Blessed Salt & Sacramentals

by Steve Ray on June 27, 2005

BLESSED SALT

Rev. John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.

There is a renewed interest today in the ancient sacramental of blessed salt, especially by charismatics, in healing and deliverance situations. To understand its proper use and its efficacy, it is helpful to review the Scriptural symbolism and its history, since Vatican II urges us to participate "intelligently and actively" in the use of sacramentals, just as in the use of Sacraments.

 

Salt in the ancient world was a precious commodity (even monopolized by the royalty in Egypt and Persia). Roman soldiers were partially paid with packets of salt ("sal" in Latin); this was the origin of our word "salary" and of phrases like "worth his salt,". Being costly, salt was an appropriate offering to God as a "covenant of salt" (Lev. 2:13; II Chron. 13:5; Num. 18:19) used in sacrifices by the Israelites (Ezck. 43:24) and for the accompanying sacrificial meal (Gen. 31:54).

 

Belief in salts preservative and healing properties led to its use to dry and harden the skin of newborns (Ezek. 16:4) and to prevent umbilical cord infection. Used for 3500 years to preserve meats from deterioration, it became a symbol of preservation and spiritual incorruptibility that was to characterize anyone offering sacrificial worship. Shared at the sacrificial meal, salt became a symbol of friendship and hospitality, a custom and symbolism still used today in Arab culture. Jesus referred to this salt symbolized friendship covenant in Mark 9:50: "Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another"–that is. "preserve that quality (flavor) that makes you a blessing to one another." (Note the double symbol of preservation and flavoring.)

 

This double primary symbolization is also found in Paul’s advice in Col. 4:6: "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." That is, let it be wholesome and savory, preserved from the corrupting conversation of worldlings (3:8 and Eph 4:29). (His use of the word salt may also have referred to another of its symbols: spiritual wisdom, since the Latin word for savor or taste, "sapientia", is the same as for wisdom.)

 

Some or all of these symbols may have been implied in Jesus’ words to his chosen ones, describing them as the "salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13). He especially indicated that they were to oppose the world’s corruption, reminding them that, as salt must preserve its own anti-corruptive quality, they too must preserve their anti-corruptive influence in a sin-corrupted world. (See Luke 14:34).

 

The blessing promised by God on food and water, as well as the prevention of miscarriages and agricultural catastrophes (Exod. 23:25-26) was extended by God through Elisha in Jericho (II Kings 2:20-21), when he was inspired to put salt into the contaminated water. Adding salt to already brackish water to decontaminate it made the miracle all the more impressive, since one would expect the opposite effect. This first miracle of Elisha is the primary Scriptural basis for the sacramental use of blessed salt today, as the Roman Ritual indicates.

 

As a Catholic sacramental, salt blessed by the liturgical prayer of a priest may be used by itself, unmixed, as in exorcisms, and formerly in the exorcistic prayer at baptism, or it may be mixed with water to make holy water, as the Ritual prescribes (reminiscent of Elisha’s miracle). In whichever form, it is intended to be an instrument of grace to preserve one from the corruption of evil occurring as sin sickness, demonic influence, or other manifestation.

 

As in the case of all sacramentals, its power comes not from the sign itself, but by means of the Church’s official (liturgical, not private) prayer of blessing–a power the Church derives from Christ himself (see Matt. 16:19 and 18:18). As the Vatican II document on the Liturgy states (art. 61), both Sacraments and sacramentals sanctify us, not of themselves, but by power flowing from the redemptive act of Jesus, elicited by the Church’s intercession to be directed through those external signs and elements. Hence sacramentals like blessed salt and holy water are not to be used superstitiously as having self-contained power, but as "focus-points" funneling one’s faith toward Jesus, just as a flag is used as a "focus-point" of patriotism, or as handkerchiefs were used to focus faith for healing and deliverance by Paul (Acts 19:12).

