Ancient Custom to Symbolize Opening Doors to Blessings, Mercy at Duquesne

A tradition in the Catholic Church has been to bless chalk at the Masses for Epiphany and then use that chalk as part of the blessing of one's home in the new year.

For the first time, this custom will be part of the weekend Mass in the Duquesne University Chapel, says the Rev. Bill Christy, C.S.Sp., assistant director of Duquesne's Spiritan Campus Ministry The chalk is blessed and the faithful take it and a prayer card home with them after Mass.

The home blessing is a simple, meaningful ceremony, explains Campus Minister Debbie Kostosky, who has upheld the inscription tradition at her home, continuing the custom by using her grandfather's blessed chalk.

"Use the blessed chalk to write 20+C+M+B+16 above the doorway in the home or residence hall," Kostosky says. "This inscription represents: 2016 for the year, C, M, B for the three Magi-Casper, Melchior and Balthasar, and for 'Christus Mansiones Benedict,' which is Latin for 'May Christ bless this house.'"

In 2016, this ancient custom has even more significance, Christy says. Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy, enabling the faithful to embrace the mercy of God and asking that every Catholic diocese around the world dedicate one door of its cathedral as a Jubilee Door. Since the 14th century, a "jubilee year" has been a regular celebration in the Catholic church, normally occurring every 25 years. In past celebrations, the pope would open the Door of Blessing at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, while simultaneously three other jubilee doors were opened at the major basilicas of Rome. Pilgrims were encouraged to travel to Rome and enter through these jubilee doors to receive blessing and forgiveness of sins.

"Our hope is that by blessing and distributing this Epiphany Chalk to our students, faculty and staff, we will highlight the Year of Mercy, encourage visits to our diocese's Jubilee Door and inspire them to make their own dorm room, apartment or home a place of blessing," Christy says.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.