Do you know about the Catholic sacramental of blessed salt?
A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. (The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church are Baptism, Confirmation, The Eucharist, Confession, Holy Martrimony, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders.) In contrast to the Sacraments (7 fixed, automatic sources of grace), a Sacramental is an outward sign instituted by the Church to give grace, whose efficacy depends on the faith and work (prayer of blessing) of the Church and the user.
On a personal level, Sacramentals are a source of comfort, delight, and spiritual assistance in my own life. Non-Catholics might call them “unnecessary,” (the way the Blessed Virgin Mary is “unnecessary,” or the Pope is “unnecessary,”) but – in terms of the Catholic Mystery, the fullness and richness of our tradition that understands human nature, human longings and needs on every level, there’s an argument to be made for restoring the rich devotional use of Sacramentals. These beautiful and efficacious traditions are worthy of a reintroduction into a life of Catholic culture and piety. Today, I’d like to tell you more about salt as a Sacramental.
“Stay Salty, My Friends”
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” (Matt. 5:13)
Salt adds flavor. Its very purpose is to make something more palatable, tasty, interesting, as opposed to bland – who wants to be bland? Who was ever attracted by blandness?
C’mon, Catholics! It’s an adventure – THE adventure of a lifetime and of LIFE itself, to be Catholic and to bring others to Christ – so many of our loved ones who don’t know Jesus and the beauty and awesomeness that are found in His Church! If we’re bored, milquetoast, bland… if we don’t get it, ourselves, if we lack enthusiasm, how can we expect to attract others? And we KNOW that Christ is the answer to the questions on their hearts, the wounds they carry in their memories, their bodies, their souls. We must be flavored, ourselves, with the faith and knowledge that the world needs Jesus and His Sacraments.
That is what He meant when he called His disciples “the salt of the earth.” It’s a charge He gives to us all, by extension: Stay salty! If you’re not salty, then GET salty! And if not from me, take it from St. Paul (in his warning to the Collossians 4:6): “Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt: that you may know how you ought to answer every man.”
Salt is of no use in and of itself. Its goodness is entirely for the sake of something else! We don’t eat salt by itself. We USE salt to flavor and preserve OTHER things. This is a metaphor for our spiritual lives, indeed, our entire lives. Out of context, autonomous, we are meaningless. I make no sense in the world without the reference point of all the other people around me and my various relations with and to them, just as Adam was unfulfilled in the Garden of Eden before the creation of Eve. The Catholic understanding of the human is the truest and fullest one: That we only make sense insofar as we live our lives for others and in reference to the other. Like salt.
History and Use of Salt as a Sacramental
1. Salt is a precious commodity in the biblical context. The word “salary” comes from the Ancient Roman era when soldiers were paid in salt.
2. St. Remigius of Auxerre says,
“It should be known, that in the Old Testament no sacrifice was offered to God unless it were first sprinkled with salt, for none can present an acceptable sacrifice to God without the flavour of heavenly wisdom.”
3. The first biblical reference to salt as a sacramental comes in the Old Testament book of 4 Kings (2:19-22) when Elisha uses salt to restore the waters of a well:
“And the men of the city said to Eliseus (Elisha), Behold the situation of this city is very good, as thou, my lord, seest: but the waters are very bad, and the ground barren. And he said: Bring me a new vessel, and put salt into it. And when they had brought it, He went out to the spring of the waters, and cast the salt into it, and said, ‘thus saith the Lord: I have healed these waters, and there shall be no more in them death or barrenness. And the waters were healed unto this day, according to the word of Eliseus, which he spoke.”
4. Salt was (and still is) used as a preservative, to keep food from spoiling.
5. Salt symbolizes friendship and hospitality.
6. Blessed salt protects against evil.
Find out more about salt here in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
You can ask your pastor or any priest to bless salt for you.
Ask him to use this rite below, which includes exorcism prayers, and your salt will be a powerful sacramental that you can use for spiritual protection. I would recommend that you copy and print out these prayers and bring them to your priest along with the salt you’d like him to bless, since oftentimes he won’t have this ritual on hand or committed to memory.
Rite from the Roman Ritual
(Priest vests in surplice and purple stole)
P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R: Who made heaven and earth.
Exorcism and Blessing of Salt
P: O salt, creature of God, I exorcise you by the living (+) God, by the true (+) God, by the holy (+) God, by the God who ordered you to be poured into the water by Elisha the prophet, so that its life-giving powers might be restored. I exorcise you so that you may become a means of salvation for believers, that you may bring health of soul and body to all who make use of you, and that you may put to flight and drive away from the places where you are sprinkled; every apparition, villainy, turn of devilish deceit, and every unclean spirit; adjured by him who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.
P: Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly implore you, in your immeasurable kindness and love, to bless (+) this salt which you created and gave to the use of mankind, so that it may become a source of health for the minds and bodies of all who make use of it. May it rid whatever it touches or sprinkles of all uncleanness, and protect it from every assault of evil spirits. Through Christ our Lord.
Some uses for your blessed salt:
1. You can sprinkle blessed salt in your cooking.
2. You can sprinkle blessed salt under the bed, in corners of your home, etc., for spiritual protection.
3. You can carry a small vial of blessed salt while traveling or in your car – again, for spiritual protection.
4. A priest can use properly blessed/exorcised salt to make exorcised Holy Water. (If you keep some exorcised salt on hand, you can have it on hand if/when you ask a priest to bless Holy Water for you according to the Roman Ritual. This way, you save him time and make his job a little easier, since each blessing is particular and priests are busy men!).
