Sand in your holy water stoup

A I saw on one blog a post about the dopey practice of removing holy water from stoups during Lent.  I have gotten questions about this in the ASK FATHER Question Box, which I also run.  Here is an except of one of my answers.

Q:  Our Sunday bulletin states that Holy Water will be removed from Ash Wednesday on during Lent to remind us that we are in a desert. What is the latest rule for removing Holy Water? It used to be done on Good Friday.

A: Good question! Thanks for asking this. No doubt thousands.. maybe millions of people will be subjected to all kinds of rubbish during Lent. One day I should relate the stupid things we had to endure in seminary about this very thing of sand in the holy water stoup.

Any way… This is a response from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments about this question. Enjoy. The emphasis is mine:


Prot. N. 569/00/L

March 14, 2000

Dear Father:

This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:

1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.

2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

Hoping that this resolves the question and with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Mons. Mario Marini

One of these days I will tell you about the hijinx over holy water in Lent we had in seminary, the infamous Saint Paul Seminary, in Minnesota, where I did hard time together with fellows like my friend the now infamous Fr. Robert Altier.  But that’s another story.

About the holy water thing.  Holy water is a sacramental.  We get the powerful theology of its use in the older ritual in the prayers for exorcism of the water and salt used and then the blessing itself.  I wrote about this in an article for the WDTPRS series and it is somewhere on this blog now, I think.  Maybe one of you can find it?  The rite of blessing holy water, in the older ritual, is scary, powerful stuff.  It sounds odd, nearly foreign to our modern ears, especially after over 30 years of being force fed ICEL pabulum. 

Holy Water is a power weapon of the spiritual life against the attacks of the devil.  You do believe in the existence of the Enemy, right?  You know you are a soldier and pilgrim in a dangerous world, right?  So why… why… why would these dopey liturgists and priests REMOVE a tool of spiritual warfare precisely duing the season of LENT when we need it the most??  Holy water is a sacramental.  It is for our benefit.  It is not a toy, or something to be abtained from, like chocolate or television.  

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Paul Murnane says:

    Thanks again, Father Z. for posting another useful tidbit. Sadly, that practice seems popular in these parts (la-la land), but hopefully the tide is turning.

    Looking forward to those stories :)

  2. claire says:

    ugh, I can’t stand it when they put sand in the holy water fonts!

  3. Then make sure everyone knows about this response from the CDWDS!

  4. Jeff says:

    Isn’t it spelled “stoup”?

  5. A gadfly says:

    “You do believe in the existence of the Enemy, right? You know you are a soldier and pilgrim in a dangerous world, right?”

    There’s the question.
    There has been a certain amount of contention about the value of Eucharistic Adoration on another internet site, and as I read someone elses post about “progressives” needing to get over their “fear” of Adoration, it suddenly hit me, who it was who was afraid of Him, and afraid of His being adored, and who had good reason for his fear.
    And that is the trouble, when it gets right down to it.
    These are not evil people, so why are they letting themselves be duped into doing the evil one’s work for him?
    Because they don’t believe that he exists.

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