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Catholic Prayer: Book of Blessings: Blessing of Missionaries Sent to Proclaim the Gospel

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451 The celebration of a blessing should mark the occasion when Christ's disciples, whether clerics, religious, or laypersons, are sent by the lawful pastors of the Church to preach the mystery of salvation to the peoples of the world. The purpose of the rite is to ask God's blessing on the new heralds of the Gospel, to instruct the faithful concerning the nature and significance of missionary activity, and to inspire them to follow with their prayers those who, endowed with a special charism, are about to depart to proclaim the Gospel.

452 As the present chapter provides, the best way to carry out such a rite is either within a celebration of the liturgy of the word or within a celebration of the eucharist.

453 A priest is the celebrant for the orders of blessing in this chapter. While maintaining the structure and chief elements of the rite, he should adapt the celebration to the circumstances of the place and the missionaries involved.

When, as is desirable, the bishop is the celebrant, everything in the celebration is to be adapted accordingly.

Prayer:

I. ORDER OF BLESSING WITHIN A CELEBRATION OF THE WORD OF GOD

INTRODUCTORY RITES

454 When the community has gathered, the celebrant, the assisting deacon, and the other ministers, all wearing their proper vestments, proceed from the sacristy through the body of the church to the sanctuary. They are led by a crossbearer and the assisting deacon, who carries the Book of the Gospels; the choir, joined by the people, sings a suitable song.

455 The departing missionaries take part in the procession.

456 After the singing, the celebrant says: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All make the sign of the cross and reply: Amen.

457 The celebrant greets those present in the following or other suitable words, taken mainly from sacred Scripture. May the Lord, who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, be with you all.

All make the following or some other suitable reply. And also with you.

458 In the following or similar words, the celebrant prepares those present for the blessing and explains the rite. My dear friends, as we take part in today's celebration we are in a sense reliving a practice of the early Church, the eager sending of its members to other peoples, to assist either those who were already of the household of the faith or those who did not yet believe in Christ.

The sending of our brothers and sisters to serve the needs of the Church will strengthen our bond of communion with the local Churches to which they are going, and the prayers we offer in this celebration are an expression of that communion.

459 All pray briefly in silence; then the celebrant continues: Our God and Father, your will is that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of your truth. Send workers into your great harvest, so that the Gospel may be preached to every creature and your people, gathered together by the word of life and strengthened by the power of the sacraments, may advance in the way of salvation and love.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

READING OF THE WORD OF GOD

460 Readers or the assisting deacon read one or more texts of sacred Scripture, taken from the texts given in the Lectionary for Mass in Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, "For the Spread of the Gospel" (see endnote 15). Between the readings there is a responsorial psalm, related to the reading that preceded it, or an interval of silence. The gospel reading always holds the place of honor.

461 It is most fitting that, before the proclamation of the gospel reading, the missionaries should be introduced to the community.

The assisting deacon announces to the people the names of those departing for the missions and, as circumstances suggest, he may indicate the rank or office the missionaries hold within the people of God, as well as the Churches to which they are being sent. Thus, for example:

Deacon: These are the names of those who, in keeping with the Lord's command, are being sent by our Church of N. to preach the Gospel, accompanied by our prayers:

N.N., priest, to the Church in N. N.N., deacon, to the Church in N. N.N., religious of (N.), to the Church in N. N.N., layman/laywoman, to the Church in N.

462 But when the group of departing missionaries includes men religious or women religious, the superior of the order or congregation to which they belong, rather than the assisting deacon, announces their names, charges, and destinations. Thus, for example:

Superior: From our institute, inspired by charity and strengthened by obedience, these members are going forth to proclaim the Gospel:

Brother N., (for example, teacher,) to N. Sister N., (for example, catechist,) to N.

463 When their name is called, the missionaries respond either by word, for example, by saying, "Present," or by gesture, for example, by standing.

464 After the gospel reading by the deacon, the celebrant in the homily explains both the biblical readings and the meaning of the rite.

465 After the homily, the missionaries go and stand near the celebrant, but in such a way as not to obstruct the people's view of the rite.

INTERCESSIONS

466 In the intercessions that follow all pray together for the missionaries and for the Churches to which they are being sent. The celebrant introduces the intercessions and an assisting minister or one of those present announces the intentions. From the following intentions those best suited to the occasion may be used or adapted, or other intentions that apply to the missionaries and the particular circumstances may be composed.

The celebrant says:

Let us pray together to God, our merciful Father. He anointed his own Son with the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, and to comfort the sorrowful. With great confidence we therefore say:

R. Lord, may all your people praise you.

Assisting minister: God of everlasting mercy, your will is that all people should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; we give you thanks for sending your only Son into the world as our Teacher and Redeemer. R.

