Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: This question is about the “Benedictiones Propriae” that are found in the Rituale Romanum. Can such blessings, reserved to priests belonging to certain religious orders, be validly imparted by any Catholic priest or only by the priests of the specific religious order? I ask this in the light of the instruction “Universae Ecclesiae,” especially No. 28. — A.C., Italy
A: The instruction “Universae Ecclesiae” further clarifies Pope Benedict XVI’s “Summorum Pontificum.”
This document states:
“27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies.
“28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.”
Our reader’s query refers above all to the 1964 instruction “Inter Oecumenici.” To wit:
“77. The blessings in the Rituale Romanum tit. IX, cap. 9, 10, 11, hitherto reserved, may be given by any priest, except for: the blessing of a bell for the use of a blessed church or oratory (cap. 9, no. 11); the blessing of the cornerstone of a church (cap. 9, no. 16); the blessing of a new church or public oratory (cap. 9, no. 17); the blessing of an antemensium (cap. 9, no. 21); the blessing of a new cemetery (cap. 9, no. 22); papal blessings (cap. 10, nos. 1-3); the blessing and erection of the stations of the cross (cap. 11, no. 1) reserved to the bishop.”
Both documents were approved by a Pope and have similar legal authority. However, “Universae Ecclesiae” speaks about a derogation from posterior laws incompatible with the rubrics of the earlier liturgical books, such as receiving Communion in the hand or the use of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
However, the abolition of these reserved blessings would not appear to fall into this category, as they would not be incompatible with the rubrics as such. In fact, what is abolished was a kind of privilege or favor granted to the priests of certain congregations.
After “Inter Oecumenici,” any priest could, and still can, impart any of these blessings in any language. It would not make legal sense that a priest could impart a blessing in English and not be able to impart the same blessing in Latin using the pre-1962 formulas.
These reserved blessings were principally:
Reserved to the Order of Servites: Blessing and erecting stations of the Sorrowful Mother in honor of Our Lady of the Seven Dolors; blessing and investiture with the black scapular of Our Lady of Sorrows; blessing of the rosary of the Seven Sorrows
Reserved to the Order of the Holy Trinity for the Ransoming of Captives: Blessing and investiture with scapular of Blessed Trinity; blessing of the rosary or Trisagion of the Most Holy Trinity
Reserved to the Congregation of Passionists: Blessing and investiture with the black scapular of Our Lord’s Sacred Cross and Passion
Reserved to the Congregation of the Missions: Blessing and investiture with the red scapular of Our Lord’s Passion and Sacred Heart, and of the Immaculate Virgin’s Loving and Compassionate Heart
Reserved to the Theatines, Clerks Regular: Blessing and investiture with the blue scapular of the Immaculate Virgin Mary
Reserved to the Order of Discalced Carmelites: Blessing and investiture with scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; blessing of water in honor of St. Albert, Confessor
Reserved to the Order of Carmelites: Blessing of the rosary of St. Joseph; blessing of the Ring of St. Joseph
Reserved to the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for Ransoming Captives: Blessing and investiture with scapular of Our Lady of Ransom; blessing of water for the sick in honor of St. Raymond Nonnatus; blessing of candles in honor of St. Raymond Nonnatus; blessing of oil in honor of St. Serapion, Martyr
Reserved to Clerks Regular for Care of the Sick: Blessing and investiture with scapular of Our Lady, Health of the Sick
Reserved to the Hermits of St. Augustine: Blessing and investiture with scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel; blessing and investiture with the cincture in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reserved to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin: Blessing and investiture with scapular of St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary and Patron of the Universal Church
Reserved to the Order of Minims: Blessing and investiture with wool cincture in honor of St. Francis of Paola
Reserved to the Order of Preachers: blessing of cinctures in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas for preservation of chastity; blessing of rosaries of Our Lady; blessing of roses for the Society of the Rosary; blessing of candles for Rosary Society; blessing of water with the relics of St. Peter the Martyr; blessing of palms or other foliage on the feast of St. Peter the Martyr; blessing of water for the sick in honor of St. Vincent Ferrer.
Reserved to the Congregation of the Missions: Blessing and investiture with sacred medal of Mary Immaculate, commonly known as the Miraculous Medal; blessing of water for the sick in honor of St. Vincent de Paul
Reserved to the Order of Camaldolese: Blessing of the rosary of Our Lord
Reserved to the Congregation of Missionaries of the Precious Blood: Blessing of rosaries of the Precious Blood
Reserved to the Order of the Holy Savior: Blessing of rosaries of St. Bridget
Reserved to the Order of St. Benedict: Blessing of the sick with relic of True Cross or the Sign of St. Maurus the Abbot
Reserved to the Society of Jesus: Blessing of water in honor of St. Ignatius, Confessor
Many of these blessings are still practically, albeit not legally, reserved to members of these congregations as they are closely associated with their history or spirituality. Others, however, are widely used by devout Catholics, and it is good that any priest can impart these blessings.
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Readers may send questions to [email protected]. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.