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Bring back Benediction!

The regular celebration of Benediction would help recover reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament

By on Monday, 3 December 2012

Benedict XVI leading Benediction of the Eucharist after a Corpus Christi procession (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI leading Benediction of the Eucharist after a Corpus Christi procession (Photo: CNS)

I have just been re-reading Sacrosanctum Concilium, which is the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and the first document that the Second Vatican Council produced. It is online at the Vatican website, here.

Re-reading the document has been an eye-opening experience in many ways. A great deal of it is long-winded and verbose. The style must come from the way it was written, that is to say not by one person but by several, and at some junctures you can see the joins, where competing versions have been put together in the hope of not sounding contradictory. One of the most obvious examples of this is where it says the following:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighbouring regions which have the same language.

If you read that carefully, you will see that it is not really as clear as it might be. Latin is to be preserved, but the use of vernacular is to be expanded; the vernacular can only be expanded at the expense of Latin, though. So the above, to me at least, reads like a fudge.

But I particularly like this paragraph:

100. Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.

To that end I have ordered and received delivery of, in time for Advent, a set of office books, so now we can have Vespers on a Sunday, with Benediction. With regard to the latter, the following surely applies:

13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.

It strikes me that we have all long lamented the lack of respect shown to the Blessed Sacrament in recent years and the great falling off in reverence and a sense of the transcendent in general. The late Cardinal Hume said as much shortly before he died. But what can we do about it? Certainly we can preach about it and talk about it, and even write about it: but the best thing of all is action, and the regular celebration of Benediction must be a step in the right direction.

As a youth, I always preferred Benediction to Mass, perhaps because the former took place in the evening, when the soul is more receptive to the idea of the majesty of God. Perhaps the singing was better then too. Perhaps I liked Benediction because it was short, a mere 15 minutes. Perhaps it was the incense, and the splendour of the vestments. Whichever way, there was something about it that raised the heart and mind to God, which is good for a teenage boy, indeed good for anyone of any age.

Isn’t it time Benediction was brought back (not that it has ever gone away), so that all youngsters can have a chance to experience what I experienced?

  • sclerotic

    And he took bread, blessed broke and gave it to them saying, take this all of you and waive it around a bit . . . . 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Benediction brought back? Of course yes. 

    But it never left that part of the Church which has always remained faithful to the Old Mass and to an authentic Catholic mentality and culture. 

  • PauloVI

    Yes, but Exposition is back, sometimes as in my parish the sacristan does it, she takes the B Sacrament out of the tabernacle, puts in a monstrance and leaves it on the altar between just two candles.
    There is no reverence, maybe a head nod, because she can’t genuflect, no vestments, normally she is wearing her pinney because she is doing the candles and flowers, so she doesn’t stop to pray, invariably there is no-one in the Church for the first 10 minutes or so.

    Benediction, yes, but according to the old books rather than the sad minimalism of the present Rite, 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Couldn’t agree more. 

    And let’s get back immediately to the priest or a deacon AND NO-ONE ELSE touching the Consecrated Host. 

  • teigitur

    It would be lovely to have it back. There was a time most Churches had evening Benediction. Now very, very few do. There little point in quoting V2 documents. The Bishops of the world more or less ignored them, and continue to do so.

  • Rizzo The Bear

    Back in the day, the last thing we did in the school week on Friday was to file into the church for Benediction!

    Beautiful. Priceless. 

    The Holy Rosary AND Benediction with the Divine Praises. 

    Bring them on!

  • scary goat

    We have Exposition and Benediction every Saturday in our parish.  In Latin too.   And with a priest (or sometimes a deacon).  Always have done, as long as I have been in that parish. It’s lovely.  I love Exposition.

  • Patrickhowes

    Father,marvellous to see you backing traditional Catholic practice.But if were want a dose of cocaine or marijuana,do we pick up this in the presbetryr afterwards?

  • Kevin

    Paragraph 36.2 above is what Michael Davies would probably have called one of the “time bombs” of the Vatican II documents: that is, a “fudge”, as you call it, that was used to effect a liturgical revolution.

