Our occasional Catholic Q&A series continues with a question about how one might go about getting something blessed from a reader who is a little “gun-shy” about asking to have religious objects blessed.
How should I ask a priest to bless my sacramental?
A corollary question that our writer seemed to hint at but did not ask outright would be: What items or objects can be blessed? The answer is that almost anything can be blessed provided that it is not inappropriate (i.e. sinful) and there may be reasons to bless nearly anything, not just sacramentals or things used for a religious purpose. People have sports fields, arenas, and athletic equipment blessed, and gymnasiums can be blessed as well. People rightly have their homes blessed, travelers have been known to have their automobiles or car keys blessed and motorcyclists often have their motorcycles blessed, indeed a pastor of mine who has since passed away made “blessing the bikes” an annual tradition. On the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, many people have their pets blessed in honor of the saint who so loved animals and God’s creation. Produce can be blessed, as can agricultural seeds and farmers’ fields in prayer for a good harvest. On the Gulf Coast and in New England, the shrimping, lobstering, and fishery fleets are often blessed, and it is such a part of the life of the Catholic community in those places that the day this is traditionally done is usually noted in the Ordo for the dioceses where those blessings are common. Food can even be blessed that will later be served on holidays and Holy Days such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter.
Sacramentals are the items most likely to be blessed, however, and it could be argued that short of blessing people, sacramentals are the things we use which are most likely to be blessed by a cleric because we use them in our prayer life to “receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1667) About sacramentals the Catechism further says (CCC 1671):
Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father “with every spiritual blessing.” This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.
The blessing itself is a sacramental, even if the object to be blessed is also a sacramental. Some traditional sacramentals that can be blessed that we don’t often think of them include blessed salt and blessed oil (I’m not talking about the Holy Oils-the Oil of Holy Chrism, Oil of the Sick, or Oil of Catechumens, which are also blessed sacramentals that happen to be used as part of the conferring of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Anointing of the Sick. These specific oils are blessed by the bishop for use in those sacraments) as well as, of course, holy water with which we are more familiar today.
Among the sacramental items that any of us might use in our prayer life that ought to be blessed by a member of the clergy (because they ought to always have some kind of sacred use ) are things such as crosses for wearing or hanging, holy pictures, holy cards, medals, scapulars, rosaries, candles, prayer books, or other similar holy reminders. A deacon, priest, or bishop can confer a canonical blessing on a person or an object. Sometimes the deacon, priest, or bishop will say a prayer from the Book of Blessings or (usually in the Extraordinary form) the Rituale Romanum of 1962. Sometimes the clergy member blessing something will say a few words of their own before giving the words of blessing, and sometimes the cleric will simply say a silent prayer over the object and make the Sign of the Cross over it. Any of these methods is a valid blessing done with the intent of the Church. If you use liturgical books in your personal prayer life such as the Liturgy of the Hours, they should definitely be blessed, as should anything we use in our prayer to God.
How should you ask for the blessing of a sacramental? Walk right up to a deacon, priest, or bishop, and simply ask: “Father/Deacon/Your Excellency, would you be so kind as to bless my [religious object]? Most won’t just do it, but will do so with great eagerness. I have found that holy deacons, priests, and bishops take joy in the privilege the Church gives them to bless things for people because they love to do anything that will help people draw closer to Jesus. I pray this was helpful, and remember that Jesus loves you, and we do too.