Reminder: Blessing chalk, houses on Epiphany

Wednesday is 6 January and therefore Epiphany.

Don’t forget, Fathers, the wonderful tradition of blessing chalk and houses.

(In other words, get some chalk today, if you don’t already have some.)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Will D. says:

    Why bless chalk?

  2. Father G says:

    Father Z,

    Could you explain the tradition of blessing chalk and its use on the feast of Epiphany?

    I did not grow up with this particular tradition. I grew up with the tradition of eating a delicious “rosca de reyes” on January 6th:

    As a recently ordained priest, I am becoming known in my parish for bringing back traditions. I would certainly love to bring this traditon back into my parish as well.

    God bless.

  3. doozer125 says:

    In Poland the people take blessed chalk and write the initials, “K+M+B” over their front door. K, M, and B standing for the three Wisemen, Kacper, Melchior and Baltazar (in Polish).

  4. An American Mother says:

    We can use the chalk that Father blessed last year, can’t we?

    The method we use is to chalk on the top doorframe:

    20 C + M + B 10

    – the CMB, I am told, stands for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, and also for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” (but I suppose that doesn’t work in Polish)

  5. An American Mother says:

    Oh, also you read the Last Gospel, recite the Lord’s Prayer, and read the Collect for Epiphany . . . .

  6. Weller’s “Roman Ritual” gives the rite for blessing a house and marking the doorposts with chalk.

  7. Vicky says:

    Chalk was available with instructions at the Cathedral yesterday. I heard lots of life long Catholics wondering what it was all about.

  8. Nathan says:

    All, Fisheaters has information about Epiphany chalk as well as a blessing for the house and how to use the chalk:

    In Christ,

  9. An American Mother says:

    Thanks, Nathan!

    What does one do if one doesn’t have a priest handy (you practically have to stand in line and take a number to ask one of our men to dinner)?

    Interesting that the Fisheaters information includes the conflation of the old Scottish “First Footing” custom – although that’s for the New Year there. Additional customs associated with First Footing: the first person to step into the house after the stroke of twelve at the New Year must step with his RIGHT foot. He must be a man, he must be dark, and he must carry a coal for firing, a bit of bread, and of course some Scotch whisky. I have heard tell of a red-headed guy freezing on a doorstep in Edinburgh crying quite loudly that it’s all a bunch of (expletive deleted) nonsense, and PLEASE to let him in!

  10. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Our Weekly Bulletin has the whole Epiphany Chalk Blessing and explanation.

    The lintel of the main door of the house is marked with the blessed chalk by the father of the household (in my case it’s just me,living alone,old lady!) in the following manner:
    20+C+M+B+10 while reciting the following prayer:

    The Three Wise Men
    C Caspar
    M Melchior
    B & Balthasaar, followed the star of God’s Son who became Man
    20 Two-thousand
    10 and ten years ago
    +May Christ
    +Bless our home
    +and remain with us
    +through the new year.
    Almighty God, incline Thine ear. Bless us and all who are gathered here. Send Thy holy angel who will defend us, and fill with grace all who dwell here. Amen.

    I have blessed chalk from last year and St. Stephen’s book & gift shop has blessed chalk.
    I will be picking up some newly blessed Epiphany water on Wednesday, as well. It will be blessed after the 6:30pm Mass on Tuesday.

  11. pseudomodo says:

    If you are getting blessed chalk from a store it better be for free… The blessing is lost with the monetary exchange.

    Better to get your own chalk and have it blessed!

  12. Nathan says:

    American Mother: Glad the link was helpful. I think the idea, if you can’t get a priest to your house on Epiphany, is for the father of the family to use the chalk and say the blessing.

    When I was stationed in Germany twenty-some years ago, in some of the smaller Bavarian villages the parish priest would go from house to house, using the chalk and blessing the houses. I especially enjoyed seeing the Epiphany chalk writing over the door still up in a number of Gasthauser (pub/restaurants) in August….

    In Christ,

  13. Augustine Terra Mariae says:

    Now here’s an Epiphany dilemma:

    I attended the TLM/EF Mass on Sunday at my home parish, as is the custom. Unfortunately, however, we will not have Mass for Epiphany on January 6. Everyone else celebrated the solemnity on Sunday and is treating Wednesday as a Ordinary Time weekday. Is this an ‘excused absence’ if I fulfilled my normal Sunday obligation and no place in my diocese is keeping January 6 as the Epiphany? Believe me, I will deeply miss not celebrating this feast liturgically, but I did want to see what others have to say on the subject.

