Really Bad Idea: sand in holy water fonts during Lent

I was made aware of this by a reader.   I happily endorse one idea one priest had while I entirely repudiate a bad old cliché from another.

Castleton symbol of Lent: sand in holy water fonts

Alas, the silly season drags on.

However, before getting into that, the same article had a good idea that a different priest promoted at a different parish:

In another unusual Lenten practice, Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet has been giving out its annual Lenten coins, a token to be carried by parishioners to remind them of Lent. [like challenge coins!] (Read a previous story at This year’s coins are embossed with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” The coins were purchased by the faith formation program. IHM also has a Lenten prayer banner on which parishioners can post the name of a person or intention they’re praying for this Lent.

Now back to the really bad idea at the other parish.  In that article:

Sacred Heart parish in Castleton [Diocese of Albany] is trying an unusual [dopey] method to help Catholics prepare for Easter Sunday: filling the church’s holy water fonts with sand.

“Christ spent 40 days in the desert tempted by the devil, and we spend 40 days [during Lent] on our own desert journey,” said Rev. Thomas Krupa, pastor. “The sand reminds us of the desert.”

The idea for placing sand in the fonts was borrowed from other local priests, Father Krupa explained. Around five years ago, at a Lenten reflection he was attending, priests from the Albany Diocese spoke about how they were trying the practice.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea,” Father Krupa recalled. “But then I forgot about it.” [Alas.]


It goes on to mention the flu outbreak. Yeah… right.

No Holy Water.  Sand.  This is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

I’ve written about this quite a few times over the years, for example HERE. It’s amazing that it still crops up. Here’s the deal:

I’ll rant for a bit later, but in the meantime someone put this question to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.  They responded.  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.

[NB] 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 Deinow with God.]

Did you get the part where the Congregation said: “is not permitted”?

Holy water is a sacramental.

We get the powerful theology of its use in the older Roman Ritual in the prayers for exorcism of the water and salt used and then the blessing itself.  The rite of blessing holy water, in the older ritual, is powerful stuff.  It sounds odd, nearly foreign to our modern ears, especially after decades of being force fed Novus Ordo pabulum.

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

I would ask these priests:

  • 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.

So, don’t stand for this nonsense.  If the Holy Water has been removed… clamor for its return!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    You can bet your bottom dollar that any priest who thought that putting sand in the fonts only had “happy water” in there to begin with.

  2. JustaSinner says:

    Here’s a cra-cra thought…taking the sand to remind us of the desert practice to its extreme: when will those priests stop giving out Eucharist, after all it is food ( the original SOUL FOOD) and Jesus didn’t eat for 40 days.

  3. Would it be terribly irreverent if, upon finding sand in a church’s holy water stoup, I decorated the sand with one of those little drink umbrellas?

    [It has been done before! Along with a little beach chair made of toothpicks. Then’s there’s the golf ball “sand trap” approach. Then best might be some beans and a little water… and wait.]

  4. benedetta says:

    Compared to five years ago, as a general matter, things are greatly improved in the Diocese of Albany. I understand that there will once again be a class of confirmands receiving the sacrament in the old rite, as we sought and obtained in 2014.

    If nothing else the proliferation of the Extraordinary Form from one to now three or four locations on Sundays should remind priests who obtain new ideas from five years ago that people desire and like reverence and tradition and they will seek it out.

    In other words, even in Lent, we prefer not to attempt to bless ourselves upon entering the sanctuary with, a bunch of sand. Even in Lent, or, especially during Lent, we need to be able to properly bless ourselves with properly blessed and holy water.

  5. iPadre says:

    Skip the umbrella. A few cigarett butts might be fitting, with a little sign “No smoking.” It looks like an ash tray to me.

  6. Fr. Kelly says:

    Or, As I have seen once, years ago, Stub out several cigarettes in the sand….

  7. The same people who fill holy water fonts with sand also talk about “fasting” from the Eucharist.

  8. Fr. Kelly says:

    Such things are their own parody.

  9. jilly4life says:

    I suppose it is better that they deny people a sacramental than they deny children the sacrament of Baptism. But the people that put sand in the holy water fonts are also they type to not allow baptism during Lent, which should be against their pastoral principles, but it never seems to bother them.

