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Let’s look at sacramentals that truly affect our everyday lives. In the course of going through various sacramentals, we will also explore practical tips on how to best use them.
First of all, one of the most important sacramentals to use is the “house blessing.” The custom of asking a parish priest to bless a family home goes back centuries. Traditionally, the house blessing would be renewed each year after the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The local pastor would visit each of his parishioners’ homes and bless them, remembering the Magi and how they visited the Christ child.
This house blessing was always done with blessed chalk, which was blessed after the Mass on Epiphany. The priest used the chalk to mark the doorposts with the inscription: 20 C+M+B 15. The “20” and “15” is the year, while the “C+M+B” have a double meaning of “Christus mansionem benedicat (“Christ bless this house”) and “Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar” (referring to the names of the three magi. Here are some of the prayers said for the blessing of chalk as well as the blessing of the home to give a little taste of the symbolism behind it all and the protection it bestows:
Chalk: “Bless, + O Lord God, this creature chalk to render it helpful to men. Grant that they who use it in faith and with it inscribe upon the entrance of their homes the names of thy saints, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord.”
House: “From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfilment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.”
This house blessing is most appropriate following the feast of the Epiphany, but can be done throughout the year (provided you have blessed chalk, which can only be blessed on the Feast of the Epiphany). However, that is not the only type of house blessing. Any priest can bless your home or apartment in a more general way that protects your home and all who dwell therein. Here is one such prayer:
“God the Father almighty, we fervently implore you for the sake of this home and its occupants and possessions, that you may bless + and sanctify + them, enriching them by your kindness in every way possible. Pour out on them, Lord, heavenly dew in good measure, as well as an abundance of earthly needs. Mercifully listen to their prayers, and grant that their desires be fulfilled. At our lowly coming be pleased to bless + and sanctify + this home, as you once were pleased to bless the home of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Within these walls let your angels of light preside and stand watch over those who live here; through Christ our Lord.”
As you can see, this house blessing finds its Scriptural roots in the blessing of the home of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and it asks God to send “angels of light” to “stand watch.”
It is best to have your house blessed by a priest whenever you move. You may not know what has gone on in that house or apartment by the previous owners (such as an occult activity) and so it is important to sanity the home and reclaim it for Christ.
Holy water has a double meaning of reminding us of our baptism as well as a symbol of cleansing. Holy water is said to have great power over the Enemy when used properly as the devil cannot stand being sprinkled with “clean” water as he is entirely unclean for all eternity. It reminds him of the water that flowed out of Christ’s side, which is a symbol of baptism, and brings to mind the day of his defeat (Christ’s crucifixion).
It is a custom to have what are called “holy water stoups” or “holy water fonts” on the walls of a home. They are elaborate or simple cups that hold holy water, which can then be used to bless oneself throughout the day. It is especially helpful to have them at the doors that lead outside the house as well as in the bedrooms of family members. That way we keep ourselves always fixed on Christ and remind ourselves to remain pure. It also keeps the holy water handy when needed to ward off any influence of the Evil One.
If possible, it is also good to have a small container of blessed salt in your home. You would have to specifically ask your parish priest to provide that for you and odds are likely that your parish priest would not be familiar with it. This is one sacramental that fell by the wayside after Vatican II and is not used very often in current parishes. However, it is a powerful weapon against evil as can be seen by the prayer we examined last week.
3. Blessed Candles
Another useful sacramental to have in the home is a blessed candle. Traditionally, homes would have at least one blessed candle and it was typically used as a source of hope and protection during a storm. Priests would bless candles on the feast day of “Candlemas,” which was February 2, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also known as the feast of the Presentation and is when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the Temple. The blessing of candles come into play in remembrance of what the prophet Simeon said to Mary and Joseph in the Temple when they presented Jesus:
“Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, In peace, according to Thy word: For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples, A light to reveal Thee to the nations And the glory of Thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
The theme of “light” is present throughout his “canticle” and so candles remind us of the “light of Christ” that banishes the darkness of sin and death.
One sacramental that is not used very often is a “house scapular.” This is patterned after the Brown Scapular (which we will cover in upcoming lessons) and is meant to dedicate the home to the care and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There have been miracles attributed to the use of a “house scapular” hung on the wall of homes, where the house was saved from destruction. A house scapular can be purchased from any Catholic bookstore or if one searched online.
Crucifix in every room
A very powerful sacramental that should be in all of our homes in the crucifix. Not only does a crucifix remind us of the great love that God had for us, but it also is a strong deterrent to spiritual enemies. The crucifix is the bane of satan’s existence and is the sign of everything that he despises. It is beneficial to have a crucifix in every room in your house (or apartment) so that you can frequently meditate on Jesus’ great sacrifice of love as well as have an image to remind you what you need to focus on during times of temptation.
Here are two prayers of blessing a crucifix which sum-up all the reasons we need them in our homes:
Holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, be pleased to bless + this cross, that it may be a saving help to mankind. Let it be the support of faith, an encouragement to good works, the redemption of souls; and let it be consolation, protection, and a shield against the cruel darts of the enemy; through Christ our Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, bless + this cross by which you snatched the world from Satan’s grasp, and on which you overcame by your suffering the tempter to sin, who rejoiced in the first man’s fall in eating of the forbidden tree. Here it is sprinkled with holy water. May this cross be hallowed in the name of the Father, + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit; and may all who kneel and pray before this cross in honor of our Lord find health in body and soul; through Christ our Lord.
Enthronement to the Sacred Heart
The final sacramental that I will briefly touch on is the formal “Enthronement to the Sacred Heart.” This entails not just placing an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home, but is a full process of consecration to the Heart of Jesus. It is similar to the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, but is specific to a “home” or “family.” It places Jesus at the center of our lives and hearts. Here is a brief guide to this “enthronement” available online. Otherwise, Cardinal Raymond Burke has a great resource that you can purchase through the Marian Catechists.