QUAERITUR: Is water blessed with the newer rites really holy water?

From a reader:

I’ve heard it claimed that holy water blessed via the new rite isn’t true holy water since the new rite doesn’t include prayers of exorcism; in other words, according to the person telling me this, such water is merely “blessed water” (strange, I thought anything blessed was, by definition, holy). If you were me, how would you respond to such claims? Thanks in advance, and God bless.

I don’t think the entire question rests on the lack of an exorcism.  There is more to the issue.

I just reviewed 1085 ff in De Benedictionibus, the post-Conciliar collection of “blessings”. I use ” ” there because only a couple of the prayers in the book that explicitly bless something. All the rest refer to the blessings God could give to someone nearby, or around the place, or who might look in the direction of something, etc. The book attempts to change the Church’s theology about blessings, effectively trying to eliminate the concept of the constitutive blessing and reducing every prayer and action to an invocative blessing.

In my review of the Ordo ad faciendam aquam benedictam, used outside Mass to “bless” water, even though I found a rubric that says that the “celebrans… dicit orationem benedictionis… the celebrant … says the prayer of blessing” and there are three options that follow, I cannot find in any of the three prayers, in the Latin mind you, an explicit statement that the water is to be blessed water. These paragraphs use the word “blessing” throughout and the prayers ask for blessings on those on whom the water is sprinkled. Also, the “celebrans” can be a deacon, which is not possible in the older rite, with the traditional Rituale Romanum.

Here is the first of the new prayers as an example:

Benedictus es, Domine, Deus omnipotens,
qui nos in Christo, aqua viva salutis nostrae,
benedicere dignatus es et intus reformare:
concede ut qui huius aquae aspersione
vel usu munimur,
renovata animae iuventute
per virtutem Sancti Spiritus
in novitate vitae iugiter ambulemus.

Blessed are you, Lord, Almighty God,
who deigned to bless us in Christ, the living water of our salvation,
and to reform us interiorly,
grant that we who are fortified
by the sprinking of or use of this water,
the youth of the spirit being renewed
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
may walk always in newness of life.

The others are not more explicit.

The difference with the older rite is not just that there is no exorcism or blending of exorcised and blessed salt. There is not explicit act of blessing.   The fact that a deacon can use this rite means that it is not connected to the power of the priestly office.  There is no sign of the cross indicated in the text.  The words don’t say the water is blessed.  [NB: In a comment below we learn that the CDW indicates that a sign of the Cross is to be made.]

In the older rite, which priests can use (reason #4378 for why we needed Summorum Pontificum) first salt is exorcised and then blessed.  Then water is exorcised and then blessed.  In the exorcism of the salt and the water, the two elements are addressed directly, personally, in the second person.  By this exorcism they are entirely and without question ripped from the domination of the “Prince of this World”, as our Lord calls the our Enemy.  Then they are blessed with explicit words and gestures of blessings.  Here are the prayers for the exorcism and the blessing the water (before the exorcised blessed salt is added), with my emphases:

God’s creature, water, I cast out the demon from you in the name of God + the Father almighty, in the name of Jesus + Christ, His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit. May you be a purified water, empowered to drive afar all power of the enemy, in fact, to root out and banish the enemy himself, along with his fallen angels. We ask this through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire. All: Amen.

O God, who for man’s welfare established the most wonderful mysteries in the substance of water, hearken to our prayer, and pour forth your blessing + on this element now being prepared with various purifying rites. May this creature of yours, used in your mysteries and endowed with your grace, serve to cast out demons and to banish disease. May everything that this water sprinkles in the homes and gatherings of the faithful be delivered from all that is unclean and hurtful; let no breath of contagion hover there, no taint of corruption; let all the wiles of the lurking enemy come to nothing. By the sprinkling of this water may everything opposed to the safety and peace of the occupants of these homes be banished, so that in calling on your holy name they may know the well-being they desire, and be protected from every peril; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.

In the newer prayer, we pray that people have spiritual benefits, because we are invoking God’s blessing.  The water is a symbol of those blessings.  In the older prayer something entirely different seems to be going on.  The water is taken from the realm of the profane and made something of the sacred realm.  Then the water is used to bring about the things we pray, through God’s power of course, but by the use of the water.  Use of the water is a direct contradiction to the powers of evil who wish us harm.

Furthermore, the water which has been blessed has itself now a role in the blessing of other things.  Consider the principle that something cannot give what it does not have.

That said, the rite of blessing water during Mass found in the newer, Ordinary Form Missale Romanum, includes the words:

“… dignare, quaesumus, hanc aquam + benedicere… deign, we implore, to bless + this water… “

The second option (aren’t there always options in the Novus Ordo?) has:

“…hanc aquam, te quaesumus, + benedicas...  we implore You that You + bless this water… “

Mind you, there is no exorcism of the water in the newer Missale Romanum during Mass.  And keep in mind that in the older rite, the water was blessed outside of Mass.  Easter water is another kettle of fish.

There is a world of difference, of sensibility, of theology, between what we find in the newer Missale Romanum and what we find De benedictionibus.

So, my answer is, I know without question that when I bless water with the older rite, it is blessed water, holy water.  I have never used – and never will use – the newer book. But were I to imagine myself to do such a thing, I am not sure what there would be in the bucket when I was done.

That said, here is a little WDTPRS poll.

Choose your best answer and give reasons in the combox.

All things being equal, I would prefer to use or be sprinkled with water blessed with the ...

View Results

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UPDATE 6 June 0914:

I received in email a link to a truly interesting article comparing the two different rites at greater length than I did.  I writer and I come to substantially the same points, I think, but he has greater detail.



Over at Rorate, who picked up this entry, there are a couple of amusing comments.

