Help Send A Good Book to Nicaragua

We recently welcomed a new religious order to the Diocese of Birmingham — the Fraternity Poor of Jesus Christ (link is to their Facebook page). The friars have set up a house at Blessed Sacrament Church, with three friars resident and another on the way early next year. The sisters are in the process of setting up their house at Our Lady of Fatima Church — one sister is here at present and more will come next year. Both groups will work in the poor neighborhoods on the west side of Birmingham — one of the most afflicted parts of town.

As part of their service, some of the friars and sisters occasionally do missionary work. Sister Miracles (yes, that is her name!), the founding sister of the Birmingham house of sisters, will be going to Nicaragua in November. She hopes to bring 150 copies of a certain book with her to distribute in four parishes and to seminarians. The book is Into the Deep by Dan Burke — a solid book on prayer in the Catholic tradition. Of course, she’ll be bringing the Spanish-translated version: Mar Adentro.

I cannot emphasize enough what a worthy initiative this is: when you walk into many Catholic bookstores in Latin America, you will find volumes by many dissenting authors (including some of our worst ones from the US, in translation) – promoting feminist theology, liberation theology, and many other errors or distortions of the faith. The Church in Latin America is suffering great losses; there are a multitude of factors but one of them is the dilution of Catholic teaching. Getting good, solid books into the hands of people in Nicaragua is a work of mercy! An historically Catholic country, today only 50% of the population is Catholic — 40% are now Protestant. And half of those who are Protestant were formerly Catholic! (source)

It will cost about $2,750 to get 150 copies of this book on prayer and get them to Nicaragua. Will you help — even with a small donation? Together, we can achieve this goal. I made the first donation to buy one book. I hope that many others will help also. This is a great work of evangelization and mission.

Click on the picture of Sister Miracles (taken recently outside our Cathedral) below to go to the GoFundMe page for this effort.

I will ensure that the sisters receive a list of all donors so that they can pray for you. I will also offer a Mass for all donors once the campaign has ended.

Thank you for your support!

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Vigil of Reparation for the Scandals

This evening here at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham, Alabama, I offered a Sung Mass (Missa Cantata) in the Extraordinary Form for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, offered for the intention of “healing and purification in the Church”. Well over 300 people from around the Diocese attended — many who were already familiar with the Extraordinary Form, many who were not. Both of our principal language groups were well-represented also. I was truly delighted by the turnout of lay faithful and religious. In addition, several diocesan priests and one visiting priest attended in choir.

My homily — in English and Spanish — may be read here.

Now, following the Mass, one of our diocesan priests is leading an all-night Adoration Vigil in both English and Spanish, to make reparation for the crimes and sins of the clergy.

In the morning, we will have our usual weekly Saturday morning Mass (in the Ordinary Form) at 8:30am for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. This will also be the sixth anniversary of our parish’s consecration to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Mass will be offered for “healing of victims of sexual predation”.

Here follows a selection of photos from tonight’s event. Thanks be to God.

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Spanish Mass: When the Mass Parts Aren’t

It is an extremely widespread phenomenon that Mass parts sung at Spanish Masses do not have the correct words – that is, the words printed in the Roman Missal; words which, in the case of the main parts of the Mass, may not be changed.

Usually what I have encountered is a paraphrase (set to a catchy tune or even to a secular tune). Here is one example: this is supposed to be the Sanctus — the Holy, Holy, Holy — and it has quite a fun tune; but the words are only… sort of in the ballpark:

My translation:

Holy, holy, holy, the heavens announce you;
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord, Yahweh;
Holy, holy, holy, is the one who redeems us;
Because my God is holy and the earth is full of his glory;
Because my God is holy and the earth is full of his glory.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away;
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away:
Will not not not not not not pass away;
will not not not not not not pass away.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
Glory to Jesus Christ, the son of David.
Hosanna in the high places to our Savior;
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away;
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away:
Will not not not not not not pass away;
will not not not not not not pass away.

