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Faith/Spirituality Forum: sacramental blessing

by Catherine Frakas 24 Mar 2001

sacramental blessing QUESTION from James Alexander Franco on January 11, 2003 Dear Brother: This statement was made by an ordained priest recently to a parishioner: We do not bless objects {in this case a candle}; the rest of the explanation was not clear. My statement and question is: Do we not have objects (oils, medals, rosaries, candles,etc. blessed in our Catholic tradition? Does this blessing not give them a special significance and value as a sacred object? Does this blessing not stay with the object? Will you please clarify the Catholic teaching on this point for me (and others)? Sacramentals have tremendous importance and are so neglected in some quarters.
Thank you so much for your ministry!
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 19, 2003 Dear Mr. Franco:
Yes, the Church allows priests do blessed objects. The Official BOOK OF BLESSINGS has an entire section of Church approved blessings for objects.
Blessed Oil, Salt, and Water have special significance. But any other object can be blessed as long as the object is not obscene or used for improper purposes or otherwise unsuitable to receive a blessing. Candles certainly can and are blessed all the time.
When an object receives a blessing it does give special significance to the object -- not as a talismon that people believe effects magick, but as an item that reflects our faith and God's grace.
Canon Law on this is located at Canons 1166-1171

Can. 1166 Sacramentals are sacred signs which in a sense imitate the sacraments. They signify certain effects, especially spiritual ones, and they achieve these effects through the intercession of the Church. Can. 1167 §1 Only the Apostolic See can establish new sacramentals, or authentically interpret, suppress or change existing ones.
§2 The rites and the formulae approved by ecclesiastical authority are to be accurately observed when celebrating or administering sacramentals.
Can. 1168 The minister of the sacramentals is a cleric who has the requisite power. In accordance with the liturgical books and subject to the judgement of the local Ordinary, certain sacramentals can also be administered by lay people who possess the appropriate qualities.
Can. 1169 §1 Consecrations and dedications can be validly carried out by those who are invested with the episcopal character, and by priests who are permitted to do so by law or by legitimate grant.
§2 Any priest can impart blessings, except for those reserved to the Roman Pontiff or to Bishops.
§3 A deacon can impart only those blessings which are expressly permitted to him by law.
Can. 1170 While blessings are to be imparted primarily to catholics, they may be given also to catechumens and, unless there is a prohibition by the Church, even to non-catholics.
Can. 1171 Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.

The Catechism goes into more detail (pargraphs 1667-1672;

1667 Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy. The characteristics of sacramentals 1668 Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man. In accordance with bishops' pastoral decisions, they can also respond to the needs, culture, and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time. They always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls Baptism).
1669 Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a blessing, and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).
1670 Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.
Various forms of sacramentals 1671 Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father with every spiritual blessing. This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.
1672 Certain blessings have a lasting importance because they consecrate persons to God, or reserve objects and places for liturgical use. Among those blessings which are intended for persons - not to be confused with sacramental ordination - are the blessing of the abbot or abbess of a monastery, the consecration of virgins, the rite of religious profession and the blessing of certain ministries of the Church (readers, acolytes, catechists, etc.). The dedication or blessing of a church or an altar, the blessing of holy oils, vessels, and vestments, bells, etc., can be mentioned as examples of blessings that concern objects.

And finally I refer you to the Catholic Encyclopedia on Sacramentals
God Bless.
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