Assisting minister: You sent Jesus Christ to preach the Good News to the poor, to proclaim the release of captives, and to announce the age of grace; 'grant that the embrace of your Church may extend to people of every tongue and every nation. R.

Assisting minister: You call all peoples out of darkness into your marvelous light, so that at the name of Jesus every knee must bend in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; enable us to bear true witness to the Gospel of salvation. R.

Assisting minister: Give us hearts that are upright and simple, so that we will be open to your word; make our lives and all the world rich in works of holiness. R.

PRAYER OF BLESSING

467 The celebrant immediately continues with the prayer of blessing; as circumstances suggest, he may hold his hands outstretched over the departing missionaries, as he says the prayer of blessing.

We bless you, 0 God, and we praise your name. In your merciful providence you sent your Son into the world to free us from the bondage of sin by his own blood and to enrich us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Before he returned, triumphant over death, to you, Father, he sent his apostles, the bearers of his love and power, to proclaim the Gospel of life to all peoples and in the waters of baptism to cleanse those who believe.

Lord, look kindly on your servants: we send them forth as messengers of salvation and peace, marked with the sign of the cross.

Guide their steps with your mighty arm and with the power of your grace strengthen them in spirit, so that they will not falter through weariness.

Make their words the echo of Christ's voice, so that those who hear them may be drawn to obey the Gospel.

Fill the hearts of your missionaries with the Holy Spirit, so that, becoming all things to all people, they may lead many to you, the Father of all, to sing your praises in your holy Church.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

PRESENTATION OF CROSSES TO THE MISSIONARIES

468 The celebrant blesses the crosses:

Father of holiness, you willed the cross of your Son to be the source of all blessings, the fount of all grace. Bless these crosses and grant that those who will preach the crucified Christ to others may themselves strive to be transformed into his image.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

R. Amen.

469 Then one by one the missionaries go to the celebrant, who gives each one a cross, as he says: Receive this sign of Christ's love and of our faith. Preach Christ crucified, who is the power and wisdom of God.

The missionary replies: Amen.

Then the missionary takes the crucifix, kisses it, and returns to his or her place.

470 As circumstances suggest, the celebrant may pronounce the formulary of presentation just once, saying: Receive this sign of Christ's love and of our faith. Preach Christ crucified, who is the power and wisdom of God.

Or: Receive this sign of Christ's love and of the mission for which the Church has chosen you.

The missionaries all reply together: Amen.

Each one then goes to the celebrant and receives a cross.

CONCLUDING RITE

471 After the invitation, "Bow your heads and pray for God's blessing," or something similar is said, the celebrant faces the missionaries and, with hands outstretched, concludes the rite by saying:

May God, who in Christ has shown us his truth and love, make you messengers of the Gospel and witnesses to the divine love before all the world. R. Amen.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, who promised that he would be with his Church until the end of time, guide your steps and fill your words with power. R. Amen.

May the Spirit of the Lord be upon you, enabling you as you go through the world to bring the Good News to the lowly and to heal the brokenhearted. R. Amen.

Then he blesses all present. And may almighty God bless you all, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit. R. Amen.

472 It is preferable to end the celebration with a suitable song.

II. ORDER OF BLESSING WITHIN MASS

473 When the celebration of the blessing is joined with the celebration of Mass, the following norms are to be observed in the choice of texts:

a. on solemnities and on the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter season the Mass is the Mass of the day;

b. on the Sundays of the Christmas season and in Ordinary Time, on feasts, and on memorials the Mass may be either the Mass of the day or the Mass, "For the Spread of the Gospel."

474 When the bishop is the celebrant, everything should be adapted accordingly.

475 The liturgy of the word is carried out in the usual manner, with the following exceptions:

a. if the rubrics permit, instead of the readings assigned for the day those given in the Lectionary for Mass from Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, "For the Spread of the Gospel," may be used (see endnote 16);

b. before the proclamation of the gospel reading, it is most fitting that the missionaries be introduced to the congregation in the way described in no. 476.

476 The assisting deacon announces to the faithful the names of those departing for the missions and, as circumstances suggest, he may indicate the rank or office the missionaries hold within the people of God, as well as the Churches to which they are being sent. Thus, for example:

Deacon: These are the names of those who, in keeping with the Lord's command, are being sent by our Church of N. to preach the Gospel, accompanied by our prayers:

N.N., priest, to the Church in N. N.N., deacon, to the Church in N. N.N., religious of (N.), to the Church in N. N.N., layman/laywoman, to the Church in N.

477 But when the group of departing missionaries includes men religious or women religious, the superior of the order or congregation to which they belong, rather than the assisting deacon, announces their names, charges, and destinations. Thus, for example:

Superior:

From our institute, inspired by charity and strengthened by obedience, these members are going forth to proclaim the Gospel:

Brother N., (for example, teacher,) to N. Sister N., (for example, catechist,) to N.