First, some wag suggests that what the newer rite outside of Mass produces is “nice water” rather than “holy water”.  I think I’ll adopt that term for my own usage.

Also, there is this comment:

Cardinal Stickler has once been reported to say- “When I bless water, I never use the New Rite. I only use the Old Rite. Why? Because I’m interested in making Holy Water, not Happy Water.”

I don’t know if the late Cardinal said that or not, but – as Thucydides would say – that is what he ought to have said.  I knew him a little and it sure sounds like him.

Honestly!  Why did these pointy-headed liturgy geeks have to tinker around with something like this?   Did the Council Fathers ask for a whole-cloth revision of the theology of blessings?  Were people far and wide clamoring for a harder explanation of blessings?  Were the faithful longing for head-scratchingly ambiguous rites?  What about what the Council Fathers required even as they mandated a liturgical reform?  Let nothing be done unless it is truly for the good of the faithful!  Let nothing be done that is not an organic outgrowth of what went before!

I have never used the new book.  I never will, either.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. mike cliffson says:

    Fr , you’ve got me worried.
    Mass is mass, EF, OF, old sarum. the orthodox rites, the rump of Mozarabic even before post VII….

    But a Catholic priest is something , alright , a bridge , not OF himself , but still, if you exclude the priest and you just ask God sorter nicely-

    My theology is useless, sacramentals eficacious thru Gods condescention on account of the prayers of the church,whereas sacraments eficious of themselves , which you can resist if you really want to…..
    I mean , I TRUST holy water. Ive known it eficacious.

    Dont like it at all.

  2. Honestly, Father, as one who is in the process of being adopted into the Roman heritage from a Protestant sect, I have a hard time restraining myself from generous anger at Pope Paul VI and his cohorts after the Council. This is nothing short of sheer, soul-endangering robbery of heritage. Holy Water is a weapon. Our Theology is the Truth. How can this sort of thing be anything short of jaw-dropping in its impiety and horror? I sympathize with the rebellious and the schismatic traditional Catholics when I read things like this.

  3. AnnAsher says:

    I voted older, traditional rite. I like to be certain. I’m not sure the newer rites contain the effective form. Similarly in our homeschool if I’m presented with a book on the faith before 1950 or a newer volume, I choose the older. It’s a matter of trust. Now that things are skewy I have to either review thoroughly before using with one of 6 kids or choose from an era that lacked skewiness.

  4. NoTambourines says:

    I’m of two minds on this. Part of me is somewhat alarmed at the prospect that I have never, to my knowledge, used holy water blessed in the old rite. I was born in the late ’70s, and have always attended Ordinary Form parishes, so chances are good that it’s the new form being used.

    On the other hand, of course, if the Church does indeed hold that water blessed under the new form is the real deal, I accept that.

    What, then, was the rationale for deleting the part about the exorcism? Comparing the two, it’s certainly another Lex Orandi/Lex Credendi moment. Any prospects for an updated version?

  5. StMichael71 says:

    Bluntly, I think it’s fairly certain that it’s holy water in the “old” sense. Clearly, the language being used utilizes a different semantic theology – one blesses and consecrates the object directly whereas the other seems to invoke a blessing through the instrumentality of the object upon a person (who is mentioned directly). But it is clear that the ritual intends that, by this act, the water is set aside for sacred use even if the language isn’t direct about this. I would also point that that, as I discovered through iBreviary’s rites of blessing on their app, “In a decree ‘Urbis et Orbis’ on the 14th of September, 2002 , the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments established that the sign of the cross must be made by the sacred ministers in all blessings even if there is no indication in the text itself. This gesture is to be made when the word “bless” or similar is used, or at the end of the prayer if the text lacks these words. ” The new insertion of this gesture in the De Benedictionibus text thus seems clearly to confirm that the same action is performed in both old and new rites – setting aside the water for sacred use AND intending that it be used in bringing God’s blessing to persons. [Interesting.]

  6. StMichael71 says:

    But, just to tag on a bit, what really matters is the priest’s intention in imparting a blessing/consecration as a sacramental. Most priests obviously intend to make “holy water.” Therefore I really don’t think people should be worried that the water blessed with the new rite is any less efficacious than that of the old. [I am not convinced that that is all that is required.] Ultimately, too, the efficacy of the sacramental really depends on our faith using it for sacred purposes; ex opere operantis, technically speaking. If you use the Novus Ordo holy water with faith, it will be more efficacious as an aid to union with God than a sea of 1962 holy water used without faith or love of God.

  7. Philangelus says:

    A separate question is whether Satan thinks it’s holy water. If a priest is conducting an exorcism and Satan says, “Gee, that feels good” when the holy water is sprinkled, then I think you’ve got proof positive that there’s a different quality to the water.

    I’ve never witnessed an exorcism myself (thank goodness) but I read Father Gabriel Amorth’s book where he condemns just about everything about the way exorcism is treated nowadays…and never mentions that holy water is less efficacious than it used to be.

    Therefore my thought is that if Satan is responding as if it’s the real deal, then it’s the real deal.

  8. JMGDD says:

    I hope this question does not lead down the rabbit hole, but…a parish I attend periodically has a large baptismal font, from which the smaller fonts at the doors are filled. It is safe to assume that at some point in the past, the font, and/or the first “batch” of water was blessed, but under which form I cannot know. Whenever new water is added to replace what is removed/evaporated, is said water automatically considered holy water, or must it be blessed separately and then added? [Off topic.]

  9. cregduff says:

    What I prefer?

    Older Missale Romanum blessing. Why?

    Absolutely no doubt in my mind about what’s happening, what’s going on and the constitutional nature of the water’s state.

    As for the newer, Book of Blessings, not so much.

  10. The only holy water I have kept at the house over the years, was either water blessed in the Byzantine Rite, or “Epiphany water,” which was blessed on that feast with the older Rituale using special prayers of exorcism.

