Blessing the House

I ‘blessed the house’ today, sprinkling holy water in each room.

It isn’t the formal blessing of the home and household that’s sometimes done on Epiphany.

The formal blessing is a wonderful ceremony: and one we don’t do.

By not performing the formal blessing, we’re missing out on part of what it is to be Catholic. That doesn’t bother me.

Catholics have been accumulating different ways of living our faith for two millennia. I doubt that one person or family would have time to follow them all.

Diversity, Dance, and a Distant Dream

World Youth Day 2000, Rome, from sporki, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.

The Catholic Church has rules that apply to everybody. They boil down to ‘love God, love your neighbor, see everybody as your neighbor.’ (Matthew 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Matthew 5:4344; Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2530; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)

How we apply the universal rules depends on how and where we live, and what era we’re living in.

The Åsædesret, for example, mattered for some of my ancestors: but isn’t how the family operates today. On the other hand, I think we’re influenced by laws of the Brehons and the Cáin Adomnáin, and that’s another topic.

We also must acknowledge that our Lord is the Son of God, died on Golgotha, and stopped being dead a few days later. What happened next is important too, and that’s yet another topic. (Catechism, 430445, 599618, 638655)

However, the Church doesn’t try cramming everyone into one cultural or political mold.

As long as political systems and cultural norms respect the “legitimate good of the communities” and “fundamental rights of persons,” we can have queens, emperors, presidents: whatever. (Catechism, 24, 814, 1901, 1957)

The same applies to how we worship. The last I heard, for example, liturgical dance was still on the ‘don’t do it’ list for my part of the world. In places like Gokwe and parts of Oceania, dance is an integral part of Catholic worship.1

I’ve seen video of liturgical dance done where worship without dance would seem as odd as Mass without music would here. I think it’s a great idea, but — I’ve seen liturgical dance tried here in the Upper Midwest.

I agree with our bishops. We’re not ready for it. Not yet.

Maybe the children of my children’s children will dance in the aisles: and that’s yet again another topic.

As a Catholic, I am part of an outfit that’s literally καθολικός, universal: a united and diverse people, embracing all cultures and all times. It’s about as close to living in Tennyson’s “Federation of the world” as I can hope for in my remaining years:

“…Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furled
In the parliament of man, the federation of the world….
“…And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law….”
(“Locksley Hall,” Tennyson, via

Let’s see. Where was I? Beliefs, dance, unity and diversity. Right.


What Catholics must believe is briefly discussed in the Nicene Creed. The basics are in the Apostle’s Creed. (Catechism, The Credo)

John Paul II explained a little of the history involved. (“On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World,” John Paul II (May 18, 1986))

Bottom line, what we believe is not optional. How we express those beliefs in our worship follows a basic format, and takes regional cultures into account:

“The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church’s mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture….”
(Catechism, 1202)

A Request and a Sacramental

When I ‘bless the house,’ I start at the top floor, sprinkling holy water and asking God to bless this house and the people in it. I work my way down until I get to the last room in the basement.

I can look at it as God’s blessings filtering down from Heaven. I could see what I do as ‘driving the devil out’ in the general direction of Hell, but that’s not what’s happening.

Blessing the house is not an exorcism, since what I do isn’t public, and I’m not trying to using our Lord’s authority to drive out demons:

“EXORCISM: The public and authoritative act of the Church to protect or liberate a person or object from the power of the devil (e.g., demonic possession) in the name of Christ (1673). A simple exorcism prayer in preparation for Baptism invokes God’s help in overcoming the power of Satan and the spirit of evil (1237).”
(Catechism, Glossary)

Exorcisms are quite real, probably not like what you’ve read about or seen in the movies; and that’s still another topic.

I’m asking God to bless the house; and using holy water, a sacramental. It’s not ‘magic,’ by the way.

There’s no way I could ‘make’ God do something, for one thing. For another, trying to tame occult powers or make deal with stray spirits is a very bad idea. (Catechism, 2117)


Sacramentals are visible signs of sacraments: baptism, in the case of holy water. (Catechism, 1668)

Using sacramentals, properly, is a way to make everyday life holy. (Catechism, 1667)

Sacramentals are not substitutes for the sacraments, but help us get ready for cooperation with the Holy Spirit. They always involve prayer, and often go with a sign: like sprinkling holy water. (Catechism, 1668, 1670)

My guess is that holy water is a fairly common sacramental, no matter where or when Catholics are. On the other hand, the Church doesn’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sacramentals.

Local culture matters, and that’s — what else? — even more topics. (Catechism, 16741676)

More, mostly about God, love, and making sense:


1 Worship in the universal church:

“The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church’s mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture:…”
(Catechism, 1202)
“Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,180 etc.”
(Catechism, 1674)
“…Our Liturgies of the Eucharist are well attended and constitute a real feast and celebration with an active participation from the faithful expressed in joy, song and a dignified dance….”
(“The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church,” H.E. Most. Rev. Angel Floro Martínez, I.E.M.E., Bishop of Gokwe (Zimbabwe); Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin, XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2-23, 2005))
“…Traditional stories and symbols, music and dance, rites and celebrations, all of which are expressions of human memory and imagination, are deeply part of the cultures of Oceania. Through a proper application of inculturation, the Church seeks to incorporate elements of a particular culture into Her liturgy, devotional practices, catechesis and sacred art. In this way, She expresses faith in God and communion among the faithful….”
(“Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life Lineamenta,” Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for Oceania, 11 (1997))

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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3 Responses to Blessing the House

  1. Pingback: New Daily Prayer Routine | A Catholic Citizen in America

  2. Anni H. says:

    When we bought our first home this past fall, we asked the chaplain to come bless the home. And, for the first time in our entire marriage, we put the chalk blessing above the doorways at Epiphany. It was nice to be able to celebrate in a small manner – and, has been beneficial in keeping the little guy in our home comfortable in knowing monsters can’t get in the house! 🙂

    Great article, as always!

Thanks for taking time to comment!