At the end of every college semester, we call up graduates-to-be for a blessing before the dismissal rites. It’s been a fairly common, if not near-universal practice in parishes for the clergy to invite the entire assembly to “make a gesture of blessing if you wish,” in these or similar words.
I have to admit I’ve never started that practice anywhere I’ve been. I’m disinclined to discourage it.
Among those who disapprove, the worst I’ve seen of the internet caricatures is to call attention the similarity to a Nazi salute. I was watching the assembly today at Mass, and I can’t say that’s accurate. Many people extended two hands. Some who extended one kept their arm bent and somewhat upright. Didn’t seem like a salute to me. Plus, the context of the prayer for someone seems to negate the notion of national socialism.
I’ve also heard the argument that only the clergy can offer a liturgical blessing. That’s not exactly true, considering sacraments across the board. But the point is well-considered. The spoken prayer of the priest and his leadership seems to keep the lay-clergy divide intact.
So what do you think, armchair liturgists reading this? Would you start the gesture if your community didn’t practice it? Would you end it if it did? Would you take an approach of benign neglect and non-interference with an existing practice. And for whichever of these you adopt, why?