My husband and I are Protestant Christians, both baptized. We have three young children, all under the age of 5, and none of them are baptized. We are beginning RCIA and have been regularly attending a Catholic parish for about 9 months now. I was under the impression that it is alright to make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of my toddler and baby with holy water, and to teach my 4 year old how to bless herself. My husband disagreed, saying that only Catholics should do this. We asked our priest, who agreed with my husband that the use of holy water is only for the baptized; however, since we are praying that our oldest will soon choose to be baptized (we feel she is too old for us to force it upon her and the priest agrees), it is alright to teach her how to use it. So, then, is it wrong for me to use holy water to bless my other unbaptized children who are too small to reach into the font properly and then make the sign of the cross on themselves? Thank you for your help.
I see no reason why sacramentals cannot be used, within reason, by – or in this case on – the unbaptized. Certainly it would not do to sprinkle holy water on an adult heathen who rejects the faith. Can. 1170 states,
“Blessings, which are to be imparted first of all to Catholics, can also be given to catechumens and even to non-Catholics, unless there is a prohibition of the Church to the contrary.”
The mother raises an interesting issue.
Children are presumed to attain the age of reason at 7 years old. Prior to that point they are considered infants. As such, they are unable to make the adult choice to be baptized. They therefore fall under their parents’ rule.
However, if – as seems to be the case here – a younger child demonstrates a maturity beyond her years, she may have prematurely attained the use of reason. Thus, she could be able to make the conscious choice for baptism.
I strongly caution against the notion of all children being allowed to “make their own decision” with regards to Faith. Parents have a right and the responsibility to raise the children whom God has entrusted to them. That responsibility includes having them baptized and catechized.
Work with the parish priest closely in the decision making process.
In the meantime, keep using that Holy Water. Keep teaching little fingers to make those little Crosses.