Blessing and sprinkling of water

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  As I review the rubrics of the rite of blessing and sprinkling of water, why does the prayer over the salt follow the prayer over the water? In the earlier practice, exorcised salt was added to the water before the blessing. Now it appears that exorcised salt is added to blessed water. It occurs to me that one might interpret the pertinent rubric in such a way as to permit the blessing and pouring of salt into the water before rather than after the water’s blessing.

Although the words for the blessing of salt appear after the words for the blessing of water, the rubric reads: “Where the circumstances of the place or the custom of the people suggest that the mixing of

salt be preserved in the blessing of water, the Priest may bless salt, saying:”

Perhaps one could interpret the rubric this way: if there’s some reason for hanging on to this old custom, you’re welcome to it, and here are the words to use. The custom being preserved is that of exorcising water with blessed salt before blessing the water itself. The implication, then, is that permission to preserve the custom is permission to do it, as was the former practice, before and not after the blessing of the water.

What do you think?

A:   I think the postconciliar missal intends the salt to be blessed after the water is blessed, but I admit, it is hard to figure out.

The two principal changes to this ceremony after the council were the shift from exorcism to blessing, and the shift in order of the prayers. Before the council, salt was exorcised and added to the water before its blessing. Now salt is blessed and added to the water. The rubrics do not say whether this is to be done before or after the blessing of the water, but the sequence of the prayers indicates strongly to me that blessed salt is added after the water has been blessed.

The main difference is the function of the prayer over the salt. It no longer constitutes an exorcism before a blessing, but is rather a blessing, and that could explain its relocation after the blessing of the water.