ASK FATHER: Adding water to Holy Water

What are priests for?

Short answer: They offer sacrifice.

The role of the priest is to confect the Eucharist, absolve sins, impart blessings, preside at all manner of approved rites.   The jocular Scriptural basis for this is, of course, “For God so loved the world that he did not send a committee.”   Priests these days are pulled into all sorts of parish activities because of their role of governance in the Church, which goes along with their priestly and prophetic roles.  However, governance has been drawn down into the minutiae which can, if permitted, take him away from what he is really for: offering the Sacrifice, absolutions, blessing.

There has been for many decades now an erosion of the identity of the priest and of the bishop.  As the lodestone of liturgical worship which energized and activated them weakened, other forces drew them in.  Now they are pulled into all sorts of things and away from what they ought to be doing.

This struck me forcefully during the 7.5 hour ceremony for the consecration of the new Gower Abbey church.   There we no other place where it was better for priests and bishops to be.  What was going on there is precisely why we are ordained.  We were kicking the Enemy out of the place with mighty rites of cleansing and exorcising.  We were readying the sacred space for the people to enter.  We were making it into a mighty transceiver of grace and intercession.  That’s what priests and bishops do.  Only they can do it!

Hence, they should be allowed to be free enough to do those things that only they can do, for the sake of the People of God.

This little rant is a prelude to a question I received.

From a reader…


Dear Father,

I was asked to help clean our parish Baptismal font (also use as a holy water font by parishioners). When we finished putting about 30 gallons of fresh water in it I was instructed to get one cup of holy water from the holy water container by the main entrance.

When I placed the cup of holy water in the baptismal font I was told this made all 30 gallons holy water?

It does not seem right to me? Can you tell what is going on?

Your sense did not fail you.  That wasn’t right.

What’s going on?

A couple things.

First, it sounds as if you have one of those “font of living waters” gizmos or one of those “wading pools”.   They are sort of silly, but let that pass.

Some people are under the impression that adding a little Holy Water to a large amount of unblessed water will render the whole into Holy Water.


Some say that you can add some Holy Water to regular water as you describe.  Some will even say that so long as you add the same amount of Holy Water to regular, plus just a bit more – like one percent – and that’ll do the trick.  Thus, you would double the amount.  I think that’s a bad approach.  We should be more prudent and respectful.

The REAL solution I’ll post below.

But, in the meantime, let’s use the analogy of how much water can be, should be, added to the wine at the offertory in the preparation of the chalice.

Manualists say that no more than 1/5 (one fifth) of the volume of the wine should be added  by the water to be sure that the substance of the wine has not been compromised and, therefore, consecration would be invalid.  One fifth.

Let’s now apply this for the combination of Holy Water to water.  I would say that perhaps 1/5 of the volume of the Holy Water in regular water could be added to the Holy Water, in order to increase its volume by 20%.  And I think you could do that once.

You see… I think that Holy Water is important.  You don’t fool around with this stuff because we use Holy Water for serious purposes.  It is not a toy, part of a game, or a souvenir.   Holy Water puts to flight the influence of the Enemy.

That’s why I have never, not even once in 27 years of priesthood, ever used the new prayers for “holy water”.  I have always ever used the older, traditional form, with the exorcisms of the salt and the water before their blessing and mixing.

Here is the REAL solution for the concrete case described above.

Father should get off his backside, go over to the church and BLESS THE WATER (preferably with the older Ritual).

If Father can’t be bothered because he is involved with more important things, like a committee meeting, then, I contend, his priorities are screwy.  Sure, he might not be able to come at this very minute, but that’s his job: bless stuff.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    We had our new pastor over for dinner the other night. He must have felt comfortable with us because he immediately cut loose, telling us about how hard the parishoners are on him. He said our parish has the worst reputation in the archdiocese. We told him how sorry were to hear this news and offered to pray for him and the other parishoners. Then, I suggested exorcising the holy water with the old blessing including salt. He completely waved off my suggestion as though something so simple couldn’t possibly help. Sadly, so many priests today no longer believe, if they ever did to begin with…

  2. Joy65 says:

    As Sacristans we KNOW to have Father bless more water when we are low on Holy Water. We NEVER just add some to the large Holy Water dispenser.

  3. KateD says:

    Holy water IS an important sacramental and I personally wouldn’t fiddle with or dilute it.

    I suppose it depends on what you’re dealing with. I keep it on hand to flummox and shoo spiritual nasties, therefore my preference is to stick with the unadulterated exorcized variety, thank you very much.

    The results speak for themselves….

    Here’s a question: Can any priest exorcise water, or is it only exorcists, Benedictines, Trads and Eastern Rite priests that maintain that authority?

  4. I’m afraid a lot of priests view sacramentals as, at best, backward and childish, and, at worst, superstitious. If I want something blessed, I have to travel long distances to find priests who will take it, and me, seriously. If I want holy water or salt or candles blessed according to the old Rituale, I have to hit up traditional-minded priests visiting from out of town. Fortunately, I have a good supply of all these from former visits.

    When it comes to blessing holy water, most of the priests I have been acquainted with down the years just extemporize something and then do a fly-swatting gesture over the water — no blessed salt. (I was in my 30s before I even heard of blessed salt, and I am a cradle Catholic.) I have to question whether much of what passes for holy water is even holy water.

