Monday, November 13, 2006

Gesundheit!

The Setup: Two Catholic priests rise up from a nearby table, having just finished their lunch at the local bar and grill. Their presence spurred a conversation about Catholicism between a man (raised Catholic) and me (raised Protestant).

As the two priests walk away, one of them sneezes.

Man to Priest: Bless you.

[Exit Priests]

***

Me to Man: Wait a minute. Did you just bless a priest?

Man: Yes.

Me: Is that allowed?

Man: What do you mean?

Me: I mean, you just blessed a priest.

Man: Well, the other priest blessed him too.

Me: Exactly. So the blessing was pretty much taken care of by someone of equal status. [Stealing his Bloody Mary and biting into the celery.]

[Man, shrugging, taking back his Bloody Mary.]

Me: No, really. I'm curious. You were raised Catholic, so you'd know better than I. You told me once that only certain people were allowed to "bless" certain others — like only Cardinals and above can bless an entire crowd. So tell me... do you have the authority bless a Catholic priest?

***

OK, so I don't know where the conversation went from there, but I'm pretty sure my question went unanswered.

And while I initially asked the question to underscore the irony/comedy of an ordinary sinner blessing an ordained priest, I'm actually quite curious.

So... can any of you tell me? Can any plebeian bless a priest, or would doing so be against protocol?

6 comments:

Mollie said...

Here is my understanding: blessings are wonderful! The more blessings you get, the better. Anybody can bless anybody. In fact, maybe I am blessing you right now. I believe the hierarchy question comes into play because high-ranking Church leaders are considered to be closer to God than Joe Schmo. Therefore, a papal blessing is considered to be truly magnificent because the Pope is the closest mortal to God, a descendent of St. Peter, etc, so the teaching goes. And cardinals, archbishops and bishops are next in line. So, the "better" the requestor, the more likely God is to hear the prayer…
However, how do we prove that a blessing given by a fellow in a restaurant or a blind beggar outside the temple is any "better" than the blessing given by the Pope? I believe that God will intervene on anyone's behalf, which is pretty amazing. All we have to do is ask God to send his grace, and he will do it. And to repeat: the more blessings the better. While I'm sure that God doesn't need to be reminded, it doesn't hurt to ask for an extra helping of grace and blessings. I don't recommend rejecting anyone's blessing.
Also, your sinner vs. priest dichotomy may be inaccurate. I doubt that you would find many priests who would not put themselves in the "sinner" category. Just because someone is ordained, doesn't mean they are sin-less. And I don't mean nasty sins but the kind of sins that we are all guilty of. To be mortal is to sin, right Eve?

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Hey Mollie - Thanks for the explanation. We Protestants also believe "the more blessings the better" but -- since we generally don't believe in intermediaries -- everyone can dish 'em out.

I'd actually meant to qualify the sinner/priest polarity, so thanks for bringing that to my attention. It's good to know that priests recognize they are sinners as well.

One of these days, I've got to work my way over to a Catholic mass. I'm just worried I won't have any idea what to do (when to kneel, what to say, etc.).

disgruntled world citizen said...

you and your conundrums! i love the world you live in.

Anonymous said...

at the risk of sounding like myself... there is no difference between me, hence you, and a priest. I am the Pope and Cardinal and masses (Masses). There is no division between me and God. and in my little (big) world, which is everything and nothing, I extend that to you and you. "The bum's holy as the seraphim." I am blessings and ill wishes. I am life and death together. if you disagree, please do. I dislike questions because I hate answers. I come to religion to be mystified, not reassured. and now, back to work and not work.

ds

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

It's true, DS. The world could use a little more Walt Whitman.

More me, you and them ("I am large / I contain multitudes") and less me me me (mi mi mi).

Anonymous said...

I think Terry Pratchett once said that Prayer and Religion were just overly complicated ways of pleading with Thunderstorms. Of course I think he is a little cynical.

I like to think of it this way "We're all naked sinners in the eyes of the Lord."

~BPP