Blessed Waters and You.

In another entry I answered a question about water suitable for valid baptism.  Someone asked about Holy Water.  Here are a few notes about different blessed waters we Catholics use and enjoy.  This is not meant to be exhaustive, of course.  I just want to give a snapshot to those of you who haven’t heard of these things before.

The blessing and use of Holy Water goes back to very early Christian times.  Using the traditional Roman Ritual, the water for Holy Water is first exorcised.  Exorcised salt is mixed with the water.  In both exorcisms the water and salt are addressed directly, as if they were almost sentient, “O you creature of salt, be thou a blessed salt”, and so forth.  The salt has symbolic value, of course, but sure the saltiness of the water helps retard algae growth.

EasterBaptismal Water or Easter Water is blessed at Easter and at Pentecost.  Easter Water is blessed while mixing in Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism.  The Paschal Candle is also held in the water.   There is a rite for blessing Baptismal Water apart from Easter or Pentecost.  This is the water we generally use for baptism, though in a pinch, other true water may be used.

There is a blessing of water for the reconciliation of a church, or for the blessing of an altar at the time of the consecration of a church called Gregorian Water, which involves the admixture of blessed ashes and blessed salt and blessed wine.

There is also a blessing of water at Epiphany which involves the basic salt and water combination of Holy Water.  However, there is a nice rite which can be performed in the context of, say, Vespers which involves some grand marching around and singing psalms.  This water would be used to bless houses, along with the blessed chalk, of course.  I would like to do this one someday, in the context of sung vespers!

On different feast days priests could bless water in honor of such and such a saint, for example, St. Raymond Nonnatus or St. Ignatius.  Lots of these.

And we mustn’t forget the Benedictio maris, blessing of the sea, wherein, I believe God has already mixed in the salt.  Spectacular prayers.  I’d love to do that one sometime, preferably with a procession with a statue of the Blessed Mother to the shoreline, with the city’s oompa band.  There are blessings of a spring and a well, as well.  When you don’t get your water from a tap, a state to which we may all soon be returning, you want a priest around to bless your water source.  The blessing for the well includes the serious “repulsis hinc phantasmaticis collusionibus, ac diabolicis insidiis, purificatus atque emendatus semper hic puteus perseveret.”  Nice clausula.

Anyway, we Catholics are deeply interested in water and we like our water blessed, thank you very much.  A thousand and one uses!

The devil hates this stuff.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Phil_NL says:

    A procession to the sea or river? Be careful father, we all know that there might be some hurdles to overcome, including the oompa band being scared off… and the priest may feel the urge to ad lib some very powerful prayers….

    [Good one! And the music in the background has some good riffs from well-known chants.]

  2. Joe in Canada says:

    God may have already added salt to the sea, but …. St Parthenius (Feb 7 on the Byzantine Calendar) was Bishop of Lampsacus, which is on the Dardanelles across from Gallipoli, and hence near the Mediterranean Sea. The local fishermen could see the tuna in the water but could not catch them. St Parthenius, understanding this to be the work of devils, sprinkled salt into the sea, and the tuna gladly got caught.
    St Parthenius also used salt on a vineyard of his archdeacon, which vineyard was infested with worms. The good saint sprinkled salt again and the worms died and the vines recovered.

  3. JKnott says:

    Fr.Z “Using the traditional Roman Ritual, the water for Holy Water is first exorcised. Exorcised salt is mixed with the water. ”
    I wonder if the blessing of water without the water first being exorcised has the same stong effect on repelling the devil.

  4. irishgirl says:

    Is that you in the picture with the Easter Candle, Father Z? [It is I.]

  5. BV says:

    I was thinking the same question that irishgirl asked.

  6. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Reminds me of a story in my childhood, back when the Easter Vigil’s Holy Water was used all year.
    A friend of my mother called asking for my mother. When I couldn’t get her, the friend couldn’t contain herself and had to tell me amidst gales of laughter that the helpful altar boy as he cleaned up after the Easter Vigil, carefully threw out all the blessed water.

    [and how, one may ask, does a vat of water last all year? Add a little bit of water to the larger amount of water so the blessed water never runs out, the added water takes on the properties of the Holy Water.]

  7. ejcmartin says:

    Would love to have you come to Newfoundland to pray the Benedictio maris. We are surrounded by the North Atlantic so lots of processional options. We even have a few oompa bands. [Fantastic! I’m game!]