*It’s important not to be superstitious about this, but, rather, in due deference, to make use of your blessed salt without becoming paranoid about it. That being said, if we admit that we are in spiritual warfare, why wouldn’t we want to make use of the tools and prayers of the Church which would better equip us to protect ourselves? So, there is a healthy, balanced approach you must take with the use of blessed salt, as with any other sacramental. Avoid scrupulosity and obsessive worry over these things, remain in a state of grace, stay close to the Sacraments and to Our Lady. These basics must always take precedence in your heart, your mind, and your prayer life, above and before your use of Sacramentals.
Four Additional Bible Verses About Salt:
Leviticus 2:13-14 ~ “Whatsoever sacrifice thou offerest, thou shalt season it with salt, neither shalt thou take away the salt of the covenant of thy God from thy sacrifice. In all thy oblations thou shalt offer salt.”
Numbers 18:19 ~ “All the firstfruits of the sanctuary which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to thee and to thy sons and daughters, by a perpetual ordinance. It is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord, to thee and to thy sons.”
Job 6:6-7 ~ “Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? “My soul refuses to touch them; They are like loathsome food to me.“
Luke 14:34-35 ~ “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men throw it away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Church Fathers on Salt:
If you’re still here and, like me, you can never get enough of the savory sacramental, check out these amazing quotes from the Catena Aurea, a compilation of scripture commentary from the Fathers of the Church.
St. John Chrysostom:
“Ye are the salt of the earth.” Not for your own salvation merely, or for a single nation, but for the whole world is this doctrine committed to you [the Apostles]. It is not for you then to flatter and deal smoothly with men, but, on the contrary, to be rough and biting as salt is. When for thus offending men by reproving them ye are reviled, rejoice; for this is the proper effect of salt to be harsh and grating to the depraved palate. Thus the evil-speaking of others will bring you no inconvenience, but will rather be a testimony of your firmness.
The Apostles are preachers of heavenly things, and thus, as it were, salters with eternity; rightly called “the salt of the earth,” as by the virtue of their teaching, they, as it were, salt and preserve bodies for eternity.
St. Remigius of Auxerre:
Moreover, salt is changed into another kind of substance by three means, water, the heat of the sun, and the breath of the wind. Thus Apostolic men also were changed into spiritual regeneration by the water of baptism, the heat of love, and the breath of the Holy Spirit. That heavenly wisdom also, which the Apostles preached, dries [p. 161] up the humours of carnal works, removes the foulness and putrefaction of evil conversation, kills the work of lustful thoughts, and also that worm of which it is said “their worm dieth not.” [Isa 66:24]
Or, because by the Apostles the whole human race is seasoned.
And, finally, here is a longer commentary from St. John Chrysostom, which is too good to pass up:
You are the salt of the earth. It is not for your own sake, he says, but for the world’s sake that the word is entrusted to you. I am not sending you only into two cities only or ten to twenty, not to a single nation, as I sent the prophets of old, but across land and sea, to the whole world. And that world is in a miserable state. For when he says: You are the salt of the earth, he is indicating that all mankind had lost its savor and had been corrupted by sin. Therefore, he requires of these men those virtues which are especially useful and even necessary if they are to bear the burdens of many. For the man who is kindly, modest, merciful and just will not keep his good works to himself but will see to it that these admirable fountains send out their streams for the good of others. Again, the man who is clean of heart, a peacemaker and ardent for truth will order his life so as to contribute to the common good.
Do not think, he says, that you are destined for easy struggles or unimportant tasks. You are the salt of the earth. What do these words imply? Did the disciples restore what had already turned rotten? Not at all. Salt cannot help what is already corrupted. That is not what they did. But what had first been renewed and freed from corruption and then turned over to them, they salted and preserved in the newness the Lord had bestowed. It took the power of Christ to free men from the corruption caused by sin; it was the task of the apostles through strenuous labor to keep that corruption from returning.
Have you noticed how, bit by bit, Christ shows them to be superior to the prophets? He says they are to be teachers not simply for Palestine but for the whole world. Do not be surprised, then, he says, that I address you apart from the others and involve you in such a dangerous enterprise. Consider the numerous and extensive cities, peoples and nations I will be sending you to govern. For this reason I would have you make others prudent, as well as being prudent yourselves. For unless you can do that, you will not be able to sustain even yourselves.
If others lose their savor, then your ministry will help them regain it. But if you yourselves suffer that loss, you will drag others down with you. Therefore, the greater the undertakings put into your hands, the more zealous you must be. For this reason he says: But if the salt becomes tasteless, how can its flavor be restored? It is good for nothing now, but to be thrown out and trampled by men’s feet.
When they hear the words: When they curse you and persecute you and accuse you of every evil, They may be afraid to come forward. Therefore he says: “Unless you are prepared for that sort of thing, it is in vain that I have chosen you. Curses shall necessarily be your lot but they shall not harm you and will simply be a testimony to your constancy. If through fear, however, you fail to show the forcefulness your mission demands, your lot will be much worse, for all will speak evil of you and despise you. That is what being trampled by men’s feet means.”