Are children's blessings during Mass appropriate?

Question: I am a permanent deacon who is very concerned that the liturgy is done properly. Our pastor has begun to call the children forward for a blessing at the end of the main Sunday Mass. I have searched the official documents and found no justification for this. Can you shed some light on this for me? 

— Name and address withheld

Answer: The blessing of children as part of the general blessing of the people at the end of Mass is a highly popular practice and seems justified by reference to the official Book of Blessings. While the Order of Mass does not provide a specific blessing of children, the Book of Blessings provides a blessing that can be incorporated into the celebration of Mass. 

The Introduction to the Orders for the Blessing of Children begins by stating: “There are many pastoral occasions for giving praise to God and praying for children who have already been baptized: for example, when the parents request a blessing, when special feasts are held for children, when the school year begins. The cel-ebration of a blessing is to be adapted to the circumstances” (No. 135). 

While the Order for the Blessing of Baptized Children is a little lengthy, the introduction provides that “the minister should adapt the celebration to the circumstances of the families and children involved” (No. 137). Thus the priest may adapt the blessing for use at the end of Mass. The key element is the Prayer of Blessing itself, which is well-written.  

As a pastor who himself calls the children forward to the bottom of the sanctuary for a blessing, I find that it works very well to use the Prayer of Blessing for children that reads as follows: “Lord, our God, out of the speech of little children you have fashioned a hymn of praise. Look with kindness on these children whom the faith of the Church commends to your tender care. Your Son, born of the Virgin Mary, gladly welcomed little children. He took them in his arms, blessed them, and held them up as an example for all. We pray that you, Father, will also send your blessing on them, so that they may grow in Christian maturity and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s witnesses in the world, spreading and defending the faith. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.” This is appropriately followed by the general blessing of the people. 

While I appreciate your desire to see the liturgy done correctly and according to the book, not every situation or circumstance is provided for. The widespread parental desire for a blessing of children at the end of Mass is one of them. What I am proposing here seems to be an appropriate adaptation of the liturgy for genuine pastoral need, and it respects the theology and integrity of the liturgy.

Way of the Cross chaplet 

Question: Recently on a trip to Rome I purchased a rosary only to find out that it was something called a Stations of the Cross rosary. Can you enlighten me on this? 

— Rickey Walker, Bountiful, Utah

Answer: This rosarylike aid to prayer, properly called a chaplet, is meant to assist people who are not physically able to walk the Way of the Cross to identify with Christ’s sufferings and death. The chaplet consists of 15 groups of three beads each, between which medals are representing the 14 Stations of the Cross. On the three beads between each station, one prays the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.