“Ask a Priest: When receiving a blessing at Communion, what is the proper response?”

Q: I am 60 years old. Recently I started the RCIA. I hope to be confirmed sometime around Easter. I understand and accept the fact that I cannot participate in Communion until I have been confirmed. However, I do rise and receive the priest’s blessing. I have a United Methodist background, and so all the Catholic traditions’ proper responses are very new to me. Can you tell me the proper response I should give when I receive a blessing until I’m confirmed? -H.T.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s wonderful to hear that you will be confirmed into the Church this Easter. Your desire to approach the priest and receive his blessing shows love and reverence for the Eucharist that you will able to receive after your confirmation.

Your response to the priest’s blessing might depend on local custom. The blessing of people who are not receiving Communion is not an official part of the liturgy, so there is no prescribed response.

If priests invite non-communicants to approach at Communion time, you could simply respond, “Amen” after the blessing. You could also check with the pastor if you have further doubts.

The practice of this blessing seems to have started in countries such as the United States where non-Catholics not infrequently attend Mass with their Catholic spouses. It is seen as a way to help non-communicants participate in the Mass and to be assured that they are welcome at the liturgy. In any case the blessing at the end of Mass covers everyone present.

(For further reading on the blessing at Communion, check out these articles: Blessings at Holy Communion, Blessings for Non-communicants and, in the follow-up, When a Consecrated Host Falls.)

In the meantime, activate your faith at communion time and dialogue with Christ about your future reception of the Eucharist. This can help make your heart grow fonder as you await confirmation and full communion with the Catholic Church. Remember that the blessing isn’t obligatory. Our Lord is obviously already blessing you abundantly. I will keep you in my Mass intention. God bless!

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