Q. My children often walk with me when I go to receive Holy Communion. Some priests give them a blessing, and some do not. Some bless them with the sign of the cross, and some bless them by placing a hand on their head. What is correct?
A. Parents who bring their children forward with them as they receive Holy Communion should be commended. The opportunity allows children to see and experience the sacredness of receiving the Most Holy Eucharist, and to anticipate the time when they, too, will receive Holy Communion.
Of course, before they reach the age of reason, children are not ordinarily able to receive Holy Communion. When a priest is distributing Holy Communion, offering children a blessing is an opportunity to bestow God’s grace upon them, as well. While this is not required, or practiced in all places, some priests bless children with the sign of the cross, and others place a hand on the child’s head and offer a small prayer. Either bestows a priestly blessing.
If acolytes or extraordinary ministers are distributing communion, it is not appropriate for them to offer children a blessing. However, parents, certainly, can bless their children, and should consider offering their children blessings during times of prayer, with the sign of the cross traced on their heads, or by placing a hand on them and praying a prayer of blessings. Priests and parents who bless children do so in unity with the patriarchs of the Old Testament, who considered their blessing to be the greatest gift they could give their children.
A blessing—from a priest or a parent—is prayer invoking God’s protection on a child, and proclaiming that the child is set apart for God. This practice—extended by a priest as you mentioned, or by a parent—is a beautiful expression of parental love for our children.
Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.