Father Trigilio suggests keeping a holy water near your home’s entrance . . .
Normally anyone can walk through a home with holy water and say prayers. In the past, it was a custom in Catholic homes for fathers to bless their children before bed. It’s a good idea to keep holy water in fonts at the entrance of homes so that the faithful may bless themselves as they enter or leave.
Formal blessing of a home, however, is usually reserved to the ordained ministry. Although there are provisions for lay ministers and others to pray the prayers, it’s traditional for a deacon or priest to bless a home, especially when a family moves in. Deacons or priests may also bless homes during the Easter and Christmas seasons. In countries like Poland, Ukraine and Czech Republic, priests visit Catholics families — especially on the feast of the Epiphany. Catholics in Nordic and Mediterranean countries often have their homes blessed with the water blessed at Easter. It’s also a way for the parish priest or deacon to get to know his parishioners. In America, these customs have fallen away, with the exception of blessing the home when a family moves in.
The ministry of blessing involves a particular exercise of the priesthood of Christ. The general instructions in the Book of Blessings spell out the different ministers who may preside, in which the first is the bishop. When the celebration involves the entire diocese, the bishop may reserve certain celebrations to himself. Second, it belongs to the ministry of the priesthood when the celebration involves the local parish community. Third, it belongs to the ministry of the deacon, because the deacon assists the bishop and priests. Finally, there are provisions for lay people, the priesthood of the faithful. This is especially appropriate when parents bless their children or food at meal time.
When Catholics move into a house, they would do well to ask their parish priest to preside over a ceremony to thank God for the gift of their new home. The blessing usually recalls the holy family of Nazareth — Jesus, Mary and Joseph — who inspire Christian families to live according to the virtues.
This column is reprinted with permission from “The Catholicism Answer Book: The 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions” by Rev. John Trigilio Jr and Rev. Kenneth D. Brighenti (Sourcebooks, 2007).