  5. rosula says:

    I have heard that the perfectly possessed will not shy away from blessed Sacramentals, even exorcized ones. Is this true?

  6. KateD says:


    Perhaps there are intentionally malignant individuals slithering around the parish? Exorcized water is super effective. Would it be appropriate to sprinkle a little salt and water across the thresholds of the Church? All doors and windows? While layity cannot bless water and salt, we can wield it to effect…obviously not with the same authority as the priest wearing his stole….still it would help, if it would be okay to do.

  7. mpbaker22 says:

    “But, in the meantime, let’s use the analogy of how much water can be, should be, added to the wine at the offertory in the preparation of the chalice.

    Let’s now apply this for the combination of Holy Water to water. I would say that perhaps 1/5 of the volume of the Holy Water in regular water could be added to the Holy Water, in order to increase its volume by 20%. And I think you could do that once.”

    The problem I see with the above logic is that the substance of the wine will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The chemical substance is that of wine with a small mix of water. This chemical mixture will become the Body and Blood, but it will remain, chemically, wine with some water. When the mixture is 99% water and 1% wine, we would probably not call it wine, and thus, we wouldn’t say it is not proper substance to become the precious Blood.

    Holy water and water are both, chemically, H2O. Adding more regular water does not disrupt the chemical ratio, as it is still 100% H2O. For this reason, that water might be considered holy? I don’t know the answer.

    In short, I don’t disagree that this is a sad and lazy way of ‘making’ holy water, but I just don’t agree with the reason given.

  8. KateD says:


    I don’t know. In Fr. Amorth’s book, that is indicated as being an uncommon condition.

    We had a situation where we had been using blessed salt and water for months to no effect, but then ran out and had to break out the good stuff, which I keep by the gallon, just in case. The results were immediate and extreme and indicated to us exorcized water is superior for the purpose.

    When we put our house up for sale, after the first few showings we began to salt and water prior to each. Initially we just went to the door with it. The realtor, a 4-Square pastor, said people who had been very interested in the online picks and excited as they pulled into the drive way would walk up the walkway but then stop dead in their tracks at the door and would not cross the threshold but instead turn on heel and run back to their car in a panic. Encouraged, I started salting and watering down the walkway and all the way to the drive way. Our poor realtor then reported people would stop at the drive way turn the car around and leave…

    We ended up selling to a lovely Christian couple. They loved the house and said it had a “good feel about it”…

  9. Hidden One says:

    What should a priest do who finds himself in immediate need of holy water, but who has only water, no salt?

  10. rosula says:


    Great idea about me using exorcized water and salt on the Church! I’ll have to be stealth about it, as there are cameras. It’s just sad when laypersons have more faith than priests.

    Fascinating story about the sale of your house and exorcized salt and water. Recently, Father Claudio Barbut, Vatican exorcist, visited a nearby parish. He recommended that everyone put a little exorcized salt on the tongue and chase it with exorcized water every day to heal and protect against all things spiritual, mental and physical.

  11. ThePapalCount says:

    We are a NO parish. Our deacon however blesses holy water using the old rite. He doesnt use the current Book of Blessings which allows for deacons to bless holy water. Can he though use the older rite and would that blessing be valid. Please someone help with this.

  12. RomualdMonk says:

    Following this talk of Manualists and proportions, suppose someone was breaking into your home: do you pull out a .22 or a .22 Magnum? I’d go with the potent stuff and avoid doubt.

  13. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The “Cosmic Temple” theology stuff includes a lot of stuff about Adam as the archetypal priest, and about the human mission to go forth and multiply and tame the earth being about making the whole earth into God’s Temple garden, not just Eden. Temple

    So we messed up, Creation fell along with us, but we still have that purpose.

    Priests who bless material objects are much like monks who turn wilderness into farms. They are reclaiming parts of Creation from Satan, and taming it into God’s garden.

  14. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Which actually tends to explain why even many non-Catholics tend to like getting blessings or sacramentals. Something blessed is something “made right,” in a world full of chaos and/or evil. It is literally full of win.

  15. Fr. Reader says:

    1. “You see… I think that Holy Water is important. You don’t fool around with this stuff because we use Holy Water for serious purposes. It is not a toy, part of a game, or a souvenir. Holy Water puts to flight the influence of the Enemy.”
    2. “That’s why I have never, not even once in 27 years of priesthood, ever used the new prayers for “holy water”. I have always ever used the older, traditional form, with the exorcisms of the salt and the water before their blessing and mixing.”

    Fr, is it possible to develop a bit the connection between these two paragraphs? Thanks.

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    PapalCount, I don’t know the answer, but I’m sure somebody here will know the answer.

  17. Legisperitus says:

    1 cup of holy water in 30 gallons of unholy water sounds rather like the Devil’s homeopathic cure for holy water. “The more you dilute it, the better it works!”

  18. KateD says:


    If your pastor approves…

    Skirt pockets hold holy salt well….

    And when the lid on those little plastic water bottles is not on quite right they seem to drip, drip, drip….

    (My children prefer to poke a hole in the lid and hold the bottle upside down. No one ever looks twice.)

    We use these methods when holding down the sidewalks which are under constant video surveillance.

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    Interesting post on Holy Water and mini-rant about priests. Great comments.

    Thank you to priests and bishops who keep our souls…hydrated.

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