ASK FATHER: How long does holy water stay blessed?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I got to wondering about the properties of holy water. Since so much water has been blessed before and recycled throughout time, does the church have comments about the length that water stays “holy”? Or is it a possibility that the tap water from the faucet could contain holy water if the water stays blessed to the end of time?

Speaking of wondering… I have sometimes wondered about the effective range of a blessing… 20 meters?  I’m pretty good with a 9mm at that range, but not with an aspergilum.   But I think I could manage a blessing at some distance.

But, duration of the blessing?  That depends on what is being blessed.   Let’s make a few distinctions.

Firstly, let’s think about things that go bad or get corrupted and those that don’t.

For example, we have food stuffs, obviously meant for relatively quick consumption.  If on the Easter Vigil I bless all sorts of foods people bring to church, I know that they will be consumed quickly.  If I bless, for example, wine, it could be years before it is consumed, but it will be consumed.  If I bless salt… salt is really stable, so it will endure as long as it is not diluted by water, etc.   But, blessed wine that is opened can corrupt, as can blessed sausages and cakes etc..  As in the case of the accidents of bread and wine remaining in the Eucharist, if the elements are corrupted and they cease to be what they were (wine turns to vinegar, etc.) they stop being blessed.

Water can go bad.   If you let water stagnate (not move) it can develop algae and get nasty in a hurry.  I am sure that no one wants to use that.  This is probably one of the reasons why, in the traditional blessing of Holy Water, exorcised and blessed salt is added.   Salt makes the water inhospitable to many critters.   There is also a scriptural, symbolic basis for adding salt to water, and the blessing prayers reference it.  The prophet Elijah poured salt into the waters at Jericho.  Our Lord talks about salt.  Holy Church has used blessed salt since her earliest years.  For example, it is placed on the tongue of those to be baptized in the rite of baptism.  In ancient times, salt was given to catechumens several times before they were baptized.

Next, things are blessed because God blesses them.

God blesses things on His own or through those who can bless, usually the priest in the case of the constitutive blessing.  Contrary to the horrid Books of Blessings (which I will never use, because the texts don’t bless things), there are two kinds of blessings.  The invocative blessing calls down a blessing by God on a person while the constitutive blessing establishes something as a blessed thing in a way that persists.  A more solemn and deeper version of this is the consecration.  For example, we bless medals and statues and water and so forth, but we consecrate altars and bless and cemeteries.  People can be consecrated, too, as in the case of religious and the ordained.  If the bishop blesses you on the way out of church, you have received a blessing.  If the bishop consecrates you at solemn profession or ordination, then you are thereafter a consecrated person.

By the way, abuse of a consecrated thing, place or person is the sin of sacrilege.  If you vandalize a church, you two sins, destruction of property and sacrilege.  Both must be confessed.  If you visit the Diocese of Libville and, irritated after one of Bishop Fatty McButterpant’s sermons you bust him in the chops, you have to confess two sins: you hit a person and you hit a consecrated person, which is sacrilege.  There are mitigating circumstances for your guilt, of course… but I digress.

Back to blessings.

God blesses things and people, usually through God’s agent.

Sure, God can bless a faucet such that whatever water might issue forth from thence would be blessed water.  Perhaps that’s what God does with the spring that popped up at Lourdes.  Apparently many miraculous healings have occurred in conjunction with contact with “Lourdes water”.  God can do that.  I don’t know how to do that.  It is well beyond the pay grade of a human being, ordained or not, to bless a faucet or spring that will thereafter produce holy water in perpetuity.

So, turn on the faucet and I can bless what is in the sink or the container underneath, but that’s it.  And as long as that water is water (it hasn’t dried up and it hasn’t turned into a mass of green algae clogged goo) it is blessed.

On another note, sometimes I get questions about adding more regular water to holy water to increase its quantity.  Is it, for example, possible to add less than 50ml to 100ml and get 150ml?   25mm to 100ml?   If at the offertory the priest can up to 20% of water to the wine in the chalice without making substance of the wine doubtful, can less than 20ml be added to 100ml of holy water to produce 120ml… and so on and so on?

This practice isn’t forbidden.  Neither is it recommended.  It seems to me that people do this because they want holy water and Father isn’t blessing enough or often enough.  Hence, they creatively figured our a work around.

I would not do this.

Instead, work on Father to bless more water (hopefully with the older, traditional Rituale Romanum).

We are dealing with a sacramental.

“Sacramental” reality is not less real than what we perceive by our senses.  Blessed water is perceptibly saltier than usual, but so is regular water that has salt added.   We can’t taste test it and tell the difference.

