Blessings and Such

Rome promotes the image of a monolithic religion. How often have we seen the fictional unity of the Roman Catholic Church flaunted in comparison to those fantasy "Protestant denominations" Catholic apologists so like to refer to? Certainly the RCC, being a long-standing bureaucracy, has a multitude of quite specific dogmas, rules and disciplines to govern the beliefs, worship and daily lives of those under her control. Interestingly, many of these controls appear to be more honored in violation than in compliance. Fortunately, the ever-flexible Vatican cult has provided escape clauses to protect her wayward children. One such escape clause is found in this logion from the official catechism:

1782. Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. 'He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.'[DH 3 # 2.] --Catechism of the Catholic Church, (C) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc

Reading this, I understand that, even in matters of dogma and worship, a dissenting Catholic may escape the terrible wrath of the Roman cult by appealing to the rule of conscience. Given the invincible intransigence of the Romish hierarchy, I can but wonder at the difficulty those who refuse to assent to the Vatican's dogmas and practices in all things have convincing their judges in the Curia that they are guided by conscience. I suppose we could ask the Old Catholics, the Feeneyites and others to whom Rome has denied the relief this paragraph seems to provide. How sad that we cannot ask the Albigenses, Huguenots and others who, over the centuries dared to resist RCC domination and mind control.

When you get right down to it, an honest look at actual practice clearly shows that many religious and lay Catholics exercise freedom of conscience in both their Catholic beliefs and religious practice that seems to border on anarchy. Take the matter of blessings, for example.

When dealing with matters Catholic, it is vitally important to have a clear understanding of the meanings assigned to terms. One respected Catholic dictionary defines the term thusly:

BLESSING. A rite by which the Church dedicates persons, places or things to a sacred purpose, or attaches to them a spiritual value, without consecration--Donald Attwater, Ed., A Catholic Dictionary, (c) 1942 The MacMillan Company w/Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur

Well, that seems straightforward enough and somewhat in line with the Old Testament teaching on blessings and consecration, but is that all a blessing is? Another Catholic dictionary tells us that a blessing is a:

Ritual in which the right hand is raised and usually the Sign of the Cross is made over the person or thing, invoking God's favor or intervention upon the one blessed...In the Scriptures, blessings express God's generosity, favor, and unshakable love for His children...in the O.T., blessing is linked to reconciliation, fertility, and fruitfulness; inheritance is rooted in paternal blessing. In the N.T., Jesus blesses the food He multiplies...and the bread and wine that will become the Eucharist..."--Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ed., Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Dictionary, (C) 1993 Our Sunday Visitor, Inc

Were it not for the parts about ritual, right hand, Sign of the Cross and Eucharist, I would be able to accept this definition of blessing without reservation. This is a wonderful example of how Rome weaves her lies and paganism into the fabric of biblical truth. How often I have read and observed that the most effective lies are those that contain a lot of truth. Perhaps a more biblical definition can be found in some other Catholic reference:

In a scriptural sense, blessing is always opposed to cursing and means placing a thing or person under the favor of God, dedicating or giving something or someone to God...--Robert C. Broderick, Ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, (C) 1987 Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 77; w/Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur

Now THAT is a clear, concise and biblically accurate definition of what a blessing is. How unfortunate that this source then continues by adding a Catholic twist:

In its liturgical meaning it is the ceremony and prayer by which an authorized cleric sanctifies persons or things or invokes God's favor upon them. The ceremony includes the naming of the object and the signing of the cross over it. This latter may be accompanied with a sprinkling of holy water or anointing with holy oils.--Ibid.

I invite the reader to observe that three distinct Catholic sources, edited by Catholic priests/theologians and declared by ecclesiastical authority to be free of doctrinal error, provide three somewhat different definitions for blessing. Should one consider each of those sources to be a distinct denomination under the Catholic umbrella? Certainly, some of those 28,000 Protestant denominations Catholic apologists crow over are separated by theological understandings no greater than these. But that is something for another article.

In the RCC scheme of things, blessings are important -- can even be sacramentals. As with just about everything the Roman Church declares to be important in the spiritual lives of those whom she has enslaved, the flow of blessing is primarily controlled by the priesthood, as is the very process of bestowing blessings.

1669. Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a 'blessing,' and to bless.[Cf. Gen 12:2 ; Lk 6:28 ; Rom 12:14 ; 1 Pet 3:9 .] Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).[Cf. SC 79; CIC, can. 1168; De Ben 16, 18.]--CCC, Op. cit

Any priest may give blessings, except those reserved to pope or bishop, and non-Catholics are capable of receiving them with certain exceptions. No blessing is valid unless the prescribed formula is used.;--Attwater, Op. cit

To some who have not submitted their minds to RCC control, I suspect the above definitions might seem reminiscent of pagan ritual. Certainly they do to me. Be honest. Don't those definitions evoke images of some pagan shaman or voodoo priestess casting a spell or invoking some demon spirit? Who hasn't watched such scenes in a dozen B movies?

