Hey, Father! What happens when you bless a person/object?

When a priest blesses an object, what happens to that object? For example, if my home is blessed, does that now make my home better protected from evil? Going further, if blessing an object does in fact “help it,” then shouldn’t we bless practically everything? On the other hand, if my home is just as susceptible to evil before the blessing, then what is the point of blessing it?

Drew in Springfield

In a general, yet profound sense, everything in creation is already blessed by God. To this point, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “From the beginning until the end of time the whole of God’s work is a blessing” (CCC 1079). When God created man and woman, He also blessed humanity and their procreation specifically, saying “Be fruitful and multiply … ” (see Gen 1:28). All of creation exists only through the Creator’s continual blessing. This is the original and basic meaning of blessing: God creating us and sharing His life with us.

But there is a more reserved meaning of blessing as “a prayer invoking God’s power and care upon some person, place, thing, or undertaking” (CCC, glossary). While God can and does bless people directly, He has made it clear that He delights in using certain people as mediators, instruments, or conduits of His blessings. This is the basis for the priesthood in both the Old and New Covenants. God’s holiness is manifested in a special way when certain people are “set apart”  on behalf of others. Thus, the first command God gave to Aaron and his sons, the first priests, was to bless the people of Israel with these words: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Num 6:24–26). God could have just done those things, but He preferred to have Aaron and his sons speak them over the people in blessing.

In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ is the High Priest, the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim 2:5). St. Paul says that God the Father “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). Through our baptism, all Christians share in Christ’s priesthood, and for this reason, “every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing,’ and to bless” (CCC 1669). Every Christian has the Holy Spirit and can invoke God’s blessing upon others by praying for them, with them, and over them. However, ordained ministers, bishops, priests, and deacons participate in Christ’s priesthood in a unique way that works primarily through the seven sacraments. Christ established the sacraments as the ordinary means of grace to save, sanctify, bless, heal, protect, and empower the Christian faithful.

In addition to the sacraments, the Church also uses numerous sacramentals, which include blessings.Sacramentals are “sacred signs which bear a certain resemblance to the sacraments, and by means of which spiritual effects are signified and obtained through the prayers of the Church” (CCC,glossary). Sacramentals do not confer grace the way the sacraments do. Instead, they “prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it” (CCC 1670). Note the importance of our cooperation: the blessing of a person, thing, place, or event works primarily through the faith of the persons involved. It is a prayer that better disposes them to receive God’s grace and cooperate with it. 

For example, if a priest blesses a house of believers, the blessing makes those who live there better disposed to trust in God and to invoke His protection with greater confidence. Certain items and places are blessed in a way that consecrates or reserves them for prayer or liturgical use (e.g., a scapular or a chapel). Such a blessing does not confer a magical power upon the item or place — that would be superstition. Again, the blessing is a prayer asking God to make the item or place a means of disposing people to receive His grace and love. This is why it is inappropriate to bless items that have no spiritual purpose — a blessing is not meant to change profane and ordinary objects into sacramentals.

Now, to your question about something or someone being “susceptible” to evil: Blessings are powerful, but they essentially work like any other non-sacramental prayer in that they produce a desired result inproportion to faith. Consider that even the Church’s solemn Rite of Exorcism is a sacramental and works in this way. If the demonized person does not really wish to be free, the prayer of exorcism will not override his will. But on the other hand, a baptized person with sincere faith in God can drive demons away with a simple prayer: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). Blessings are powerful and important, but they cannot substitute for faith. In conclusion, therefore, you can and should have your home, business, car, and rosary blessed, but even more importantly, you should believe — and live — the truth that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4).

Father Christopher Trummer, S.T.L, is parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Springfield, associate delegate for Health Care Professionals, associate chaplain of the Springfield Chapter of the Catholic Physicians Guild/Catholic Medical Association, and has a license in Sacred Theology in Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Italy.