Demons can tell the difference.

The Enemy really hates holy water.   One of the explicit purposes of holy water is to put demons to flight wherever it is sprinkled.  In exorcising and blessing the salt used for holy water, the priest says: “may [it] rid whatever it touches or sprinkles of all uncleanness and protect it from every assault of evil spirits.”  In exorcising and blessing the water: “I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the Enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that Enemy with his apostate angels”.  In blessing the combined water and salt: “Let whatever might menace the safety and peace of those who live here be put to flight by the sprinkling of this water”.

Heavy lifting, indeed!

St. Teresa of Avila in chapter 31 her autobiography explains how she was being tormented by demons.   She used holy water against them and wrote:

“From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue.”

Demons can tell the difference, even if we can’t

So, why use anything iffy?

BTW… just for your additional instruction, here is a side by side comparison of the older, traditional rite of blessing holy water, and the newer, post-Conciliar rite.  I won’t concern myself with matching them up because I have plenty to do today.

Read these and then ask yourself which you would rather use.

Try to find the specific words of blessing in each version.

ORDER FOR THE BLESSING OF HOLY WATER OUTSIDE MASS

1391  The celebrant begins with these words:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All make the sign of the cross and reply:

Amen.

1392  The celebrant greets those present in the following or other suitable words, taken mainly from Scripture.

May God, who through water and the Holy Spirit has given us a new birth in Christ, be with you all.

All make the following or some other suitable reply.

And with your spirit.

1393  As circumstances suggest, the celebrant may prepare those present for the blessing in the following or similar words.

The blessing of this water reminds us of Christ, the living water, and of the sacrament of baptism, in which we were born of water and the Holy Spirit. Whenever, therefore, we are sprinkled with this holy water or use it in blessing ourselves on entering the church or at home, we thank God for his priceless gift to us and we ask for his help to keep us faithful to the sacrament we have received in faith.

READING of the WORD of GOD

1394  A reader, another person present, or the celebrant reads a short text of Sacred Scripture.

[VARIOUS POSSIBLE SCRIPTURE READINGS]

PRAYER of BLESSING

1396  After the reading, the celebrant says:

Let us pray.

All pray briefly in silence, then with hands outstretched, the celebrant says the prayer of blessing.

Blessed are you, Lord, all-powerful God,
who in Christ, the living water of salvation,
blessed and transformed us.
Grant that, when we are sprinkled with this water or make use of it,
we will be refreshed inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit
and continue to walk in the new life we received at baptism.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

1397  Or:

Lord, holy Father,
look kindly on your children,
redeemed by your Son
and born to a new life by water and the Holy Spirit.
Grant that those who are sprinkled with this water
may be renewed in body and spirit
and may make a pure offering of their service to you.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

1398  Or the celebrant says:

O God, the creator of all things,
by water and the Holy Spirit
you have given the universe its beauty
and fashioned us in your own image.

R. Bless and purify your Church.

O Christ the Lord, from your pierced side
you gave us your sacraments
as fountains of salvation.

R. Bless and purify your Church.

O Holy Spirit, giver of life,
from the baptismal font of the Church
you have formed us into a new creation
in the waters of rebirth.

R. Bless and purify your Church.

1399  After the prayer of blessing, the celebrant sprinkles those present with holy water, as a suitable song is sung; as circumstances suggest, he may first say the following words.

Let this water call to mind our baptism into Christ,
who has redeemed us by his death and resurrection.

R. Amen.

 

RITE FROM THE ROMAN RITUAL

(Priest vests in surplice and purple stole)

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R: Who made heaven and earth.

 

Exorcism and Blessing of Salt (necessary for Exorcism of Water)

 

P: O salt, creature of God, I exorcise you by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by the God who ordered you to be poured into the water by Elisha the prophet, so that its life-giving powers might be restored. I exorcise you so that you may become a means of salvation for believers, that you may bring health of soul and body to all who make use of you, and that you may put to flight and drive away from the places where you are sprinkled; every apparition, villainy, turn of devilish deceit, and every unclean spirit; adjured by him who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

R: Amen.

P: Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly implore you, in your immeasurable kindness and love, to bless + this salt which you created and gave to the use of mankind, so that it may become a source of health for the minds and bodies of all who make use of it. May it rid whatever it touches or sprinkles of all uncleanness, and protect it from every assault of evil spirits. Through Christ our Lord.

R: Amen.

Exorcism and Blessing of Water

P: O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father + Almighty, and in the name of Jesus + Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit. I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that enemy with his apostate angels, through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

R: Amen.

