According to the Roman Ritual, holy water is blessed by the priest and mixed with blessed salt. Water is a symbol of cleansing and wholesomeness, salt a symbol of purity and freshness. Among the many sacramentals of the Church, holy water is one of the most ancient and most universal. Although produced in a liturgical ceremony and used at liturgical services, it is also intended by the Church to be reverently used by the faithful in their homes. The Ritual even has a special notation to this effect:
The faithful may receive holy water in their own containers and take it home to sprinkle it on their sick ones, their houses, fields, vineyards and other objects; also, they may keep it in their homes to sprinkle themselves with it every day, and even often during the day.
Actually, the earliest use of holy water in the Latin Church was intended exclusively for the homes of the Christians. At that time it was not blessed in church, but in the houses of the faithful by priests. Only in the seventh century did they begin to bless it in church and use it for liturgical purposes. People sprinkled it on themselves as a protection against the attacks of evil spirits and as a help in sickness and disease. These two purposes are still mentioned in the official prayer of blessing:
…..that in the service of Thy holy mysteries this water may become powerful through divine grace to drive out the demons and to avert sickness. May whatever is sprinkled with it in the homes of the faithful be freed “from all impurity and harm. Let neither the breath of pestilence nor the air of corruption (contagion) take hold there. Let all the wiles of the hidden enemy be dispelled, so that whatever should threaten the well-being or the peace of the inhabitants may vanish through the sprinkling of this water. Grant us that the blessing of welfare which we implore through the invocation of Thy holy Name may be defended from all hostile aggression. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
According to the ancient custom in all Christian countries, a holy water font is affix near the door-frame of a room and the faithful cross themselves [make the Sign of the Cross] coming and going, with a pious invocation of God’s loving mercy. Thus the use of this sacramental becomes a means of frequently lifting your mind and heart to God in the midst of your day’s busy life.
It is certainly in keeping with the spirit and intention of the Church if you will revive this ancient custom of having a holy water font in your home. Teach your children to use this sacramental with understanding and piety. What a consolation if, at the time of sickness, you sprinkle it with a prayer on your suffering dear ones!
On Sundays and on the eve of great feasts it is customary in many places that parents sprinkle holy water through the home, to sanctify it and to symbolize the fact that each Catholic home should be a little kingdom of God.
Finally, why not bless your children with holy water every night or “even often during the day” as the Ritual says? Worldly people might smile about such a practice and consider it a queer relic of old-fashioned piety. The eye of faith, however, clearly beholds the radiant light of grace and the spiritual fruit which this simple but deeply religious act will produce in the hearts and lives of your children.