ASK FATHER: Can a bishop order Holy Water removed from churches? Wherein Fr. Z URGENTLY rants. ACTION ITEM FOR BISHOPS AND PRIESTS!!

From a reader…


Can a bishop validly restrict or totally eliminate access to holy water during times of flu season or other sickness? Our local bishop just did this, and all of our holy water fonts were GONE this morning.

More corona fallout.

Yes, I believe this sort of thing is, in time of contagion, within a bishop’s authority to restrict, as far as the fonts and stoops are concerned. [Pace Cong. Divine Worship Prot. N. 569/00/L which FORBIDS removal of Holy Water during Lent.] But a bishop really can’t – shouldn’t even think of trying to – forbid priests from blessing and distributing Holy Water in ways other than common stoops or fonts.

What a thought!

Think about this for a moment.  What is the role of a bishop?  What is Holy Water for? 

For the love of all that is holy, how could a bishop… a bishop, mind you… want to ban Holy Water?   I get restricting common stoops such as those which are placed at the ingresses to churches.  But the bishop should also, if he does that, strongly and urgently ask priests to provide alternatives, so that the faithful have access to Holy Water.

It doesn’t make sense at all that a bishop would not make provisions for Holy Water distribution in time of contagion, unless the bishop 1) doesn’t know what Holy Water is, and I don’t rule that out, or 2) he doesn’t believe that it is what the Church says it is, which I suspect may be the case in some instances.

Holy Water is an important sacramental.  Demons hate the stuff.  With the traditional rite, in the older Rituale Romanum,  Holy Water is blessed precisely for the health of spirit and of body.  BODY. 

Consider the mighty prayer for the blessing of Holy Water in the traditional form.  I won’t for an instant consider the new-fangled rite from the Book of Happy Thoughts Blessings.  I re-checked De Benedictionibus and the so-called “blessing” of what is called “holy water”.  It doesn’t bless the water.  Consistent with the other “blessings” in that wretched book, which should be burned, an invocative blessing is asked for rather than a constitutive blessing.

In this time of contagion, Fathers, forget about that dreadful Book of Blessings.  Use the Rituale Romanum to bless Holy Water, the real deal.

What does the traditional blessing prayer really say?

After exorcising the salt, the priest blesses it, saying:

Almighty everlasting God, we humbly appeal to your mercy and goodness to graciously bless ? this creature, salt, which you have given for mankind’s use. May all who use it find in it a remedy for body and mind. And may everything that it touches or sprinkles be freed from uncleanness and any influence of the evil spirit; through Christ our Lord.

After exorcising the water, the priest blesses it, saying:

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, when 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.

By contrast, what does the making of Happy Water in the modernist Book of Blessings say?  I translate from the Latin one of the several alternative prayers (it wouldn’t be the Novus Ordo without multiple options, right?):

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 whoever is fortified (munimur) by the sprinkling or use of this water, may always walk in renewed youthfulness of spirit and in newness of life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The others are like this. They don’t bless the water.

HOWEVER!… in the Novus Ordo Missale Romanum there is a rite for the blessing of Holy Water especially on Sundays.  In the prayer, and its (of course) optional alternative the priest does bless the water: “dignare, quaesumus, hanc aquam ? benedicere“.  There is also an option (of course) for salt to be blessed and added, though at the mixing nothing is said.  Neither are there exorcisms of the water and salt.

THAT, by the way, the lack of exorcisms, is a problem. 

Since the very beginning of blessings, even in the Old Testament, things, places and people are exorcised before being blessed.  Think about how Isaiah’s lips were purified by an angel with a burning coal before God blessed him with the office of prophet.  Everything in this material cosmos is under the dominion of the Prince of this world, the Enemy, Satan.  We must rip things and places and people from his claims and dominance before we hand them over to the King.  Therefore, in the traditional rites of baptism there are exorcisms before the anointings and baptism.  In the consecration of churches, there are mighty and multiple exorcisms, outside, inside, all around, before blessings and consecrations occur.  So, too, with Holy Water.  The elements – which are addressed in the second person as if they are living creatures! – are torn away from the Devil and only then blessed.

I will never… never… use anything other than the traditional forms of blessings.  Period.  I won’t even consider it for a second.  When you compare even the blessing of water in the Missale Romanum to the rite in the older Rituale Romanum, you can see the poverty of spirit, the arrogance, the tendency to reduce the supernatural that motivated the reformers.

Back to business.

There are alternatives to open, general access, Holy Water stoops or fonts.  I mentioned this in my post about Communion on the hand or on the tongue.  HERE


Rather than just rant, here is a practical solution.  Perhaps readers have practical suggestions, too.

Parishes usually have large Holy Water containers from which people can fill bottles.   I can see people bringing their own bottles and using the Holy Water in them not only as they enter church but then at home as well.


For a couple of years now, I have blessed Epiphany Water at the parish.  The pastor has a kind of assembly line organized to fill small bottles he purchased in quantity. He distributes these bottles of Epiphany Water.   Perhaps something like that might be organized.  I am not sure how he handles the filling of the bottles, but I’ve linked to a filler machine that could do the job.   Get some parishioners together and make it happen.  Put an announcement in the bulletin and say from the pulpit…

“Since the bishop has said that we cannot fill the stoops at the doors of the church, we are distributing Holy Water to you for your own use here and elsewhere.”

BTW… I wonder if any of those bishops who have restricted Holy Water have lately

a) blessed any,
b) used any themselves outside of entering a church, and
c) done a sprinkling rite (aka Asperges) since they made their anti-stoop edicts.


This is not the time to eliminate Holy Water or to make it harder to obtain and use.  This is the time to put the accelerator to the floor, with good catechesis and practical solutions.