P: Let us pray. O God, for the salvation of mankind, you built your greatest mysteries on this substance, water. In your kindness, hear our prayers and pour down the power of your blessing + into this element, made ready for many kinds of purifications. May this, your creature, become an agent of divine grace in the service of your mysteries, to drive away evil spirits and dispel sickness, so that everything in the homes and other buildings of the faithful that is sprinkled with this water, may be rid of all uncleanness and freed from every harm. Let no breath of infection and no disease-bearing air remain in these places. May the wiles of the lurking enemy prove of no avail. Let whatever might menace the safety and peace of those who live here be put to flight by the sprinkling of this water, so that the health obtained by calling upon your holy name, may be made secure against all attack. Through Christ our Lord.

R: Amen.

(Priest pours exorcised salt into the water, in the form of a cross – three times)

P: May a mixture of salt and water now be made, in the name of the Father, + and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. +

R: Amen.

P: The Lord be with you.
R: And with your spirit.

P: Let us pray. O God, Creator unconquerable, invincible King, Victor ever-glorious, you hold in check the forces bent on dominating us. You overcome the cruelty of the raging enemy, and in your power you beat down the wicked foe. Humbly and fearfully do we pray to you, O Lord, and we ask you to look with favor on this salt and water which you created. Shine on it with the light of your kindness. Sanctify it by the dew of your love, so that, through the invocation of your holy name, wherever this water and salt is sprinkled, it may turn aside every attack of the unclean spirit, and dispel the terrors of the poisonous serpent. And wherever we may be, make the Holy Spirit present to us, who now implore your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

R: Amen.

 

 

I, for one, will never use the newer form.  Eh-vur.

Please share!

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21 Responses to ASK FATHER: How long does holy water stay blessed?

  1. Gripen says:

    I thought you were being unnecessarily rigid until I read both the new and old blessings. Unless I’m completely missing the obvious, I couldn’t find the actual words of “blessing” in the new version, either.

  2. Nan says:

    I have a sealed bottle of holy water from the village priest in my ancestral land, brought here with my great-grandparents, when they returned after the Archduke was assassinated. It is now over 100 years old and I plan to continue the tradition of not opening it.

    Friday, in the Ruthenian Church, is the Vigil of Theophany, water will be blessed. The church has just run out of holy water.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    To be fair, “The Roman Missal, Third Edition”, has this in its appendix, and it is clear that the water is being blessed, and the blessing of salt is included as a legitimate option…

    RITE FOR THE BLESSING AND SPRINKLING OF WATER

    1. On Sundays, especially in Easter Time, the blessing and sprinkling of water as a memorial of Baptism may take place from time to time in all churches and chapels, even in Masses anticipated on Saturday evenings.

    If this rite is celebrated during Mass, it takes the place of the usual Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass.

    2. After the greeting, the Priest stands at his chair and faces the people. With a vessel containing the water to be blessed before him, he calls upon the people to pray in these or similar words:

    Dear brethren (brothers and sisters),
    let us humbly beseech the Lord our God
    to bless this water he has created,
    which will be sprinkled on us
    as a memorial of our Baptism.
    May he help us by his grace
    to remain faithful to the Spirit we have received.

    And after a brief pause for silence, he continues with hands joined:

    Almighty ever-living God,
    who willed that through water,
    the fountain of life and the source of purification,
    even souls should be cleansed
    and receive the gift of eternal life;
    be pleased, we pray, to + bless this water,
    by which we seek protection on this your day, O Lord.
    Renew the living spring of your grace within us
    and grant that by this water we may be defended
    from all ills of spirit and body,
    and so approach you with hearts made clean
    and worthily receive your salvation.
    Through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.

    Or:

    Almighty Lord and God,
    who are the source and origin of all life,
    whether of body or soul,
    we ask you to + bless this water,
    which we use in confidence
    to implore forgiveness for our sins
    and to obtain the protection of your grace
    against all illness and every snare of the enemy.
    Grant, O Lord, in your mercy,
    that living waters may always spring up for our salvation,
    and so may we approach you with a pure heart
    and avoid all danger to body and soul.
    Through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.

    Or, during Easter Time:

    Lord our God,
    in your mercy be present to your people’s prayers,
    and, for us who recall the wondrous work of our creation
    and the still greater work of our redemption,
    graciously + bless this water.
    For you created water to make the fields fruitful
    and to refresh and cleanse our bodies.
    You also made water the instrument of your mercy:
    for through water you freed your people from slavery
    and quenched their thirst in the desert;
    through water the Prophets proclaimed the new covenant
    you were to enter upon with the human race;
    and last of all,
    through water, which Christ made holy in the Jordan,
    you have renewed our corrupted nature
    in the bath of regeneration.
    Therefore, may this water be for us
    a memorial of the Baptism we have received,
    and grant that we may share
    in the gladness of our brothers and sisters
    who at Easter have received their Baptism.
    Through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.

