Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Holy Trinity Sunday

Today, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity we think of, and relate to, a most profound Christian dogma of Love.

“You made us in your image and likeness so that, by the three powers which we possess in one soul, we reflect your Trinity and Unity. They not only create a resemblance but a unity. Thus by memory we resemble and are united to the Father, to whom Power is attributed; by the intellect we resemble and are united to the Son, to whom Wisdom is attributed; and by the will we resemble and are united to the Holy Spirit to whom Clemency is attributed and who is the love of the Father and the Son.”

Reflection from St. Catherine of Siena

Can lay ministers give blessings?

The question always surfaces about the fittingness, according to Catholic liturgical theology and supported by  Canon Law, for the lay minister of Holy Communion to impart a blessing. The quick answer is that the Church does not offer this as a legitimate possibility for good reasons.

Recently, the priest offering Mass invited all people to the communion line to receive the Eucharist, and if not, to receive a blessing “because we are in communion with the deceased person” –the reason for all of us gathered at the Mass. Father missed the point. While we are in communion with the deceased in some sort of metaphysical level known only to God, the Church teaches what is revealed to us: we are first in communion with God the Holy Trinity, then the sacrament of the Church, and with one another. We have first principles. Coming forward to receive a blessing is a symbolic act reinforcing the painful separation of Christians, and it is clearly a second rate manner of being in communion which says to the person receiving such blessing that they are not good enough to receive the real thing. This priest confuses the faithful and opens the door to even more problems.

The exercise of the priesthood of the faithful is not expressed in giving blessings in the communion line, but it does demonstrate the error of clericalizing the laity. Therefore, let’s say from the outset that a person distributing the Eucharistic species may not bestow a blessing on a person because this is not one of the gifts given by the Church to the priesthood of the faithful. In fact, it is a serious cross-over from the laity to the ordained person.

Parishes rely, with good reason, on the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion because of the sizable the numbers of communicants and the lack of extra ordained ministers: priests and deacons, and the institute acolyte. The lay minister, as well as the clergy, have to respect the dignity of the Eucharist and the administration of the sacrament. But do we tend to see when a person has no intention of receiving the Eucharistic Lord? Typically, we encounter one of three things when the person presents him or herself with arms crossed over the chest:

1. they speak and gesture a sign of the cross over persons;
2. lay hands on such persons’ heads or shoulders while voicing a blessing;
3. waive or place the Holy Eucharist over them while speaking a blessing.

All three actions are liturgical abuses.

Ed Peters, a rather well-regarded canonist, teacher, and author, articulates why these acts are abuses in the sacred Liturgy. Professor Peters states,

Let’s consider them in order of gravity:

1. Blessing the faithful with the Most August Sacrament is expressly reserved to the ordained. Lay persons may not confer any blessings with the Host (Eucharistic worship outside of Mass nn. 91, 97-99, and 1983 CIC 1168). This practice should therefore be immediately halted wherever it has cropped up.

2. Touching many persons’ hair, faces, and/or garments while serving food (albeit divine Food) to the public has to be a violation of some health and safety regulation somewhere, not to mention its being poor manners. If the swine flu makes distribution from a common Cup an issue, surely touching hair and heads while serving others food from a common Plate is a problem. This particular practice should therefore be halted promptly, regardless of what one might think about lay blessings during Mass.

3. Ministers of holy Communion have, I suggest, no authority by their office to confer any sort of blessing on anyone. Neither the General Instruction on the Roman Missal nor the Book of Blessings (which later source makes provisions for laity to administer certain blessings) authorizes ministers of Communion to confer blessings during Mass. Given that lay persons serving as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion have no liturgical duties besides the administration of Communion, the introduction of a mini-blessing rite to be performed by them seems to me a plain violation of Canon 846. This practice should, I think, be halted pending a study of its liceity by qualified persons and, if appropriate, its authorization by the competent authority (1983 CIC 838,1167).

In brief, I suggest that lay ministers of holy Communion have no authority to bless anyone in Communion lines, they should refrain from touching people while distributing holy Communion, and they should immediately cease using the Blessed Sacrament for mini-Benediction rites.

If you are looking for another way of knowing what the Church teaches, Paul Matenaer gives  a response in his 2011 article “Can lay ministers give blessings during Communion?” which is worth reading critically as this is no small thing in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. He gives more detail to the answer than Ed Peters did.

