Media Credit: Elliot J. Sutherland/Collegio
1335. On entering a Catholic Church I noticed people taking holy water Why is this?
Holy water is placed at the doors of Catholic Churches to remind us of the waters of Baptism which once flowed over our foreheads, to signify that we are not worthy to enter into the Presence of Christ without purification, and to forgive us those venial sins for which we are sorry, as well as remitting the temporal punishment due to our sins according to the measure of our regret and contrition. I do not know how you feel, but I know that I am not worthy to enter into the Presence of God in a Catholic Church. When Moses approached the burning bush, God said to him, "Come not hither. Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." To Catholics it is a joy to be able to make straight for the holy water font on entering into the Presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament, and to make use of those waters of purification, asking God to make them a little more fit to appear before Him.
1336. What is holy water, and how does it differ from ordinary water?
Holy water is ordinary water sanctified by the blessing of the Church. It differs from ordinary water in so far as some salt has been added to it to signify preservation from corruption, and in so far as it conveys the blessing of the Church and of God where ordinary water does not do so.
1337. What can adulterated rain water do?
Adulteration supposes corruption. Salt preserves from corruption. Meantime, holy water confers a blessing upon those who use it with sincere dispositions.
Photo: Joao Silva for The New York Times
1338. No Priest can make water holy.
God knows differently. In Num 5:17, we read God's command, "The Priest shall take holy water." In Num 8:7, God ordered Moses to purify the Levites as follows, "Take the Levites out of the midst of the children of Israel, and thou shalt purify them according to this rite; let them be sprinkled with the water of purification." God does nothing uselessly, and if you ridicule the practice, you ridicule God.
1339. How could water convey a blessing?
In the Gospel of St. John, Jn 5:2-4, you will find that God used the waters of the pool of Probatica or Bethsaida at Jerusalem to heal the diseased. And as He gave temporal blessings to some through these waters, so He can certainly give spiritual blessings through holy water. In any case, if you are a Christian, you must admit that the waters of Baptism certainly convey spiritual graces to the soul.
Bishop Frank Dewane blessing the new statue of St. John Neumann with holy water at St John Neumann High School. The statue was a gift from the graduated senior class of 2009. this is the second year Bishop Frank lead the blessing. Photographed on September 1, 2009. Kelli Stanko/ Special to the Daily News
1340. When did the Catholic Church invent holy water?
The Catholic Church did not invent it. Holy water is in accordance with God's ways in the Old Testament, and the Catholic Church has merely kept the Christian practice which has existed from the very beginning of Christianity, and which the Protestant reformers rejected as usual in the 16th century. St. Justin Martyr, who died in the year 163 A.D., tells us that the faithful at Mass were sprinkled with these cleansing waters. A document called the Apostolic Constitutions, which dates from the very earliest ages of the Church, gives us in Bk. VIII., sect. XXIX., the following significant prayer, "Let the Bishop bless the water, and if he be not there, the Priest. And let him say: O God, Creator of the waters, sanctify this water through Thy Christ, and grant it power to banish demons, and to disperse all snares through Christ our Hope, through whom be to Thee and to the Holy Ghost, glory forever. Amen."