QUESTION: There are two books of blessing (benedictionary). Many say that the older one is better than the newer one. Is that true?
I also read something about house blessings. How is that different from a Mass intention for the family?

ANSWER: When one says that the older is "better" than the new--the problem is in the definition of "better."  How exactly is the person defining "better?"

In so far as the bestowing of a blessing whether something is from an older book of blessings or a newer book of blessings the effect is the same: a blessing.  Something is not more blessed because the prayer was older.  Something is not less blessed because a prayer is newer   

However---usually when someone uses the term "better" in reference to the older prayers what they really mean is that the translations are more faithful to the original Latin, AND OR they are more formal and solemn than the newer prayers.  Being more formal and solemn while they do not bestow a more powerful blessing or a "better" blessing, they more accurately transmit the Tradition--that is they more accurately reflect the true Faith of the Church.

The 1970's ICEL translations and the newer books of blessing were not faithful to the original Latin texts; the language was flowery and unsubstantial. They were very sloppy and watered down.  This naturally lead to a sloppy and watered down presentation of the Tradition and hence the Faith.  This is something the translation introduced in Advent of 2011 sought to overcome.  In any case if the definition of "better" in reference to older prayers of blessing means more faithful to the Latin texts, more solemn, formal and dignified, and a more accurate representation of the Faith of the Church than I would agree: the older prayers are "better."  It must be kept in mind that it is not only important for a prayer of blessing to effect the blessing, but that the prayer accurately represent and transmit the Faith of the Universal Church.   

A house blessing is simply invoking God's blessings upon a house.  When an object is blessed what that means is that the object in question is now associated with the power of Christ and the power of Redemption.  Thus in invoking God's blessing upon a house one is simply asking that God make the house holy and associate the house with the power of Christ and the prayer of the Church.  When an object is blessed--if one no longer has need of the object all one needs to do is break the object.  A blessing is different from a Consecration.  A Consecration takes an object and sets is apart so that it can be used in worship.  Church buildings are not blessed they are Consecrated.  This is why if a Church is closed it must be reduced to profane but not sordid use by a decree from the bishop before it can be sold.

A Mass intention means that the Mass (the representation of the sacrifice of Christ) is being offered for that specific intention.  In other words the Mass (which is a particular representation of the once for all Sacrifice of Christ that is eternal) is being connected with the intention.  The intercession of Christ is being directed before the throne of the Father for that intention. The Mass is the offering of Sacrifice.  Thus when a Mass intention is connected with the Mass the Sacrifice is offered for that specific intention.  Because there is no higher gift we can give to God than the offering of His Son the Mass is the most powerful and the most perfect prayer the Church has.

I note that the Church offers the Mass to none but God the Father.  No saint including Mary gets the offering of the Mass.  The Mass is uniquely offered to God the Father.  This is why Catholics cannot be accused of "saint worship" or "Mary worship."  The Mass is true worship because it involves the offering of Sacrifice.  Since the Sacrifice is offered to none but God, Catholics worship God alone while being devoted to Mary and the saints.  We pray to Mary or the Saints, we offer Mass to God alone.         

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QUESTION: Thank you for the great answer. You say that it doesn't matter whether the blessing is from the older or newer book and I agree. But if we take holy water as an example we have a problem. The water is exorcised in the older book but in the newer book it isn't. Doesn't it matter whether we have an exorcism or not?

Your original question asked about whether there is a difference between something blessed with a newer prayer as opposed to an older prayer.  My answer was that the effect is the same: the object is blessed.  The difference is only in the solemnity or formality of the prayer--and that the older prayers more faithfully and clearly transmit the Faith of the Church--hence more accurately reflect Tradition.

The prayer over holy water in the older "Rite" or prayers included an exorcism.  Holy water that is blessed without the inclusion of an exorcism is still blessed.  Exorcised Holy Water is not "more holy." The difference is that there are more blessings and graces attached to exorcised Holy Water than Holy Water blessed without the exorcism. To understand what these "additional" graces or blessings might be we need to understand a little bit about the fall of the angels and the role of exorcism in the Church.   

God created the angels to manifest His power and glory over the created sphere- (Universe.) There is a hierarchy of angels.  An angels "rank" has to do with the degree to which the angel manifests God's power and glory.  Those at the top obviously manifest a greater degree of God's power and glory than those at the bottom.  For example: in the Garden of Eden notice that God placed "Cherubim" with flaming swords to keep Adam and Eve out of the garden.  These angels appear towards the top of the hierarchy of angels.  They manifest the holiness of God and they guard the holiness of God.  This is why they were the ones to guard Eden--it had been desecrated by the Sin of Adam and Eve.

When a third of the angels fell (demons) they retained their natural powers over the material world and they retained the powers of their rank. Instead of using their rank and powers over the created sphere to manifest the power and glory of God they use it for their own evil ends.  Hence all created things are subject to the power of evil due to Original Sin.  God permits the demons a wide scope of the use of their powers because of the Sin of Adam and Eve. We all come under the influence of evil.  A general prayer of exorcism (as opposed to the Formal Rite of Exorcism) is simply asking God in the name of the Church to restrain the powers of evil and professing Faith that God will do so.  

There are many material things that a prayer of exorcism can be prayed: water, oil, salt, churches, humans preparing for Baptism, etc.  Holy Water is a Sacramental. Water itself is a sign of God's blessing for it gives not only natural life but supernatural life in Baptism.  Holy Water serves to remind us of our Baptism.  In blessing the water it is being associated with the power of Christ and redemption; it points us towards Baptism when we became part of the family of God.  When saying the prayer of Exorcism over Holy Water we are asking for the grace of protection from evil influence, the devil and his minions. This Grace of protection is linked with the Water when it is used in Faith. The exorcised water then is not only a sign of spiritual life but of God's protection from evil influence, the devil and his minions. The prayer of exorcism, then, adds another spiritual dimension to the water.

In blessing water it becomes a sign and promise of life eternal. In exorcising water it becomes a means of protection from the devil when used in Faith.     

The Formal Rite of Exorcism should not be confused with the general prayers of exorcism given over objects and persons prior to Baptism. The Formal Rite of Exorcism is used in cases of demonic possession and it beseeches God to liberate the possessed person from possession.  

The reason that Formal Exorcisms can take a while is that unlike the Sacraments they do not work Ex Opere Operato but Ex Opere Operantis.  In other words the Rite while a Formal Rite is a Sacramental not a Sacrament.  The difference is this: Sacraments work through the intercession of Christ.  Sacramentals work through the intercession of the Church. Hence holiness on the part of the priest is essential.  God's power is manifest in the Faith of the priest.  The greater the Faith of the priest the greater the manifestation of God's power. The greater the holiness of the priest the greater his Faith, hence the greater manifestation of God's power in his conducting of the formal Rite.  

Now, the opposite of a blessing is a curse. Just as a blessed object is associated with the power of God and something we ask God to work through to impart His Grace, a cursed object is the opposite.  A cursed object is a sign of the power of evil and the devil.  It is something that the person asks the devil to work through to perform evil.

In answer to your question "Does it matter if the water is exorcised?" Yes it matters--but not because the water is somehow less "holy" or less "blessed." It matters because a spiritual dimension is not necessarily present that otherwise would be with the prayer of exorcism.  


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Father Dave Bechtel


I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.


I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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