478 When their name is called, the missionaries respond either by word, for example, by saying, "Present," or by a gesture, for example, by standing.

479 A deacon or a priest from among the departing missionaries proclaims the gospel reading.

During the singing of the verse before the gospel, the celebrant puts incense into the censer, then, omitting the usual blessing of the deacon, in a clear voice addresses the following or other suitable words to the deacon and to all the missionaries.

By your words and your lives proclaim to all peoples the Gospel that is proclaimed in this house of God, so that the mystery of Christ and the Church may be revealed to all.

The deacon and the departing missionaries reply: Amen.

480 After the gospel reading, the celebrant in the homily explains both the biblical readings and the meaning of the rite.

PRAYER OF BLESSING

481 After the homily, all stand. The departing missionaries take places near the celebrant, but in such a way as not to obstruct the people's view of the rite. With hands outstretched over the missionaries as a group, the celebrant says the prayer of blessing.

We bless you, O God, and we praise your name. In your merciful providence you sent your Son into the world to free us from the bondage of sin by his own blood and to enrich us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Before he returned, triumphant over death, to you, Father, he sent his apostles, the bearers of his love and power, to proclaim the Gospel of life to all peoples and in the waters of baptism to cleanse those who believe.

Lord, look kindly on your servants: we send them forth as messengers of salvation and peace, marked with the sign of the cross.

Guide their steps with your mighty arm and with the power of your grace strengthen them in spirit, so that they will not falter through weariness.

Make their words the echo of Christ's voice, so that those who hear them may be drawn to obey the Gospel.

Fill the hearts of your missionaries with the Holy Spirit, so that, becoming all things to all people, they may lead many to you, the Father of all, to sing your praises in your holy Church.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

PRESENTATION OF CROSSES TO THE MISSIONARIES

482 The celebrant blesses the crosses:

Father of holiness, you willed the cross of your Son to be the source of all blessings, the fount of all grace. Bless these crosses and grant that those who will preach the crucified Christ to others may themselves strive to be transformed into his image.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

R. Amen.

483 Then one by one the missionaries go to the celebrant, who gives each one a cross, as he says: Receive this sign of Christ's love and of our faith. Preach Christ crucified, who is the power and wisdom of God.

The missionary replies: Amen.

Then the missionary takes the crucifix, kisses it, and returns to his or her place.

484 As circumstances suggest, the celebrant may pronounce the formulary of presentation just once, saying: Receive this sign of Christ's love and of our faith. Preach Christ crucified, who is the power and wisdom of God.

Or: Receive this sign of Christ's love and of the mission for which the Church has chosen you.

The missionaries all reply together: Amen.

Each one then goes to the celebrant and receives a cross.

485 The presentation is accompanied by the singing of either the following antiphon with Psalm 96 or some other suitable song.

Ant. Day after day, proclaim the salvation of the Lord.

486 The general intercessions follow, with intentions included both for the departing missionaries and for the Churches to which they are being sent.

487 During the song for the presentation of the gifts, the bread and wine for the eucharistic celebration should be brought to the altar by some of the departing missionaries.

488 After the celebrant has said: "The peace of the Lord be with you always," the missionaries, as circumstances suggest, may go one by one to the altar to receive the sign of peace from the celebrant.

489 After the celebrant has received the Lord's body and blood, the missionaries go to the altar to receive communion under both kinds.

CONCLUDING RITE

490 Except when the Mass has its own proper solemn blessing, the following formulary may be used. The celebrant says: The Lord be with you.

All reply: And also with you.

In the following or similar words, the assisting deacon may then invite the people to receive the blessing. Bow your heads and pray for God's blessing.

Then, with hands outstretched over the missionaries, the celebrant says: May God, who in Christ has shown us his truth and love, make you messengers of the Gospel and witnesses to the divine love before all the world. R. Amen.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, who promised that he would be with his Church until the end of time, guide your steps and fill your words with power. R. Amen.

May the Spirit of the Lord be upon you, enabling you as you go through the world to bring the Good News to the lowly and to heal the brokenhearted. R. Amen.

Then he blesses all present. And may almighty God bless you all, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit. R. Amen.

Endnotes: 15. See Lectionary for Mass (2nd ed., 1981), nos. 872-876 (Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, I. For the Church, 11. For the Spread of the Gospel). 16. See Lectionary for Mass (2nd ed., 1981), nos. 872-876 (Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, I. For the Church, 11. For the Spread of the Gospel).

Prayer Source: Book of Blessings by Prepared by International Commission on English in the Liturgy A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops' Conferences, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1989
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