    3. Where the circumstances of the place or the custom of the people suggest that the mixing of salt be preserved in the blessing of water, the Priest may bless salt, saying:

    We humbly ask you, almighty God:
    be pleased in your faithful love to bless + this salt
    you have created,
    for it was you who commanded the prophet Elisha
    to cast salt into water,
    that impure water might be purified.
    Grant, O Lord, we pray,
    that, wherever this mixture of salt and water is sprinkled,
    every attack of the enemy may be repulsed
    and your Holy Spirit may be present
    to keep us safe at all times.
    Through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.

    Then he pours the salt into the water, without saying anything.

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  5. JMody says:

    Wow – that comparison is shocking to the core. What was “pastorally improved” by throwing out what looks like a perfectly good blessing, relying heavily on tradition and Scripture to provide a blessing which lines up with what we claim to believe, for what looks like a sop of milk-toast and a heavy sprinkling of MBA-speak?
    This change reflects either catastrophic incompetence or blatant quisling-style subversion.

  6. “There is also a scriptural, symbolic basis for adding salt to water …”

    Indeed, this recreates the vital womb experience, though which a gifted and gifting humanity passes as being birthed by Mother Earth into a …. oops! sorry. wrong website. never mind.

    [Channeling your inner LCWR, I see.]

  7. at93 says:

    In terms of a priest not being able to bless a water source such that all the water that passes through it is blessed – what does this mean for baptistery fonts/wells which have a constant flow of water to them? I’ve frequently seen these in newer churches, often used as the only receptacle of holy water.

    [Who knows? The bathing pools of baptism? I have no idea. I suppose that they circulate the water in them. Who knows what goes on in those pools?]

  8. Colm says:

    Must the blessings of salt and water be done in Latin? Are they valid if done in English?

    [The exorcisms of the salt and water are to be done in Latin. The blessings can be done in English. Here is a shot from a Collectio Rituum which shows the distinction.]

  9. Colm says:

    Thanks, Father. What edition of the Collectio Rituum, is that? I only have the 1964 edition, which unfortunately doesn’t show such distinctions.

  10. KateD says:

    Have you seen those Fly A Salt guns at Costco? Definitely something to consider for 3 Days of Darkness preparadness. (Preloaded with holy salt of course)

    We use exorcized salt in our cooking and pray extra hard for those who comment on the saltiness of the food.

  11. Sportsfan says:

    In light of the temperatures that most of the country is experiencing, if holy water freeezes is it then holy ice? Does it still remain holy (blessed) if it turns to a solid and back to a liquid?

    It seems from what I read in the post that if it turns to a gas then it is no longer blessed.

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    The only thing I want in life is to be a consecrated person. Why on earth did God make me if not to give myself back to Him with all my heart? No matter how many times the bishop rejects me he is the means of my consecration to Jesus who suffered rejection, humiliation and death in order to espouse me to Himself forever.

  13. Alexander Verbum says:

    “I, for one, will never use the newer form. Eh-vur.”

    Bravo! The traditional rite blessing is objectively superior for spiritual warfare. It is actually more effective against diabolical forces – even according to some exorcists.

  14. originalsolitude says:

    “People can be consecrated, too, as in the case of religious and the ordained… If the bishop consecrates you at solemn profession or ordination, then you are thereafter a consecrated person.”

    There is a wonderful anathema in the solemn rite of consecration of virgins in the Roman Pontifical in use up to 1971. The text was inserted in 1520 by Albert Castellani, O.P. Before that the consecrating bishop made up his own anathema. Alas, the anathema is omitted from the current revision. Here’s the text:

    Auctoritate omnipotentis Dei, et beatorum Petri et Pauli Apostolorum ejus, firmiter, et sub interminatione anathematis inhibemus, ne quis praesentes virgines, seu sanctimoniales a divino servitio, cui sub vexillo castitatis subjectae sunt, abducat, nullus earum bona surripiat, sed ea cum quiete possideant. Si quis autem hoc attentare praesumpserit, maledictus sit in domo, et extra domum; maledictus in civitate, et in agro; maledictus vigilando, et dormiendo; maledictus manducando, et bibendo; maledictus ambulando, et sedendo; maledicta sint caro ejus, et ossa, et a planta pedis usque ad verticem non habeat sanitatem. Veniat super illum maledictio hominis, quam per Moysen in lege filiis iniquitatis Dominus permisit. Deleantur nomen ejus de libro viventium, et cum justis non scribatur. Fiat pars et hereditas ejus cum Cain fratricida, cum Dathan, et Abiron, cum Anania, et Saphira, cum Simone mago, et Juda proditore, et cum eis, qui dixerunt Deo: Recede a nobis, semitam viarum tuarum nolumus. Pereat in die judicii; devoret eum ignis perpetuus cum diabolo, et angelis ejus, nisi restituerit, et ad emendationem venerit. Fiat, fiat.

