Dear Father, Can you tell me the origin of the Divine Praises that we say in Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament?
I have searched far and wide to answer your question and I must say the information available is scanty. That could be because the origin is well known and there is not much more to say.
What is certain is that the Divine Praises in their original form were written by Fr Luigi Felici, SJ, in 1797 as a way to make reparation for blasphemies against the divine name.
If blasphemy was common at the end of the 18th century, it is extremely common today.
We see it in films, plays, etc, where use of the name of Jesus Christ in a disrespectful way is widespread, as it is on the lips of many people in daily life.
Just to remind ourselves, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “Blasphemy … consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name” (CCC 2148).
As the Catechism says, blasphemy is not limited to spoken words against God.
It can be committed inwardly, in our wilful thoughts, and outwardly in such forms as books, plays and artworks that show contempt for God, Our Lady, the saints, the Church, the sacraments, etc.
As a way of making reparation for the blasphemies of his own day, Fr Felici (1736-1818) composed the Divine Praises, in which God, Jesus Christ, Our Lady, the angels and the saints are praised through a succession of prayers beginning with “Blessed be”.
In the original Divine Praises written by Fr Felici in Italian there were only eight praises, all beginning with the word “Blessed”. Over the years various Popes added six more praises.
The present Divine Praises, with the papal additions indicated, are the following:
Blessed be God.
Blessed be his Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus.
Blessed be his Most Sacred Heart (added by Pope Leo XIII in 1897, two years before he asked for the whole world to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus).
Blessed be his Most Precious Blood (added by St John XXIII in 1960).
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit the Paraclete (added by Blessed Paul VI in 1964).
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy.
Blessed be her holy and
Immaculate Conception (added by Blessed Pius IX in 1851, three years before the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854).
Blessed be her glorious
Assumption (added by Pope Pius XII in 1952, two years after the proclamation of the dogma).
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St Joseph, her most chaste spouse (added by Pope
Benedict XV in 1921).
Blessed be God in his Angels and in his Saints.
In 1801 Pope Pius VII granted an indulgence for the recitation of the Divine Praises.
The Divine Praises are recited in many countries immediately after the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament in Benediction.
It is a fitting time to praise God, who blesses us with his presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Over the years a number of musical settings of the Divine Praises have been written, so that they are often sung rather than merely recited.
This is a splendid way to honour and praise God, since in the words of an ancient adage, “He who sings, prays twice”.
When we hear or see God blasphemed, we can say some of the Divine Praises: “Blessed be God, Blessed be his Holy Name.”