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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dumb and Dumber

Sister St. Aloysius is going to have to be sedated. I've sent her out on our little deck to chill out. She took her CNN inspired prayer list with her, which is enough to snap anyone back to reality. We have dropped out of the top three over at the Blogger's Choice Awards. I hope she now realizes that she has gotten a little too wrapped up in that. I had to laugh when we did drop out of the top three we can see how many votes we actually have. Laughable! I needed a good laugh because I was watching CNN to get that prayer list together.

Later Sister St. Aloysius can busy herself with cooking. I have a inkling that potato soup is in store. I have to find that pickle soup recipe for her. That stuff was superb.

We're still talking about blessings. A good time for that.

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

Since we're talking about blessing people, when did the practice of priests blessing babies and kids at communion start? Is it even allowed by Rome? It bugs me when all these kids get into the communion line, arms crossed against their chests, waiting for their blessing. What irks me even more is the lay Eucharistic ministers giving the kids blessings, too. (Let's face it, not everyone can get in line on the priest's side only, now can they?) If you say it's OK, I'll stop complaining, I promise.

I don't know when it started. Last week? It bugs a lot of people. I think I just read somewhere that it is being dropped like a hot potato, lately. Hot potatoes, with a little dill.....when is lunch?

I digress.

Eucharistic ministers can't give a Blessing. They can give a blessing. It's just not the kind of Blessing that some people apparently imagine that these children are getting. That's the problem that needs to be addressed.

Since we've already discussed blessings and blessings, let's differentiate the two from now on this way: blessing (our prayers and hope of goodness from God) and Blessings (the supernatural power of the priest to bestow God's goodness). Eucharistic ministers can not bestow Blessings, by definition.

So now the argument becomes, is it okay to line up the tiny children for a blessing?

I guess so, as long as everyone understands they are getting a blessing and not a Blessing. Good luck with that. The idea here is to help them participate. It's not easy for a little kid to get through the Mass. After they are done looking at the statues and eating Cheerios from a baggie, it's slow going for them. And for little kids, time moves much more slowly than it does for adults. I remember as a little kid feeling like Christmas vacation went on for months.

So if the little kids have something to do that everyone else gets to do, meaning get up and get in a line (after you get their shoes back on them), they feel more a part of things. Is there really a down side to that? Only in the misunderstanding of what kind of blessing they are getting, which is most certainly lost on them, no matter how smart you think your toddler is. I wouldn't waste my breath trying to explain to a toddler the difference between a blessing and a Blessing. I only really care that all the parents understand it, although I hold out little hope for that.

The whole thing also puts the Eucharist Minister in a bad position as a fake Blessing giver. Maybe he should just pass out lollipops. Or graham crackers.

We shouldn't minimize this misunderstanding of the Blessing. The last thing we want to dumb down is the Catholic Church. Or the people in it. We've spent enough time dumbing down the world around us. People can't even make oatmeal anymore. We have to have it all ready to go in a little envelope with sugar and flavors. Liturgical cha-cha, anyone? Which reminds me, apparently I have been dumbed down because they are not "Eucharistic Ministers", they are "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist".

Perhaps it's better to toughen these kids up. Bring some extra Cheerios and call it a day.

But I'll admit that I think it's really cute when they all line up.

Here are some women who have not compromised their smarts:

Hello, Sister Mary Martha,
I'm sending you some pictures of some of the RGS sisters in the Philippines. These are from the Thanksgiving mass, on the occasion of their 95th year in the Philippines. I could not find a picture of my former principals, Sr. Mary Clare and Sr. Mary Catalina, but I found some beautiful picutres of Sr. Mary Consuelo. I have wonderful memories of these wonderful ladies, and I will always be thankful to them for their kindness, counsel, and yes, even their strictness.
God Bless you, Sister.
- Emily


Bethany said...

I have to admit, I think it's ridiculous that anyone would be annoyed to see a priest blessing children at Communion. How is that annoying?

I can understand being concerned about lay people and their blessings (but only in the fact that they might be confused with Blessings). Could someone please explain what's wrong with the priest Blessing the little kids?

