Dear Sister Sunday,
So, weird question, but I read your book and I love the idea of blessing my house on Epiphany. We’ve been attending a Church of England church in London. Haven’t noticed any holy water. Is it out of line to pop into a Catholic Church and ask for some? Answer me honestly; I don’t want to make an ass out of myself or do it wrong. And no, not a vulgar word according to my daughter’s spelling words this week… Thanks so much!
If go into most Catholic churches you will find a large, metal holy water dispenser. It is not there for display, but for the use of all the faithful. I regularly bring my small plastic holy water bottle (purchased from a church goods store for about two dollars but any bottle would work) and refill it from the dispenser in my parish church. Holy water is given to help us remember the holiness of our lives, of all lives. It helps us remember that we belong to Christ, who offers us living water, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14b) When I walk out the door to my garage and stop on the way to dip my fingers in the small font on the wall and make the sign of the cross, I remember who I am. I go out into the world reminded that I am a child of God. This helps me remember (and sometimes I actually do) that everyone I meet (even that annoying woman with at least 20 items in the 15 item limit lane at the grocery store) is also a child of God. In the same way, blessing our houses with holy water on Epiphany reminds us that our houses are more than places to eat and sleep and store our stuff. Our homes are meant to be places of hospitality, places where the domestic church can be encouraged and strengthened. But we need to be reminded.
Holy water is no more reserved for baptized Catholics than is the custom of praying before a crucifix. No one stops a person kneeling in prayer before a crucifix and asks to see their baptismal certificate. People of goodwill are invited and welcomed to pray there. So, find a clean, easily sealed and unsealed vessel that you can dedicate to this use, and go to a nearby Catholic church and fill it with holy water from the dispenser or the baptismal font. If you want to talk to the priest, by all means do so, but you don’t need special permission to avail yourself of a sacramental that exists to be employed by pilgrims on the Way.
Bless your house, room by room. Fling some holy water and rejoice in a God who loves us enough to share in our humanity. Pray that all who enter your house may find Christ dwelling there, just as the magi found the Christ in the stable at Bethlehem.
God bless you,