Do we bless God?

Question: At Mass, when the priest offers the bread and wine, we say, “Blessed be God forever.” But how is it possible for us to bless God? He does not need our blessings and blesses us.

Name withheld, Milwaukee, Wis. 

Answer: Linguistically, the response you cite translates the Latin Benedictus Deus in saecula. The benedictus in Latin, literally means to speak well or favorably about some one or something (bene = well + dictus = say or speak). Hence, what we mean by “blessed” and the phrase “blessed be God forever” is that “It is well that God should be forever praised.” We are not claiming to confer some sort of grace or favor upon God, as is often the meaning of the word “blessing” in English.

Theologically, though, we can distinguish between God’s intrinsic glory and his external glory. As you point out, there is not one thing we can add or take from God’s intrinsic glory. God is glorious and blessed all by himself and has no need of our praise.

However, we can help to spread his external glory by our praise and acknowledgment of him before others, as well as by reflecting his glory through lives of holiness, generosity and conformity to the truth.

In this sense we can also understand the phrase to mean, “May God’s external glory and blessedness be extended and experienced in all places and times. May God be blessed (praised) everywhere, and unto the age of ages.”

Shortened creed

Question: At our parish the priest says a shortened creed. Some Sundays he omits it altogether. When I talk to him about it he gets angry. Should I go to the bishop?

Name withheld, via email

Answer: The creed is to be said each Sunday. It is possible that the version you mention is the Apostles’ Creed, which is a permitted option.

Omission of the creed is wrong, and if your request that the priest follow the requirement continues to be ignored, you should inform the bishop and ask for a written reply from his office as to how your concerns will be addressed.

Many have died for what the creed announces. It is no mere ritual recitation.

Proper care of relics

Question: I have inherited a first-class relic. Are there any norms for what I should do or not do with the relic?

Kathy Keffler, Wellington, Fla. 

Answer: There are surprisingly few directions on the care of relics. Certainly they are meant to be reverently kept, and ought not be simply cast in a drawer or some forgotten place. Ideally they are put in a ostensorium, a display vessel easily purchased in most Catholic bookstores, shrine shops or catalogs. Relics ought to be displayed in a suitable place of prayer in one’s house. Ideally the place should be uncluttered with other more worldly things.

If the possession of relics is not conducive to one’s spiritual life they ought to be given to another who might benefit or placed in the care of a parish.

Relics are meant to remind us of the saints, their stories, and what God can do even with weak human flesh. They should summon us to prayer and trust. But they ought not be regarded superstitiously as if their mere presence could ward off all suffering or work independently of the will of God. 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.