When are blessings appropriate and who should give them?


Sr. Louise Zdunich

March 12, 2012

QuestionI found your article on blessings informative and timely (WCR, Feb. 6). I am trying to educate myself on the correct way of doing things. I see the priest blessing the children before they go to the children's liturgy. I see no mention of this in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM).

I read in an old catechism that while we are called to bless and be blessed but only the priest can give blessing in the name of the Church. I don't know what that means. I am concerned that our song We Bless You in the Name of the Lord" may not be appropriate. Please clarify.


AnswerRead my response again to the previous question on blessings, as I feel some of your questions were answered there. However, I will try to clarify more completely.

Blessings are sacramentals, not sacraments, therefore, not regulated or used in the same manner as the sacraments. "Sacramentals are used in a great variety of circumstances and respond to the needs, culture and circumstances of people in everyday life. Sacramentals sanctify almost every event in people's lives with the divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery.

"There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be directed toward the sanctification of humanity and the praise of God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1670).

Only the priest blesses as the official representative of the Church and so blesses in the name of the Church and not in his own name. The blessing is based on the merits of Christ and not on the priest's personal state in the eyes of God.

There are prescribed words for formal blessings given by a priest, as you may have noted for the ashes on Ash Wednesday or the Advent wreath. Usually holy water and/or incense are used.

Simpler blessings for an object of piety such as a rosary have a set prayer formula but do not necessarily use holy water.

It seems to me that blessing the little children before they go for the children's liturgy is in accordance with what Jesus says in all the Synoptic Gospels. "Taking a little child . . . in his arms, he said, 'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, . . . welcomes the one who sent me'" (Mark 9.36).


This blessing asks God to enable these little ones to learn and follow Jesus at their own level. Besides, that is a special moment in which they can truly participate. It is interesting to see them excited doing this. I assume the GIRM is general and does not necessarily give every detail. Other documents deal with children's liturgy.

All of God's work is a blessing. The Catechism says: "Blessing is a divine and life-giving action, the source of which is the Father whose blessing is both word and gift" (n. 1078).

The Bible is full of blessings. The books of the Bible "recall these divine blessings and at the same time respond to them with blessings of praise and thanksgiving" (n. 1081).

The Church's liturgy, too, is full of blessings both directly and indirectly expressed. In it, the Church blesses and thanks God for giving humanity the inexpressible gifts of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

When ordinary folk bless, it is simply a prayer asking God to bless. We know that Jesus promised to answer our prayers. Our blessing is based on our own desire to ask God to grant someone health, happiness, success in an endeavour, etc.

Blessing invoked upon another person shows our dependence on God and our assurance that God cares for us. That is why we also have objects such as our cars and homes blessed, trusting God to keep us safe from all harm therein.

When we sing We Bless You in the Name of the Lord, we are praying that others will be blessed by God. We do not in any way mean that we are the ones actually blessing someone; only God does that; we are simply asking God for this favour.


Do you think we use blessings too often? I would say rather that we don't bless others nor ourselves often enough. When we do bless, we become conscious of God working in our lives and in others' lives.

Becoming more aware of God on an everyday basis is prayer. It is a continuation of the Church's prayer so that "these divine blessings will bring forth the fruits of life to the praise of God's glorious grace" (Catechism, 1083).

(Other questions? Email: zdunich@telus.net)