    I should add that I’m very actively trying to get myself out of this extremely tradition-hostile diocese!

  14. JohnMa says:

    Remember that Epiphany is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States so one is not obliged to attend Mass. I am in the same spot though, attended an EF Mass Sunday and not one parish in the Diocese is celebrating an Epiphany Mass on Wednesday. So, I will probably end up driving 2 hrs to the nearest FSSP parish for Mass.

  15. An American Mother says:

    Nathan, I lived in a small Bavarian village many, many years ago (where I learned to pray the Rosary in the Bavarian style, even though it would be 30+ more years before I became a Catholic).

    Atlanta is notorious for being a widely-scattered city — almost as much so as L.A. Our parish’s territory is enormous, and with 2000 families even four priests are hard put to visit everyone. In fact, we are technically in another parish’s territory, but physically closer to the parish we attend (the fact that the other parish is far less orthodox and has horrible music also has something to do with this). The FSSP parish is not far away either, and a friend and coworker sings in their Schola.

    Sometimes I look back with nostalgia at that little Bavarian town, where the priest could walk round to almost all his parishioners.

    Where were you stationed? We were living in Bad Aibling, outside Rosenheim (SE of Munchen).

  16. gmarie says:

    What if both a priest and the father of the household are unavailable? Can the house still be blessed?

  17. Nathan says:

    American Mother: I was stationed at three separate locations, all around Stuttgart–Schwaebisch Hall, Illesheim (near Rothenburg ob der Tauber), and Stuttgart itself. I too look back with nostalgia–I discovered the small Bavaraian villages when I would go to school in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberamergau, as well as from the woods during exercises.

    My first experience with the FSSP was at a horribly ugly modern church on the Olgastrasse in Stuttgart (next to the Porche factory). What a wonderful little community, though–I could follow Holy Mass in my English Missal, and the good holy people there really knew the Kyriale through and through.

    What struck me about Upper Bavaria was the way that Catholic life and culture permeated daily life. Even as many of the Germans were leaving the Faith in droves, they still managed to have these villages where the residents showed up every Sunday for Holy Mass in their Trachtenmode (Lederhosen and Dirndls), kept the crucifixes and shrines up in the fields, and shut down the shops every Sunday.

    Alas, I’ve been back to the region for short visits in the past few years and it seems as if that’s starting to slip as well.

    BTW, I’ve heard great things about the FSSP parish in Mableton.

    In Christ,

  18. Jack Hughes says:

    Whilst my FSSP parish will be conducting the blessing of both chalk and water, I can’t get there (I travel two and a half hours on sundays) does anyone have a translation for the blessing in English for the water and chalk so I can grab one of the local N.O priests?

  19. gloriainexcelsis says:

    pseudomodo – the blessed chalk in the bookstore IS free. It’s just handy and available there.

  20. David2 says:

    Jack Hughes, the blessing of chalk and homes on the Epiphany under the 1962 Ritual can be found at the Sancta Missa site, in English translation:

    Items 7 and 8. It also has the Holy Water blessings, including the blessing of Epiphany Water.

  21. Anyone can chalk up the house with blessed chalk and pray. Often in Germany and Austria, roving bands of singing boys in costume do it for everyone’s house. So you can see that this isn’t something to get strict about! It’s fitting that a father or head of household do it; but heck, whatever seems good to you. It’s a devotional practice with sacramentals, not liturgy.

    It’s amazing what people get strict about. People go nuts doing crazy untraditional stuff at weddings, but then the same people go to great lengths to prevent the groom seeing the bride in her wedding dress.

    Something there is that really loves a rubric….

  22. An American Mother says:

    Nathan, the FSSP Parish, St. Francis de Sales Mableton, is wonderful.

    They have done such a splendid job with the awful little brick ex-Baptist church they were saddled with. Absolutely gorgeous high altar with a background of royal blue, spangled with stars — kneeling angels — just perfect. The sanctuary is a little jewel. They have an excellent Schola. I’ll have to ask my friend who is a parishioner there how the new priest in charge is working out.

    We would attend more often (it’s about the same distance from our house as our parish) but we love our parish so much, and we’re working hard here.

  23. An American Mother says:

    I’m sorry to hear, though, that Oberbayern is slipping . . . surely having one of their own in Rome is going to perk them up!

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