    So I’ve never really worried about it.

  11. I disagree, StMichael71. Even if you’re right about “semantic theology,” that still doesn’t answer the fact that the Rites were changed due to an attempt to change the Church’s theology, nor does it address the other, corresponding fact that Deacons may bless who are not authorized to impart sacramental blessings. The whole thing is very much fishy, and it cannot be glossed over so simply without losing Catholic sense of faith and identity.

    Also, the validity and objective efficacy of Sacraments and blessings are not in any way connected with our faith in them; that is a Protestant notion pioneered by Martin Luther. We must be receptive to the Grace imparted by and through them, but their objective efficacy of their operation is not ultimately dependent on our faith in them. Objective efficacy of the Sacraments and blessings are based on matter, form, and intent of the Priest, not primarily the intention of the Priest, nor ultimately on our faith.

  12. ContraMundum says:

    I’m with Philangelus on this. There’s nothing very special about Holy Water in itself; it’s a tool and a weapon, and one that still works.

    Now maybe we can get into a more serious issue: Are crucifixes in which the cross is made of metal, plastic, marble, or plaster really crucifixes?

  13. APX says:

    I’m not sure who makes the holy water in our parish, so I don’t know if it’s actually holy water. I keep telling myself it is, though. I don’t think so, though because it goes slimy in the stoups. It shouldn’t do that if it has salt in it.

  14. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    I recently attended a conference of American exorcists this past winter and the unanimous opinion is that exorcised water is more dreaded by the fallen angels. From what I was taught it is not that the new rite holy water is not in fact holy water because it is, but, it is not exorcised and the demons will use this vulnerability against humans because they are extremely legalistic.

  15. ContraMundum says:

    @Subdeacon Joseph

    Hence my comment about crucifixes with crosses made from something other than wood; that comes from reading comments by exorcists. Ultimately, though, our faith is not in water or wood, but in Jesus Christ, and if we lose sight of that, the devils will have their laugh at our expense.

  16. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Fr Z – Thank you so much for clarifying this issue.

    I second JonathanCatholic in that I am absolutely appalled at what Bugnini and his ilk did to our Holy Church…being inside instead of outside, he’s been at least as dangerous as Luther…tinkering with sacramentals and sacraments…

    The really monstrously corrupt church leaders of the past (e.g. Alexander VI) never tinkered with our doctrine on faith and morals or the sacraments, since they were too focussed on power and worldly sins…May God have mercy on Bugnini’s soul…I’ll need to purify myself through prayer, since I feel no mercy for Bugnini and his ilk at all.

  17. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I go to an abbey in another diocese to get objects blessed (St. Benedict medals, crucifixes) and also candles, salt, etc. I trust the monks at the abbey implicitly because they use the old Latin form in blessing. A young relative is due to give birth later in the summer and I hope to convince her to get her baby baptized in the older Latin form, which I believe has some exorcism prayers attached. However, she lives out of state and doesn’t go to Mass regularly. At her nominal parish, however, there is a newly ordained priest who says the EF Mass, so maybe…

  18. Gus Barbarigo says:

    @ Philangelus

    Perhaps Fr. Amorth never mentioned the quality of holy water, because as a practitioner of the old rite of exorcism, he still used the exorcised holy water. Fr. Amorth has been very critical of the new exorcism rites.

    I was shocked to learn of the watered down exorcism rites, and further shocked to now learn that the Church has been, it seems to me, tampering with holy water.

    I fear to learn what else of our theology and spiritual arsenal has been compromised!

  19. Blue Henn says:

    Piked the old rite. Something powerful about the whole exorcism thing, especially when there is not much focus on how much demonic forces might actually have bearing on our lives. Honestly, C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” scared the snot out of me (not sure I actually finished reading it the first time around)…. Anything that explicitly fights them is a good thing.

  20. heway says:

    The holy water in our church was blessed atEaster. When it becomes less, we fill it with more plain water – but it cannot be more than 1/2 of the remaining blessed water. [Good luck with that.]
    Interesting – the Chinese bishop who was noted in an article here a few days ago. When the Franciscans left the Chantzi province in early 50’s, the holy vessels were buried by Buddhists (only Buddhists could contact the priests when they were leaving) and the Catholics were left with holy water -which could be refilled, as long as they didn’t let it run out.
    My uncle, Father Vianney Mc Grath OFM was one of the priests who did this.

  21. Ambrose, that’s why you find an Extraordinary Form parish if you can ;)

  22. acardnal says:

    Holy water is VERY special according to Church teaching. Because it is a sacramental, 1) it remits venial sin when the Sign of the Cross is made sincerely and reverently; 2) the devil hates holy water because of its power of him. He cannot long abide in a place or near a person that is often sprinkled with this blessed water; 3) Holy water, sprinkled with faith and piety, can move the Sacred Heart to bless your loved ones and protect them from all harm of soul and bod; 4) Only in Purgatory can one understand how ardently a poor soul longs for holy water.

  23. ContraMundum says:


    I think you are confusing private revelation with Church teaching. Well, not so much in point 1, which certainly sounds like one of the many approved indulgences, but at least in point 4, which sounds more like a quote from a vision than something from a papal encyclical. Do you have sources for points 2-4?

  24. St. Louis IX says:

    I picked Older traditional rite only, having had this conversation in the past with our parish priest.
    Same Holy Water that is in the font in my home.
    This item begs the question about the forms of Baptism. Old Rite vs. New Rite

  25. Fr. Z, after this post I will never use the holy water from any ordninary church again. I’ll only use holy water that I know is blessed by EF priests or in the EF/old form blessing. [That goes far beyond my own practice.]