  • Sdlukac

    In the Chiswick church of Our lady of Grace and St. Edward, we regularly have exposition and there are always people making their devotional visit. 

  • Helen

    I converted two years ago and last night was the first time our church held Benediction. I went along out of curiosity and was very moved. Everything you say about this is so true; lovely singing, beautiful atmosphere and a chance to pray and worship in a simple quiet way. A very spiritual experience and I would definitely take my children along if we get another chance.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

    It would be very welcome in one of my local churches where the congregation often do not genuflect before entering the pew and equally commonly sit after Communion.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

    That isn’t Benediction. Why has no one had a word with the priest?

  • Deodatus

    As a new Catholic, I am surprised there are parishes which do not offer Benediction.  Is not Benediction the deepest of expression of Transubstantiation and Living Presence, central to the Catholic Faith?

  • gabriel_syme

    To give an example of how bad things are, I am 34, (born 1978), and I dont even know what Benediction is.

    Is it like a short service at the start of Adoration?  Kinda embarassing for us all to have to ask, eh?

    Regarding loss of reverance form the blessed sacrament, this will not ever be recovered until it is again the norm to take communion kneeing (and not in the hand).

    Only the ordained should handle the sacred species.  We should not have extraordinary ministers.  If it takes half an hour to give out communion, then it takes half an hour.  No biggie.

    I find that, if you ask people – clergy or layity – about communion, they are first keen to talk about their personal preference for receving or dispensing the sacrament, based on their own comfort / sensibilities.  They never talk about this is our belief / this is what the sacrament means to us.

    The focus is entirely the wrong place – personal comfort – and things will not improve until people stop putting themselves first.

  • ConfusedofChi

     “We should not have extraordinary ministers”, sorry disagree!!
    However those ministers so commissioned SHOULD have an understand of the Eucharist and show due respect.  Some are so blasé about the Eucharist that…………………………………

  • Rizzo The Bear

    Hear, hear! 

    Oh, man! Your post cheered my heart up as much as it moved me. Thank you for your post.
    First of all, gabriel_syme, it is not your fault you had to ask what Benediction is. 

    Do you know whose fault it is? 

    It is the dereliction of duty on the part of your RE teachers – and RE education was pretty dire when I was at school in the 1970′s. 

    I’m certain that there are many children who would love to be involved in celebrating Holy Mass and learn about their faith. Unfortunately, in some cases, their parents can’t be bothered to walk the few yards down to Mass with their children. Oh, what deprivation of good, nourishing spiritual food! It is painful to witness and to listen to my own priest tell me his observations.

    Luckily for me, my family taught me prayers (including the Holy Rosary), brought my sister and I with them to Mass whatever the weather, health problems and other difficulties we faced relentlessly. Also, though we were poor, we read several Catholic papers, books and magazines like the Sacred Heart Messenger, St Martin’s Magazine etc. etc. and, to this day, the part of my life never left me nor do I want it to.Spiritual food as well as food in the fridge and cupboard.Some teachers were amazed that I managed to pass my RE exams. I wasn’t that amazed because I drew from the investment my parents and grandparents made in good reading material. Don’t ever be afraid to talk to your priest about these things. He is your pastor, after all. 

  • Deborah33

    “I always preferred Benediction to Mass, perhaps because the former took place in the evening, when the soul is more receptive..” Me too!  I began yearning for Benediction as I read this.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Gabriel Syme:

    The embarrassment is not yours at all, but properly belongs to the protestantized Bishops and priests who have destroyed our centuries-old modes of worship. 

    Look for Benediction on the internet, you will soon find it in its pre-Vatican II (i.e, unadulterated) form. 

