Blessing of Holy Water

There are major differences between the blessing of holy water in the more modern or “Ordinary Form” of the liturgy and the older or “Extraordinary Form”. In the older form, salt and water are mixed — after they have both been exorcised and blessed.

In the newer form, there is either a simple rite (with a simple blessing of the water and a rather verbose prayer) or a more elaborate rite (mixing/blessing salt and water — but with no exorcisms).

There are many anecdotes about the efficacy of water blessed according to the older rite. It is a more powerful sacramental. The exorcisms remove it from the sphere of the devil’s influence. The blessing then confers on it the power to be a channel of divine grace. Holy water blessed “the old way” is, objectively speaking, better; it’s the way I generally bless holy water in my parish.

One of the challenges most priests face in this regard is that the various ritual books span this blessing over multiple pages, and it’s inconvenient to turn the pages mid-sentence or otherwise mid-prayer. It’s nice to have everything on a single page. Therefore, I have made a resource with all the prayers on a single page.

DOWNLOAD HERE (PDF)

Moreover, many priests today have not studied Latin or their Latin is very weak. To use these old prayers it is not necessary to understand Latin. But it is useful at least to know how to pronounce it properly. To this end, I have made some recordings that, notwithstanding the fact that I have a “voice made for print”, will perhaps be of use.

If you download the PDF linked above and follow along, I’ve made three separate recordings at a reasonably moderate speed:

OPENING VERSE, EXORCISM & BLESSING OF SALT (MP3)

EXORCISM & BLESSING OF WATER (MP3)

MIXING OF SALT & WATER, CONCLUDING PRAYER (MP3)

Then, if you want, at a faster — let’s call it “more natural” — speed, I have the whole thing:

THE ENTIRE RITE IN ONE RECORDING [faster] (MP3)

These resources may be helpful for those priests who wish to use the older form and might struggle a bit with the Latin.

The basic approach to Latin (for those who don’t really understand it) involves three steps:

  1. Figure out the system of pronunciation (more or less, the same as Italian — not complex, you just have to get used to it);
  2. Look for the written accents and put the emphasis on those syllables accordingly;
  3. Practice, practice, and practice again, until you get it “in your mouth”.

It gets easier. Just keep at it.

Pronouncing the Latin accurately is preferred for the efficacy of the sacramental and, therefore, the confounding of the devil. Many exorcists have reported cases where the devil mocked them for not pronouncing this or that Latin prayer accurately. It’s a sacred language and he doesn’t like it. The better we pronounce it, the more it bothers him. Even better is when we also understand what we are pronouncing, such that our minds and hearts are fully engaged with what we are accurately pronouncing.

It’s important to note a couple of other things: traditionally, a priest is vested in cassock, surplice, and purple stole for this blessing. Second, it’s useful to have a small dish with some salt in it. After saying the prayers of exorcism and blessing over the salt and then the water, the priest can pick up a “pinch” of salt from the dish for each of the three signs of the cross that he makes with it over the water. Any remaining salt in the small dish may either be kept for later or may be sprinkled outside in the garden or poured into the sacrarium of the sacristy. Or eaten, for that matter.

Deacons may not do this blessing, unfortunately. (I have previously written on this topic here.)

Incidentally, there is a poetry and beauty to these prayers that is simply not translatable into English. I always find it very consoling to pray in the Church’s official language, made sacred by centuries of use and handed down to us in the noble simplicity of the Roman tradition. I know many priests have experienced this, the more they learn/embrace these things.

Perhaps some priests will want to print this PDF in color and then have it laminated. (For that matter, it could be a nice thing for you to have done for your priest, if you think he would use it.) It would be a useful card to keep on hand in the sacristy for the many times when he will need to bless holy water and will not want to have the tedium of flipping through the pages of the ritual while doing so. I hope it is of use.

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