  10. Ave Maria says:

    I have experienced the sand in the holy water fonts in the past and also the draining of the baptismal pond in a former parish. They also set up a ‘desert scene’ and used bones which smelled bad. At the present time my parish removes the bells for Lent so no bells at the consecration which is an idea that I have no idea where it came from.

  11. Absit invidia says:

    This kind of idiocy is rampant on the West Coast.

  12. bobbird says:

    We endured this for close to THIRTY YEARS by femi-nazi nuns who did all kinds of weird stuff. Liturgical dance (it was SO BAD that they only tried it a few times) was one, having the priest play the cello with the organist on Good Friday while the NUNS did the service, was another. Then, the “choral readings” during the Vigil Mass that replaced the 4-7 required readings from Scripture. If the Bishop ever appeared during Lent … voila! … the Holy Water was back. We thought maybe he warned them, but no — it was back the very next Sunday. Complaints? “Oh, it’s no big deal.”

  13. frjim4321 says:

    The notion of “fasting” from the sacraments seems to be coming back, and not only from the left side of the house. Some of the homeschoolers that attend mass here “fast” from communion on Wednesday. It is a kind of half-baked notion that if they deprive themselves of communion on one day they will appreciate it more. It seems heretical to me. It has nothing to do with “state of grace,” it’s about “Wednesday Communion Fast,” and about them feeling better than others for doing it. [You can really be insulting sometimes.]

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  15. Unwilling says:

    “Pabulum” in Latin is “food”; in English first 17thC for plants or animals to maintain life and growth. Within 30 years also being used to refer to things intellectual, stimulating – food for thought. But in the 1930s Canadian doctors formulated a baby cereal and named it “Pablum”. Then , the similar-looking “pabulum” did a linguistic about-face and is now often used for things that are bland and unstimulating as well as for things that are intellectually sustaining. [ed from Merriam W]

  16. majuscule says:

    I don’t know if frjim4321 can read minds or not but he seems to know that people who observe a Wednesday “communion fast” —homeschoolers who observe a “communion fast”– are “feeling better than others for doing it.”

    Perhaps all those people at our Spanish language Masses who don’t come up to communion are also feeling a smug superiority? I never thought of that!

  17. benedetta says:

    Homeschoolers are always a great blessing and asset to any parish. It’s wonderful when they are welcomed in charity by their priests and appreciated. So much good comes out of those relationships!

  18. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “Perhaps all those people at our Spanish language Masses who don’t come up to communion are also feeling a smug superiority? I never thought of that!”

    Heh. Good one, majuscule. =)

  19. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    The notion of “fasting” from the sacraments seems to be coming back, and not only from the left side of the house. Some of the homeschoolers that attend mass here “fast” from communion on Wednesday. It is a kind of half-baked notion that if they deprive themselves of communion on one day they will appreciate it more. It seems heretical to me. It has nothing to do with “state of grace,” it’s about “Wednesday Communion Fast,” and about them feeling better than others for doing it. [You can really be insulting sometimes.]

    His insults make him “feel better than others”.

    I do, however, agree on the notion of “fasting” from Communion.

  20. Kathleen10 says:

    Oh, the very people who chide others in their “judging” are fearless about judging those on the other side of the fence. Apparently the incredible irony is lost.
    This reminds me, for some reason, when is Talk Like Shakespeare Day this year?

  21. robtbrown says:

    Should be:

    I do, however, agree with Fr Jim on the notion of “fasting” from Communio.

  22. RichR says:

    $100 bet that the person who made this decision is over 60.

  23. Uxixu says:

    My territorial parish uses stones/ marbles. I had come across the EWTN article with the reply from CDW and emailed or to the pastor. On his reply, he completely ignored it and sent the flier from a previous year when he introduced it. Or only days some other parishes tried this and found it a positive experience. Also have the policy of no baptisms during Lent.

    Same pastor tends to fall back into the old “for all” in the Eucharistic Prayer though I’ve tried to charitably give him benefit of the doubt as habit, he was also vocal in criticism of the new translation…

  24. mrsmary622 says:

    If your desire to send a symbolic message is stronger than your belief in the importance or power of sacramentals…

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