The Armchair Liturgist: Managing the Sprinkling Rite

The Roman  Missal provides an option in place of a penitential rite. During Easter, some parishes employ the “Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water.” Does yours? How often do you use this rite outside of the Easter season?

Did you know the rite also offers the option of mixing salt with holy water? I’ve never seen this option utilized, but perhaps you have.

The rubrics indicate the priest is to sprinkle himself before sprinkling others. Do your clergy do this?

The rite also dictates that “an antiphon or other appropriate sing is sung.” Some places attempt to streamline the rite and sing the Gloria during this time. Do you think this is appropriate? There is also a final formulary before the Gloria, which sometimes gets omitted:

May almighty God cleanse us of our sins,
and through the eucharist we celebrate
make us worthy to sit at his table
in his heavenly kingdom.

Have a seat in the liturgist’s armchair and render judgment. What you say, goes, at least in our realm of pontificating here. How would you utilize the rite of sprinkling in the Roman Rite?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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15 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Managing the Sprinkling Rite

  1. english father says:

    Use it each Sunday of Easter and Baptism of the Lord. Use Stephen Dean’s “Water of life, cleanse and refresh us; raise us to life in Christ Jesus” Laudate 512.
    Clergy normally sign self with water.
    Use concluding prayer, then the Gloria.
    Never thought of doing sprinkling during Gloria, not keen on idea, Don’t bless salt.

  2. David D. says:

    I’ve only seen the Asperges in the OF once in the past 20 years or so. Too bad. It seems to have been more common in the 70’s. I doubt I would have noticed the blessing and mixing of salt. Does the fact that it’s listed as option A suggest it should be used more frequently?

  3. Andy says:

    We sing “I Saw Water Flowing” by Bob Dufford. It’s a very simple setting of the Vidi Aquam for the Easter season.

    I would never merge it with the Gloria, as it confuses the hymn of praise (Gloria) with the penitential nature of the sprinkling rite. It’s a bit less clear with the Vidi Aquam, but the text of the Asperges Me makes it perfectly clear that the sprinkling is meant to be penitential.

  4. Mike K says:

    With us, the order is as the rubrics call for it:
    – Introduction
    – Blessing of water
    – Celebrant blesses himself, then sprinkles anyone in the sanctuary (servers, cantor, etc.)
    – Celebrant then sprinkles congregation by walking down center aisle and back. Some do one side down and the other up, some alternate between the two sides as they’re walking down
    – Vidi Aquam is sung (usually the Latin version, sometimes the English) to the traditional Gregorian melody
    – After sprinkling, concluding prayer (as Todd lists), then Gloria.

    The only time I can ever remember seeing salt mixed in was at the EWTN Mass (with the Franciscans in Irondale).

    Here’s a question: would it be possible to use water from the baptismal font, blessed at the Easter Vigil, or is there a formulary to allow this without another blessing? It seems a bit redundant to have new water blessed each week during the Easter Season. Using the water from the baptismal font would create (IMHO) a link to the Vigil and the blessing of the water, baptisms (if any) and renewal of the baptismal vows.

  5. Liam says:

    My parish does it every Sunday from Easter 2 through Pentecost. We chant vernacular verses of Vidi Aquam, with the congregation joining the antiphon.

  6. Cautious Man says:

    I don’t know if this is “kosher”, but –

    At our parish, for the sprinkling portion of the penitential rite, the musicians/choir move on to a sung “Gloria”, as the celebrant moves through the church with the sprinkling.

    Our parish has been using the “Gloria” setting by David Haas for this.

    Not from us, but this is a link with a performance of that setting:

  7. smf says:

    Our parish uses the sprinkling during Easter for all Sundays and at a few other times in the year.

    The Gloria is usually sung during the sprinkling.

    One priest tends to begin mass directly with the sprinkling rite and skips the prayer you mentioned.

    Our pastor makes the usual introductory and does say the prayer, but as he begins the sprinkling since the Gloria begins at that time.

    I have never seen any salt used. I think the priests usually skip blessing themselves. I should also note that at times one of those metal sprinkles is used and the water never reaches past the kneeler nearest the isle (our pews have four kneelers each, with each wide enough for 3 full size adults). When a branch (real or artificial) is used it tends to reach farther and puts out much more water, but the kneeler nearest the side isle is often left dry either way.

    One of our previous priests went by the side isles as well to make certain everyone was actually sprinkled, but some people must have complained that took too long, so now people frequently are left un-sprinkled.

    Another previous priest tended to make light of soaking people during the sprinkling, and once someone returned fire with a squirt gun late in the Easter season.

