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The little book of Christian rituals in the home

30 November, 1999

A book by Veritas catechetical writer Tom Gunning that helps you celebrate prayers and rituals in the home for all the important occasions and times of the year. For birth and death, for going out and coming home, for the living and for the dead. Every Christian family would love a copy on the table in the hall beside the telephone.

95 pp. Veritas Publications. To purchase this book online, go to www.veritas.ie


  • Easter: a feast of rituals
  • Holy water font
  • Sowing and planting
  • Lighting candles
  • Pregnancy & childbirth
  • Burning oils
  • Remembering the dead
  • Advent
  • Creating a sacred space in the home


Tom Gunning has done a great service to parents who want to take on some of the responsibility for forming their children in their faith that would have been done almost exclusively in school. The book is a real treasure, a resource, full of beautiful prayers and rituals for the important occasions of life and for all times and seasons.

There are prayers for getting into bed at night, for sowing, for harvest, for solstice and equinox, for bringing home a new infant, for teenager going out at night, for lighting candles, for placing gifts around the tree at Christmas time. And there hints for creating a sacred space in the home. The directions are short and clear. The material is very accessible.

A very handy book, and one to cherish too.


It is traditional in Irish homes to place a holy water font inside the front door or at the kitchen door. Here is a simple ritual to use when putting up your font. It should be placed at a height accessible to children.

Holy water may be obtained from any church or can be blessed by a priest. If it is around Easter time you can use the water which you got blessed at the Easter Holy Vigil.

Scripture Reading (Jn 4:14)
Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life.

Lord, we place this holy water in our home.
We pray that as we bless ourselves each day you will protect us and keep us from all harm.

Each person then blesses themselves with the holy water saying:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit.

May God bless our home and all who live here.
May God send his angels now to protect us from all harm.
May god keep us healthy and happy, now and at all times. Amen


Before a journey

The person blesses themselves with the holy water. They can then recite the following prayer:

Lord, protect me on the road today as I leave and return to home.
Protect me from danger and help me drive responsibly and carefully.
Send your angels to guide my path and if I break down send me assistance.

Old Irish prayer

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine warm your face.
And the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may you be held in the palm of God’s hand.

Blessing before going to work

The person blesses themselves before going to work:

Lord, I give you the work I do today.
Help me to be honest and patient with those I meet.
Help me to bring calm and happiness to the workplace.
Help me to endure those who annoy or are out to get me.
Thank you, for my job and the ability to work.
May all I do be sown for an eternal harvest.

Blessing before exams

The person blesses themselves and then says the following:

Lord, there will be many tests in my life but the exam today is my main concern.
Lord, help me to do my best.
Help my strained memory in times of doubt and my tired hand write it all down.
Let your will be done and may all I do lead me to you.

Blessing when a child falls and hurts themselves

Place some holy water on the sore limb and say:

Lord, we will fall many times in life but today’s fall needs immediate attention.
With this holy water, take the pain away and send your angels to heal the little wound.
Feeling better already, make us fit again to play and play until the end of day.

Blessing the house before bedtime

Each person blesses themselves, saying the following:

Lord, protect our home in the dark hours of the night.
Enfold your loving arms around each sleepy body; heart and soul.
May we dream the happy dreams of God’s own beloved children.
And send your angels now to protect our home till the sun creeps through the veil of dawn.

A Celtic Bed Blessing

I lie down tonight with Mary and with her Son,
with the Mother of my King who does me protect from evil-deeds.
I shall not lie with the evil and the evil shall not lie with me.
But I shall lie with God, and God shall lie along with me.
The right hand of God under my head,
the girdle of the Nine Angels with me
from the top of my head to the skin of my foot soles.
Douglas Hyde, The Religious Songs of Connaught, p. 31.

Old Celtic house blessing

May God give blessing
To the house that is here;
May Jesus give blessing
To the house that is here;
May Spirit give blessing
To the house that is here;
My Three give blessing
To the house that is here.

Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, Vol. III, p. 361.

A Morning Blessing

Lord our God, we have awoken from darkness to be children of the light.
Bless our day so at evening time we will find rest in your presence.
Let us wake in the morning filled with your love,
and sing and be happy all our days;
make our future as happy as our past was sad,
the years when we experienced disaster.

Let your servants see what you can do for them.
Let their children see your glory.
May the sweetness of the Lord be upon us.
Make all we do succeed. (Ps 90)

A Poem to be said on hearing the birds sing

A fragrant prayer upon the air
My child taught me,
Awaken there, the morn is fair,
The bird sings free.
Now dawns the day, awake and pray
And bend the knee,
The Lamb who lay beneath the clay
Was slain for thee.

Trans. Douglas Hyde, Anthology of  Irish Verse.


The garden with its rhythms of death, growth, first fruits and new life is a rich symbol of spirit! life. While working in the garden the following texts can be used so as to transform your time there into a spiritual experience. Becoming aware of the rhythm of nature is a reminder of our m inner life.

A Time for Life and Death

This text from the book of Ecclesiastes is famous for its insights into life and death. It is an ideal text help one reflect on the rhythms of nature and life.

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth, a time for dying;
a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing, a time for healing;
a time for knocking down, a time for building.
A time for tears, a time for laughter;
a time for mourning, a time for dancing.
A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them;
a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.
A time for searching, a time for losing;
a time for keeping, a time for discarding.
A time for tearing, a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking
A time for loving, a time for hating;
a time for war, a time for peace. (Eccl 3:1-8)

A Time for Preparation

Here is an old Celtic prayer to be said before breaking the ground. Our forebears wrote prayers such as these based on their own (deep sense of the presence of God in creation. There was little distinction made between their ordinary working lives and prayer. God was in the midst of all and at all times.

Breaking new land

All that I dig with the spade I do it with my Father’s aid.
All that I dig with the spade I do it with my Saviour’s aid.
All that I dig with the spade I do with the Spirit’s aid.
All that I dig with the spade I do it in God the Three’s aid.
Each turning of the soil I make I do it for the Three in One’s sake.

David Adam, The Edge of Glory: Prayers in the Celtic Tradition, p. 29.

Cast your worries aside in the garden

Based on God’s creative works, Jesus tells the following story of divine care and providence. Go into your garden. Sit down, listen, smell and see. Then read the following text:

Scripture Reading (Lk 12: 22-28)
Then he said to his disciples, ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Think of the ravens. They do not sow or reap; they have no storehouses and no barns; yet God feeds them. And how much more you are worth than the birds! Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life? If a very small thing is beyond your powers, why worry about the rest? Think how the flowers grow; they never have to spin or weave; yet, I assure you, not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of them. Now if that is how God clothes a flower which growing wild today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he look after you, who have so little faith!’

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