Recently a Protestant friend of mine sent me an article you might find interesting about someone hawking “Christian salt.” I don’t know much about the Catholic tradition of blessed salt, except that my mom keeps some near her statue of St. Philomena. The salt in this article is blessed by an Episcopal priest. Apparently the “inventor” dreamed it up as an alternative to the Kosher salt those TV chefs are always talking about. “An unspecified percentage of the revenue will go toward supporting Christian charities, and if the line proves profitable, Godlewski will attempt to expand the product line with Christian branded rye, pickles and bagels, reports Examiner.com.”
Hmmmm. At best this seems like a tacky attempt at creating a sacramental. At worst, it borders on simony and anti-semitism. What do you think? Is blessed salt a legitimate devotion? Do kosher delis undermine Christian culture?
I don’t think this has any anti-Semitic dimension. Kosher salt is used in cooking. It has a larger grind, or grain. It is “kosher” or “koshering” salt, not because it’s kosher in itself but because it is used in the processing of kosher meats. It usually doesn’t have additives, which is why it is handy in cooking. It is amazing, by the way, how many different sorts of culinary salt you can get, and how different they taste.
The episcopal priest do what he wants, but the salt is not blessed. Only someone with valid priestly orders can bless this with constitutive blessings.
But he can commit a sin of scandal by giving the impression of peddling sacred things.
But if he could bless the salt and make it a sacramental, it would be a sacrilege to sell it.
In ancient times (as today) salt was extremely important. People depended on it for health. Without the right balance of salt our bodies cannot regulate body moisture properly. It was precious at times. The Romans named an important road after salt, the Via Salaria, for salt trade – tied to Rome’s very earliest origins. Roman soldiers would sometimes be paid in salt, thus “salary” in English. Think about the upheavals in India when a tax was imposed on salt, and Ghandi led a protest illegally to make salt at the ocean.
Salt is all over Scriptures, from the lot of Lot’s wife to Our Lord calling His disciples the “salt of the earth”.
In the Old Testament God established a covenant of salt with the people. Cf. 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.” Remember, salt was precious. When you shared salt with someone, you created a bond between you.
We say that someone is “worth his salt”. That also means that he is esteemed. You would invite someone your favor to sit closer to the salt cellar cellar on the table. You would invite him even to “come a little higher”, as Christ speaks of in the parable in Luke 14:10.
Salt is a sign of a bond, but also of permanence, because salt preserves food and keeps water from getting nasty with algae. In Leviticus 2:13 God tells the Jews that all their offerings must also have salt. Salt is, in a sense, something that is irrevocable.
The Lord’s words then about His disciples as being salt, and His warning about salt “losing its flavor”, take on greater meaning. There is a permanence expected in discipleship.
St. Paul talks about how, when we answer people, our words should be “salty”: “sermo vester semper in gratia sale sit conditus ut sciatis quomodo oporteat vos unicuique respondere… Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt: that you may know how you ought to answer every man.” This means that our words should be engaging, but with more than mere dazzle. If food is not seasoned with salt, it is boring and we are not getting a necessary nutrient.
Let’s leave the whole low-sodium stuff aside. Although, that is an interesting metaphor for what happened in liturgy, doctrine and practice in the Church…
In the Church we bless salt and use it for various things. It is a sacramental. You can cook with it, of course. You can also sprinkle it in places as a protection from the attacks of the Enemy. The Enemy does not like blessed salt!
As in all sacramentals blessing salt is serious business. Salt is especially serious, however.
You might know that exorcised and blessed salt was used in the rite for blessing water. The exorcism and blessing for salt is a fearsome thing.
Salt is of those few things actually personally addressed as a creature of God and then exorcised.
Exorcizo te, creatura salis, per Deum + vivum, per Deum + verum, per Deum + sanctum, per Deum, qui te per Eliseum Prophetam in aquam mitti jussit, ut sanaretur sterilitas aquae; ut efficiaris sal exorcizatum in salutem credentium; et sis omnibus sumentibus te sanitas animae et corporis; et effugiat, atque discedat a loco, in quo aspersum fueris, omnis phantasia et nequitia vel versutia diabolicae fraudis, omnisque spiritus immundus, adjuratus per eum qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos, et saeculum per ignem. R. Amen.
O you creature of salt, I purge you of all evil by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, who commanded by the Prophet Elisha that you be put into water in order that the sterility of the water would be healed: so that you might be rendered a purified salt for the salvation of believers, and so that you might be a healthiness of soul and body to all who consume you, and so that you may put to flight and drive out from a place in which you will have been scattered every phantom and wickedness, and cunning trap of diabolical deceit, and every unclean spirit be solemnly banished by command through Him Who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. R. Amen.
Holy Church does not kid around in these exorcisms and blessings …. in the older, traditional Rituale Romanum at least. I will not speak of the newer “Book of Blessings” which is nearly useless and should be entirely scrapped.
Finally… I think it is a profoundly dangerous thing to give the appearance of peddling sacred things. I would be afraid for that person’s spiritual well-being and ultimate fate.
I think the Enemy would be pleased by this mockery of blessing salt and selling it.