This is one of those things where you suddenly realize that what you think is perfectly normal or don't ever think to question ends up being something that drives your husband/wife/roommate crazy. I'm taken aback.

Anonymous said...

I just voted for you in the awards - good luck!!!

Tienne said...

At my parish, the lay ministers will say "Receive the Lord Jesus in your heart" or "Jesus loves you" to the kids, while the Priest will draw a cross on their foreheads and mumble something Priest-like which I've never heard clearly enough to transcribe here. I like the distinction and am very happy they involve the kids as they go through the line. Are they just supposed to ignore them or something?

Sarah said...

My main thought is that God only knows what might happen if I left the 3 year old back in the pew alone while I marched up the aisle in our (very long) line. We had someone steal purses at a local church. I doubt anyone would take my uh... precious angel. Imagine the chaos of preschool children left alone in pews running amok. We are all better off with them in line for their little b blessing and their chance to exercise their legs after an hour.

Anonymous said...

My vote is in!!
Thanks for another informative and amusing post. I'm always looking forward to the next one:)

Helen said...

I have read about liturgical reasons why it is inappropriate, but I don't feel that these reasons respond to the practical concerns that Sarah brought up, or to the fact that Jesus did say to let the children come unto Him. While they are to young to receive Him if they don't understand it is Him whom they are receiving, surely Jesus wouldn't refuse them a blessing / Blessing from the Eucharistic Minister or priest.

joannaB73 said...

All the beautiful nuns are great to see posted here. Also it's not just children that go up for a blessing or Blessing but my non-Catholic family go up as well. It can be quite a witness to them and a start on their own journey into the Catholic faith. One of my sisters is coming in to the Church in November.

Rosebud Collection said...

It always amazes me on what people get annoyed at..Blessing children?
They have got to be kidding..

Anonymous said...

I don't think ANYONE is annoyed by Priets blessing children, just lay people doing so. I think they find it confuses people, and the incredible sanctity that Priests have... somehow it belittles their supernatural powers when everyone is doing it (as a blessing not a Blessing). The problem to me is that so many parishioners in the average Catholic Church are just so uneducated about their faith, no one knows their Catechism anymore, and so are easily confused and mislead!

Anonymous said...

You mean we're supposed to put their shoes back on first??? Rats.

I've seen the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist make the sign of the cross over the child with the host and then distribute the host to the parent. Honestly, I don't mind them blessing the kids. Mine ignore it or whack their hand away if they try to touch them, but there would be complete mayhem if I tried to leave anybody back in the pew.

I liked the routine at our old church where the kids could run up during the collection and put money in a special collection basket for kids. It got the wiggles out just before the consecration, which is when mine always ask "are we done yet? How many songs do we have left? Have I been good enough for a donut?"

fatheranthonyho said...

Dear Sister,

Your blog is very interesting. I am a priest from Vancouver, Canada. I also maintain a blog:


I don't think I am as witty as you are. But if you don't mind, please drop by my humble blog from time to time. Let's pray for each other's works for the Lord. Take care. God bless!

Anonymous said...

I'm writing in general, in reaction to no one in particular. The following ideas came to mind reading the comments about kids and blessings and Blessings and what to do and what not to do.

Didn't Jesus Himself have a problem in a big way with following the letter of the law for the sake of the law?

Taking matters into our own hands, look what we've done to the ten commandnents - in any law library that is. Are our law libraries a sort of dejavu of what Jesus taught against?

And now children being blessed is under scrutiny? By parishiones no less? Is this yet another same sort of dejavu?

Lots of noisy wiggling kids attend Mass in my parish. And the parents wing it as needs. Praise God that they're there - it could so easily be otherwise.

I would say that
moment-by-moment and
is called for in all situations we face. Which is what Jesus was getting at. Discernment for our benefit - not for the law itself, nor for those who know the law and say tut-tut.

Do excessive laws, and obsession with them, show a grievous lack of something?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister,

Just a little clarification. Lay people who distribute Holy Communion are technically called "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion", not "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist." Only the ordained are ministers of the Eucharist because only priests and bishops can say Mass.

Father Jay Toborowsky said...

