Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blessed Salt. Don't Be Home Without It

Blessed salt is a sacramental in the Catholic Church.  It is treated much the same way that holy water is.  I like to tell people that it reminds the devil who is really the boss over our lives...and that it isn't him!

The first time I heard of blessed salt, I rolled my eyes and probably said something to myself about superstitious practices. It was definitely not something I'd been exposed to.

I had had the mixed fortune of spending three of my high-school years taught by a rather liberal order of nuns.  As a child, my family attended a very 'hip' and fully Vatican II-impacted  (and beyond, I later learned) parish.   I didn't learn to pray the rosary until I was an adult, and never did learn to recite the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Popular piety was just so much ancient history.

I was already beginning my impromptu crash course in authentic liturgy when I heard about blessed salt.  It just seemed weird.

But the Holy Spirit tends not to just let these things go.  More and more I heard about people keeping blessed salt at home and using it to 'chase' apparent evil from their homes.  At the same time, I was becoming more immersed in volunteer work at our parish.  Smokey (the Devil) often doesn't take kindly to others working to teach the Catholic faith.

At this point, our family was living in military housing.  It was old.  My father came to visit.  He complained one morning that the overhead light in the bedroom he slept in had switched on in the middle of the night.  I thought I'd noticed the hall light doing the same thing...or maybe I just forgot to turn it off?

It got worse.  Electrical outlets stopped working intermittently.  The electrical breakers never seemed to trip, but I was getting really tired of having to reset the clocks because of the power shutting off.  I was particularly bothered when my bedside light wasn't working.  I prayed before bed, and not having a light made it hard to follow my Liturgy of the Hours.

I asked the housing office to send an electrician, which they did.  He replaced the light switch in the bedroom, but could find no other reason for the electrical trouble.  Everything was fine for a couple of days, then the outlets started cutting out again.  My aggravation was palpable.

In my parish work, I had become good friends with our priest.  One day I mustered up the courage to ask him about blessed salt.  His eyebrows shot up when I asked, and he said "You're the second person in twenty-four hours who has asked me about this."  He invited me to bring in some salt to be blessed.  He looked up the blessing.  It is no longer common thing.  Father told me simply to 'use it in faith' and I would not be acting superstitiously.

In the meantime, I had called again about our electrical troubles.  Again a frustrated electrician replaced a token receptacle, and again, the electric trouble began within a couple of days.

Armed with my blessed salt, I decided to bless our home.  I waited until no one else was home, and feeling a bit silly, I walked around the house sprinkling salt.

Much to my amazement, as I had not yet made the connection, the electrical trouble stopped dead after I sprinkled the salt.  To make it even more astounding, I discovered the the electrical circuit that had been plague with the problems was the same circuit which powered the computer.  The computer had never turned off.

Since that time, the only hint of trouble we ever had was a flicker in the electricity.  Not enough to reset the clocks.  When this happened, I said the Saint Michael Prayer and it stopped for good.

I am a firm believer in blessed salt to keep a home (or office or wherever) free of evil.  I do not use it a lot, but sprinkling it in a home where tensions are high, or where sin is entrenched seems like a powerful way to remind evil who is boss in that area.  The 1962 Missal has prayers for blessing salt, water and a great many other very common things such as food, animal feed, crops and machinery!

We need to be aware of the presence of evil and our susceptibility to it, particularly if we are working for God in whatever capacity.  We can become targets.  In a way, this is a good thing, as it means we are doing something good.  It can make life stressful and can affect those around us.  We need to re-discover the resources our Church has for us and use them.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Don't Leave it to the Experts

My husband and I were talking this afternoon about doing stuff.  He's recently earned his commercial trucking licence and is meeting a different group of people than his office and computer-related work generally exposes him to.

These people do stuff.  One fellow created a fairly complicated machine completely on his own.  He designed it, welded what needed welding and cut what needed cutting.

I mentioned how, not so long ago, people where we live were not encouraged to take up trades.  The powers-that-were seemed to think that only university educations were really worth having.  Things have not changed much.  Of course this has left us a legacy of highly educated unemployed, while highly-paid trades jobs go unfilled for lack of qualified workers.

My husband and I were both in the university stream.  He says he wishes he was more fearless.  I laughed a little at this because of the two of us, I think I would qualify more as the fearful one.  At any rate, I am not good at getting my hands dirty.

We should really know better.

I think it started early.  About the time women stopped being able to deliver babies without "medical" intervention.  Doctors became the experts in birth and child-rearing.  Suddenly, mother no longer knew what was best.

On it went.  We became convinced that healthy baby milk came from cans and bottles.  Scientifically designed food came from a store.

Entertainment came from radios and televisions and movie theatres.  People stopped going to dances and having sing-alongs around the parlour piano.  Education came from school...and only from school.  My mother was told not to help me read at home (I was starting to do it on my own), because she'd do it incorrectly.  When I first proposed home-schooling as an educational option to my college-aged peers, the skepticism was palpable.

We have become a society of one-trick ponies.  And if you are of the urban, college and university crowd, you could starve to death if someone turned off the power grid.

I've seen evidence of that.  When neighbours found out we were taking walks along a path and picking berries, they expressed concern that we might poison ourselves.  When power was lost a few years back for the period of a couple of days, huge insurance claims were placed for food lost from deep-freezers.  That was odd because the cause of the power outage was an ice-storm.  It was wintertime.  Ice...winter...and people didn't figure out how to keep their food from thawing.  It's happened again this winter, too.

In the time that this has all come about, religious observance shrank to be a Sunday-only occurrence for a great many people, if it happened at all.  Devotions to practices like the rosary shrank too.  Why pray at home when the expert will guide us on Sunday?

We have lost integrity.  Many places have lost the right to raise food...even vegetables.

The latest (November, 2013) issue of Catholic Insight magazine has an article on raising rabbits.  For food.  I can imagine the letters they'll get.  I would love to have chickens, but they're not permitted where I a city.  We could probably get away with rabbits though.  Hmmm.

People need to understand the necessity of being able to care for their own needs.  I am no exception to this. Grow vegetables.  Demand the right to have a hen (they don't crow like roosters do...and they're much smaller and less dangerous that the ubiquitous dogs) or two for eggs.  Learn how to work a drill, a saw and a screwdriver.

Do math.  Sing, even badly.  Dance.  Cook.

Pray.  I don't think you CAN pray badly.  Do it often.  We lay-people cannot give homilies or confect sacraments, but we can pray without supervision.  And we should.

Happy Epiphany.  May the light which the wise men followed be one which we, too, can follow.