Benediction by a Bishop

And More on Blessings

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ROME, MAY 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.



Q: When a bishop gives Benediction with the monstrance, does he use one great sign of the cross like a priest, or does he use the triple sign of the cross like at Mass without the monstrance? I've seen it done both ways by bishops. -- D.Z., Marquette, Michigan

A: The norms in force before the present rite did foresee the triple sign of the cross when a bishop gave Benediction.

The present norms found in the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 1114, simply describe the bishop who, after taking the monstrance, "then turns towards the people and makes the sign of the cross over them with the monstrance in silence."

The accompanying footnote refers to No. 99 of the ritual of Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. As this ritual makes no distinction between Benedictions imparted by a bishop or a priest, it may thus be presumed that a particular form of Eucharistic Benediction is no longer foreseen for a bishop even though some prelates may have continued the earlier practice out of force of habit.

On the other hand the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 169, does specify the triple sign of the cross at the end of Mass.

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Follow-up: Blessings Without a Stole

In line with our column on blessings without a stole (May 15), several readers have asked a similar question: "Is it proper for lay extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to give a 'blessing' to young children or people who cannot (or choose not to) receive the Eucharist?"

There are many ways of distinguishing kinds of blessings and sacramentals. One such distinction is between constituent and invocative sacramental.

The effect of a constituent sacramental is to transform the person or object being blessed in such a way that it is separated from profane use. Examples would include the blessing of an abbot and the blessing of holy water. Practically all of these blessings are reserved to an ordained minister and sometimes are the exclusive preserve of the bishop.

Invocative blessings call down God's blessing and protection upon a person or thing without sacralizing them in any way. Some of these blessings are reserved to the ordained, such as the blessing of the assembly at the end of a liturgical celebration.

Some blessings may also be imparted by lay people by delegation or by reason of some special liturgical ministry, above all when an ordained minister is absent or impeded (see general introduction to the Shorter Book of Blessings, No. 18). In these cases lay people use the appropriate formulas designated for lay ministers.

This latter situation is probably the case of the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion who ask that God's blessing may come upon those who for some good reason approach the altar but do not receive Communion.

Finally, some simple blessings may be given by lay people in virtue of their office, for example, parents on behalf of their children.

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.