RDCA I, 24-25: Blessing the Site

After the homily (I, 22) and the signing of documents and their placement in the foundation stone (I, 23) the bishop “takes off the miter, rises, and blesses the site of the new church.” The following prayer is given:

you fill the entire world with your presence
that your name may be hallowed through all the earth.

Bless all those
who have worked or contributed to provide this site (property, land)
on which a church will be built.

Today may they rejoice in a work just begun,
soon  may they celebrate the sacraments in your temple,
and in time to come may they praise you for ever in heaven.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

The bishop puts on the miter and sprinkles in one of two ways: from the middle of the site, or along the perimeter of the foundation. The rubric here instructs that he perform the second options woith the ministers–the assembly is not mentioned. Music “may be sung” for the procession. Psalm 48 is suggested with the following anitphon:

The walls of Jerusalem will be made of precious stones, and its towers built with gems (alleluia).


Note that the prayer itself does not “bless” the site. The bishop prays for people. The site is blessed by the ritual action. Sometimes this distinction is lost, I’ve noticed, in the English MR3. And while it might be my own egalitarian sensibility getting poked, I do think there’s an important principle in prayers that petition God’s grace to work in people. (Do we bless people getting married, for example, or are we focused on the ritual act? Does marriage need God’s grace? Or are we flawed human being more in need of intervention? You understand my point, right?) Perhaps those more familiar with the Latin MR3 might testify as to the focus of these presidential prayers. Did last century’s ICEL emphasize the blessing of people over objects? My own assessment of the current sprinkling rite at Mass is that these prayers are an impoverishment on that score.

Psalm 48 suggests the invincible city of God. History tells us invincibility was not a physical or political reality for Jerusalem. The psalmist admires the external beauty, but the building is at root a metaphor for the eternal God:

Go about Zion, walk all around it,
note the number of its towers.
Consider the ramparts, examine its citadels,
that you may tell future generations:
That this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
He will lead us until death. (48:13-15)

The physical aspects of worship are vital, but not as an end to themselves. They lead us to higher, deeper matters.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to RDCA I, 24-25: Blessing the Site

  1. Interestingly enough, in the 1974 draft of the rite, this was an actual blessing of the site.

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