  8. Liam says:

    Just for clarification, the merger of the sprinkling and the Gloria does a disservice to both – it’s not what the Missal envisions at all; the way you can tell is that the Missal provides the texts to be sung during the sprinkling, and they aren’t the Gloria. Singing the Gloria during the sprinkling has the effect of turning the sprinkling into an indistinct ritual action that accompanies the Gloria, instead of being a ritual action that takes the place of the usual Penitential Rite, so it ends up distancing the sprinkling rite further from its intended connection with the sacrament of baptism.

  9. Tony Barr says:

    Try this for fun! I wrote a piece many years ago called ‘Rising Smoke On The Four Winds’ based on Genesis 1, Francis of Assisi and Lakota spirituality. And I have used it many times as a rite of smudging and honoring the four directions as a gathering rite. We began our wedding liturgy with this song.

    Anyone interested can find it on

  10. Jim McK says:

    I am not a liturgist, so sitting in the armchair is alien to me, and I would probably follow the rubrics scrupulously.

    But as a catechist, I would be cheered by the linking of the Gloria and the sprinkling. The water is baptismal, and the sound of the heavenly choir rejoicing at the birth of Jesus seems just right for echoing the voice of the Father who is pleased with His Son. I have used the Gloria, and the other songs from the infancy narratives, to illuminate baptism. There is a penitential character to baptism, but it is based on the realization that we are God’s children. Tying the glory of that in with baptism is extremely important imo.

  11. Joe says:

    The Sprinkling Rite may replace the penitential act at any time, not just during Easter. I particularly like it over the more somber “Let’s confess that we’ve sinned” thing, and would like to see it used more frequently.

  12. I like to sprinkle water at every possible opportunity.! And I am an Anglican! (Many Anglicans regard ourselves as Catholics)
    Just to be different: We use the Apserges during Lent (as it is more penitential); during the Easter Season the traditional rites use the Vidi Aquam…I saw water flowing from the temple…which is more baptismal and so suitable for the Easter season. It is particularly appropriate to use the water blessed at the Easter Vigil for the Vidi Aquam
    The business about adding salt to the Asperges water goes back to pre Vatican II when Holy Water was blessed in bulk (for the stoops in the Church) and possibly for the faithful to take home. I think in practical terms this prevented the water from ‘going off’. its scriptural reference goes back to a story of how the prophet Elisha cast salt into a well that had been poisoned and the water became whole again.
    It was also the practice to exorcise everything both water and salt (and indeed the baby) before baptism as there was an assumption that the devil had tainted everything. Think this is poor theology since the Cross has given us the victory.
    Personally I am all for such sacramentals. Some people get their ordinary salt blessed by the priest. What a great sign this is of how everything is consecrated …even the roast potatoes!
    In some parishes during Epiphany tide (after the feast of the Baptism of Jesus) the priest visits parishioners and blesses their houses with holy water. Seems like a devout reminder of where we want God to be .

    Back to the Asperges….I come and stand before the altar. Take the blessed water, and use the aspergillium (sprinkling device) which is often (and I prefer) a sprig of gum tree rather than one of those brass things with lots of holes.
    I sign myself on the forehead, sprinkle the sanctuary and the altar, ..sprinkle the guitarists!! et al ..and then as we sing a modern version of Psalm 51 (which I adapted and can let you have if you email me: Fr Stephen I sprinkle the congregation . I particularly take care to make sure that any Protestants amongst us get a good dose of sprinkling!!!
    One of the great things about this….is that it is such a transparent symbol of our desire to be faithful to our baptism…that even non-Catholics get it!

    • Mike Douglas says:

      Unfortunately in Catholic Churches in San Diego they practically do not sprinkle at all. The church I go to Imaculata USD only really sprinklys on Easter Vigil but he never sprinkles on Easter Sunday or and orther Sunday in Easter or Pentecost. Only back in Illinois when we had a catholic preist who is not there any more at Saint James church he would sprinkle the whole congreation plus the cry room every Easter Sunday and he would also get me sprinkled twice with the holy water and I enjoyed that very much but now I miss it.At Saint Peter Catholic Church the pastor and helpers do it on Baptism of the Lord, Easter Sunday, and the 2nd of Easter the sprinkling rite but that is all, so I did get sprinkled twice with the holy water this year on Baptism of the Lord since I went to the Saint Peter Church in Fallbrook CA.

  13. M M G says:

    The Sprinkling is a Penitential Rite and should not be done during singing of the Gloria- it can be done during the Kyrie or another appropriate song may be sung.. I now that even some Bishops want int done at that time because of a time element.

    • Sprinkling is often interpreted as penitential, but it is more strongly and obviously baptismal. Note how the introduction to the ritual is phrased on Easter Sunday. In the Missal, Sprinkling has its own set of acclamations. The Kyrie is no more suitable to accompany it than the Gloria. Time elements can be good to consider, but only as part of the equation.

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