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Liturgical Abuses

Blessings at Communion

Controversial due to people's feelings on the subject, some diocese have approved this addition to the liturgy, some have issued guidelines, while some discourage or forbid the practice.

The newsletter of the Office of Liturgy of the Archdiocese of New York, Liturgy Update, in the September 2023 published a commentary titled, "Liturgical Q and A: Blessings During the Distribution of Holy Communion" (pgs. 5-7). The commentary was provided by the archdiocesan Office of the Vicar General.

 

The commentary states, "Since this practice is not provided for in liturgical books, and canon and liturgical law prohibits anyone from introducing new elements, it is a sticky subject to address." 

The commentary discusses the background, practice and implications of blessings at Communion in terms of people's feelings and perceptions and sacramental signs. "For all these reasons," the commentary concludes, "it is a best practice to reserve the Communion procession for the distribution of Holy Communion as much as possible and not to invite others forward for a blessing with a general announcement."

Regarding Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC), the commentary says, "They should not give blessings to anyone in the Communion procession. They have no liturgical duties besides the distribution of Communion. There are other times in the liturgical year when the laity assist in specific acts such as the blessing of throats or the distribution of ashes, and these are clearly indicated in the Book of Blessings."

Priest wave blessing a child in the communion line; liturgical abuse

Some diocese allow the wave of a hand in blessing by a priest at Communion, some do not. Screenshot from YouTube

Priest blessing a person in the communion line with the Host; liturgical abuse

Abuse: Blessings at Communion with a waving Host is inappropriate as it simulates Benediction. Screenshot from YouTube

Other articles and commentaries on this topic include: 

Blessings in Lieu of Communion, by Father Edward McNamara, 2016. The article includes quotes from norms for the Dioceses of Saint Augustine, the Diocese of Orlando, and the Diocese of Austin TX in the USA; the Diocese of Prince George, Canada; and the Diocese of Melbourne, Australia.

On Giving Blessings During the Communion Rite, by the Editors of Adoramus, 2009. The article reports on a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) about this practice. (The complete letter is no longer available online, but is quoted.)

Blessings at Holy Communion by Father Edward McNamara, 2009. The article also quotes the letter from the CDW. Quote: "[...] document has appeared in several Internet sources which indicate that the Holy See is tending toward a negative view of the practice [of blessings at communion]. The document is a letter (Protocol No. 930/08/L) dated Nov. 22, 2008, sent in response to a private query and signed by Father Anthony Ward, SM, undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship." The article quotes the letter. 

Blessing for Non-Communicants by Father Edward McNamara, 2005. The author comments on Archbishop Chaput of Denver, Colorado's article from 2003 on the topic.

Are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion able to give blessings? by Catholic Answers Staff. "[...] the practice of extraordinary ministers giving blessings during Holy Communion does not appear to be in keeping with Church law."

Blessings Are for the Ordained to Give by Tom Nash. Quote: "[...] when laypeople and priests give blessings, the Church typically provides norms that they do so with different words and gestures so that the distinction between their respective roles are not blurred. [....] Consequently, laypersons should not raise their hands and make the sign of the cross in blessing."

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