Baptismal reminder for Easter season

While the Easter Vigil marks the start of the 50-day season celebrating salvation through Christ, that Mass also brings a focus to the saving grace of baptism.

And in many parishes, weekend Masses during the Easter season include a rite commemorating baptism – priests and deacons sprinkling the congregation with holy water.

Father Thomas Bauwens, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha, and Father James Weeder, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Atkinson and St. Boniface Parish in Stuart, are among priests who plan to use the Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water throughout the season.

"The high point of the church year is at the Easter Vigil, when we bring people into the church," Father Bauwens said. "When we use the sprinkling rite, it connects us to the incredible gift given at the Easter Vigil, and recalls for us the day of our baptism, when we were given the promise of eternal life."

"The sprinkling rite reminds us of our baptism, where our sins were washed away, and also the newness of life that we gain through the resurrection at Easter," Father Weeder said. "Through our baptism, we die with Christ, but look forward to the resurrection."

The rite also offers the chance for parishioners to affirm their faith.

"Along with the sprinkling rite, we typically do the renewal of baptismal promises," Father Weeder said. Rather than professing the creed, the congregation joins in the "two, three-fold questions rejecting Satan and all his works, his empty show, and then our belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So the sprinkling rite is directly attached to that renewal of baptismal promises," he said.

Father Bauwens said some parishes use the sprig of a tree for the sprinkling, but he uses the aspergillum.

"I prefer to use the aspergillum because, just once, some sap came off a tree sprig and stained someone’s expensive top," he said. Aspergillum also better controls how much water is sprinkled, "so we’re not soaking people."

But no matter how the holy water is delivered, the rite is expected in some parishes, and that’s the case at St. Wenceslaus, Father Bauwens said. People welcome the ritual, he said.

"There was one Mass two years ago during Easter that, for whatever reason, I didn’t sprinkle, and I heard about it," Father Bauwens said. "They very much missed it."

One reason for the tradition, Father Bauwens said, is that parishioners "look forward to the tie-in between what happens on Easter Sunday, our renewal of commitment each Sunday and the promise of eternal life," he said.

"Every time we sprinkle with water, we remind the people what they promise – to be a priest, a prophet, a king. That move, from disciple to apostle, is really significant."

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