Wipe It Clean

FrMichael mentioned something very significant in his response on one of the ordination posts. Regarding the cleansing materials for the newly ordained person’s hands:

Like most of my classmates, I didn’t use the lemon when washing my hands: wanted the feel and smell of the chrism to remain.

That brought me back to my own baptism day, and an event I hadn’t thought of in many years. During my baptism, I was aware of the diagonal stream of water from high on my left forehead to near my right eyebrow. Father McCarthy and Mom came at me with a towel and my first instinct was to say, “No! Don’t wipe it away.”

Then a split-second later I thought, “No, I should obey now that I’m a Catholic Christian.” So the wiping happened.

Yet I wonder: do you think clergy and parents are too eager to wipe away the sacramental signs of water and oil? I see big bath towels at the ready after a baby is baptized. Bishops are often quite conservative in applying chrism to teens. When churches are dedicated, does the custodial staff scrub the altar and walls the next day?

Think about damp babies, greased adolescents and priests, and stains on walls. Isn’t a litttle liturgical mess a good thing?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to Wipe It Clean

  1. Liam says:

    I like the abundance of chrism at Eastern chrismation.

    I generally like our sacramental signs, where they are able, to manifest abundance. (And, just as importantly, in an infectiously joyous attitude of the conferring ministers. Even in Reconciliation, the confessor should strive to manifest the overflowing joy of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. I *cannot* overemphasize this enough. And it is one thing most often lacking in our sacramental celebrations. I want people to act more like the earth itself has quaked and opened wide and Heaven has filled the chasm. With delighted and joyful wonder and awe.)

  2. Liam says:

    Btw, oil is another good reason to wear white – it’s the easiest to make clean of oil stains.

  3. I use as much oil for anointings as I can, until it becomes a real negative. The oil on babies is no problem, I just warn the parents not to get it on their clothes (sometimes they don’t care). With confirmations, and with the water of baptism, I don’t care to have it get in the eyes because it stings; I’m told the water stings babies’ eyes too.

    As far as the anointing of a priest’s hands, here’s what another priest told me to do: have a purificator (that’s the cloth used at the altar by the priest to wipe out the chalice) in your pocket; after the bishop anoints your hands, dry your hands with the purificator, then save that. Put it in your mother’s casket at her funeral.

    Well, my mother had already gone to her reward, so I placed it in my father’s casket. (Turns out the custom there is to place a stole there, which I didn’t know until later.)

  4. Fran says:

    I think that a liturgical mess is a potentially beautiful thing. I am reminded of leaping into the greatness… something I can write about with amazing rapidity, but am hard pressed to do in the not liturgically-messy-enough shadows of my soul.

  5. FrMichael says:

    Fr Fox:

    In Latin American culture, the towel that was used to wipe the hands was indeed placed in the mothers’ casket, but in a unique way. In those pre-funeral parlor days, the towel was wrapped around the head like a head scarf, which had the practical purpose of keeping the mouth of the deceased closed.

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