Compare that with what is in the Roman Missal (no substantial difference between English and Spanish, hence I’ll just copy the English here):

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory;
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

It is often “easier said than done” to eliminate these erroneous Mass settings or parts thereof that appear in Spanish-language liturgy. In my case, I have only been in one assignment (my first one) where I had any authority to do anything about it. Often I am just a guest priest, filling in by request.

The point of this post, in fact, is not to suggest ways to fix this problem; rather, it is to suggest what a visiting priest may and possibly should do when confronted with this.

He should recite the correct words while the wrong ones are being sung.

I got this idea after I started celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form – particularly, the High Mass, or Missa Cantata. In the High Mass there is a schola, choir, or cantor who sings the Mass parts, responses, and other pieces as appropriate for the day’s liturgy. But the priest-celebrant also must recite what they are singing.

Now there is not an apples-to-apples comparison between the situation I have encountered with Spanish Masses and celebrating in the Old Rite. No, there are various differences. For one, it is unheard-of for musical settings of the Extraordinary Form liturgy to have words that are at variance with the published texts. Two, the celebrant’s duplication of all that other ministers say or sing arises from a different liturgical theology.

But I think the application of the Old Rite principle in this case works: at least, even if the choir, cantor, or the congregation isn’t singing the right thing, the Mass is still being said properly — as the Church intends — by its principal celebrant. This is not clericalism (which I am sure some would allege). It is simply a way that a priest may take seriously his oath of fidelity to all of the Church’s laws and disciplines.

I feel sure I am not the first priest to think of and do this. I wonder if others do so also?

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The Purification of the Church

“Could you not watch with me one hour?”

Last weekend in my parish I preached on the current scandals in the Church and our response to them. You may be interested in reading that homily here. In it, I encouraged prayer and fasting for the purification of the Church. This weekend, then, I am publishing the following letter and list in my parish bulletin. I reproduce it here and invite you to join in this initiative also.

* * *

Dear Parish Family,

At Masses last weekend (July 28-29), my preaching addressed the topic of the recent grave scandals in the Church involving bishops/cardinals and sexual predation. If you missed that homily, you might consider reading it online (HERE).

The “takeaway” from my homily was that we need to pray and fast for the purification of the Church. I especially encouraged that this be done on Thursdays – the day that Christ instituted the holy priesthood; but of course, any day/time is fine! The Lord has chosen us to live in this moment, so we must ask him how he wants us to respond. There is much righteous anger – but anger is not enough: we need to take holy and meaningful action.

The following, therefore, is a list of suggestions. Since, in our time, fasting is not a common spiritual practice, many are at a loss on where to start. In this regard, “fasting” should be understood as “making sacrifices”; thus, many of the things listed have nothing to do with food or drink. I hope that you will consider adding at least one such sacrifice to your week and offering it, with a prayer, for the purification of the Church.

Finally, we must not forget that the reform of the Church begins with you and with me: we are all called to be saints, and our Lord invites us anew to respond to that call.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Very Reverend Bryan W. Jerabek, J.C.L.
Pastor and Rector

* * *

Suggested Prayers for the Purification of the Church (all can be easily located by web search)

The Litany of St. Joseph
The Memorare
The “Anima Christi” of St. Ignatius of Loyola
The St. Michael Prayer
The Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Morning Offering
The “My Queen and My Mother” Prayer
The Holy Rosary
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
The “St. Francis Peace Prayer”
The “Suscipe” Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola (“Take, Lord, and receive, all my liberty…”)

Suggested Fasting/Acts of Sacrifice for the Purification of the Church

Omit cream/sugar in coffee/tea
Take a cool shower instead of a hot one
Skip an episode of your show & pray/read instead
Skip a meal or skip snacks
Skip your evening wine/cocktail if you do that
Turn off the radio in the car
Skip a day on social media
If you’re a napper, skip a nap
Add some concrete service to the poor
Cook a meal for an elderly/sick neighbor
Say a special prayer for those who annoy you
Call someone you’ve been avoiding
Get up five minutes earlier and add some prayers
Fight against any time-wasting you may do
Donate money saved from making sacrifices
Pray kneeling instead of sitting
Get to know local priests, deacons, and religious
Make a list before you shop and stick to it
Fast for 2 hours before Communion instead of 1
Visit a nursing home
Don’t eat meat on all Fridays
Skip chocolate or sweets for a day
Clean out your closets and donate to charity
For ladies: don’t wear makeup one day
Park farther away at the store & say a prayer on the way in for those who were driving poorly on the way
Go out of your way to stop at the church or adoration chapel to say your prayers
Make the extra effort to come up with 5 unique things for which you are grateful and thank God
Resolve to come to Mass five minutes earlier and spend time in prayer
Resolve to spend a few minutes after the final hymn is over at Mass to thank God before leaving

