Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Eat, Drink, and Be Blessed

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Eat, Drink, and Be Blessed

Article excerpt

LITERALLY, THE WORD BENEDICTION MEANS "to speak well." Liturgically, it names a Roman Catholic sacramental centered on the worship of Christ present under the form of eucharistic bread. Catholics born before the Second Vatican Council will remember that Benediction was added to almost any devotion, such as a May crowning, graduation, or parish mission. Catholics born after Vatican II will most likely not ever have participated in it.

Being one of those Catholics with one foot before and the other after Vatican II, I remember Benediction being added to Tuesday-evening Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions in my parish. Once the priest finished leading the congregation in the prayers, he returned to the sacristy to don a white cope over his cassock, surplice, and stole, while one altar boy lit 12 candles, six on each side of the tabernacle, for Benediction. Another server struck wooden matches against the side of the Red Diamond box and with the spark set pieces of charcoal ablaze.

The procession of thurifer and "master"--the server who supposedly knew what he was doing--came to the center of the sanctuary. After all genuflected together, the servers knelt while the priest opened the tabernacle and removed the pyx containing the luna into which was mounted a large host. He took it and placed it into the center of the monstrance, closed the tabernacle, and arranged the monstrance in front of it. After returning to his place and kneeling on the step in front of the altar, the priest and the servers would bow together, stand up, and then proceed to place incense on the charcoal.

At first a small streak of smoke would appear rising up between the trio, then a huge cloud as all knelt and the priest incensed the Blessed Sacrament while the congregation sang O Salutaris Hostia. After the first verse of Tantum Ergo, another hymn, the same sweet-smelling smoke ritual occurred again. Then, after a prayer, the master got the humeral veil, placed it on the priest's shoulders, and prepared to ring a bell three times as the priest took the monstrance in his hands, turned to face the people, elevated it, and traced it in the sign of the cross over the assembly. Another prayer and song later, and the service was complete.

I can still remember the sounds of the words I repeated every Tuesday evening. …

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