I have seen lately at several churches the practice of people not receiving communion, and coming up for a blessing with their arms crossed over their chest. Is it O.K. for these non-Catholics to receive this blessing?
--Huffed in Houston
It has become a custom in some churches to have those who do not receive communion do this practice and receive a blessing. Lots of times, it is done to children who have not received their First Communion.
It is not in the rubrics of the Mass, nor appropriate. (It is not envisioned in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2002.) In fact, it is rather patronizing. If anything it symbolizes more the division between those who may receive communion and those who may not. Receiving a "token" blessing at this moment also seems to become "superstitious" when all are blessed in a few short minutes with the "final blessing" of the Mass. Children in some places prefer the blessing to Holy Communion, and have stated that they "do not want to take communion because it doesn't taste good." They prefer the blessing to Holy Communion.
At one point in the history of the church and it's worship, those who were not Catholic would be dismissed after, what we call today, the "Liturgy of the Word." Then it was also called the "Liturgy of the catechumen." This was so that the divisions would not be highlighted around the table of the Lord. Also, in our day, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Young People, it seems also inappropriate to add this ritual, sending a mixed message to children that it is OK for priests to touch them.
In some cultures, the parents present the infant or child after Mass for a blessing. This is appropriate because the parents are asking specifically and in a different context.