 

Thus used non-superstitiously, modest amounts of salt may be sprinkled in one’s bedroom, or across thresholds to prevent burglary, in cars for safety, etc. A few grains in drinking water or used in cooking or as food seasoning often bring astonishing spiritual and physical benefits, as I have personally witnessed many times. As with the use of Sacraments, much depends on the faith and devotion of the person using salt or any sacramental. This faith must be Jesus-centered, as was the faith of the blind man in John 9; he had faith in Jesus, not in the mud and spittle used by Jesus to heal him.

 

In light of this, we can see why Vatican II states that "there is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of persons and the praise of God." (art. 61 of Liturgy document). Hence new sacramentals may also be added when rituals are revised (art. 79). Blessed salt is certainly not a new sacramental, but the Holy Spirit seems to be leading many to a new interest in its remarkable power as an instrument of grace and healing.

 

Any amount may be presented to a priest for his blessing, using the following official prayer from the Roman Ritual:

"Almighty God, we ask you to bless this salt, as once you blessed the salt scattered over the water by the prophet Elisha. Wherever this salt (and water) is sprinkled, drive away the power of evil, and protect us always by the presence of your Holy Spirit. Grant this through Christ our Lord Amen."




All of Fr. Hampsch's material is © copyrighted by Fr. John Hampsch and the Claretian Tape Ministry. For permission to reproduce Fr. Hampsch's material for any purpose contact, CTM at 323-734-1234.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth D'Souza March 9, 2007 at 1:48 AM

For the last few days Is have been blessing my home and children’s rooms with blessed salt. I have actually felt the power of the Holy Spirit in my home. It feels like Jesus himself is in my home because there is God’s peace. I will continue using this precious sacramental.

God bless you Fr. Hampsch for educating us

Liz

Marianna Dydek November 7, 2007 at 11:27 AM

I would like to know where I can get blessed salt, oil and water. I live in Austin Texas.

 Steve Ray here: Usually I think you can get these items blessed by your local Catholic priest. We keep a gallon of holy water here all the time. Our priest does this for us.

Marie February 1, 2008 at 12:02 AM

I approached my parish priest, requesting him to bless the salt I brought along with me. He looked perplexed and told me he had not heard of this ritual.
He wanted to look into it further. I have yet to hear from him.
Would it be just as effective if a deacon of a parish was to bless the salt?

Steve Ray February 1, 2008 at 5:45 PM

Hello Marie: For a question like this I suggest you post your question on my Message Board at http://forums.catholicconvert.com. They will give a quick response. I do believe however that a deacon is just as capable of blessing religious items including salt.

Audrey Rolsion February 7, 2008 at 11:24 PM

Since using blessed salt on the tongue and in his salt shaker, my son has turned away from an addiction to beer. Praise God that I learned of this sacramental in the book by the Vatican exorcist. I think his name is Fr. Gabriel Armourth (not sure of spelling). And thank you for getting the information out to people.

Mike February 13, 2008 at 2:47 PM

I would Like to know what type of salt is used? Are we talking just plain table salt, kosher salt, sea salt? Or does it even matter what type of salt is brought for a blessing? God Bless you.

Mary Margaret Marshall October 22, 2008 at 10:17 PM

I would Like to know what type of salt is used? Are we talking just plain table salt, kosher salt, sea salt? Or does it even matter what type of salt is brought for a blessing? My question here is same as Mike, my reason for wanting to know of this is, I want use it in my home and also want to share it with many of my friends. I don’t just want to go and buy any type of salt and not be able to have it blessed by a priest.I met this humble priest in Prince Edward Island by the name of Fr. Melvin Doucette, he is a wonderful person and that’s the priest I wanted to ask to bless the salt for me.There is an upcoming retreat in October 24,25 & 26 of this year, I’m hoping the sooner I get the salt, the sooner I’ll be able to use it and share it with family and friends.God Bless you.

Jeanne March 19, 2012 at 4:38 PM

I am looking for a unique and religious wedding favor to give to my guests. I ran into a unique idea of rosemary under salt (the rosemary being for remembrance), so I looked for the symbolism of the salt. I love the symbolism of the blessed salt, however, I don’t want to diminish its significance. Do you think it would be okay if I attached a little card with the meaning of it all?

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