Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bless me, Father/Deacon/Minister...

Suffer the little children...and how.
Since 1995, I've said this right before the distribution of the Eucharist at Mass:
"We welcome our friends and family members who are not Catholic to the celebration of Mass. It means a lot to us and we're glad you're here. Even though we Christians do believe in the Father God and his son, the Christ, we do not have the same beliefs in the Church and the role of the Sacraments. So as the Catholics come forward for Communion, those of you who are not Catholic may come for a blessing from me or the minister. The way we'll know you're there for the blessing is if you make a cross like so (and I do this crossing my arms over my chest thing). Thank you for being here and thank you for adding to our liturgy."
Sometimes I add or subtract things but that's the crux of it.

During that time, some people have said, "That's such an inviting gesture. My wife felt that being in the pew alone was the loneliest place in town until she came up for blessings" or "I was coming up for blessing for so long that I decided to go on and become Catholic!"
Others have said, "The blessing is a little clappy-happy for me and I don't think everyone who comes needs to get a prize" or "Offering a blessing makes my Protestant husband feel demeaned and like a second-class citizen".

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (the handbook to celebrating Mass) says nothing about blessings but, Catholics being Catholics, someone wrote Rome and got a reply. There are five reasons that are listed against the blessings: There is a blessing at the end of Mass; Laity are not to give blessings; some people are not disposed to receive blessings; laying on of hands is prohibited and the Rite is not to be amended or changed. An excellent article on this is available by making clickyclicky here.

One of our followers, Fr. Cory Sticha, has a very good article on his blog about his own personal decision with this issue. He is referring to blessing children but I am positive the intent is farther reaching. Appealing to Vatican II (yes, Vatican II), he says:
Fr. Sticha in Montana priestly garb
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.

Fr. Sticha concludes by asking support from his parish. Good luck on that, Pater! I see this article has 101 comments (at this writing). I don't need to get worked up so I won't read them but I won't argue with a priest in a wide-brimmed hat!

For me, I am divided.
Pro-blessing: It does give people a sense of welcome and inclusion. Some people have said it has led to their conversion. We're in a Protestant culture so a good general "coming up to the altar" is a good PR move.
Con-blessing: Other than the five above, here are some additional reasons. I don't touch people but some of the EMHC (extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion) do. They touch faces, shoulders, foreheads, cheeks, hair, and whatever a hand can touch.  This first makes the blessing some kind of intimacy which isn't really Roman. It also can easily profane the host by wiping the same hand that handles Our Lord's Body across some guy's head. So he may have very well gotten communion. But not on the tongue or in the hand but on the face!
Even Jack Kirby knew face touching was pure eeeeeeeeeeevil
 Secondly,some ministers enjoy the touch-blessing a little too much. In a town full of co-eds, that comes off as creepy. Or it is creepy. Yes, it is creepy.

Before someone says, "LAY TEH SMACKDOWNZZ ON TEH COMMUNION MINISTERZZ!!!LOL!!!", I direct your attention to our Bishop's response. Seems our clergy (deans) brought it up for discussion at a priest's meeting recently. The conclusion, at this point, came to a compromise:

Attention Extraordinary Ministers of Holy
Communion: In response to a recent request, the
question of Eucharistic Ministers blessing people
was researched. According to Liturgical
Guidelines, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy
Communion should welcome those not receiving
Holy Communion by placing their hand on their
shoulder and saying a short prayer, such as “May
God bless you” or “The Lord be with you.” They
should not give a blessing. Please implement this
guideline with your Extraordinary Ministers of Holy

I think we can continue the discussion as a Diocese but recently I've made attempts at moving the "blessing during Communion" toward the ordained ministers, that is the deacon and myself.

Which is to say, props to Fr. Sticha, but blessings still are given here.

And in my line? I won't touch your face.