This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive the graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on preparing yourself before Mass.
When entering the church, bless yourself by dipping your hand in the provided holy water, making the sign of the cross1, and praying: “In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”2
A holy water blessing is done while entering the church (the building) to remind you of your Baptism—your entrance into the Church (the family of God, the Mystical Body of Christ).
The prayer “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is a way of initiating a dedicated time for God. Your words proclaim that you are doing this in God’s name—doing it for God, not just for yourself. Those words also echo Jesus’ command when He told the disciples to Baptize all nations, so they can remind that your Baptism is part of a chain of Baptisms leading back to Jesus.
Holy water is a sacramental. Sacramentals dispose us to better receive the graces God offers us. Holy water, in particular, is also known for driving away demons, and strengthening against temptations, so this is a great primer to help you pray better during the Mass.
Nothing drives away the devil faster than holy water.St. Teresa of Avila
Don’t rush this practice. It can be very tempting to fall into a robotic motion with this–simply getting your hand wet and waving it around your body (1, 2, 3, 4). While this could possibly give you some spiritual benefit, you will get much more from focusing on:
- Remembering what your Baptism did (see CCC 1262 – 1274):
- Washed away original sin (inherited from Adam and Eve) and any actual sins you had committed up to that point
- Initiated your membership into the Church, giving you access to the other Sacraments
- Made you a new creature (many baptismal fonts are 8-sided as a representation of how Jesus’ resurrection inaugurated a new creation–the 8th day of creation)
- Made you a son/daughter of God and co-heir with Christ
- Gave you Sanctifying Grace (God’s life in you)
- United you to all other members of the Church
- Gave you a share in Jesus’ priestly, prophetic, and royal mission.
- Priestly – worship God through the offering of the Mass
- Prophetic – Spread God’s Truths
- Royal – Enjoy the dignity of God’s family and serve other people
- The Cross
- Jesus used the cross to conquer sin and death and give us the Church and Sacraments
- Jesus’ death on the cross is God’s great sign of His love for us
- The Words
- Focus on each person of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- Dedicate this time to God
- Praying a Sign of the Cross well can gain you an indulgence
Some people will take their extra holy water that is left over on their fingers and sprinkle it on the ground as a prayer for the souls in Purgatory. St. John Macias was known for doing so whole praying: “By this holy water and by Thy precious blood, wash away all my sin, O Lord, and relieve the souls in purgatory,” after which he would make the sign of the cross.
What About You?
- Do you know any stories that show effects of holy water?
- How has holy water and/or reflecting on your entrance into the Church via Baptism as you enter the church building prepared you for Mass?
- Marking ourselves with the sign of the cross:
And the LORD said to him, “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” (Ezekiel 9:4)
“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:3)
Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)