When to Bless Water

Date: June 8, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: Appendix II of the Roman Missal mentions that the blessing of water may take place during Mass on Sundays. Can one bless water using these prayers at Masses said on days other than Sundays? -- J.B., Montreal


Answer. The precise rubric for this rite says the following:


“On Sundays, especially in Easter Time, the blessing and sprinkling of water as a memorial of Baptism may take place from time to time in all churches and chapels, even in Masses anticipated on Saturday evenings. If this rite is celebrated during Mass, it takes the place of the usual Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass.”


As well as this rite, the Book of Blessings offers a slightly different rite for when Holy Water is blessed outside of Mass. The rite is introduced with the following rubric:


“1388. On the basis of age-old custom, water is one of the signs that the Church often uses in blessing the faithful. Holy water reminds the faithful of Christ, who is given to us as the supreme divine blessing, who called himself the living water, and who in water established baptism for our sake as the sacramental sign of the blessing that brings salvation.


“1389. The blessing and sprinkling of holy water usually takes place on Sunday, in keeping with the rite given in the Roman Missal.


“1390. But when the blessing of water takes place outside Mass, the rite given here may be used by a priest or deacon. While maintaining the structure and chief elements of the rite, the celebrant should adopt the celebration to the circumstances of the place and the people involved.”


Although this rite may be used practically any day, apart from Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we can see how the Book of Blessings underlines the preference that the blessing and sprinkling be ordinarily carried out on a Sunday during Mass.


Our reader asks if the rite for blessing and sprinkling during Mass can be celebrated on days that are not Sunday.


The question, therefore, is whether the above rubrics are restrictive or just indicative of the normal situation in which these rites can be carried out.


There is no clear guidance on this point, and so what I say here is an opinion.


I think that the reason why the rubrics specifically mention Sunday Masses with the community is because this is the most likely circumstances in which this rite fulfills its spiritual and catechetical purpose of being a memorial of Christ’s blessing to us and of our baptism. This is especially poignant on the day in which we recall the Resurrection gathered as a worshiping community.


Other days, especially ferial days, would not usually have the same spiritual efficacy as a sign for the whole community.


That said, however, considering that it is possible to bless Holy Water outside of Mass on weekdays, it would not seem to be forbidden to also do so during Mass.


At the same time, considering the community natures of the rites for blessing and sprinkling of Holy Water (within and outside of Mass), and the fact that the missal does not advocate that it be celebrated every Sunday but only “from time to time,” I think it should be reserved to special occasions in which the mystery of baptism is especially emphasized.


This could be, for example, days of prayer in which the community is reflecting and meditating together the gifts of the sacraments and the consequences of the universal call to holiness stemming from Christian initiation. 


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