When did this start? Children receiving a blessing (some parishes even encourage adults to come up for a blessing) is part of the attitude that "everybody should get something". Note: this is the same line of thinking that says that there should be no winners and losers in childrens' sporting events; that everybody should get a trophy.

From my point of view, the problem arises when Catholics who normally go to a parish that has such a practice go to another parish that does not do it. Now the child "expects" a blessing, and usually gets none. The same thing with the "hands crossed over the chest". In some parishes, that means "I want a blessing"; in other places, it means "I want to receive on the tongue". Because these are not part of the Church's ritual, they're open for different interpretations, and tends to make people think one parish loves children and the other parish somehow does not. It sets one parish against another over something that is not a part of Mass.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Just for the sake of clarity the Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are Bishops, priest and deacons (Canon 901#1). And stragely enough deacons can give "Blessings" too.

Christy said...

As another parent, I have to agree that my concern is more with leaving the little darlings in the pew than getting a blessing or Blessing! Who knows what they'd get up to without me there to give them a hairy eyeball. And blessing or Blessing, I'll take all the help I can get.

Michele said...

dear anonymous,

EMHC's should not be giving out Holy Communion. only the priests should be doing that. the Holy Eucharist should only be touched by consecrated hands, and not the hands of the laity. only the priest.

read this from St. Thomas Aquinas:

"Because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament." - ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa Theologica

Anonymous said...

My little grandaughter has been joining the line to communion ever since she learned to walk. She hugs the Priest's knees when it is her turn for a Blessing. It is a spontaneous act and I hope not offensive to people. No one has ever commented on it except visiting Priests who are sometimes startled. Maya says she does it because Priests need hugs too. She says a Blessing is a hug from God. If she is in line for a lay person she moves over just in time to receive a Blessing rather than a blessing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Marilena... especially living in a small town where I know all the Extraordinary Ministers, and what bar they were at last night, or who their last two husbands were, yadda, yadda, yadda. Their not-even-close-to-consecrated hands shouldn't be sullying up the Blessed Body of our Lord (don't you hate it when they cringe at having to place the host on your tongue?). Catholics today are having a challenge of faith, it seems, and doing things like this which marginalize the solemnity and sacredness of Holy Communion are not a good thing!

Michele said...

as saint thomas says, only consecrated hands. the hands of a priest. good post anon, good post. i receive the Holy Eucharist on my tongue everytime i go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to say it makes me feel very humble is an understatement. it gives me intense joy not only to be at the TLM, but to receive our Lord in absolute humbleness.

Janelle said...

I think little granddaughters (up to age 3?) spontaneously hugging the priest's knees is probably fine (provided the priest is able to remain upright whilst being showered with affection). One priest I know loves when babies grab his fingers-- it's adorable and much more pleasant than tears during baptism! Priests are still people. I used to pray through my doggie blanket (up to age 3) until I learned how to pray properly to God... and atheism has never been among my sins (and I've never reverted to praying through my doggie blanket, either).

Extraordinary Ministers cannot consecrate the Host nor can they expel demons. They are definitely not as cool as the priest. No contest.

Worrying about them too much, though, might go against principles established by the St. Paul and the Patristic Fathers: no baptism-shopping (1 Corinthians), no church-shopping, no Mass-shopping, no priest-shopping, no Eucharist-shopping, etc. (Patristic sources). No shopping! We're not Protestant! Even if the priest is later revealed to have sinned while you received your Eucharist, your Eucharist "counts" for all time. We laity get to be an example with the moderation of humility, too! Especially in large parishes, laity taking appropriate responsibility can relieve some of the priest's burden of having to care for thousands of people.

Katy said...

Sister, you're back up at number two, just behind Father Z's What Does The Prayer Really Say? I'm so happy to see my two favorite Catholic bloggers at the top!

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone, and especially Sister MM, for all the beautiful pictures of beautiful nuns!

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous poster of 2:58 p.m.

Quite frankly, yaddayaddayadda is none of your business. HOW is it that you presume to make it your business? Also, to rectify the situation of the sullied hands, have you volunteered to replace those sullied hands with your own? Also, since you believe your hands are better than others', they (your hands) are indeed, after all, not (better). They are worse actually. Far worse. Self righteousness, such as yours, ALSO challenges and marginalizes the solemnity and sacredness of Holy Communion - to a greater degree than do those who perform 'life' less perfectly than you. Self righteousness, actually, demonstrates a negation of need for Holy Communion at all. Be careful -- Jesus had time for the worst of mankind, but none for the self-declared best.

