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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/671

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BLESSING


601


BLESSING


we use in daily life and particularly in the service of religion, should be rescued from contaminating influences and endowed with a potency for good. The principal liturgical blessings recognized and sanctioned by the Church are contained in the Roman Ritual and the Pontifical. The Missal, besides the blessing given at the end of Mass, contains only those blessings associated vdth the great func- tions incidental to certain days of the year, such as the blessing of palms and ashes. In the Pontifical are found the blessings that are performed de jure by bishops, such as the solemn blessing of persons already referred to, the forms for blessing kings, emperors, and princes at their coronation, and those before mentioned as of episcopal prerogative.

The great treasiuy of ecclesiastical blessings is the Roman Ritual. (1) Formula for blessing persons. First comes a blessing for pilgrims to (he Holy Land, on their departure and return, contain- ing beautiful prayers and apt allusions to the Magi journeying through the Arabian desert under the guidance of the Star, to Abraham leaving his o^\'n country and setting his face towards the distant land of Canaan, to the Angel companion of the younger Tobias, and, finally, an appeal to God to prove to the wayfarers a solace on their journey, a shade from summer heats, a shelter in storm, and a haven of safety. Next follow blessings of persons with Holy Water before Mass, for an adult who is sick, for a number of sick people, one for a woman on the approach of confinement and another after childbirth, blessings for infants, for children come to the use of reason and for those arrived at years of discretion, for children on their presentation in Church, that they may lead good Christian lives, for boys and girls on the Feast of the Holy Infancy that they may grow up to imitate the virtues of the Saviour and reach salvation under His guidance.

(2) Blessings for {kings, (a) In addition to the blessings already mentioned for articles destined for altar purposes, the Roman Ritual has formuliB for blessing crosses, images of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin and saints, church organs, processional banners, new bells for church uses and for other purposes, dress and cinctures worn in honour of Our Lady and of other saints, monstrances, reliciua- ries, vessels for Holy Oils, church ornaments, clerical habits, medals, pictures, and crosses for the Stations, rosaries of all the recognized kinds, water, candles, the Trisagion of the Holy Trinity, the different scapulars of Our Lady, of Our Lord, of the Blessed Trinity, of St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel, and other saints. Most of the objects just enumerated, as, for instance, rosaries and scap- ulars, receive what is called an indulgenced blessing, that is to say, by the pious employment and use of them persons are enabled to gain an indulgence, (b) The following articles of food have benedictions assigned to them: paschal lamb, eggs, oil, wine, lard, cheese, butter, dripping, salt, and water which is used as an antidote to rabies. There is also a form for everything that may be eaten. The fruits of the earth, such as grapes, corn, and the garnered harvest, seeds that are put into the earth, wine and the vintage, herbs and grasses, may all in fitting and appropriate language be "sanctified by the word of God and prayer", (c) The lower animals which minister to the reasonable requirements of the human family may have blessings invoked upon them in order that the measure of their usefulness may be increased. Thus, birds of the air, beasts of the field, bees that afford such examples of industry to man, horses and oxen broken to the yoke, and otlier beasts of burden are included in the formularies of the Ritual. The Creator is invoked to grant to the brute strength and health to bear his burthen and, ii attacked by sickness or plague, to obtain de-


liverance, (d) The Ritual has blessings for houses and schools and for the laying of their foundation stones; for stables for the lower animals and every other building of any description for which no special formula is at hand. There is also a special blessing for the bridal chamber, (e) Lastly, inani- mate tilings that subserve the equitable needs and conveniences of society may receive from the Church the stamp of her benediction before they are sent on their way to do their appointed tasks. Such, for instance, are new ships, new railways with trains and carriages, new bridges, fountains, weils, corn- mills, limekilns, smelting-furnaces, telegraphs, steam engines, machines for producing electricity. The many serious accidents that occur explain the con- cern of the Church for those whose lives are exposed to danger from these various sources.

IV. Efficacy. — The inquiry will be confined to the blessings approved of by the Church. As has been said, the value of a blessing given by a private person in his own name will be commensurate with his acceptableness before God by reason of his individual merits and sanctity. A blessing, on the other hand, imparted with the sanction of the Church has all the weight of authority that attaches to the voice of her who is the well-beloved spouse of Christ, pleading on behalf of her children. The whole efficacy, therefore, of these benedictions, in so far as they are liturgical and ecclesiastical, is derived from the prayers and invocations of the Church made in her name by her ministers. Blessings may be di\'ided into two classes, viz: in vocative and constitutive. The former are those in which the DiN^ine benignity is invoked on persons or things, to bring down upon them some temporal or spiritual good, without changing their former condition. Of this kind are the blessings given to children, and to articles of food. The latter class are so called because they permanently depute persons or things to Di\-ine service by imparting to them some sacred character, by which they assume a new and dis- tinct spiritual relationship. Such are the blessings given to rehgious at their profession, and to churches and chalices by their consecration. In tliis case a certain abiding quality of sacredness is conferred in \drtue of which the persons or things blessed be- come inviolably sacred, so that they cannot be divested of their religious character or be turned to profane uses. Again, theologians distinguish bles- sings of an intermediate sort, by which things are rendered special instruments of salvation without at the same time becoming irrevocably sacred, such as blessed salt, candles, etc. Blessings are not sacraments; they are not of Di\'ine institution; they do not confer sanctifying grace; and they do not produce their effects in virtue of the rite itself, or ex opere operato. They are sacraraentals and, as such, produce the following specific effects: (1) Ex- citation of pious emotions and affections of the heart and, by means of these, remission of venial sin and of the temporal punishment due to it; (2) freedom from power of evil spirits; (3) preserva- tion and restoration of bodily health; (4) various other benefits, temporal or spiritual. All these effects are not necessarily inherent in any one blessing; some are caused by one formula, and others by another, according to the intentions of the Church. Neither are these effects to be regarded as infalli- bly produced, except in so far as the impetration of the Church has this attribute. The religious ven- eration, therefore, in which the faithful regard blessings has no taint of superstition, since it depends altogether on the Church's suffrages offered to God that the persons using the things she blesses may derive from them certain super- natural advantages. Instances are alleged in the lives of the saints where miracles have been wrought