Let me conclude: we want to be welcoming to all people, but there are appropriate places, actions and times for one to be hospitable. The communion line is not one of those places.

Bishops introduce social media to the Liturgy

bishops with cell cameras

Realize what this Mass is

Misa de San Gregorio (cerca de 1500). Libro de Horas de Enrique VIII, Jean Poyer. Tours, FranciaThomas Merton on attending Mass at Gethsemani monastery on his first visit:

See Who God is! Realize what this Mass is! See Christ here, on the Cross! See His wounds, see His torn hands, see how the King of Glory is crowned with thorns! Do you know what Love is? Here is Love, here on this Cross, here is Love, suffering these nails, these thorns, that scourge loaded with lead, smashed to pieces, bleeding to death because of your sins and bleeding to death because of people that will never know Him, and never think of Him and will never remember His Sacrifice. Learn from Him how to love God and how to love men! Learn of this Cross, this Love, how to give your life away to Him.

See, see Who God is, see the glory of God, going up to Him out of this incomprehensible and infinite Sacrifice in which all history be­gins and ends, all individual lives begin and end, in which every story is told, and finished, and settled for joy or for sorrow: the one point of reference for all the truths that are outside of God, their center, their focus: Love.

Do you know what Love is? You have never known the meaning of Love, never, you who have always drawn all things to the center of your own nothingness. Here is Love in this chalice full of Blood, Sacri­fice, mactation. Do you not know that to love means to be killed for glory of the Beloved? And where is your love? Where is now your Cross, if you say you want to follow Me, if you pretend you love Me?

(The Seven Storey Mountain, pp.323f.)

Confession of sins is Good News

pope confessesThe Pope gave a teaching on the sacrament of Confession. He has three points. Remember the Pope has a central emphasis for his ministry: MERCY. Today, begins a concerted effort on the part of the Bishop of Rome to encourage ALL priests to assist the faithful in this ministry of love and to embrace this gift given by the Lord. I think Pope Francis is quite clear, don’t you?

“24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative of Pope Francis to make room for the reception of Confession. Here is a video clip of the pope doing what he’s been teaching.

The Pope taught:

In the period of Lent, the Church, in the name of God, renews the call to conversion. It is the call to change one’s life. Conversion is not a matter of a moment or a year, is a commitment that lasts a lifetime. Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one. The Apostle John writes: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).” This is what happens in our celebration and throughout this day of penance. The Word of God we have heard introduces us to two essential elements of the Christian life.

The first: put on the new man. The new man, “created according to God(Eph 4:24),” is born in Baptism, where one receives the very life of God, which makes us His sons and incorporates us into Christ and his Church. This new life allows one to look at reality with different eyes, without being distracted by things that do not matter and cannot last long. For this we are called to abandon sinful behaviour and fix our gaze on that, which is essential. “Man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. (Gaudium et Spes, 35)” Behold the difference between the life deformed by sin and the life illumined by grace. From the heart of the man renewed according to God come good behaviors: always to speak with truth and avoid any lie; to steal not, but rather to share what you have with others; especially with those in need; not to give in to anger, resentment and revenge, but to be gentle, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not to fall into backbiting that ruins people’s good name, but to look more rather on each person’s positive side.

Confession LonghiThe second factor [is]: Remain in my love. The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever, will never end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. Our Father never tires of loving and His eyes did not grow heavy in looking at the way home, to see if his Son who left and was lost will return. And this Father does not tire of loving even His other son, who, though he remains ever in the house with Him, nevertheless does not take part in His mercy, His compassion. God is not only the source of love, but in Jesus Christ calls us to imitate his own way of loving: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. (Jn 13:34)” To the extent that Christians live this love, they become credible disciples of Christ in the world. Love cannot stand to remain locked up in itself. By its very nature [Love] is open, it spreads and is fruitful, [it] always generates new love.

Dear brothers and sisters, after this celebration, many of you will make yourselves missionaries to the experience of reconciliation with God. “24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative in which many dioceses all over the world are participating. To everyone you meet, you will communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and regaining full friendship with Him. The one who experiences the mercy of God, is driven to be the creator of mercy among the poor and the least. In these “littlest brothers and sisters” Jesus waits for us (cf. Mt 25:40). Let us go to meet them! And we will celebrate Easter in the joy of God!

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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