To Marilena's post of 5:52 p.m.

Are you already humbled as you approach the Eucharist. Or is it pride of performance there that makes you humble - which is a contradiction? I don't understand. Also, given your approval of the comments of the anonymous writer above your comment, my note, above, to that writer may apply as well to you.

You two are missing the boat, as does any legalist.

Neuropoet said...

My boys loved receiving their Blessing from Father before they were old enough for First Communion - the Blessing was something they looked forward to as their special gift from God all service. Of course, in our little parish, only the priest gives out the Eucharist and the Blessings. I don't think anyone has ever questioned this practice in our parish - seeing all the small children and entire families in the Communion line is part of seeing our Unity as a Body.


Anonymous said...

One last time:

Only an ordained Catholic priest can be a Minister of the Eucharist.

A Deacon is an Ordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

A lay person is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

Why is this terminology important? Only an ordained priest has consecrated hands to minister the Eucharist. A deacon is available to assist the priest in distributing Holy Communion, and a lay person should only be used in EXTRAORDINARY situations to help distribute Holy Communion. This last situation is unfortunately highly abused in the Catholic Church today, and needs to be stopped.

Its okay for a priest to give a blessing during Communion, but lay people should definitely refrain as this leads to confusion.

Anonymous said...

The argument for lay people handing out the Holy Eucharist is that it makes the Mass too long. If we cut down on all this extra activity marching up to the front, then the priest could distribute the Sacrifice appropriately. Otherwise go to the coffee shop or better yet the sunday service down the block.
Forgive me but I've had it with all this protestant intrusion. I never have seen such a mess. Our parish had families with up to 15 children, there was no food, no coloring books or toys brought to church. The children behaved. We need to take a look at what has changed!

Katy said...

I have to agree with Patrick. I am sure there are some situations where extra help is needed. But, I don't ordinarily attend Mass where that is the case. Is it really so bad if it takes twice as long to distribute? That's the part of Mass where we can be quiet and pray and reflect on Our Lord!

I would never agree to distribute communion. I do not think badly of those who do. I think they sincerely desire to serve God. But, I don't think Mass is like the school Christmas pageant, where everybody gets a role so they can feel included.

Anonymous said...

a badly botched sentence....."The argument for lay people handing out the Holy Eucharist is that it makes the Mass too long."

What was meant here is that the reason "they" brought in the lay people to distribute communion to begin with is....it was argued that the Mass was getting too long because there were not enough priests. So now we have all these EM's and all of this blessing stuff going on. Let's get back to The Mass and all of its' reverence and beauty. If it takes a few extra minutes so what, then say a couple extra prayers. Oh wait, we have to hurry to..........
I promise not to ever comment on this again unless....

Sarah said...

Ahhh the good old days when all 15 children sat in Mass without cheerios and coloring books and Mom went home and swigged the cooking sherry in the kitchen all afternoon and Dad beat everyone into silent terror with his belt. Man,those good old days were so simple. Civil rights were unheard of, women had three career options (teacher, nurse, nun) and children were treated like chattel. Gee, pardon my sarcasm but I think now has improved drasticly in many ways on then, despite those coloring books in mass or the occassional bag of cheerios.

Anonymous said...

1)Sarah, I'm sorry you have such a low opinion of large Catholic families.
2)Did anyone ever hear of fasting prior to communion? Children should learn this from day one. There is no place in church for food (or playing). This is a poor example for children.
3)Since the civil rights revolution, there are no women at home teaching appropriate behavior and manners.
Now days there are "career" couples without children, never go to Mass, beat up on each other and swig whatever.
Someday our liberal churches will be "empty". I'm afraid in a sense they already are.
God save us.

Sarah said...

God save us indeed. From insanity and zealotry and those who wish to return to the mythical good old days which never existed.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they didn't, but I for one very much doubt that people were so much worse then, than they are now. Human nature has not changed.

aspiring... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.