Monday, April 9, 2012

More On Why Children Should Be Blessed in the Communion Line

Predictably, Father Z comes down on the side of strict adherence to the letter of the law in the question of blessing of children at communion time. It's worth pointing out that the main thing he highlights is the "feel good" aspect. No surprise there--he considers himself a literalist liturgical watchdog and enemy of any contemporary culture seeping into the liturgy. And Father Z is not above judging the Pope in matters of liturgy, either.

But interestingly--and worshippers of the letter of the law should take note here--he says not that the case is closed but that "we could use more and intelligent conversation about this wide-spread practice." Indeed. Unfortunately, that's not what Fr. Sticha's post seems to be stimulating. Rather, my devout Catholic buddies seem to be focusing on Fr. Sticha's indictment of the feel good and entitlement culture (something I generally could agree on), buying into that characterization as the sole reason for blessing children at that time.

However, as I pointed out in my last post, this is an ungenerous simplification and, as I see it, an injustice to parents. Furthermore, it does violence to the nature of sacerdotal blessing (as being just something that gives us warm fuzzies instead of real blessing/grace). I also offered evidence of 1) a bishops conference supporting it and 2) the Holy Father himself doing it.

All these counterpoints are being ignored as folks, I must observe, self-righteously clap each other on the back, acknowledging their greater liturgical enlightenment over we silly wishy-washy parents who are foolish enough to desire a special priestly blessing for our children, the same children who, it must again be noted, are refused the Sacrament in the Latin rite for several years as a discipline (i.e., not an irreformable/infallible dogma). As I said before, in our rite we are withholding that greater good, so offering the lesser good of a priestly blessing in its place seems a good thing (and many priests and even bishops seem to agree--and to hastily generalize and characterize them all as disobedient or unorthodox would be an injustice).

The sole commenter on my post, sadly, took a simplistic and side-stepping approach, saying, "The communion line is for reception of Holy Communion." Really? I didn't know that. Sigh. Excuse me while I dismiss that dismissal of my arguments.

I apologize if I'm a little grouchy on this, but it does hit close to home. What's more, I see more religious pride at play in how Fr. Sticha's post is being received than real consideration of the pros and cons (again, because the main arguments seem to be based more against the perceived "feel good"/entitlement motivations). Anyone who reads my stuff can readily see I'm not one to go with the flow and base my opinions on what feels good, so I submit that, as Fr. Z suggests, we have "more and intelligent conversation about this widespread practice," instead of just patting ourselves on the backs.

Let me offer one more consideration in favor of the practice:
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 
After he placed his hands on them, he went away. (Matt 19:13-15)
I wonder if some of the reasons the disciples rebuked them are not the same as those rebuking parents/priests who bless today. But priests are in persona Christi, especially at mass, especially at communion. Maybe it is good and right to wait for children to mature before they partake, but that does not mean they should be entirely turned away. Instead, let priests act truly in the person of Christ, in imitation of him, and place their hands on the children and bless them.

Update (later 10 April 2012)Addressing the particular objection of appropriateness.