  26. Trevor says:

    I don’t really understand this crusade against the Book of Blessings (which most lay Catholics really don’t have much actual experience with, yet are now nonetheless getting worked up about whether they’ve actually ever recieved a blessing). Can the Church pass manifestly defective, null rites? I don’t think that’s possible (even if we’re simply talking about sacramentals). I’ve examined some old texts like the Stowe Missal, which has an extensive, Gelasian-derived blessing for water. The blessing goes on for pages, and continuously invokes the Spirit to cone upon the water that recalls all the instances of the use of water in salvation history. There might be a small part where the minister says “+bless this water”, but it is not the focus of the prayer, and it seems to indicate the blessing occurs through the invocation.

    And in another post, I belive you said that deacons can’t give actual blessings, yet the new rite of ordination clearly says they can.

  27. St. Louis IX, with regard to Baptism, the essential form of the efficacy of Baptism is simply “Ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. (I Baptize thee [you] in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit]).” There is no doubt as to the efficacy of Baptism in remitting sin as long as those words are pronounced, the Priest has proper matter (pure water) and the right intention, that of doing what the Church does, remitting sin. However, as one who is going to be Baptized as an adult, I would rather have the exorcisms because, well, they’re exorcisms! They function to cast evil away from the person.

  28. ppb says:

    Normally I am strongly in favor of the pre-conciliar way of doing things, but here I am indifferent and disagree that there is some great theological principle involved. The Church has never taught that sacramentals are ontologically different fron non-blessed objects. What matters for the sacramentals is that the Church, in the person of the minister authorized to give the blessing, prays that the use of the blessed object may bring certain kinds of graces and protections to the person who uses it. With that in mind, whether the blessing is constitutive or invocative in form makes little difference, in my opinion.

  29. Trevor says:


    Great post. All encompassing, informative, and pastoral.

    And since I recognize your photo, I just want to say that this seminarian is praying for all the men and women of his home diocese who are serving in different parts of the country and with different communities. Good luck. Tomorrow I’ll say a prayer for you…with Holy Water…blessed using the Book of Blessings.

  30. Pastoral… *gag*…

  31. Jeffrey Morse says:

    Look at what is being asked for in each blessing. It is a general principle that one receives that for which one asks. I’ll take the traditional blessing!

  32. Centristian says:


    “Honestly, Father, as one who is in the process of being adopted into the Roman heritage from a Protestant sect, I have a hard time restraining myself from generous anger at Pope Paul VI and his cohorts after the Council.”

    And that is the danger, I think, of getting too worked up over something minor like what words may or may not be used by priests to bless water, as if the love and mercy and care and protection that our Father in Heaven would otherwise lavish upon his children are somehow restrained by the revision of words in a ritual. Furthermore, as if one’s life and salvation or even one’s spiritual safety depended upon holy water, that we would therefore be tempted to anger at a deceased Vicar of Christ and the Fathers of the Church. That we would charge them with impiety and soul-endangering robbery over something so unimportant.

    It’s water. A creature. A thing. It isn’t going to hurt you and it isn’t going to save you. It isn’t going to stain you and it isn’t going to sanctify you, no matter what words were pronounced over it, by whom, or what was thrown into it. If your soul has been endangered I don’t believe Pope Paul is to blame. It is a sad shame, I think, that you or anyone else ought to have been caused to have had your peace disturbed over something like this.

    Want to drive the devil away? Love God and love your neighbor. Pray for those you have harmed or scandalized, and for your enemy…and for Pope Paul. Clothe the naked. Feed the poor. That’s the sort of sacramental the devil really hates. That’s what makes Hell tremble. Don’t get all worked up over holy water.

  33. Cathy says:

    I prefer the older rite, in our age there has been such a push to diminish the sacred and to ignore the existence of evil. I can’t help but wonder, if the priests had continued to repeat this exorcism and blessing, would they not, along with the people they shepherd be continually reminded of the sacred and the existence of evil. I can’t help but be reminded of theologians who propose that God would certainly not let anyone suffer eternally in hell, or who argue against the existence of Satan. I can imagine that one who does not believe in hell or Satan would be uncomfortable with the older rite, but I can also imagine them losing sight of everything else the Catholic Church teaches as well.

  34. Centristian, it isn’t *just* the holy water. It is the general and total package, the revision of the Mass, the tampering with sacramentals, the movement in the 70’s and 80’s against the Holy Rosary, the miniature iconoclasm that took place against images and icons used in worship, the heterodox language and the watered-down faith, the removal of most of the actions and words in the rite of ordination that explicitly convey the point of ordination is to offer Sacrifice, the over-emphasis on social justice and absolute poverty of mention regarding things such as contraception, Humanae Vitae, sin, Hell, etc (known as affirmative orthodoxy, where we’re all smiles and no hard truth,) preaching a love that boils down to tolerance, the list goes on and on. It was explicitly admitted by some of the ones who crafted the new Roman Missal that one of chief goals was to remove the more obviously Roman Catholic elements in order to move the Mass closer to a Protestant liturgy. The entire period between the late 60’s and the late 90’s was saturated with a wholesale fleecing of Roman Catholic custom, tradition, identity, practice, and ritual in favor of Protestantizing our theology, teachings, and rites, in both word and practice. That, my friend, is what makes me angry. Holy water is simply one element of the whole package; it is one aspect of a greater trend that lasted thirty to forty years and has not even now been wholly righted. This was done deliberately by the Bishops, and allowed by Pope Paul VI, which means that both are ultimately responsible for the loss of Roman Catholic identity, ritual, and practice. They are the Shepherds.

    I am Roman Catholic. I believe preserving Roman Catholic heritage and identity, ritual and practice, is not simply a sentimental matter, I believe them to be inspired by the Holy Ghost over millennia and worthy of all defense and loyalty. I believe Sacred Tradition is worthy to be defended and cherished. I pray for Pope Paul, and many others, but what they did was simply… my gut is literally churned by it, it is simply not the Catholic way.