* * *

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Updates from the Marbury Nuns

Me with the nuns for my September 2012 retreat. Time to go back and get a new picture!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about the wonderful cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of St. Jude in the tiny town of Marbury, Alabama (alas, it’s been far too long since I’ve visited them, also). Perusing their (new!) web site, I see that they had a postulant enter in April! This is great news. I hope many other young ladies with possible vocations will check them out. A good and faithful order!

Also, in the most recent newsletter that they mailed me, the Nuns mentioned how they were once again in need of financial support — this time, because of a leaky roof. I can attest to the simplicity of the aging convent building/structure — it was clearly built well but also on a low budget — and to the fact that it could definitely use many updates. I’m sure the roof is just the tip of the iceberg — but it doesn’t surprise me that it needs replacing! Let’s help them out. Please consider making a special donation to the sisters. Go to this page to learn how you can mail a check or donate online.

In times like these, with much bad news in the Church and in the world, it is refreshing to hear about the good things happening with faithful groups like this — and to support them in any way we can. Please drop the Cloistered Dominican Nuns a line and send them whatever support you can! And pray that they will continue to grow!

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Exorcism as An Argument for Infant Baptism

It has long been my sense that, in spite of all of the biblical evidence and the witness of the Fathers, many non-Catholic Christians simply are not open to reason when it comes to the topic of infant baptism. Many of them get hung up on the (false) idea of baptism’s being a personal choice, a taking ownership of one’s faith — and therefore, something that may only properly be done after the age of reason.

Recently, I’ve had occasion to celebrate Baptism a few times according to the Extraordinary Form (or older form) of the Roman Rite. The newer, “post-conciliar” rite of Baptism does have an exorcism in it, but it is a bit “lite” compared with the multiple exorcisms of the older rite. Here is the one “exorcism” prayer in the newer rite:

Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him (her) free from original sin, make him (her) a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him (her). We ask this through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

As you can see, the priest prays a deprecatory prayer, asking God to deliver the person from the power of original sin (not the devil! — although he is mentioned).

The older rite, however, uses several imprecatory prayers (commanding the evil one to leave). Here they are, by comparison:

1. Depart from him (her), unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.

2. I cast you out, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy + Spirit. Depart and stay far away from this servant of God, N. For it is the Lord Himself who commands you, accursed and doomed spirit, He who walked on the sea and reached out His hand to Peter as he was sinking. So then, foul fiend, recall the curse that decided your fate once for all. Indeed, pay homage to the living and true God, pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Keep far from this servant of God, N., for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has freely called him (her) to His holy grace and blessed way and to the waters of baptism. Never dare, accursed fiend, to desecrate this seal of the holy + cross which we imprint upon his (her) brow; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

3. I cast you out, every unclean spirit, in the name of God + the Father almighty, in the name of Jesus + Christ, His Son, our Lord and judge, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit. Begone, Satan, from God’s handiwork, N. Because our Lord has graciously called him (her) to His holy sanctuary, where he (she) will become a dwelling place for the living God, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world and the dead and the world by fire. All: Amen.

You see the difference!

Well, why do I think that the prayers of exorcism — whether from the new rite or the old rite — are a more powerful argument for infant baptism?

When I introduce people to the concept of exorcism in the context of baptism, I explain that exorcism does not only have to do with the really scary stuff like demonic possession. On a more basic and fundamental level, we recognize that when a child is born she does not yet have God’s grace in her soul. Rather, she has the stain of original sin, with all of its consequences. Baptism washes that stain away and fills the soul with God’s grace, establishing a living bond between God and the precious child.