  8. Rob in Maine says:


    Regarding “Easter Water.” It reminds me of a story my late grand mother, Dora, (Memére Nadeau) told me. I had the pleasure of recording a three hour interview with her for a history class paper.

    She was talking about Easter Water; water from a spring collected on Easter morning that was supposed to have special qualities. Her mother, my great-grand mother Marguerite Michaud, would needle my great-grand father, Elude, to get up before dawn to collect some Easter Water from a forest spring.

    According to Memére, he and other men would head to a bar and then bring home tap water.

  9. Bryan Boyle says:

    Rob in Maine:
    Your Michaud side didn’t, perhaps come down to ME from the Trois Pistoles PQ area, perhaps? If so…we may be related (distantly…), since that was the town my own Memere came from…Notre Dame des Neiges parish, specifically. And my mom remembers visiting relatives in ME…:)
    (apologies for the hijack, Father…please forgive…off to make some cortons for Christmas…)

  10. Allan S. says:

    The major difficulty is finding a priest who will properly bless holy water for you. In my area, they water in the fonts is just tap water that a priest or deacon made the sign of the cross over, if even that.

    When I do manage to track down a priest willing to properly bless water (yes, with salt) for me I get as much as I can and try to make it last. I always present myself with a copy of the necessary formulae and some water and salt, and am sure to express my gratitude.


  11. Michael J. says:

    What is the Holy Water that is referred to as, “Lustral Water”? Is it simply Blessed Water, otherwise referred to as Holy Water, or is there a difference? Sorry, reading a book on Rubrics.

  12. dominic1955 says:

    What do people think about the difference between water blessed with the traditional Rituale versus the water blessed with the Book of Blessings (Wishes)? If we think words actually mean anything, it would seem they are different. Personally, the only Holy Water I bother to keep is blessed in the traditional rite. I figure that while NO Holy Water is blessed (because the Church says it is if nothing else) I’d rather have the one that is exorcised. We’ve always had different kinds of Holy Water (as Fr. Z correctly points out) so its not anything new that there are different “degrees” of Holy Water. You don’t bless a church to be consecrated with regular Holy Water or even Epiphany Water, you use Gregorian Water. So, I figure NO Holy Water is basically “Holy Water Lite”. Its blessed and should be treated with the respect due to a sacramental, but I’d rather have the straight up traditional Holy Water blessed with the Rituale Romanum.

  13. Centristian says:

    My home parish has a fawcet that says “Holy Water” above it in the vestibule of the church. It isn’t a slow trickle, as one would expect, but a forceful output, just like a sink. Should I be skeptical?


    “What is the Holy Water that is referred to as, “Lustral Water”? Is it simply Blessed Water, otherwise referred to as Holy Water, or is there a difference? Sorry, reading a book on Rubrics.”

    My understanding is that lustral water and holy water are one and the same thing. I think to say “lustral” water as opposed to “holy” water is either antiquated or British (or both). Fortescue refers to “lustral water” in contexts which demonstrate that he is referring to holy water, which leads me to suspect it is a term that either is or was used in the UK.

  14. Centristian says:


    When I say “holy water”, above, I’m referring to the standard holy water you find in the holy water font of a church.

  15. Robert_H says:

    Don’t forget that beer can be blessed as well. From the Catholic Beer Review:

    Blessing of Beer:

    V. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
    R. Qui fecit caelum et terram.

    V. Dominus vobiscum.
    R. Et cum spiritu tuo.


    Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisiae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi, et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti; ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corpus et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

    R. Amen.

    Et aspergatur aqua benedicta.

    English translation:

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

    V. The Lord be with you.
    R. And with thy spirit.

    Let us pray.

    Bless, + O Lord, this creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from the fat of grain: that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race, and grant through the invocation of thy holy name; that, whoever shall drink it, may gain health in body and peace in soul. Through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

    And it is sprinkled with holy water.

  16. mjd says:

    At Mater Dei in Irving, Texas, St. Torelli’s water is available, next to the holy water. It is for those who are ill, pregnant & nursing women and even those who have cravings to overeat, causing the sin of gluttony. I mix a small amount with water, to heat up, for instant decaf and tea.

  17. AnAmericanMother says:

    Our parish has much the same setup, with a rather utilitarian-looking brass faucet (with a label hanging from a chain) and substantial output.
    But in our case you can see the very large reservoir (I would put it just from eyeballing it at around 40 gallons – it’s about the size of a 55 gal. oil drum but smaller diameter) that the faucet is connected to.
    I guess with a parish of around 2000 families they figured they had better have plenty of it.

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