    I don’t disagree with your other points about love, but I believe they have to be combined with everything else I mentioned.

  35. goodone121 says:

    I LIKE the OF, especially the aspect it’s delivered in the Vernacular. I don’t believe anything Bugnini did was bad. Even if he did “Protestantize” the Liturgy, I am sure he was just trying to be a “presbyter of Christian Unity”. As such, I picked “De Benedictionibus“.

  36. Lurker 59 says:


    Being a convert myself, I greatly understand what you are talking about. The desire to be Catholic is in part a desire to cease to be Protestant. There are true and good spiritual things in Protestantism, but as Dominus ieus teaches us, they exist there only because they are in some way deriving their efficacy from the one true Church. The desire to be Catholic desires for these things to be deepened, however the desire to be Catholic desires those things which are wholly “Protestant” to be left behind. It is thus utterly bewildering, perplexing, and not just a bit maddening to see Catholics desire to be Protestant, especially when it is a form of Protestantism that is banal even to Protestants.

    Let me say before I continue, that clerical blessings are not magic spells whereby the will of the cleric brings about a change. Nor are clerical blessings treating God like a wishing well “God please, I wish, if you wish, for this to be blessed”. Rather a clerical blessing is an ecclesial act, and because it is an ecclesial act, we know it is effectious. That is why schism is so dangerous — it is the placing of the individual’s will before the will of the Church — which, through the Spirit, only does that which Christ wills. We know that Holy Water is blessed because Christ Himself, through the Church and the instrument of the cleric has so blessed it.

    I think that Fr. Z is correct in his analysis, that there is something off about the OF form of blessing of Holy Water. It seems to me that there is a shift in the idea of what Holiness is and why something is Holy. It is all rather unclear though as to what the meanings of these actually are. This is a major issue as it causes all sorts of theological problems and ambiguities.

    There is a certain lack of belief that exists out there. People believe that the Church and her actions are unnecessary or superfluous — that God will provide independently of His instruments. This isn’t the case, for God’s instruments are His means of providing. To say that He is not limited by His instruments, doesn’t mean that His instruments can be ignored. God is not limited, but we are so limited. If members of the Church do not provide spiritual sustenance then people will grow weak and die.

    Water is much more than an allegorical symbol; it is a typological symbol — it is/participates in that which is signifies. Holy Water is Holy not because we wish God to bless it ie to have favor upon it/give it divine approval (which if that is the limit of one’s understanding is more of a Protestant notion), but because God has set it aside to be His instrument and to bring about supernatural ends according to His own design.

    Is one’s spiritual well being dependent upon Holy Water? Yes because God has so ordained it to be such. Holy Water is God’s instrument and if we intentionally forgo the use of His instruments that were designed for our wellbeing, is that not more than a small sin?

    We are dependent upon God, and because we are dependent, we are dependent upon the instruments that He, in His mercy, has given unto us for the sake of our salvation.

  37. Lurker 59 says:


    What does it mean when one speaks of “Protestantizing” the Liturgy? It means the shifting of the focus of the liturgy as being a Divine action of the Son, through the Spirit, directed towards the Father, to being a human action, hypothetically moved by the Spirit, which recounts the past work and deeds of God. It is the replacing of liturgy and rite by that of a worship service.

    There is nothing unifying at all about any movement that supplants Christ by the will and desire of man. To say that one submits to the will of Christ but not His instruments, is to not submit to Christ.

  38. Clinton R. says:

    Is there anything the modernists and heretics didn’t mess with? I really don’t like to agree with sedevacantists, but they do make valid points about the legitimacy of Paul VI’s papacy and the validity of the New Mass. I pray, very much do I pray, that the OF Mass I have been attending since becoming Catholic is actually valid and I have not been receiving plain bread since the intent of the modernists was to change the Church’s theology. Truly Vatican II and its innovations were the work of Satan in his attempt to destroy the Church. He may cause much damage (and he has), but ultimately Our Blessed Mother’s heart will triumph. St. Michael defend us in battle. +JMJ+

  39. Lurker 59: I agree with your first paragraph completely, and that is where I’m coming from as well. I frequently employ fundamentally orthodox notions, practices, music, etc from my own previously Protestant experience and mingle it with what I have since learned from Catholicism, as anyone could attest by glancing through my blog. When I speak so bluntly and strongly about “being Roman Catholic,” I’m referring not to the rejection of *everything* within Protestantism, I’m referring more to the wrongness of rejecting both the Roman (Latin) and the generally Catholic heritage we’ve been given. Likewise, when I speak of Protestantizing of the Mass, I meant it essentially as you responded to goodone.

    I agree, in general, with the entirety of your post, particularly and especially the third paragraph from the bottom. It is precisely this notion of God using the material of creation, in this case water, as the normal means for his accomplishment of supernatural ends, that is the Incarnational and Sacramental worldview missing from the belief of many Catholics. It was a pleasure meeting you and hearing from you!

  40. Spaniard says:

    Fr, you got me worried. [Relax.] When people ask Father to bless a medal, rosary, etc, he usually just says a short prayer and makes the sign of the cross. I’ve seen similar things when it comes to blessing water, though I had heard there was a difference between holy and exorcised water. Is this difference true? Because if not, I should get moving to find a priest who really “blesses” my water!!

  41. MJFarber says:

    I have Holy Water blessed in the traditional manner that I use at home. Once when I was at a Novus ordo Mass (before the Mass) the priest took tap water from the sacristy faucet and put it in a pitcher and poured it in the holy water stoup.
    When I compare this action with the traditional blessing of Holy Water, I am going to try and use water blessed in the traditional manner when I can.
    For what it’s worth, I have not seen any Easter water in the Church where I attend the diocesan approved TLM…I wonder why. It used to be available all during Paschaltide.