Catholic priests and laymen seem to have a formula prayer and/or ritual to cover blessing just about anything you can think of:

The chief blessings in use in the Church are: (a) of persons: an abbot, bride and bridegroom, dying person, woman before and after childbirth, children, people in general; (b) of places: a church, oratory, cemetery, house; (c) of things: baptismal water, bells, holy oils, vestments, altar linen, images. Among the numerous special blessings contained in the "Rituale Romanum" are those for a new house, a bedroom, a ship, pilgrims, food, gold, incense and myrrh and chalk at the Epiphany, metal for bells, a school-house, a railway, a bridge, a child, bees, sick animals and others proper to religious orders or dioceses, e.g., of a bonfire on St, John's eve (Tarbes).--Attwater, Op. cit

Most of those objects for blessing seem reasonable, Certainly one can understand invoking God's favor for brides, grooms, children and those who give their lives to religious service. Similarly, it seems not unusual to consecrate a church, a home or even a cemetery to God's service. Things do seem to get weird when one speaks of consecrating chalk, gold and bonfires to God, seems a lot like making offerings or sacrifices on pagan altars.

Blessings are closely related to the popular RCC fiction concerning indulgences. I don't fully understand the full nature of this relationship, which at times seems tenuous and at other times seems inseparable. At this point, it might be well to establish what Catholicism understands an indulgence to be.

1471. The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance. 'An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.'[Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1.]

An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.'[Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; Cf. Norm 3.] Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead."--CCC, Op. cit

OK. Now we know what an indulgence is and we know what a blessing is, but how are the two linked? I haven't figured out how long a blessing given to a person or critter endures, but one source makes clear that some objects might retain their blessings and indulgences virtually forever, under certain conditions.

Pious objects blessed and indulgenced do not lose the blessing or indulgences by being broken and repaired, or by being lent to others, but only by being totally destroyed or sold.--Attwater, Op. cit

This information, as so often is the case when Catholic sources define terms, generates more questions than answers. For example, one might ask just what distinguishes a pious object from a normal object. I imagine an altar cloth would be considered a pious object, but what about stuff like wine or lard or salt? One might imagine that wine consecrated for use in Catholic worship might be considered a pious object, but what about wine intended to be consumed at home? One online Catholic prayerbook offers a quite large list of prayers, devotions and liturgical blessings of interest to those living on the countryside. Among these is a Blessing of Wine of the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist:

On the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, at the end of the principal Mass, that is, after the last Gospel, the priest, retaining all his vestments except the maniple, in the following manner blesses wine brought by the people in memory and in honor of Saint John, who drank poison without harm:--Alban J. Dachauer, The Rural Life Prayerbook, (C) 1956 National Catholic Rural Life Conference ; w/Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur)

Blessing wine to be used in Catholic worship can be understood in the context of religiosity, but this blessing seems more like some pagan rite casting a spell to ward off evil and protect those who drink the wine from being poisoned. That this is so may be seen in the prayer of the priest after the principle Mass of the day as he blesses the wine brought by parishioners:

Let us pray.

Be so kind as to bless and consecrate with Your right hand, Lord, this cup of wine, and every drink. Grant that by the merits of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist, all who believe in You and drink of this cup may be blessed and protected. Blessed John drank poison from the cup, and was in no way harmed. So, too, may all who this day drink from this cup in honor of blessed John, by his merits, be freed from every sickness by poisoning and from any harms whatever. And, when they have offered themselves in both soul and body, may they be freed, too, from every fault, through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.-- Ibid.

And what about critters? Certainly chickens, bees and horses cannot be considered pious objects, or can they? In any case, another Catholic source simplifies the question a bit by eliminating the modifier:

Once an object is blessed the blessing is lost only if the object is sold or totally destroyed.--Albert J. Nevins, Ed., The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary, 1965 The Maryknoll Fathers; w/Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur)

Let's say Farmer Jones, a pious Catholic, brings old Dobbin to church on the Feast Day of St. Francis and has it blessed by the parish priest. After a few years, the horse dies. Jones is a sentimental guy and cannot bring himself to sell Dobbin's lifeless corpse to a glue factory, so he buries the animal on a back lot.

In that Farmer Jones did not sell Dobbin's body after the beast died, one might assume -- on the basis of the above definition -- that when it was buried it retained that blessing bestowed by the parish priest some years previously. Over the course of a few months creatures and acids in the soil would consume or convert Dobbin's flesh. However, the hooves, hair and bones might endure for years, perhaps centuries or even millennia, should the bones become fossilized. Does the blessing endure then? If not, at what point does it cease?

Some might argue that the above is not a good case in point; that a horse, even a horse that has been blessed, is not an object. Okay. Let's look at something else. How about a bit of gold, a religious medal let us say, that has been properly blessed by a priest? The pious owner of the blessed gold medal has it fashioned into a pendant and wears it on a necklace until the day he dies. At his death, all the person's worldly goods, including the blessed medal, pass to his sole surviving son, who happens to be a Buddhist. The son donates the medal to the monks at the temple where he worships and they beat the blessed gold into fine gold leaf, which they use to decorate a statue of the Buddha in their temple. In this case, the form of the blessed gold was altered but the gold itself was not completely destroyed. The blessed gold was not sold but was given as an offering to adorn an idol of a pagan god. Is the blessing still in effect?

At first blush, the above examples might seem extreme, but after honest reflection should be recognized as valid. How many blessed pets and farm animals have died over the centuries the RCC has been blessing critters? How many churches and Catholic homes have been plundered by marauding armies and thieves? How simple a matter for blessed objects to be put to non-Catholic use.

It is precisely this type conundrum that often causes me to question whether those who invent Roman Catholic dogmas and doctrines really take time to think through what they are proposing. This illustrates a fundamental weakness of manmade religion: half-baked teachings and practices that are incompletely thought out.

Look to the Bible for God's truth.

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