What is a Blessing from the Abbot of an Abbey of monks?

Brother Ed, OFM

Many people ask me what is AN ABBATIAL BLESSING? I was a monk for the first 20 years of my life and this is what it is!

In the Roman Catholic Church, abbots continue to be elected by the monks of an abbey to lead them as their religious superior in those orders and monasteries that make use of the term (some orders of monks, as the Carthusians for instance, have no abbots, only priors). The abbot is chosen by the monks from among the fully professed monks. Once chosen, he must request blessing: the blessing of an abbot is celebrated by the bishop in whose diocese the monastery is or, with his permission, another abbot or bishop. The ceremony of such a blessing is similar in some aspects to the consecration of a bishop, with the new abbot being presented with the mitre, the ring, and the crosier as symbols of office and receiving the laying on of hands and blessing from the celebrant. Though the ceremony installs the new abbot into a position of legal authority, it does not confer further sacramental authority- it is not a further degree of Holy Orders (although some abbots have been ordained to the episcopacy).

Once he has received this blessing, the abbot not only becomes father of his monks in a spiritual sense, but their major superior under canon law. The abbot wears the same habit as his fellow monks, though by tradition he adds to it a pectoral cross.


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