The devil is the prince of this world, and so whatever in it does not belong to God, in some way belongs to him: he has a claim over it. What exorcism does is to remove that person or thing from the devil’s sphere; it claims it spiritually for God. (This is also why we should avail ourselves of the many blessings the Church offers for persons and things.) The Church uses exorcism in many contexts — for example, in sacramentals, like holy water and blessed salt. In baptism, exorcism serves the purpose of removing the child from any claims the devil has on her and placing her securely under God’s care. Then, her soul is filled with God’s grace as the water is poured and the prayers are said.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them” (Matthew 19:14). The devil says the same thing – but for his sinister and nefarious purposes. There are so many dangers in our world today for children. The exorcism(s) of baptism is/are a powerful sacramental that helps the baptized stay more firmly in God’s care. Of course, parents and godparents must do their part to guide chidren aright and shield them from evil, also.

Maybe the witness of whole households being baptized in the Acts of the Apostles and other scriptural arguments are not enough for some non-Catholics to seek baptism for their children. Well, what about the fact that the devil is the prince of this world and he therefore has some claim over the non-baptized? The Catholic Church has a beautiful and simple solution for this: a sacramental called exorcism, which is administered in the context of baptism. I wish more people would bring their children for baptism – and would not delay!

With regard to old rite vs. new rite, let me be clear: I will celebrate either, and happily. As a Catholic priest of the Latin Rite it is my duty and honor to provide the sacraments and sacramentals in all of the ways that they are offered within our Rite. I do think the older form is more efficacious and powerful, and I now suggest it quite freely — now that I have learned how to do it and learned more about it myself. But whether baptism is in the old or new, I’m just so happy to be celebrating it, knowing that through my priesthood and ministry, another child has been given over to our loving God!

If you know of any Catholics who have not had their children baptized, urge them to do so — urge them to talk to a priest soon. And if you know non-Catholics who scoff at our practice of infant baptism, maybe show them this little article: it might open their eyes to something that they haven’t thought about — and lead them to re-consider what their own faith teaches.

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Tenth Anniversary

Last month – on June 7 – I celebrated my tenth anniversary of priestly ordination. My parishioners at the Cathedral of St. Paul (and friends from former assignments and beyond) organized a lovely celebration for me. Here is a small sampling of photos:

If you’re interested in seeing more of the great photos one of the parishioners took, a full gallery is online here.

As you see in one of the photos above, I was presented with a spiritual bouquet calendar as a tenth anniversary gift! A parishioner contacted hundreds of people to ensure that at least one — often two — people are praying for me each day from June 7, 2018 until June 7, 2019. Of all the gifts that I received, this was the greatest, and it is my pleasure and duty to pray for those whose names are listed each day. Thank you!

As I look back over these ten years so much has happened – and the time has gone by so quickly. I have been Parochial Vicar at Holy Spirit Parish in Huntsville, where I also became fluent in Spanish as I worked daily with the many Hispanic immigrants. I was religion instructor and later chaplain of St. John Paul II Catholic High School (also in Huntsville). Then the Bishop sent me to study canon law in Rome – three years that were both wonderful and not without their own challenges. When I returned I was first Administrator and then Pastor of two parishes in Birmingham — St. Barnabas and Holy Rosary. And from there, Bishop transferred me to be Rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, in addition to naming me Chancellor of the Diocese and Judge of the Marriage Tribunal.

Along the way I have met so many wonderful people. I have made many mistakes but see the many good things that God has enabled me to do also. Each week I meet young men whom I believe could have a call to the priesthood – and, whenever it seems prudent, I tell them that. I hope that many others will want to follow God’s calling to serve him in this way. The priesthood is a wonderful life for those who are called to it, and I am thankful to God for my call. Please pray with me in gratitude for these years – and that I may serve the Lord and his people more faithfully in the years to come!

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Conga Line Lectors

Have you ever been at a Mass (usually a school Mass) where a line-up of people takes part of the same reading or the intercessions? I guess it’s most often done with the responsorial psalm…

I jokingly refer to this as “conga line reading”. I’ve always felt it was inappropriate and reflective of a misguided sense of needing to have everyone “do something”.

