Sprinkling Rite for Pastoral Liturgy

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  I have a question for you regarding something you wrote in an article about the Sprinkling Rite for Pastoral Liturgy.  In it, (in the section on the Easter Vigil) you said:

“After all have professed their faith, the priest sprinkles them with water. Some parishes improvise with the ritual at this point, inviting the faithful to the font to sign themselves with water.  This may strengthen the connection between the professed renewal and the renewing powers of the waters of Baptism.”

Our parish has been doing this for somewhere around twenty years. Actually, what we do is have everyone go to the font and start by having the priest bless the first person, and then each person blesses the person behind them. It is a special tradition with a lot of meaning for everyone. The problem is that we have a new pastor who said the only way we can continue to do this is if we can find something “from a competent authority” that says that this is an option. What he wants (and I am sure does not exist) is something in the rubric somewhere that says it is an approved practice. I’ve started going through the liturgical documents in the hope that I can find something that indicates there is some flexibility here. I was hoping, since you mentioned this practice specifically in your article, that you might know of something in the Church documents that says that this is liturgically correct.  Please let me know if you know of anything. I really appreciate your insight.

Thank you very much!

A:  You won’t find it in a document. The part that is hard to defend is having each person put water on the next person. There’s really no liturgical precedent for that. But having everybody come to the font to sign themselves is not much different from the custom when people enter the church and sign themselves with blessed water, as endorsed by the Ceremonial of Bishops 110.

There’s no document containing this as an option at this point of the Vigil, but logically, the results are the same whether the priest sprinkles water on the people or the people sign themselves with water from the font. It’s like the difference between baptism by immersion and baptism by pouring. One brings the person to the water, the other brings water to the person.