Questions and answers

Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services

Year 2017


Sometimes a priest blesses water, oil, or salt and then says, “This blessing is also valid for those who are watching this video”. Can objects be blessed via the media (TV, phone, video calls or recorded videos like YouTube)?

There are no hard and fast answers to this question. There are varied opinions, reflecting the changing environment in which we find ourselves when it comes to online presence, virtual communities, social media, live streaming, and the like. To answer this question adequately, there are several items to consider.

The first issue is what particular items or objects can be blessed? The answer is that almost anything can be blessed, if it is not inappropriate. People have had their shops, cars, and homes blessed. There is even an official blessing of pets on the feast of St Francis. Very often, we ask the Lord to bless our food before we eat it. Jesus blessed the loaves before He gave them to the 5,000.

The question at hand, however, is referring specifically to sacramentals, which are objects that we use for prayer or the spiritual life. Sacramentals are “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments” (CCC 1667). Although they do not “confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do… by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it” (CCC 1670).

Sacramentals include crosses for wearing or hanging, holy pictures, holy cards, medals, scapulars, rosaries, candles, prayer books, and similar holy items. They ought to be blessed by a member of the clergy (a bishop, priest, or deacon) because they always ought to have some kind of sacred use. He may use an official church blessing, or he may bless the item by saying his own prayer and making a sign of the cross over it.

When it comes to whether or not the sacramentals can be blessed over the internet, live streaming, social media, TV, or otherwise, there is very little guidance available. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to turn to the example of the Holy Father. On some occasions, he expresses his intention to bless devotional objects such as medals and rosaries over the radio, television, and the internet, to those who follow the transmission directly. This intention to bless cannot be presumed for every transmission of a papal Mass. It needs to be stated explicitly.

Regarding a blessing that is recorded and then viewed or listened to later, we can again turn to the example of the Pope. The Church specifies that the plenary indulgence that is given through a papal blessing “Urbi et orbi” can be received by social media, but only while it is being performed, not later. If we extend this principle to all blessings of sacramentals, then a blessing has its intended effect only for those who participate in real time (whether by personal presence or by media transmission). However, the blessing can still be a means of grace for those who follow the recording later, just as any prayer can. The grace of God is not bound by time. When we listen to preaching or teaching or prayer through recorded social media, our souls can be touched and our relationship with God and others deepened through the action of the Holy Spirit.

Concerning the seven sacraments, the Church has made clear that they always require some form of physical presence between the minister and the recipient. Therefore, they can never be given over the internet, phone, or any social media. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications states in its document The Church and Internet (9):

There are no sacraments on the Internet; and even the religious experiences possible through the internet by the grace of God are insufficient apart from real-world interaction with other persons of faith… pastoral planning should consider how to lead people from cyberspace to true community.

A final factor to consider comes from another statement in the same document (5):

Although the virtual reality of cyberspace cannot substitute for real interpersonal community, the incarnational reality of the sacraments and the liturgy, or the immediate and direct proclamation of the gospel, can complement them, attract people to a fuller experience of the life of faith, and enrich the religious lives of users…

Whilst there is the possibility of the blessing of sacramentals over the internet, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications provides us with a timely reminder that in-person interaction with real people in real communities is far better than virtual or online interaction.

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