more and intelligent conversation about this wide-spread practice.

A contribution to the conversation comes from the blog Omne quod spirat by Fr. Cory Sticha.

Why I refuse to bless children at Communion

By Fr. Cory Sticha

I’ve been thinking more and more about my concerns around giving special blessings to children at Mass. There are a number of people here who are continuing to express concern because of my stance on not blessing children in the communion line. To be clear, this is a position taken not out of spite, but out of a respect for the liturgy and for the documents of the Second Vatican Council. In paragraph 22, Sacrosanctum Concilium states, “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” A priest does not have the authority to add a blessing to the liturgy for anyone, because a priest does not have the authority to add anything to the liturgy. It doesn’t matter if other priests go beyond their authority and do it in disobedience. In my mind, it is inappropriate, and I will not. Period.

Of course, people don’t like to hear that. They think it makes the kids feel “special” that they receive this blessing. (As an aside, I think the parents and grandparents get the warm-fuzzies more than the kids do.) Of course, they can’t be blamed. For 30+ years, they’ve been fed a mindset that the liturgy is malleable to whatever we want to do with it. Blessing for kids? Sure, we can add that right during Communion. Having kids come up for the homily and sit with the priest on the sanctuary steps? Sure, we can do that. Holding hands during the Our Father and running around the nave greeting people during the Sign of Peace? Absolutely! Whatever makes you feel good!

As I’ve studied more about the theology of the liturgy, I’ve come to the realization that this “feel good” approach is sending the wrong message about the liturgy. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] I’ve also become concerned that this has dangerously damaged their relationship with God, and they are blissfully unaware that any damage has been done. Instead of liturgy being the community focusing their minds and hearts on worship of God, it has become a social activity, focusing on ourselves. Now, we don’t come to liturgy to turn to God, but to ourselves. For this reason alone, I despise blessing children (and yes, I chose that strong language very carefully), and encourage other priests to stop immediately. [I am sure he is still talking about blessings during Communion.]

There’s another reason, more cultural, that should be of concern to these same parents and grandparents: the culture of entitlement. One of the arguments frequently given in defense of blessing children is, “They feel like they get something.” Yes, because we wouldn’t want our children to learn how to do something without getting something in return.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the comments here where everyone gets a blessing at the end of Mass. The Eucharistic procession to "take & eat", "take & drink" is what it is. To give a blessing stops the procession. I've seen some cases where a celebrant has dropped the sacred host in his enthusiasm to give the "royal" blessing. My goodness, give me a break! Further more, it's entering a change into the Celebration that the celebrant is not authorized to do. From the face value I see these actions as trying to be a "fluffy, nicey, afraid of confrontation" weak act. This giving blessings will extend into giving it to other weird forms during communion. Next people will be bringing their dogs & cats or what ever. Eventually, people won't even recognize what the Eucharistic procession is at all. So, my feeling is "Do the RED & Say the BLACK" - no more no less....