Thursday, May 30, 2013

The difference with blessings of the ordained and blessing of the laity

Someone praying over someone...

Priests praying over something, than becomes HIM


Rome, May 14, 2013 ( Father Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.


Q: I am a Catholic priest who believes that by sacred ordination what a validly ordained priest blesses is blessed. There is no half-way blessing. What is blessed is sacred and sacramental in nature. I feel uncomfortable seeing some priests bless the water to be used for consecration before adding it to the chalice -- the remaining of the blessed water they also use to wash hands and for ablution. The leftover is also kept for the same process in the next celebration. Is this liturgically correct? -- C.I., Imo State, Nigeria

A: I would first say that the rubrics do not foresee the priest blessing or making a sign of the cross over the water before placing it in the chalice.

The Roman Missal simply says, "The Deacon, or the Priest, pours wine and a little water into the chalice .…"

Therefore, if a priest using the ordinary form follows the rite properly, this confusion does not arise.  [Wow!  That is a big deal?!]

The practice of making a sign of the cross over the water cruet likely stems from the extraordinary form. In this form the priest makes a sign of the cross over the cruet as the server holds it up and he begins the prayer: "Deus, qui humanae substantiae"; when he reaches the words "da nobis per huius acque et vini mysterium" he takes the cruet in the right hand and pours water into the chalice.

Whatever the origin of the practice, making the sign of the cross over an object is not automatically equivalent to blessing it. The extraordinary form, for example, has many signs of the cross which are not, strictly speaking, blessings. Indeed, since some of these signs of the cross are made over the Sacred Species itself, they could never be regarded as blessings insofar as nobody can impart a blessing upon the Divinity. [And the priest, when making the multiple signs of the cross over the consecrated wine and host, do not seek to bless the Sacred Species. So it is not a blessing.  This is what the priest says when he makes the 5 signs of the cross over the Sacred Species in a TLM:  ..."a Victim + which is pure, a Victim + which is holy, a Victim + which is spotless, the holy Bread + of life eternal, and the Chalice + of everlasting Salvation."  Is that a blessing?]

Also there are blessings of various sorts. For example, the Church has a proper rite to obtain blessed or holy water and it requires a lot more than a simple sign of the cross. [Read my post about it here.] There is a long prayer which expresses the Church's intentions and goals in blessing water for devotional use. This prayer should normally be used, although it may be abbreviated in an emergency. These are called constitutive blessings which change the purpose of the thing and reserve it for sacred or liturgical use.

[Here comes the best part!]
It is not the same as when a priest blesses the table before meals. Here the food does not become sacred and may be reused if leftover. These are often called invocative blessings, as they simply call down God's favor upon persons or things without changing their nature or making them sacred.

Therefore it is not true that once a priest has blessed something it is always and permanently blessed. The Church recognizes several degrees of blessings, and different situations, and thus organizes her rites accordingly.

As you can see in the discussion above, the liturgical action of extending the hand or making the sign of the cross over a person of thing is an action reserved for the ordained, as their hands have been consecrated to bless.  And there are two kinds of blessings, invocative and constitutive.

But before we get to that, let us know what a blessing is.  This entry from the wonderful article at EWTN explains it:

Who can do a blessing? The Catechism states, "Every baptized person is called to be a 'blessing' and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more its administration is reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priest, deacons)" (No. 1669).
Priests are the ordinary ministers of blessings, asking God's help for those people being blessed or dedicating something to a sacred service; the priest's blessing is imparted with the weight of the Church and therefore has great value in the eyes of God. The blessing of a layperson upon another, such as a parent blessing a child, is an act of good will whereby the person implores God's aid for the person; the value of this blessing in the eyes of God depends upon the person's individual sincerity and sanctity.
Blessings are categorized into two types: invocative and constitutive.
In an invocative blessing, the minister implores the divine favor of God to grant some spiritual or temporal good without any change of condition, such as when a parent blessed a child. This blessing is also a recognition of God's goodness in bestowing this "blessing" upon us, such as when we offer a blessing for our food at meal time. In blessing objects or places, a view is also taken toward those who will use the objects or visit the places.
A constitutive blessing, invoked by a bishop, priest or deacon, signifies the permanent sanctification and dedication of a person or thing for some sacred purpose. Here the person or object takes on a sacred character and would not be returned to non-sacred or profane use. For example, when religious Sisters or Brothers profess final vows, they are blessed, indicating a permanent change in their lives. Or, when a chalice is blessed, it becomes a sacred vessel dedicated solely to sacred usage.

So do lay people bless?  Certainly!  When we bless the food at our tables...when the elderly bless those who ask for their blessing. A perfect example is the traditional mano of Filipinos.  This practice is not Popish as what most Mason say to spread the lies about the Spanish friars inventing the gesture as a form of hand/ring kissing like.  Excuse me.  Kissing the hand of the priest is the respect a Catholic shows a priest because those are hands that forgive the sins of men, the hands that make the Lord present on the altar, the hands that baptize...The mano is not in imitation of the ring kissing!  It is the closest we get to the respect we show our priests.  We use the mano to respect those who are not only older than us, but to those who are, with their age, gained more wisdom than us.  That is why we put the hands that have gained more wisdom in life to give some of it to us by placing the hand on our forehead, the mystical part of the body where wisdom resides.  It is also the part of the body where blessings are usually conferred as in baptisms, confirmation, Ash Wednesday, Extreme Unction...

But what kind of blessings do lay people give?  Only one and it is very specific.  INVOCATIVE.

Lay people are not ordained to invoke constitutive blessings because only the ordained can invoke the Lord for the sanctification and dedication of a person or thing for a sacred purpose.

So, when we pray over a person like during the photo above, do we call upon a constitutive blessing?  No. It is invocative.

Second point.  The act of laying on of hands has been reserved for the clergy.  The liturgical custom and tradition of laying on of hands and praying over in the Catholic Church has always been reserved only to the ordained.  Why do we have then these priests who ask people to extend their hand while they bless other people or objects?


These priests know for a fact that the outstretched hand of the layman does nothing to what or who is being blessed compared to the outstretched hand of the ordained.

Why then?  Charismatics!  Active participation.  Creativity brouhaha!

So next time a priest asks you or a prayer leader asks you to stretch your hands to pray for someone or something, do what I do:


Don't obey them.

Pray for the person but do not stretch out your arms.

You are not a priest.  You are not ordained.

So do what lay people do.

Fold your hands and pray.

That's what matters.

Let those who believe in that practice continue to dwell in the Evangelical Protestant practice of stretching their hands to bless.  Evangelicals did that because they do not believe in the ordained ministry.  So any Tom, Dick and Jane can magically stretch their hands whenever they please!


  1. Thank You!! And AMEN!!! And if they ask why you didn't extend your hands tell them that you're not ordained and have not the right to, nor is it proper.

  2. One thing I'd like to note/ask, though: is the "pagmamano" really considered a Filipino Catholic tradition? I once saw a documentary shot in Turkey and in a number of passages, some Turks also do the same gesture as an act of deference/respect for elders. (Apparently, it's also a gesture that is practiced in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, see: Since parts of the Philippines were predominantly Islamic until the arrival of Magellan, it might be possible that the early Filipinos might have been doing this gesture, and the practice persisted even upon the introduction of Catholicism.