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Dear Fr. Joe: Why won’t our pastor  bless children?

Q: Our new pastor announced that he would no longer bless children in the Communion line because he might have “crumbs of Jesus” on his hands and that would make it improper. Is this really true? I saw a young boy looking very confused when Father ignored him on Sunday.

A: This has been coming up more and more in discussions – let’s take a look at it.
    It starts with a custom that has evolved in Catholicism. I’ve seen it here in the United States, Mexico, Poland, Italy, France – every country I’ve been to. The custom is that, when a child is in the Communion line but hasn’t yet received his first Communion, the priest offers a blessing.
    Recently, it seems that a growing number of priests are refusing to do so. To be clear, most of those priests are more than happy to bless a child, but they don’t feel comfortable blessing them in the Communion line since that specific practice is not in the Roman Ritual. As priests, we are not allowed to simply “add things” to the ritual.
    That’s a brief summary of the idea, and I think it important to add something here: Be loving in how you interpret why your priest is or isn’t blessing children in the Communion line. I think it’s safe to say that priests who aren’t blessing children at that time are not doing it because they hate children or anything like it. They are doing it out of obedience to their consciences. I have received word from some folks that their new priest here or there isn’t blessing the children in the Communion line and they are drawing all sorts of horrid messages from that. Please don’t do that, I’m begging you. Don’t draw a horrible conclusion from a priest who is probably just following his conscience. Ask him about it, talk through it with him and please be respectful of his answer.
    Now, anyone who has celebrated Mass with me knows I not only bless any children in the Communion line, I take my time doing it. I’m a huge fan of this practice. This next part is my “why” and I need to be really clear here that what you are reading is my own opinion/interpretation.
    My reasoning on this is practical and spiritual. The practical reasoning is that they are there. Most of the kids who come forward are too young to be in their seats alone and unattended, so their parents bring them forward. In my mind, why not bless them? This is a time that young people can see that the big man in strange clothes is a gentle soul. It’s a time when children get used to coming forward to Communion in a respectful and sacred manner. I’ve seen firsthand how it can increase in the young person a desire to receive the Eucharist and what better thing is there than that?
    On the spiritual side of things, take a look at this from the Gospel of Mark:

 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10:13-14)

    To me, the amazing word there is “indignant.” Jesus became indignant when people tried to stop him from blessing the children. To be blunt, the children could not have come forward at a worse time: Jesus was in an intense discussion, one of those discussions that pushed people to kill him. Right smack in the middle of it, children came in and wanted him to touch them. When people said, “This isn’t the time!” Jesus got indignant.
    Remember, Jesus didn’t get indignant when we accused him falsely. He didn’t get indignant when people lied about him and handed him over to pagan authorities. He didn’t get indignant when he was tortured to death and his mother had to watch. He got indignant when people told children who wanted to be close to him that “this isn’t the time.”
    So, I guess if you look at what I said in the beginning of the article, the same principle applies. If you are not comfortable with your priest blessing the children in the Communion line, then I would encourage you to either not bring them forward or kindly explain to your priest that you’d rather he didn’t bless your children then. Don’t assume Father “doesn’t care what the rules say” – you can generally assume that every priest you meet is fairly concerned with the life of the church, seeing how he dedicated his life to serving it.
    Enjoy another day in God’s presence!

Father Joseph Krupp