  42. snoozie says:

    Why has SO much beauty been taken from us?…seriously, why was this and so much more of our Paternity and heritage been ripped from us? I am stepping up my prayers for the reconciliation of the SSPX because I will make a beeline into that ordinariate. I’m only 50, but I know what we’ve lost, and it is heartbreaking.

  43. snoozie says:

    and btw, JonathanCatholic…..YOU ROCK!

  44. ContraMundum says:

    Ah, the Magisterium of the Blogs. No mandatum necessary. We don’t have to wear a habit or even take vows, write a book or even take classes. All we need is an internet connection and we are ready to teach on the validity of an ecumenical council, whether a pope should resign, whether Paul VI was a valid pope, and any other question that strikes our fancy, because we are a 21st-century, electronic sensus fidelium, a standing ecumenical council as designed by Ross Perot. Fear us, modernist, heretical bishops in communion with the pope!

  45. AnnAsher says:

    I’ve come back because I’ve been thinking. The lil d stood in the desert and offered to give to Our Lord all the kingdoms is the world. To offer to give something, we must possess it. This adds a whole deeper dimension to the necessity of exorcism on water in the process of spiritually purifying it and setting it aside for God. Second thought: the older Rite relies on God’s power, the newer on the faith of persons. The faith of persons is not bad. But, citing the former thought, God’s power is needed. God’s power, willed to come through the command of His consecrated priest. Perhaps the newer form indeed imparts a blessing … But we desire to cast lil d out!

  46. ReginaMarie says:

    I prefer the Blessing of the Water in the Eastern Catholic tradition, which is done one the Feast of the Theophany. The blessing the water begins with the chanting of special hymns, with the censing of the water, and concludes with Bible readings, petitions and prayers.

    That these waters may be sanctified by the power, and effectual operation, and descent of the Holy Spirit:
    That there may descend upon these waters the cleansing operation of the super-substantial Trinity:
    That He will endue them with the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan, the might, and operation, and descent of the Holy Spirit:
    That Satan may speedily be crushed under our feet, and that every evil counsel directed against us may be brought to naught:
    That the Lord our God will free us from every attack and temptation of the enemy, and make us worthy of the good things which He hath promised:
    That he will illumine us with the light of understanding and of piety, and with the descent of the Holy Spirit:
    That the Lord our God will send down the blessing of Jordan and sanctify these waters:
    That this water may be unto the bestowing of sanctification; unto the remission of sins; unto the healing of soul and body; and unto every expedient service:
    That this water may be a fountain welling forth unto life eternal:
    That it may manifest itself effectual unto the averting of every machination of our foes, whether visible or invisible:
    For those who shall draw of it and take of it unto the sanctification of their homes:
    That it may be for the purification of the souls and bodies of all those who, with faith, shall draw and partake of it:
    That He will graciously enable us to perfect sanctification by participation in these waters, through the invisible manifestation of the Holy Spirit:

    Then, following a lengthy set of didactic prayers that expound on the nature of the feast and summarize salvation history, praising God’s creation of and mastery over the elements, the priest makes the Sign of the Cross over the water with his hand and prays specifically for the blessing to be invoked upon it. At the climax of the service, he immerses the hand cross into the water three times in imitation of Christ’s baptism to the singing of the festal troparion and then blesses the entire church and congregation with the newly consecrated water.

  47. Thom says:

    I have a practical question: what should be done with holy water which, despite the salt (it was blessed with the old ritual), has something green growing in it? I was considering simply filtering it. Any other suggestions?

  48. frjeremiah says:

    Here in Ireland, I think very few priests even know there is such thing as the book ‘De Benedictionibus’ and therefore tend to ‘make up’ the blessing on the spot for blessing holy water or religious objects. Interestingly, the blessings spontaneously composed end up sounding more like the EF blessing than the OF one, with an ‘I bless this… in the name of the Father…’, but without the exorcism.

  49. Papabile says:

    QUESTION: Father, you mention that there is no Sign of the Cross indicated in the text of the blessing. However, I believe there was an explicit instruction from Rome just a few years ago that a Sign of the Cross was to be made over everything that was to be blessed. I thought it applied to the rites as well as the Sacramentals, no?

  50. ContraMundum says:

    To offer to give something, we must possess it.

    No; to honestly offer something, we must possess it. The person making the offer was, however, the Father of Lies.

  51. Hidden One says:

    I would think that the mandatory cross in the blessings (at least now) would be sufficient along with the intention to bless the object(s) in question. That said, I prefer the older form.

    JonathanCatholic (4 June 2012 at 8:39 pm),

    St. Francis of Paola was authorized by the Pope to bless candles, and he did, and he was never a priest.

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  53. asophist says:

    Gus Barbarigo:
    Y0u fear to learn of other horrors?
    You will. Let’s look at the big picture here. We have been discussing the removal of exorcisms from the ritual confection of holy water and from the Sacrament of Baptism. It’s not just about holy water. The old rite of the Sacrament of Penance contained exorcisms of the penitent. The new rite does not. The ordinary use of exorcisms in the sacraments and sacramentals was totally eliminated after the Second Vatican Council. The Hermaneutic of Rupture at work! Doesn’t it look like there was an attempt to open a crack, a fissure, for the smoke of Satan to enter the Church?