Tonight, while reviewing part of the rules of Mass – i.e., the document known as the General Instruction of the Roman Missal – I was pleasantly surprised by this find:

109. If there are several present who are able to exercise the same ministry, nothing forbids their distributing among themselves and performing different parts of the same ministry or duty. […] However, it is not at all appropriate that several persons divide a single element of the celebration among themselves, e.g., that the same reading be proclaimed by two readers, one after the other, with the exception of the Passion of the Lord. (emphasis mine)

In other words, the sharing of a single psalm, reading, the intercessions, or any other part of the Mass should not be done.

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New Book Recommendation

A really great new book on marriage will be out soon, and I want to encourage you to pre-order it and include it in your summer reading. It is by Dr. David Anders, whom may know from his work on EWTN Radio. He is a noted apologist, theologian, and teacher of the faith. This book combines his personal testimony with Church teaching, while seamlessly weaving in reference to challenges against marriage in our wider culture today.

Full disclosure: I helped review this book for publication.

This book is written for popular consumption (for priests and laity alike), but has real substance. It will inspire and strengthen lay people, married and unmarried; for even if one does not have difficulties in his own relationship, he always meets others who do. I believe that many lay people, in reading this book, will be develop a renewed appreciation for the true meaning of marriage and the grace that God offers to those in sacramental marriage so that they may live out their state in life faithfully until death. One of the great features of the book is that it does so thoroughly address the matter of grace – a topic missing in many contemporary discourses on marriage.

It will also surely be inspirational and helpful for priests, helping them as they approach converts and the marital problems that they often bring – helping them also to “brush up” on certain key concepts connected with marriage, morality, law, and grace.

The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage will be published in June in paperback, and Amazon already has the price discounted. You can also pre-order the Kindle Edition.

I note also that Dr. Anders spoke about his book today on his radio show. (CLICK HERE)

Congratulations to Dr. Anders on such a fine book! I hope it will be a blessing to many.

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Notes on Trinity Sunday

I am grateful to Archbishop Gullickson (whose blog you should read) for posting on Twitter a link to this article with some historical notes on the provenance of Trinity Sunday:

Non Est Authenticum: The Micrologus on the Feast of the Holy Trinity

The article is somewhat scholarly and technical; to summarize, the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity is neither of ancient nor of Roman origin, and several saints, scholars, and other authorities – among them Popes – criticized its introduction into the liturgical calendar as a sort of redundancy.

After all, the entire Mass is Trinitarian in nature; think, for example, of the concluding formula for many of our prayers: “Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” Think also of the conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer: “Through him [Christ], and with him, and in him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, for ever and ever. Amen.” Recall the conclusion of the Gloria: “…you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.”

The redundancy, so to speak, of this feast is even more evident when you consider another feature of liturgy – that is, of the liturgy of the Extraordinary Form: the Preface of the Holy Trinity (reproduced in English below) was used on many Sundays and weekdays throughout the year. In short, folks were used to hearing the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity in clear and compact distillation on a regular basis.

That extremely beautiful preface, in the newer form of the Mass, has been relegated to just this one Sunday of the year now. In this regard, it makes more sense now than before to have a specific feast dedicated to the Holy Trinity, to give this dogma greater emphasis and give us greater cause to reflect on it, since we no longer have the benefit of meditating on a very theologically-dense preface frequently throughout the year (though, those who attend the Extraordinary Form still do). Here is that preface:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit
you are one God, one Lord:
not in the unity of a single person,
but in a Trinity of one substance.
For what you have revealed to us of your glory
we believe equally of your Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
so that, in the confessing of the true and eternal Godhead,
you might be adored in what is proper to each Person,
their unity in substance,
and their equality in majesty.
For this is praised by Angels and Archangels,
Cherubim, too, and Seraphim,
who never cease to cry out each day,
as with one voice they acclaim…

A great product of the “mutual enrichment” of the two liturgical forms that Pope Benedict XVI foresaw taking place might be a permission given to let us use this preface on ferial days through the year (i.e., of Ordinary Time), among the various options provided for the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

There are many jokes and laments on this feast day about the heretical homilies that so many end up hearing, as priests and deacons strive to teach on this dense subject (or some, I suppose, just “phone it in” and repeat pious old stories that are in fact heretical); perhaps if we all had more frequent opportunities to contemplate this sacred mystery liturgically, we might not be so prone to the errors that are now so common!