    English translation from Münster, L., Christ in His Consecrated Virgins (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1957, p. 138:
    “By the authority of Almighty God and His Apostles Peter and Paul, we firmly forbid, under pain of excommunication, anyone to lead these virgins and consecrated nuns away from the divine service to which they pledged themselves under the banner of chastity. Let no one rob them of their property, but rather allow them their property in peace. But if anyone presume to attempt such a thing, let him be cursed in and out of his home, cursed in the city and in the country, cursed waking and sleeping, cursed eating and drinking, cursed walking and sitting; cursed be his flesh and his bones, and from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head may there be nothing sound in him. Let the curse of men fall upon him, as the Lord permitted it to come through Moses in the Old Law upon the sons of iniquity. May his name be erased from the book of the living, and may it no longer be written with that of the just. Let him have his portion and inheritance with Cain, the fratricide, with Dathan and Abiron, with Ananias and Saphira, with Simon Magus and Judas the traitor, and with those who said to God, “Depart from us, we do not desire to walk in Your paths.” Let him perish on the Day of Judgment. May the eternal fire swallow him up along with the devil and his angels, unless he make restitution and do penance. So be it done!”

  15. KateD says:

    Original Solitude,

    Wow! In charity someone ought to forward that to Katy Perry, because those nuns certainly took vows prior to ’71. That might explain the fiendish turn in her style.

  16. Hans says:

    Point taken that the old version is miles (or even parsecs, as this translation seems to be somewhere out in space) ahead of the new.

    But to be fair, it’s important to remember that the new version is still the old-ICEL translation that generally prefers wishywashy to the sacred and horizontal to the vertical at almost every instance, while the old version is evidently properly translated.

    Presumably, a proper translation (such as were those that were the genesis of this blog) would make a vast improvement and at least narrow the gap somewhat, at it has done with the Mass texts. At least it might stop being cringeworthy.

  17. Riddley says:

    Father, I’ve got a little bottle of Holy Water at home which is rather old, and is rather full of algae.

    Can you suggest an appropriate way of disposing of it please?

    [Pour it out on the ground. Rinse it well, pouring the rinsing water on the ground. Clean it perhaps with a little bleach. Get more holy water! Then, use it! Get a small stoop and put it on the wall by the front door of your home (or the door you use most often). Replace when needed. It is meant to be used, not filed away.]

  18. Credoh says:

    “The exorcisms of the salt and water are to be done in Latin.”
    Father, how essential is this? I had my house blessed using the old rite at my insistence, but the priest knew little Latin and so used English at his insistence. Is the holy water any less efficacious?
    God bless.

    [I’ll answer this in a separate Q&A.]

  19. rbbadger says:

    There is a wonderful article about the blessing of Holy Water in Antiphon, the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy by Daniel Van Slyke. Until recently, you could access all of the articles in Antiphon online. Sadly, the SCL now wants you to pay for them. But if you have access to a good theological library, Van Slyke’s articles on Holy Water (2003) and the history of the Rite of Major Exorcism (2006) are well worth reading, not to mention Uwe Michael Lang’s 2011 article on the origins of the Book of Blessings.

    De Benedictionibus is a book many of my brother seminarians were critical of during our time together in seminary. My favourite name for it is the Book of Pious Wishes. There are some nice prayers in there. But nice is not exactly what we are up against when it comes to spiritual warfare.

  20. Sixupman says:

    That which I greatly miss [only slightly off-topic] the use of the Asperges Me prior to Solemn Masses, is it even used in the NOM form!

    [That might have been a question. At my home parish of St. Agnes in my native place would have an “Asperges” in the Novus Ordo on Sundays of Advent and Lent.]

  21. Jacques says:

    My father once found during winter the blessed water in a remote mountain church, that was frozen and so dirty (almost opaque black) that he could extract the bunch of ice from the stoop and throw it outside in the snow.
    I think he did well since nobody would have dared to dip even one finger in it.
    In think that the parish priests sometimes aren’t careful enough regarding their stoop’s cleanness.