  54. cl00bie says:

    I can see the newest Dracula movie:

    Dracula is approaching Fr. Trendy, SJ who is dressed in his civvies, no collar present. He clutches a bottle of Holy Water which he flings at the fiend…

    Some of the water spashes on Dracula who looks incredulously at it and after he picks up the unbroken plastic bottle and drinks the rest, he says: “You blessed this with De Benedictionibus, didn’t you, muahahahahahah” as he leaps on the hapless priest. ;)

  55. Athanasius says:

    The difference with the older rite is not just that there is no exorcism or blending of exorcised and blessed salt, but there is not explicit act of blessing. The fact that a deacon can use this rite means that it is not connected to the power of the priestly office. There is no sign of the cross indicated in the text. The words don’t say the water is blessed.

    Actually, since the council Deacons have been conceded the right to bless. Even according to the manuals on the subject, the faculty is not inherent to priestly orders, so technically the Church could confer the power of blessing to a layman, yet in the past she restricted it to the priesthood because it was more fitting. [There’s far more to it than that.] Now I don’t think that it is fitting to have deacons do it, but nevertheless the Church has conferred that power, even to give the blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, etc.

  56. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Sad as some of this is, I do have to say that, whenever I’ve really needed holy water, it has “worked” just fine.

    “If a mother forgets the child in her womb, I shall not forget you.”

  57. Lurker 59 says:


    Nice meeting you too. I, as my name suggests, lurk on this site.

    I find that we live in a time period where Christians don’t believe in God, and this is often reflective in the way that we pray. The incarnation nature of Catholicism really is its strong selling point. As you have said, this view is missing from many contemporary Catholics. They believe in God, but not a God that acts. He is a pious notion, a wishing well for our desires, and a warm confirmation that we are all right and have done good. This thought is very prevalent in the various modern songs and hymns that are used in the OF Mass.

    The Holy Water issue is a problem, not because the water in the OF isn’t Holy, but because the idea of why it is Holy seems to be different than the why the EF is Holy. It is clear, by the prayers, that the understanding of the blessed water in the OF is not nearly as shocking as the understanding of the blessed water in the EF. Why does the EF understanding shock? Because it indicates an unsafe God — a God, who though is on the side of His people, is acting, is calling, and is winnowing.

    People prefer a safe God — so do I at times. But I would rather that God be unsafe, for an unsafe God can save me.

  58. Lurker 59 says:

    Clinton R.

    Do not fear. The OF Mass is valid. However don’t confuse validly as a statement of quality as quality is outside of the scope of the definition of validity.

    Consider for a moment that the Eastern Catholics consider the OF Mass to be valid. They are in communion with the Pope and accept VII as a valid council. This doesn’t speak again to the quality of such things, just the validity. So be at peace.

    To understand that the Church has Christ as her head is to be at peace amidst the storms and machinations of the chaff. Be at peace, endure, and insure that the great treasure of the Faith is passed on to those that God brings into your life. We do what we can with what we are given.

  59. eulogos says:

    The old formula for blessing water might be a better one, but I have always understood that sacramentals work according to the devout mental act of the believer. Therefore, I consider both to be Holy Water.

    My usual Holy Water these days is, just as ReginaMarie said, that blessed at the Feast of Theophany.

    I took some of that to be used in the baptism of two of my grandchildren. He asked “Is this water blessed?” I assured him it was. I tried to explain about Theophany and he looked puzzled; and this in a town (Scranton, Pa) which has so many different rites of Catholic Churches that the Latin rite churches have to put “Latin rite” on their signs. He used it, though.

    Susan Peterson

  60. StMichael71 says:


    You misinterpret my statement. I am not equating my view to that of a Lutheran (even though some Lutherans actually might believe in sacramental efficacy ex opere operato). Sacramentals and sacraments are very different, and the theological difference is usually distinguished in that sacraments give grace “ex opere operato” (by the very act of the sacrament, and an accompanying openness on the part of the recipient) VERSUS “sacramentals” like blessings or icons, which give grace “ex opere operantis” (by the working of the work, roughly; [Not quite: “by the work of the one doing the work”] the efficacy depends on the faith and love the person puts into the use of the thing in question). To quote the Catechism, “1670 Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.” In Baltimore Cathecism #3 we also find this same account: “A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart to remit venial sin…. [and] We must remember that Sacramentals can aid us only through the blessing the Church gives them and through the good dispositions they excite in us. They have, therefore, no power in themselves, and to put too much confidence in their use leads to superstition.” They are not entirely subject to private subjective dispositions, but they are only effective insofar as the person makes use of them and the Church offers her corporate prayer for their efficacy. They do not confer grace of themselves. It’s very Catholic teaching. One should not worry about whether this is holy water, whether old or new rite, if it has been blessed according to legitimate ritual. The most we can do is ask what the object of the blessing is. For example, there is St. Peter Martyr water, or ordinary Asperges water, or holy water consecrated with the 1970 De Benedictionibus, or Epiphany water. Each asks a separate kind of blessing upon the recipient which leads to a different symbolism and “public object of prayer” that the water symbolizes. It might be nice to have Epiphany water on Epiphany and for your particular prayer needs, or the 1962 holy water, but St. Peter’s water is no less “holy water.”

  61. wolfeken says:

    Perhaps this is part of the reason that John Paul II’s “exorcism” rite did not work.

    This reminds me of the post-Vatican II rite of “Confirmation”. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think all use of the word “confirm” — both said by the bishop and sung by the schola — have been eliminated in the new rite.

    Traditional confirmation (translated from Latin):
    The bishop: “I seal you with the sign of the cross; and I confirm you with the chrism that sanctifies; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

    Novus ordo confirmation:
    The bishop: “[Name], be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    It’s good people are starting, in larger numbers, to question the changes made in the last 50 years and request the traditional Latin books be used instead.