    Part of Benediction was (for us when I was little) the recitation of the Divine Praises. I make these my morning and evening prayer now, in fact it’s only very recently that I’ve done so. They go like this:

    The Divine Praises

    Blessed be God.
    Blessed be His Holy Name.
    Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
    Blessed be the name of Jesus.
    Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
    Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
    Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
    Blessed be the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete.
    Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
    Blessed be Her Holy and Immaculate Conception.
    Blessed be Her Glorious Assumption.
    Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
    Blessed be Saint Joseph, her spouse most chaste.
    Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints. 

    May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Gabriel Syme:

    The embarrassment is not yours at all, but properly belongs to the protestantized Bishops and priests who have destroyed our centuries-old modes of worship. 

    Look for Benediction on the internet, you will soon find it in its pre-Vatican II (i.e, unadulterated) form. 

    Part of Benediction was (for us when I was little) the recitation of the Divine Praises. I make these my morning and evening prayer now, in fact it’s only very recently that I’ve done so. They go like this:

    The Divine Praises

    Blessed be God.
    Blessed be His Holy Name.
    Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
    Blessed be the name of Jesus.
    Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
    Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
    Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
    Blessed be the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete.
    Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
    Blessed be Her Holy and Immaculate Conception.
    Blessed be Her Glorious Assumption.
    Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
    Blessed be Saint Joseph, her spouse most chaste.
    Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints. 

    May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Gabreil, just another swift note re Benediction. 

    It’s usual when entering a church before Benediction, with the Blessed Sacrament already exposed on the altar in the Monstrance (the article held up by the Pope in the photo above), to genuflect in the following manner: go down on both knees and bow deeply. This is also the way to genuflect when leaving the church after Benediction.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Gabreil, just another swift note re Benediction. 

    It’s usual when entering a church before Benediction, with the Blessed Sacrament already exposed on the altar in the Monstrance (the article held up by the Pope in the photo above), to genuflect in the following manner: go down on both knees and bow deeply. This is also the way to genuflect when leaving the church after Benediction.

  • Sweetjae

    Nonsense, catholics would rather believe in the Popes (5), Magisterium,CCC, legit Council that any man. Period.

  • Sweetjae

    Early christians, saints and martyrs during the Apostolic age received the Holy Host on their hands. Reverence is more what is inside one’s heart.

  • teigitur

    I wish I lived in a Parish like yours!

  • mally el

    Benediction followed by a Eucharistic service would be excellent. Venerating our Redeemer and then uniting with the Lord in Holy Communion!

  • Fr Gerard

    I have always celebrated Benediction in the parishes I have been in, including the prison in which I now work. I wasn’t aware it had ever gone away. I am 48 years old have been a priest for 21 years, Benediction was always celebrated in my home parish and in the parishes that I otherwise lived in. Could this be a regional issue as, being from Lancashire, I am not aware of it being a widespread issue?

  • ZhongGuoTomg

    I became a convert to Catholicism back in 1956.  The Mass was a fine and powerful act but Saturday night’s Benediction in the small country town I was in was just wonderful.  It was ‘picture’ night in that town and everyone after Benediction rushed off to the ‘pictures’.  They were fine but, ah, how I loved Benediction.  For me, that was the high point of Saturdays.  The Mass gave me the foundation of the Church but Benediction gave me the flavour and possibilities of Catholic life. 

    How I miss it – but, then, how I miss the Catholic Church of that time, the Church that I thought was worth all the pain of converting to.  I’m not so sure I’d have bothered with today’s Brand X Catholicism.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

    Lucky you! Pray that the rest of us may have it some day soon.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Good for you Father. You are one of a minority.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    You are quite right Kevin. This indeed was one of the Vatican II “time-bombs” that was used to eviscerate our worship and our faith after the Council.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    But we aren’t “early Christians”, are we? The Church is not a historical re-enactment society.

  • scary goat

     I will :)  I always make praying for the Holy Father and the Church my first priority when I pray the Rosary. 

    Just a little aside, which doesn’t have much to do with the article as such, but it is relevant to things improving generally……apparently they had priests available in school yesterday for Advent confessions, my daughter told me.  And we are in one of the apparently more “liberal” dioceses. 

  • Solante777

    Bring back benediction!  Amen, Amen, and Amen!