Fr. Joseph Wilson has let us publish his “Rite of Blessing Automobiles,” or rather the rite produced some years ago by Diocese of Ostergothenburg as a addition to the Book of Blessings, of which the assiduously document-collecting Father Wilson had a copy. Here, thanks to him, is the memo from the diocese’s liturgical commission:
THE LITURGICAL COMMISSION
The Office of Worship Space, Environment
and the Orienting of the Cathedral Labrynth
Center for Diocesan Administrative Spirituality
The Diocese of Ostergothenburg
1969 Bugnini Place
Ostergothenburg, MN 12294-7839
Pastoral Note #2141995
The Rite of Blessing Automobiles
Among the many blessings of the Second Vatican Council, the newly revised Book of Blessings ranks as one of the newest but most promising. Yet by its very nature it will require frequent revision, updating and additions in order to bring it into greater conformity with the other liturgical books of the Roman Rite and make it more fully adapted to the needs of the local community.
Blessings of Automobiles are among the most frequently requested blessings today, yet the rite provided in the new Book of Blessings is woefully inadequate. Please be advised, therefore, that in addition to the Longer Rite and the Shorter Rite provided in the Book of Blessings, there exists a third option: the Rite of Blessing Automobiles by Total Immersion.
The complete rite is being prepared by the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Detroit, in recognition of the fact that this will spring more fully out of their local culture. The following norms should be regarded as provisional in nature, and will be superseded by the publication of the complete rite.
The use of holy water in the Churchs life is always intended to remind us of Baptism. Hence, the total immersion of the automobile or other vehicle to be blessed is the fuller sign, an effective symbol manifesting the desire of the Church that the entirety of our lives be immersed in the Mystery of Christ.
Any parish faith community can provide itself with an immersion tank for the automobile, constructed under the careful, expert supervision of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. The tank should be sufficiently deep that total immersion is possible, thus providing for the fullness of the sign. It is recognized, however, that practical difficulties (the presentation by its sponsors of a Mack Truck, for example) may make total immersion impossible, in which case the minister of blessing may resort to infusion (pouring). Care should be taken, however, that with proper catechesis the Faithful understand the value and significance of the fuller celebration of the sign.
The automobile should not be driven into the pool by ramp. The integrity of the sign requires that the automobile be lowered into the blessed water, thereby signifying that one cannot attain to a state of blessedness by ones own unaided effort. Necessarily, the car will be lowered into the water by cable. There should, however, be only one cable, to avoid unnecessary multiplication of symbols. Care should be taken that the faith community resist the merely pragmatic sort of reasoning which has resulted in such appalling abuses as several crucifixes in the sanctuary at the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, multiple chalices on the altar, holy water stoups at each door of the church, and many people in the congregation on Sunday all of which are signs that the liturgical renewal has not yet born fruit in a parish. One bread, one body/one car, one cable.
It is best that the car be immersed three separate times, at the invocation of each Person of the Trinity. For serious reasons, however, the minister of blessing may deem one immersion to be sufficient. It is fitting that representatives of the community, especially those who will be served by the vehicle, be seated in the car as it is immersed. The Prayer of Blessing is read before the immersion, by a Priest or Deacon with hands outstretched over the vehicle; by a layman or a lay lady with hands joined. In either case the minister of blessing will almost certainly require the assistance of three hefty altar servers capable of holding up the new Book of Blessings while the prayer is read.
Immediately afterwards, Christian symbols may be placed on or within the car. Care should be taken to avoid needless duplication of symbol. Symbols may appropriately take a variety of forms, as long as they spring naturally from the culture of the people as an expression of faith, are widely understood and revered by the faithful, are effective symbols, and are not Saint Christopher medallions. As in all comparable situations, the episcopal conference and the local diocesan liturgical commission are the best judge of what authentically expresses the faith of the people.
As soon as the new rite for the blessing of automobiles and other vehicles is approved, along with the General Instruction of the Blessing of Automobiles, the Scriptural Reflection, and the Pastoral Reflection, the norms contained therein will supersede the norms contained herein. All things to the contrary notwithstanding. Until then, these norms will be regarded as having the force of anything contained in the Book of Blessings, with the texts already provided in the Book of Blessings:
Introduction and Greeting
Reading from Scripture
Intercessions/Prayer of Blessing
Immersion of the Vehicle in Blessed Water
Placing of Symbols
In certain situations the rite may be abridged if local circumstances suggest difficulty with the implementation pf the fuller rite (i.e., northern climes where the water might freeze; southern climes where it might evaporate; other places where the congregation might lose interest and just wander away . . . ).
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?