  62. StMichael71 says:


    It is a really bad idea to call into question the validity of the Novus Ordo sacraments. The Church is infallible in making those decisions about liturgy, preserved by the Holy Spirit from erring in determining proper matter and form. To believe otherwise is a significant problem not only for yourself but for what it implies for the possibility that the Church could formally teach error. You’d end up being either a Donatist or a Protestant if you go down that road, which I think you probably don’t want to be. The form of confirmation was changed, and we could argue about whether it should have been, but it’s not invalid. This is true [1] because of the Church’s infallibility but also [2] because the new Western form of confirmation is the SAME as that used by the Byzantines, whose form has always been considered valid both by theologians East and West.

  63. Gail F says:

    A priest casually mentioned this during a lecture on exorcism I was at a few years ago. Now, I am not a superstitious person and frankly a lot of devotions and things strike me as a little much. Not that I don’t believe in them, I just think I’m not the sort of person they mean much to, because of my personality and upbringing. But that disturbed me to no end, and still does. May I just say — CUT IT OUT??? PLEASE do not do this to us, dear Church. Give us water that’s blessed or water that’s not blessed, but not water that we have to wonder endlessly about. And if I am disturbed by this, what about people much more attached to devotions and more worried about doing things absolutely correctly every time? It’s not fair to them! It’s not fair to any of us! That water had better be blessed, that’s all I have to say!

  64. Geoffrey says:

    I voted “whatever. I am indifferent”. Holy water is holy water, just as Mass is Mass. Deo gratias!

  65. iPadre says:

    I use the Roman Ritual exclusively. The CDWSaid the new ritual is deficient, because ther is no sign of the cross made over objects/ propel in most blessings, and if it is not present should be added. I like the tried and true!

  66. Ambrose Jnr says:

    @Michael71: I agree with your general point about the danger of becoming donatists…however, the validity of the sacraments is not a matter of infallibility, but rather of ‘indefectibility of the Church’. This is what gives us the assurance that the novus ordo is a valid catholic rite, notwithstanding its abundantly protestant-looking trappings.

  67. Athanasius says:

    Perhaps this is part of the reason that John Paul II’s “exorcism” rite did not work.

    Yes and no. Demons are particular, and there has been limited success with the new exorcism rite. Some demons are sensitive to it, while many are not. The reason why JPIIs exorcism did not work has more to do with the demon in question than the rite per se.

  68. The water is blessed because Holy Mother Church says it is blessed. That the prayers Holy Mother Church has approved as blessing prayers are appalling is an important, however entirely another matter.

    I also think Fr Z is right on the merits.

    It’s only that the water is blessed whenever a person with power to bless says the words Mother Church prescribes for blessing water.

  69. *regarding the relative merits of the prayers themselves.

  70. Jane says:

    I definately like the old formula for the blessing of Holy Water. It is clear and concise. The new blessing formula for water, does not seem that way to me at all. I have seen some interesting things (healings) happen through the use of Holy Water. I will paste them in below. (I typed them up a few months ago.) The old formula for blessing Holy Water talks about banishing disease, (as mentioned already in Fr. Z’s posting.)

    Healing through the use of Holy Water
    My brother John dropped a heavy machine on his ankle, while at work on Friday. He was in a lot of pain and could hardly walk. He telephoned us on Saturday afternoon, and told us about the accident. My husband went to visit John, and brought him some Holy Water. (The Holy Water was blessed with the traditional formula). Before going to sleep on Saturday night, John rubbed some of the Holy Water on his foot, and blessed himself with it on the forehead. When John woke up the next morning, his foot was healed. A friend of mine blesses herself with Holy Water whenever she has a headache, and the pain stops quickly.

    In a similar case, one of my daughters had a headache, and I gave her Holy Water to bless herself with, and the headache healed up almost immediately. An online friend has had toothaches healed immediately through the use of Holy Water. She has also had other pains healed through its use as well.

  71. nanetteclaret says:

    As a former Protestant myself, I agree with JonathanCatholic about all the changes instigated by Pope Paul VI. Having read many of the older devotional and catechetical books, I agree that we’ve been robbed of our beautiful Catholic heritage and doubly so because we did not get to participate, rather we’ve been relegated to viewing it from afar. My constant complaint when being forced to worship in a Protestant manner is, that if I had wanted to be Protestant, I would have stayed Protestant.

    Having to question whether something is valid or not according to the post-Vatican II formulas is just one more little thing in the assault by the enemy. In considering the NO, yes it is valid because the Church says it is, in the same way that hot dogs will keep you from starving while longing for a nice, juicy steak with all its nutrients and flavor.

    I’m also convinced that 2 of the major contributors to the problems in the Church are no longer requiring the Oath Against Modernism and the banning of the St. Michael prayer at the end of Low Mass. By these 2 things, along with the watering down of the blessing prayers, it certainly seems that someone or some group wanted to remove all barriers to allowing the “smoke of Satan” to enter the Church. From Pope Paul VI’s statement about it, he sounded “shocked” – as if he couldn’t imagine how it happened. Surely he wasn’t that clueless! The Church is in a battle, and with Her armor taken away or reduced significantly, She will be vulnerable to attacks. When the Church restores Her armor, she will once again be fortified to do battle. Until then, She will have to make do with fighting small skirmishes with whatever meager weapons She has.

  72. Maynardus says:

    The one think that seems to be common to all of the post-Concilar mucking about with the Church is that each change sowed the seeds of doubt which, collectively, have done nearly irreparable damage. One is free to believe in the Catholic Faith or not, but implicit in being a Catholic is acceptance of certain truths; our catechisms, doctrines, prayers, and liturgies have always reflected these beliefs without ambiguity. Now comes the revolution of the past 50 years, and the #1 thing that seems to have been thrown-out through Bl. John XXIII’s famous open windows is… certainty! Why substitute vague prayers and rituals for explicit ones? Anyone who thinks there wasn’t an agenda here is deluding themselves.

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