Q. 1. I noticed during the distribution of the Holy Eucharist that some people present themselves with one's hands being crossed, such leading to the priest or the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion giving them a blessing. What are the Church rules regarding getting a blessing from the priest or the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion during Communion? Is this blessing for babies, children who have not yet made their First Communion, those in mortal sin, those whose's marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church and/or for non-Catholics?
A. 1. The blessing that is given to non-communicants (those not receiving Holy Communion) during Holy Mass does not have its origin in the approved Liturgy of the Catholic Church. The practice of giving blessings in lieu of Communion was popularized by the priest who started Life Teen. This practice was then exported all over the U.S. and overseas and has infected many Catholic Churches.
The practice of blessing individuals during Holy Communion should be, not only discouraged, but discontinued. (This includes the practice of laying on of a hand or hands, which has its own sacramental significance, such being inappropriate here, as a substitute to giving Holy Communion.) Church Law states, "Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority." Vatican II, General Norms [for the liturgy], A. 22(3).
# 1124 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles, whence the ancient saying lex orandi, lex credendi... The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.
# 1125 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority of the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy"
Church law (reiterated in Redemptionis Sacramentum) states that the liturgy is to be celebrated as directed by the Church. Nothing may be added or subtracted. The silence of the Church on any matter is not to be construed as license to do it.
WHAT TO DO?
If anyone presents himself in the Communion line with crossed arms indicating that they want a blessing instead of Communion, the priest or the Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister can say, "May Jesus be in your heart." There should be no gestures and no blessing given. Hopefully this will diminish the number of persons who are expecting a blessing in lieu of Communion.
AUTHORITY OF THE EXTRAORDINARY MINISTER OF THE EUCHARIST
Under no circumstances should an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist ever give a blessing during the Holy Mass. He does not have that authority. His action may lead to some believing that he is a priest.
Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).
WHY 2 BLESSINGS?
Considering the fact that the entire Congregation is blessed by the priest at the dismissal about five minutes after the distribution of the Holy Eucharist, there is no need for anyone to receive a blessing during Holy Communion. Such is (1) a non-approved duplication, and (2) personal changes to the liturgy are condemned by the Catholic Church.
REGARDING DIVORCED PERSONS
Can the blessing be given to those who are divorced and remarried? The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio n. 84, “forbids any pastor, for whatever reason to pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry”. To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.
In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church’s discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin).