Dumb liberal idea #3464: Removing Holy Water during Lent

I noticed at Bonfire of the Vanities an entry profoundly dopey idea of removing Holy Water from fonts at the entrances of churches during Lent.

I have written about this really dumb idea several times.

Empty holy water fonts during Lent… GRRRRRR!

Since Lent is in view, let us get you good folks armed against such dopiness if it is planned for your parishes.

Here is what I wrote in another entry: QUAERITUR: removing holy water during Lent

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.

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 emphases are 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 [Later the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, now sadly deceased.]

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 a couple years of hard time. 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 on this blog

The rite of blessing holy water, in the older ritual, is 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 liturgists and priests REMOVE a tool of spiritual warfare precisely during 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 abstained from, like chocolate or television.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. This insanity will die out eventually…the aging “hippie” syndrome…yeah?
    Until then, all of you out there, inform your pastor of the appropriate protocol mentioned above.
    If he doesn’t acquiesce, bring your own holy water, bless yourselves upon entering the Church and be done with it.
    The English/Welsh/Irish martyrs dealt with this.
    Just do it.

  2. Theodorus says:

    They remove holy water because, to a great extent, they don’t see any supernatural virtue that holy water possesses. To many “enlightened” priests and theologians, holy water and other sacramentals are merely signs, symbols, and reminders, and nothing more. Their mentality is that if we can survive without looking at our baptism photos for a month, it surely doesn’t hurt to remove the holy water for a while, which is just a reminder anyway. They laugh at people who use holy water, St. Benedict medal or any other blessed objects piously for spiritual and temporal welfare, which to them is superstitious and silly.

  3. cmm says:

    Isn’t it risky because of swine flu? I’ve been avoiding it ever since we got instructions not to shake hands and not to take communion under both species.

  4. Jaybirdnbham says:

    Concerning holy water, my local parish uses the Novus Ordo blessing, and I even have a suspicion that our pastor may even take a short cut from that by merely making a sign of the cross over the container in passing. Hence, I only get holy water from EWTN’s chapel, which is blessed by the old rite, with a bit of blessed salt sprinkled in it.

    My main confessor (not the pastor) says I’m being superstitious by insisting that the holy water be blessed by the old rite, and says that the prayers over the water don’t matter, because God knows what we need the water to do regardless of the prayers over it.

    My response to that is, “then why bother praying at all if God already knows what we need?” And then I go right on out to EWTN for more holy water. :-)

    And along this line, it may be that the reason some modern parishes don’t recognize the value of holy water is because the modern rite of blessing of water is kinda lame. So then removing the water during Lent as some sort of figurative gesture probably makes sense to them. It doesn’t to me, but it might to them. And to all of that I can say Thank God for EWTN and their orthodoxy and their REAL holy water!

  5. MargaretMN says:

    I particularly dislike the removal of the fonts and substitution with a big dish or baptismal font at the back of church. It reminds me of the communal cup and often ends up with dirt and grease floating on the top. As if the congregation is so stupid they can’t figure out that the smaller fonts are to remind us of our baptism and they need the actual thing as a visual.

  6. Thomas S says:

    We haven’t had Holy Water for MONTHS out of fear for Swine Flu. Nor have we had Communion on the tongue (boo) or hand-shaking at the sign of peace (yay).

    Cardinal O’Malley has said we can forgo the precautions and return to Communion on the tongue, but our pastor dismissed that at Mass this evening and said we’d continue with the precautions. I say let’s go all out then and remove the door handles and PRAISE hymnals so we don’t spread germs that way. While we’re at it the priest could offer the Mass ad orientum so that his back is to the coughing masses and our germs.

  7. Dave N. says:

    If anything, I need sacramentals even MORE during Lent.

  8. JosephMary says:

    In my former parish, the Holy Water was taken out and even the baptismal pond was emptied (which I liked because that big hot tub was VERY loud). And then for a couple of years we had this display of sand, cactus and bones. One year they used skunk bones or something and it stunk! So did the idea of removing the holy water for that matter.

    As for holy water spreading flu: baloney!

  9. Jaybirdnbham: Any holy water blessed by a Catholic priest, even if it is from the “Book of Blessings” and not the old Roman rite is just as much a sacramental as if it was blessed in the older rite.
    Holy water is holy water.
    I believe a blogger on another thread said as much that Fr. Amorth, the chief exorcist of Rome, said that either form of blessing brings the same results.
    Rest assured.
    The prayer of Holy Mother Church is there, even if the priest just makes the sign of the cross over the holy water; it’s your faith, your devotion, your love of Jesus and His Church that brings about the great effects…the blessing of the Church gives you this grace, but it is not a sacrament; it’s a sacramental.

  10. catholicmidwest says:

    And if you see dirt in the holy water font, for pete’s sake, do your Christian duty and help out janitor. Dump it outside right away!

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    And for holy water? If they’re not providing it, shame on them! You’ll just have to bring your own!

    Some parishes have holy water containers. GEt a plastic bottle.

  12. boko fittleworth says:

    nazareth priest, there is some question as to whether the current “blessing” of water really blesses the water. Many of the blessings in the Book of Blessings bless everything but the object one expects to be blessed. I’ve seen real scholarship on this subject that raises serious questions about whether our “Holy Water” is really getting blessed or not.

  13. Jaybirdnbham says:

    Nazareth priest: Thank you for explaining that. Does this mean I am being superstitious for thinking that the older rite of blessing confers more power or effects to the water?

  14. The Cobbler says:

    “You know you are a soldier and pilgrim in a dangerous world, … right?”
    There’s some disagreement around as to the meaning of soldier, isn’t there? Yes, I will continue to harp on this little problem until I find a satisfactory answer. I’m quite willing to keep my head down, not command the Devil to leave until someone can show me proof laypeople are able and allowed to do that, err on the side of caution. I’m not willing to be a sitting duck without whining about my concerns. If our weapons are restricted to calling in others, I’ll do some basic calling for help understanding why (and how being a mere willing target is being a soldier).

  15. Theodorus says:

    Jaybirdnbham, I really don’t think you are superstitious. While Fr Amorth, the famous exorcist, acknowledges that the current formula of blessing of holy water is fine, he does see a distinction between blessed water and exorcised water. He has said many times that the current revised Roman Ritual for exorcism is just like a blunt knife, and he much prefers the traditional one.

  16. The Cobbler says:

    And so I’m clear, there are shades in between what I’m perfectly fine with regarding dealing with the Devil and what I am sick of that I keep getting… I’m sick of, if the Devil can only be handled by trained exorcists, being told to ignore anything that isn’t plainly and obviously requiring of an exorcist. I’m sick of, when raising concerns to knowledgeable friends that people I know have had apparently diabolical experiences and that for that matter my own life is subject to uncomfortably malevolent circumstances and specifically asking about how to know what to think, not merely assuming they are one thing or another or asking what to assume, being told to ignore it for whatever reason (hey, they didn’t occur because I looked for them, why the insistence that the key is not looking for them?). On the one hand I am told the enemy is real, on the other I am told that I should therefore pretend he isn’t (or at any rate, pretend he isn’t aside from asking God to take care of him, at which point I don’t see where it matters so darn much that I care if he’s real or not so much as whether I ask God to help me however He sees I need it). Seriously? I know God’s ways are not our ways, but if someone told you that the trick to drinking living water was to pour it in your behind you’d give them the Spockish eyebrow too.

  17. Supertradmom says:

    At every parish where I have attended, except for the FSSP parish, the holy water has disappeared during Lent. This has been true in three dioceses.

    As to containers, I have never seem containers in my entire life supplied by a parish, and frequently, one has to ask where the holy water dispensary is, as it is hidden near the sacristy door or in some out of the way place.

    I only know of three people who got swine flu this last year, by the way, despite all the fuss.

  18. Supertradmom says:

    seen,not seem….containers are a luxury one must buy…

  19. Margaret says:

    A related note on Lenten liturgical practices: the disappearance of the Gloria. I used to notice it keenly when it “went away” during Advent and Lent. But in the last year or two, my pastor, for reasons unknown to me, has started routinely dropping the Gloria from regular Sunday Masses outside of either of these seasons. It’s most disheartening. And it completely kills the “fasting” element of not being able to sing it for four or six weeks during the penitential seasons… Sigh.

  20. Just for clarification:
    The blessing of water by a priest in the 1962 Roman Ritual or the priest/deacon in the OF blessing are both equally efficacious.
    Otherwise, the Church would be somehow be lacking in Her care for the faithful.
    Just to refresh everyone: (and I am not being facetious or patronizing here), sacramentals contain the blessing of the Church which also requires the faith of those using them; they are not sacraments which confer the grace by the fact of the matter/form. And so, while the “consecrated water” in the older Form has a certain formula that gives the certain theological teaching/understanding of what it is, the other forms, although not having the same wording contain the same blessing/understanding/etc.

  21. Supertradmom says:

    I was under the impression that the Gloria has never been allowed in Lent…clarification from Liturgy experts?

  22. Jaybirdnbham says:

    Nazareth priest, you and my confessor are saying what sounds like the same thing: that our faith in the blessings of Mother Church is at least as important as whatever words are said over the water. Maybe more important than the words?

    So the right thing for me to do is just believe in the blessings regardless of whatever method was used to bless it? (And I’m happy for my confessor to be right about the holy water, because he’s also a good friend.)

  23. MikeM says:

    Thanks for the info on this, Fr. Z. It’s always struck me as odd that they took it away during Lent.

    I’m going to make sure that our campus masses have holy water this Lent.

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    It can’t be seen as either/or like that. For the greatest efficacy, logically both the genuine prayers AND faith of the user would have to be required, otherwise I could just mistake my iced tea for holy water and be just as well off. The prayers suffice for one part, and the faith the other, both necessary.

  25. lucy says:

    We haven’t had holy water since fall here in Fresno, CA, due to the big bad flu bug. We’re saddly missing it. I agree with the person above who said “baloney” to taking it away. We’re blasted with germs everywhere we go. Is there really a need to take away a sacramental ? It’s baloney.

  26. boko fittleworth says:

    Here’s an article I found online that contains the text of the “Order for the Blessing of Holy Water Outside Mass” from the Book of Blessings: http://www.jfrankhenderson.com/pdf/sprinklingrite.pdf

    I don’t endorse the author’s conclusions, but I’m no expert. The bottom of page nine and page ten contain the text of the “blessing” as well as some analysis. The author admits that “none of the prayers over the water ask God to ‘bless’ the water.” (His quotes around “bless.”) I find this troubling.

    In his post, Fr. Z asks, “So why… why… why would these liturgists and priests REMOVE a tool of spiritual warfare precisely during the season of LENT when we need it the most??” I think this question can be asked about the new “blessing,” as well.

  27. Theodorus says:

    http://www.daytonlatinmass.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/blessing-of-water.pdf Indeed, as we can see also from this link, all three modern formulas for blessing of holy water outside of Mass contain no blessing of the water itself whatsoever.

  28. Amen! Brother, preach it!

    They did this back at the sem in the day. They would fill it with rocks and twigs. I expected to find used kitty litter one day.

  29. james says:

    So many diocese and archdiocese removed all Holy Water during the H1N1 “scare” (farce?!). What does this tell parishioners? Perhaps that Holy Water isn’t “Holy”? What does this say to our children?? Do they not get this?

    I think they do. I think they think the Holy Water is simply symbolic. The evidence is pretty strong… perhaps Holy Water could PREVENT H1N1 – Holy Water could actually PROTECT us from H1N1…

    Seems reasonable, if Holy Water is, as Fr. Z puts it (with power, I might add):

    Holy Water is a power weapon of the spiritual life against the attacks of the devil.

    I’d like to hear the responses of all the bishops and archbishops who removed all Holy Water from their churches over the year…..

  30. Central Valley says:

    Lucy in Fresno, I feel your pain. When people think of odd ball things happening in the Church, they think of Los Angeles. One diocese north of LA is Fresno. Over the years, I have seen several parishes throughout the diocese that take away the holy water, put rocks, sand, cactus and yes even roadside tumble weeds on the altar and in the sanctuary to decorate for Lent! The greatest abuse I have seen during lent in the diocese of Fresno was of a woman, who had given birth to her seventh child was denied the ability to baptize the baby at her lcoal parish church because the priest said he doesn’t “do” baptisms during Lent. She traveled a bit and had the baby baptized by a priest who knows his duty. All these abuses addressed to Bishop Steinbock and his number two man but to no avail. The current leadership of the diocese of Fresno could care less what a Congregation in Rome says. Holy Father please send us some good sheperds to California, where we suffer so much.

  31. The “holy water disappearing act” during Lent is just nutz; a lack of faith and understanding on the part of so-called experts…and a real injustice to the faithful.
    Grow up, ‘o ye experts’! If you actually understood what holy water is, you’d have buckets of it around during Lent!
    How one simple practice (emptying the fonts on H. Thursday for the new Easter Water on the Easter Vigil) could mushroom into this fiasco is beyond comprehension…unless you don’t have faith or are not properly formed in it.

  32. Jaybirdnbham: as catholicmidwest said, it’s the prayer of the Church and the faith of the person that make the use of holy water efficacious.
    I, myself, do not understand why the prayers in the “Book of Blessings” have been changed from the older form. But it is the prayer of the Church, no matter what form, that is the main thing.
    It is confusing, to say the least.
    That being said, I pray the older form with the addition of blessed salt and the exorcism prayers when I bless holy water.
    That doesn’t mean I don’t believe what I said earlier. It is just that the older form gives a more complete understanding of the meaning of blessed water in all its ramifications.

  33. Supertradmom says:

    By the way, and I hope this is not a rabbit hole, some of our parishes put cacti in front of the altar during Lent to impress upon us all the desert theme. It is so ugly and contrary to, I think, liturgical norms for no plants in the sanctuary. The holy water disappears as well.

  34. cheyan says:

    I think it’s not a good idea to assume that blessing water would prevent it from transmitting disease – if an ordinary bucket of water would be a vector for disease (I cough on my hand, I put my hand in the bucket, you put your hand in the bucket, and then you touch your mouth or your eyes or your food), then holy water would be similarly a way to get sick – the water’s been blessed, not the germs that people have added to it.

    Doesn’t mean that using holy water when we pray that God keeps us from illness isn’t a good thing (and I personally know an otherwise-healthy man in his twenties who was sick in bed for a whole week with H1N1, and an immune-compromised woman who had to be hospitalized after getting it, so while it might have been overhyped, it wasn’t imaginary) or that holy water and regular water are the same. But maybe it should be water from containers we fill, not from a tiny little basin on the wall that everybody’s sticking their fingers into.

  35. lucy says:

    From what I understand, when a priest “blesses” water with words and making a sign of the cross over it, it becomes “Blessed Water.” When a priest uses the Book of Blessings, performs the rites of exorcism and blessings over the salt and the water, then completes the ritual, then the water becomes “Holy Water.”

  36. Lee says:

    Cobbbler, since no one trained and charged with the care of souls has responded to you, here are the fruits of a severe contest I underwent three decades and a half ago:

    If you are the victim of satanic harrassment,attacks, oppression etc there are a lot of things you can do short of calling an exorcist. So far as I know, exorcists are only really needed to deal with out and out possession. And since there are far, far more evil spirits than exorcists, as an average, but bothered Catholic you are typically in a do it yourself situation.

    First, sin is usually the ground for satanic attack. Make sure that you you have confessed all your sins, and be especially on guard against self-justification in areas that the Church condemns. If the Church says something is sin, it is sin. Repent, confess.

    Secondly, Make sure that any harrassment drives you to the sacraments and not away from them, especially Confession, of which I suggest you make frequent use. It will strengthen you. Stop in the sacristy after Mass during the week and ask if father can hear your confession. He will. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My last Confession was three days ago, but I’m having a tough time right now and need the sacraments.”

    Thirdly, commanding, “Begone Satan in the name and the blood of Jesus Christ,” can be very effective.

    Fourthly, just in general, make sure that these harrassments drive you to a more Christian and Catholic way of life. Yielding to discouragement is a way of telling satan to pour it on, for he is succeeding, whereas ratchetting up your prayer life, getting to Mass and Confession more often, sticking your nose in Scripture or the lives of the saints are ways of discouraging the evil spirits-which is exactly what you want to do.

    Fifth, if you want to distract yourself from the battle, do it with good and wholesome things, NOT mainstream mass media, which are the devil’s playground.

    Sixth, charismatic prayer groups can bevery helpful. Never was I prayed over for anything, including spiritual battles, when there was not at least an incremental and noticeable improvement in the situation.

    Seventh, praying in tongues helps. “He who prays in a tongue edifies himself…” (1 Cor 14:4) i.e. builds himself up.

    Eighth, Had I to go through it all over again I would be praying the Jesus prayer all day long as I went about my business, or simply saying the names of Jesus and Mary again and again ad infinitum in those times when I was driving, or between tasks, or taking the garbage out etc.

    Ninth, in general, don’t be afraid . “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the World.”

    Tenth, do carry the battle to the enemy. Of course, when under attack the temptation is to worry about oneself, which is almost the exact opposite of loving ones neighbor- which we are commanded to do. When he has you worried about yourself, you are a casualty in the war. You are walking wounded. So, if you are not in a situation or of a temperament to reach out to others, at least make sure that you are ratchetting up your prayers for other people. That is truly carrying the battle to the enemy.

    Eleventh, all that said, it should be clear what is the Lord’s purpose in permitting this worrying situation, and that is to drive you closer to Himself, for you to discover some of the powers that he has given you, more of the sacramental treasures that are available to you and to make you a saint and an apostle. Not a bad tradeoff for a little harrassment. So, be glad and rejoice.

    Twelfth, to bring this back on topic, don’t neglect the sacramentals, esp holy water.

  37. Central Valley says:

    Removing holy water during Lent or removing it because of H1N1 is nonsense. H1N1, sand in water fonts and camelot are soooo 70’s. H1N1 and camelot are dead and burried, lets pray holy water inovations will soon be burried.

  38. Jaybirdnbham says:

    Nazareth priest, I think I understand what you’re saying, which is that the water is just as much blessed regardless of which blessing you use.

    But since what you’re DOING is using the old rite yourself to bless water, because you feel better about how it’s worded… I think I’ll keep going to EWTN to refill my holy water bottles. :-)

  39. southern orders says:

    In my sillier, more liberal, creative days, I too would remove the Holy Water during Lent–must have heard about that at some workshop! But one year, I thought, wouldn’t it be really, really cool to replace it with small white pebbles mixed in with the ashes of Ash Wednesday to remind the people of their Ash Wednesday promises of penance. All weekend long I noticed as people came up to communion that they had smudges of ashes on their forehead, right shoulder and left shoulder, particularly noticeable on expensive white shirts and blouses. Needless to say, after being sued for laundry expenses, I rid my self of all creativity!

  40. Mariana says:

    Thank you, Father! As a convert I’ve just accepted that there’s no Holy Water during Lent, even though I don’t like it and didn’t understand the reason. I now see there IS no reason.

  41. An American Mother says:

    Taking away holy water or dumping sand in the fonts has never happened at our parish – I can imagine Monsignor giving the lifted eyebrow and the ‘hmmmm?’ look to anybody with the temerity to suggest it.

    And there is a conspicuous (it must hold around five gallons) and rather ornate brass-mounted container labelled “Holy Water” in large friendly letters, in an alcove just outside the entrance to the right hand aisle of the church!

    I think it must be one of our salvaged antiques. The church was built fairly recently (in the early 90s) but is very traditional in design, and furnished with all sorts of beautiful old items salvaged from decommissioned or destroyed churches and monasteries, mostly in the Northeast.

    I had heard that one of our local priests is arranging to move an entire church building from somewhere up north. Don’t know how that is going, but if can be done, he’ll do it. He’s a very energetic, hardworking man.

  42. Geometricus says:

    Father Z,
    Was the story about the St. Paul Sem the one I heard? I can’t remember whether it was Altier, you or Dufner who said that when they replaced the holy water with sand, someone plucky seminarian fashioned a little beach chair and tiny umbrella and planted it in the sand.

    Sorry if I’m telling tales out of school, but it was too hilarious to be left for “sometime”.

  43. pelerin says:

    Geometricus – can just imagine it! Hope the additions discontinued the practice. I have not encountered sand in the holy water stoups – perhaps it is not done in Britain?

    What I do dislike is the addition of small usually cheap plastic bowls placed in large ornate often shell shaped stoups in ancient churches. Perhaps they are unable to bless enough water to fill the stoups? Surely not? It just looks cheap especially if the ancient stoup is a work of art as they often are on the Continent.

  44. With Lent comes spring. After spring, summer. With summer, mosquitoes. Last summer I found mosquitoes breeding in the holy water, and the church full of them. Called it to attention of sacristan, who cleaned up the fonts, but next week the larvae were back. Anyone out there have this problem? What to do about it?

  45. Joseph: This question has very little to do with the actual topic, but I suggest that the priest bless Holy Water using the older Ritual which requires the addition of blessed salt to the water. That would help.

  46. An American Mother says:

    Unfortunately mosquitoes breed in brackish water just as well as fresh. My parents live on a salt marsh and they have plenty of the little pests.

    I don’t know if a chemical application like Pondmaster would be permissible, but that or a few drops of vegetable oil would kill the mosquitoes, and neither is harmful to people.

    Our parish has some beautiful old holy water stoups (they were saved from a downtown church that was ‘wreckovated’), but the marble is rather porous (thus harboring slime and probably mosquitoes if they could get in) and prone to stain, so the parish got some very simple shallow glass bowls that fit neatly into the basins. Those can be cleaned regularly and the relatively small quantity of water disposed of properly without much waste.

  47. Now, mosquitoes — that’s a practical reason to remove the holy water from the fonts, at least for the times when the church isn’t being used much. But that’s a matter of preventing the holy water was being innocently fouled by the little critters. Keeping fonts clean of slime would be the same thing.

  48. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I live in the Fresno diocese and I know a number of priests who did not take out the holy water, regardless of H1N1. I just added a few drops of disinfectant, the same used in hand sanitizers, and warned people not to add the holy water to their coffee or tea.

    Also, as regards diabolical attack or demonic infestation, I want to commend Lee above for some very good suggestions, although I disagree about praying in toungues as one of them, since that charismata is for the edification of the Church, not for personal protection (but I digress and don’t want to argue about the gift of tongues).

    Besides the use of sacramentals, draw close to the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, Theresa of Avila, Ignatius, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, etc., for they give good advice on combating sin and temptation. Theresa, for instance, warns novices in the spiritual life that the devil’s first means of counter-attack when he sees us go towards a devout life is not direct, diabolical attack. Rather, the devil first moves the beginner to lukewarmness, laziness, and apathy in our practice of faith, hope, and charity.

    Once the beginner has given up all mortal sin, frequents the sacraments constantly, is given to prayer and spiritual reading throughout the day, plus shows great virtue in the practice of faith, hope and charity, then the enemy ratchets up the fight, so to speak. So, if clergy sometimes do not think you are being attacked by the devil, it does not necessarily mean they don’t believe in the devil.

    Sometimes, the priest sees that you are not that advanced in the way of Christian perfection; from spiritual theology, he would know that the devil usually tempts beginners, but does not attack them. It is only with very holy and advanced souls that we usually see diabolic attack; with beginners, the devil can simply mislead them with laziness, mundane entertainments, and attitudes and actions of uncharity. So, the Catholic that can easily be led to whine and gripe about the Church, the bishops, and the clergy and all their faults does not need an outward attack from the devil. They are cooperating with him quite nicely without any possessions or other demonic tricks.

    The great Catholic, spiritual authors encourage us to rely on quick, uncompromising, and obedient faithfulness to the commandments and the precepts of the Church if we wish to fight the devil as beginners. Then, when we are going way above and beyond the call of duty to practice faith, hope and charity, we can expect worse trials from the enemy. So, yes, we need that holy water. But we also need to remember that the holy water is not going to help our Christian perfection if it is not accompanied with the zealous acts of faith, hope, and charity, plus frequent and humble recourse to the sacraments.

  49. Tim Ferguson says:

    When I was in the college seminary, a proposal was brought up to the liturgy committee to remove the holy water during Lent to symbolize being in a “spiritual desert.” My counter-suggestion was to emphasize the experience of thirsting in a desert by distributing Holy Communion only under the form of bread, and to further emphasize our spiritual weakness in the desert by asking seminarians to receive on their knees.

    I was reprimanded. Despite a universal vote on the committee against removing the holy water, it was, nonetheless, removed (odd how the “We are the Church” folks haul out “the Church is not a democracy” when the votes are against them…).

    My spiritual director at the time willingly blessed a supply of holy water, which I kept in my room and distributed. A number of guys would come to my room on their way down to chapel to bless themselves. This also came up on my senior evaluation.

  50. The Cobbler says:

    Lee, Fr. Soleto — Thanks. 8^)

  51. Yes, my comment was three strides off topic (lent > spring > summer > mosquitoes). I had thought of salt, as Fr.Z suggested. American mother raises a good point too. But salt water can be a lot saltier than sea water without exceeding saturation. Years ago I read the old Ritual on the matter and I don’t recall there being any mention of quantities. That would seem to leave room for a strong enough solution to zap the skeeters — assuming there is such a strength without hitting saturation. Any entomologists out there?

  52. An American Mother says:

    Texted my daughter the biology major, and she informs me that different species of mosquito prefer fresh, brackish, and salt water.

    So unless you’re near the ocean, a hefty dose of salt should discourage the local skeeters. It would probably help kill germs too.

  53. aHa! Since we are in a 4800 foot high desert hundreds of miles from the sea, that salt thing just might work here.

    That leads to a technical question. Should the old Ritual definitely be used, or could one use the current Ritual and just salt the water? and would one add salt before or after the blessing?

    BTW my son too was a bio major — but he only handles mail and messages about once a month.

  54. Mark of the Vine says:

    Where I live, holy water has pretty much disappeared from churches. Priests have claimed that it has something to do with hygiene (some people would almost take baths of holy water), though I suspect it is also due to the fact that many people would take holy water home for witchcraft (for good and bad; that kind of stuff is still pretty much alive in the country where our Lady of the Rosary appeared)…

  55. Aaron says:

    Since the letter talks about sacramentals AND sacraments, does that mean that the common rule against having weddings during Lent is also incorrect?

  56. Konichiwa says:

    I’ll have to check this out at a church I visit sometimes. Last night I noticed there was no holy water in one of the vessels. I just thought they were out of holy water for the moment.

  57. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Joseph Mansfield:

    There’s a blessing for salt before it’s added to the holy water in the current Missal, for when water is blessed at Sunday Mass. I’ve never used it.


    I haven’t consulted the General Instruction, but the “Ordo” (a handbook prepared as a easy reference of such matters) I have is very clear that weddings are permitted, but that they should reflect the character of Lent.

    Father Z:

    One of the servers at Mass this morning told me he reads your blog and read this post! I was helping at a neighboring parish; his twin brother and he love to serve, bring their own cassocks. I facetiously addressed them as “Father” when I arrived and they both grinned.

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