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BLESS me, Father…

It occurred to me today to ask other priests this question (in the event that there may be some priests among my readership): when the penitent says to you, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…”, do you actually give them a blessing?

I think of all the times I’ve been to confession, where the priest did nothing at that moment. Not the end of the world, to be sure – but in light of my last post about blessings, I think it could help…

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For Priests: Blessings in the Communion Line

There have been plenty of discussions online and elsewhere about whether blessings should be given in the communion line to those who are not receiving for one reason or another. I do not intend to address that concern here. My decision has been to give blessings in Ordinary Form Masses to those who approach with arms crossed over their chest or who otherwise indicate that they are not receiving communion.

What I do intend to address here is a little insight I had about the intention that I should possibly have when giving these blessings. This may be of interest to other priests (and deacons and seminarians).

Recently I had occasion to brush up a little on the theology of sacramentals. Blessings are one of the sacramentals of the Church. Blessings also come in many different forms and can be given to persons, objects, and places. Here is a basic introduction to what sacramentals are, on the EWTN web site.

One aspect of the theology of sacramentals is that they obtain actual graces from God for the recipient (in the case of a blessing) or those who use them (e.g., praying with a blessed rosary, which is a sacramental, vs. praying with one that is not blessed). “Actual grace” is divine help to cause us to grow in sanctifying grace or to get back in it if we have lost it through mortal sin.

The efficacy of sacramentals depends in part upon the disposition of both the minister and the recipient. If the priest himself is in the state of grace, is recollected and prayerful (as opposed to doing things in a mechanistic and rote way), and so forth, then the sacramental that he celebrates will be more fruitful for its recipient(s). If the recipient, for his or her part, is disposed to receive the graces that come through that sacramental, then it will be more effiicacious for him or her also.

And here is where I had my insight: by blessing people who approach me in the communion line, they stand to receive actual graces from that blessing. I should therefore form the intention that in giving such blessings, I desire that God give the recipients the particular actual graces of conversion and salvation that they need. It’s very easy for a priest just to give a blessing without thinking about why he is given it: we’re asked to give blessings all the time, and in the communion line, especially, with the rapid-fire succession of people, one can become mechanistic in what one does.

Therefore, priests and deacons might form the following virtual intention or similar: In blessing those who approach me in the communion line, I ask that God grant them the graces needed to be rightly disposed to receive Holy Communion fruitfully and worthily in the future, whether that be through the resolution of a marriage situation, a lifestyle change, victory over sin, better preparation for Mass, or any other reason.

Most priests have seen how those who come up for blessings often appear to have a willingness and openness to receive that divine assistance. Through the sincere smiles, the peaceful countenance, and other body language that we see, it is clear that many people deeply appreciate this gift. And given our theology of sacramentals, that willingness and openness stand to help them in fact to receive a benefit. But the disposition of the minister matters: the intention that we bring to it – I think! – can help.

A disclaimer: we should, of course, never assume that someone who goes for a blessing needs to go to confession. They might not have kept the Eucharistic fast. They might not be feeling very well. They might have been very distracted during Mass and feel like they are not ready to make a sacramental communion. They might have an unresolved dispute with a loved one and do not feel they can make a sincere communion. There are many possible reasons why someone might not receive; we should not make assumptions!

Perhaps ordained ministers who form the above virtual intention may never have knowledge in this life of how it made their blessings more efficacious and fruitful for those who approached in the communion line. But we will find out in heaven. And, I think, we should form this intention, for we know that God hears the prayers of his ministers, that God likes our prayers to be specific, and that the Church’s sacramentals are powerful means of actual grace, intended to help us participate more fruitfully in the sacraments.

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