Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: A few weeks ago, in a Sunday Mass, the priest asked the congregation to leave the church and go outside in order to bless a motorcycle. Then he gave us the final blessing. Many people got angry. I know he can bless a motorcycle. My question is, can he do that during the holy Mass? – A.A., Luque, Paraguay
A: I would say that the priest went too far in involving the entire congregation in an evocative blessing, and it should not have been done within Mass.
The General Introduction to the Book of Blessings has:
“28. Because some blessings have a special relationship to the sacraments, they may sometimes be joined with the celebration of Mass.
“This book specifies which such blessings are and the part or rite with which they are to be joined; it also provides ritual norms that may not be disregarded. No blessings except those so specified may be joined with the eucharistic celebration.”
Later in the Book of Blessing when we come to the Order for the Blessing of the Various Means of Transportation (both chapter and paragraph numbers vary in the different editions), we find that there is no mention whatsoever of uniting this blessing with Mass.
Rather, it emphasizes their social purpose. “Such means of transportation include highways, streets, bridges, railroads harbors, all types of motor vehicle, ships and aircraft.”
The introduction to the Ordo continues:
“Since all of them require respect for social responsibility, a blessing provides an opportunity to praise God for giving us such benefits and to pray for the safety of those who use them.”
The minister for this blessing is a priest, deacon or a layperson who, in this case, uses special formulas.
The closest the Book of Blessings comes to the church building is a mention that on some fixed occasions there is the chance “to present automobiles or other means of transportation at a church, in order to ask for a blessing as a pledge of God’s protection during travel.” Even on such occasions there is no mention of joining the celebration to Mass, although the blessing could certainly be celebrated before or after Mass.
While all blessings may take a community form, the rite actually insists on this form for the blessings of bridges streets, railroads and similar means, since they have “reference to the community in whose interest it has been provided. Therefore the blessing is not to be celebrated without the presence of the community or at least its representatives.”
Therefore, in the case at hand it is an error on the part of the priest to impart a blessing not foreseen as being eligible to be united to Mass. It was an error to interrupt the Mass and leave the church to do so and to give the final blessing outside of the church.
He should have finished the Mass and then celebrated the blessing. He could certainly have invited the faithful to participate if they wished.
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LITURGY Q & A: Blessing a Motorcycle Within a Mass
Outside What Is Permitted