Tag Archives: holy water

Who can bless a home?

Father Trigilio suggests keeping a holy water near your home’s  entrance . . .

Fr. John Trigilio

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).

Why do Catholics use holy water?

From ancient times, water has always played an important symbolic role in biblical faith

Al Kresta

Al Kresta

Holy water is one of many sacramentals — aids to devotion — which include objects such as holy water, scapulars, statues, medals and rosaries. Sacramentals are also actions such as blessings, exorcisms and the sign of the cross.

While sacraments objectively confer grace, the value of a sacramental depends on the disposition and openness of the believer to receive grace from God. Sacramentals can be established or abolished by the pastoral judgment of the Church. The sacraments, on the other hand, were instituted by Christ and cannot be added to or taken from.

Now let’s dive into holy water in particular. Water has always played an important symbolic role in biblical faith. Ancient Israel used to purify people and places by sprinkling them with water (see Lev 14:49-52; Num 19:18). Israelite priests ritually washed their hands before and after offering sacrifice. The temple in Jerusalem had fonts for worshippers to cleanse themselves.

Today, Catholic priests wash their hands at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the sacrament of Baptism, a sacramental (holy water) becomes the material substance used by God to effect the remission of sins.

Plain water becomes holy water through the blessing of a priest. For instance, water is blessed at the Easter Vigil for the baptism of those being received into the Church that night. This holy water used to be retained for the entire liturgical year. For hygienic (as well as theological) reasons, we now use fresh water for baptisms outside of the Easter season.

After being blessed, the holy water is placed in a receptacle accessible to worshippers. Some churches now have large baptismal fonts that sit in the vestibule. Worshippers can dip their fingers into the font and then make the sign of the cross as a preparation to enter the sacred mysteries.

With this sacramental we’re reminded of our baptism and union with Christ in his death and resurrection, and we pray to be cleansed and forgiven of any venial sins that have stained us on our journey through the world.

Al Kresta is CEO of Ave Maria Communications and host of Kresta in the Afternoon. This column is taken from his book “Why Do Catholics Genuflect?” © 2001. Used with permission of St. Anthony Messenger Press. To order copies, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit servantbooks.org