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Anonymous wrote:

Hi guys,

I fully embrace the authority and honor of the Priest and Deacon alone to officially bless people and things.

  • What practical guidelines can lay persons use when blessing their families, homes, etc.?
  • What should they avoid doing?
  • How should they bless their own families?

I understand that pets are things but they are creatures of God.

  • Is it alright to love and pray for family pets or animals, even though the love animals give might be complex behavioral responses?

The love and warmth and joy they bring are ultimately from God and a reflection of His goodness.

  • Am I wrong or misguided about this?

Thank-you so much!

Anonymous

  { What guidelines can lay persons use when blessing their families and is it OK to love your pets? }

Fr. Francis replied:

Dear Friend in Christ Jesus,

First, you are very welcome to our humble Catholic site! We are glad you asked your great questions which are not misguided at all but quite on target!

In response to your question concerning blessings by lay people the short answer is this:

Yes, you can bless and ask for blessings; not only that but you are actually encouraged to do so!

The bishop and priest, as you are aware, give the blessing at the end of Mass. This blessing, as in all blessings bishops and priests give, are a formal extension, if I may use that wording, of the great Blessing (Todah-Berakah) which they celebrate at each Mass — which we call the Eucharistic Prayer. The deacon in turn has the ability to bless certain sacramentals in his ministry of service to the Church.

The laity however, as baptized, confirmed members of the Church are united to and participate in Christ's threefold work (or office) of prophet, priest and king, specific to their calling. As a priestly people [and not ministerial priests] they are ordered [in the sense of connected] to worship of our Blessed Triune God and assist in the sanctification of the world.

This might sound heavy so let's give some practical examples. We have always encouraged the faithful to:

  • make the Sign of the Cross
  • use of Holy Water
  • pray morning and evening prayers
  • say the Morning Offering, and
  • say the blessing before and after meals.

Well the good news is this — there are many other opportunities as well. Parents blessing their children is an ancient tradition that needs to be renewed. When?

  • In the morning before they or you part
  • at night as they go to bed, and
  • any other major event in their lives or special occasions of the family!
  • What do you need?

A prayerful heart and your finger, to make the Sign of the Cross on their forehead, and perhaps even some holy water — especially if they are sick [here I am speaking about little stuff like even colds, etc.] If they are very, very sick they, like us, need the sacrament of the sick.

  • See how this works?

There are blessings of:

  • birthdays
  • anniversaries (of any major event which is good)
  • remembering the dead relatives and friends
  • going to cemeteries
  • blessings of Christmas trees or manger scenes
  • the Epiphany blessing of homes [another page] by laity with chalk and holy water over the front door [beginning with, for example, 20 then the letters MGB for Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar (the traditional names of the three Wise men) then the numbers 07].

These are but a few of many. All can be found in a book by the National Bishops Conference:

Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

Included in this book of Household Blessings are blessings of pets. Pets are expressions of both God's marvelous power and goodness in creation but also man's dominion over the creatures of this earth in their:

  • domestication
  • naming of them, and
  • our love and care for them.

It is a real exercise in stewardship.

So my friend — bless the Lord at all times and continue His blessing to all the world!

Father Francis

Fr. Nick replied:

Dear Anonymous:

It is perfectly appropriate for people to bless one another and to ask God's blessing upon each other.

When someone sneezes, don't we say — God Bless you!

The Church's Book of Blessings and liturgical books offer provisions for layperson blessings, which omit the use of the sign of the cross over the person or group, and the use of the word I.

A priest would say:

I Bless you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

while making the sign of the cross over the person or group.

A layperson would say:

We ask God's Blessing be with you (us) in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

while making a personal sign of the cross, not one over the person or group.

This is a very simple and brief answer, but I think it gives the basic information.

Fr. Nick

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