This will require some work.  But that’s what priests and bishops are for in the Church, right?  To make available things like sacramentals, with good catechesis?

Sacrifice a committee meeting about some stupid topic and put people to work filling Holy Water bottles!   

Organize a procession with prayers against disease.   

Have special Masses for “pro salute vivorum” and “pro infirmis” and “tempore mortalitatis“. 

The Church has been there before, in centuries past.  Plague isn’t new.  It is one of the reasons for the development of processions and for the Forty Hours Devotion: time of invasion or of plague or for urgent needs.

We have mighty spiritual tools.  Let’s use them, for the love of God!

Let’s do our part, rather then snivel and cringe and wring our hands and cancel Masses and remove Holy Water from churches.   “We’re sooooo hellllllllplesssss!”

Sure, we have to be prudent in time of disease about public gatherings if things get really bad.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t, for example, have the Masses anyway!   Even if the church or cathedral is mostly empty or Masses are said at night… who cares? Mass isn’t readers theater that needs an audience. We can say Mass without big congregations. No, really, we can. It’s okay.

Fathers, how about this?   Get together and hear each others confessions, have a Solemn Mass at which some of you could act as servers, and then have a meal together.  Repeat.

Bishops, how about this?  Go to the four compass corners of your dioceses – like tracing the sign of the Cross over them – and do an exorcism over your territory with the older Rituale Romanum (because it works better than the silly new book) and then celebrate Mass for the intention of the protection of your subjects from all spiritual and temporal harm.

Promote the Forty Hours Devotion!

Gee whiz… do these things even when there isn’t the danger of disease!!!

Let’s do what only WE PRIESTS AND BISHOPS can do!   Public authorities and lay people can’t do what we can do.   It would be stingy and cowardly not to do our part.

Do we really believe in the efficacy of our rites and our Masses?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Great post! Great reminder to all of us!

  2. I keep a bottle of Holy Water in my purse and my husband and I have been blessing ourselves with it instead of using the fonts at Church. I am so thankful that my Confessor/Spiritual Director blessed Epiphany Water, which took him an hour to do, in those large 4 gallon bottles. I shared much of it and still have enough for sharing and using. He said if I run out he will give me another 4 gallon bottle. What a great priest!!!!!!

  3. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Great post, Father! I am sure this will get you that long-deserved Monsignorship. Oh, wait, they aren’t doing that anymore. Well, this, too, shall pass!

  4. tho says:

    As usual Father, you keep hitting home runs. Save the liturgy, save the world, should be tattooed on the chest of all Bishops. (I hope you know that I am only joking)

  5. JustaSinner says:

    Couple questions. Is it permissible to consume Holy Water? Can a priest bless sealed water? Can he open the container, add the Blessed Salt, then reseal?

  6. Ultrarunner says:

    If you want to, “put the accelerator to the floor,” why not drive to your local source and bless the reservoir which supplies the water to your entire city or metropolis? Holy water would then be truly easy to obtain and easy to use by everyone where you live.

  7. L. says:

    This Bishop’s position on holy water makes me think of the supposed Casey Stengel quotation: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” But that’s my reaction to most things that Bishops and Priests do. Regarding the idea that “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” should be tattooed on the chests of all Bishops, I think there are too few that have chests.

  8. The Egyptian says:

    Is there a proscribed level of salt in “holy water” per say or could the level be increased to a level that kills bacteria and viruses? If it would even help, I don’t know just askin

  9. Elizium23 says:

    Since I rent an apartment and am also not handy with a hammer and nail, I have not purchased a holy water stoup for my home. However, I have fallen into the habit of obtaining a 16oz bottle of holy water regularly, and filling a small dish at my front door. It is so very reassuring that I have this powerful sacramental at my beck and call. I recall the first time I began doing this, a young newly-ordained priest deigned to visit me at home. I requested that he bless some salt, he whipped out his iPhone and said “I’ll use the extraordinary form!” I said “Great!” and the next thing I knew, he was saying “I EXORCISE YOU!” and then he made up some bonus holy water and left me quite amazed and flattered.

    Holy priests of Jesus Christ, you can never imagine the profound effect you have on the faithful when you bless things for us. A simple heartfelt prayer, even one composed on the spot, means so much to us when it is forever attached to an object we can carry with us that reminds us of the Holy Trinity, the saints, and reinforces our faith and prayer life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  10. APX says:

    This is why I keep a 10 year supply of Epiphany water in my apartment.

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  12. PeterC says:

    It is with sadness that I inform you that some a church run by a religious order decided to suspend confessions due to this “threat”. More than that, I ask for prayers because a church where there was once regular confessions would have an empty confessional now. How could they withhold spiritual care in times when physical care is threatened? :(

  13. SanSan says:

    Your such a great teacher Father. I pray that everyone “shares” your efforts and that many will be able to put your ideas into action. Thank you.

  14. albinus1 says:

    It seems to me that the proper response to a church that has decided to “suspend” Confessions and other normal sacramental and spiritual care because of a “threat” is to “suspend” contributions as long as Confessions are “suspended,” and tell them why.

  15. davidvu999 says:

    Can the English translation you just provided be used to bless the water or does it require Latin

  16. davidvu999 says: Can the English … be used to bless the water

    Priests should use the books in force in 1962 or before, not those after 1962. After 1962 more use of English was permitted. However, in 1962 and before it was necessary to use Latin for blessings and without exception for exorcisms. The blessing of Holy Water should be done in Latin. That means that the translation into English in, say, the “Weller” books, should be used for consultation but not for blessings.

    I made a podcast with the Latin of the Blessing of Holy Water. HERE

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  18. Doning says:

    Can a Deacon use the Rituale Romanum, or are those blessings only aloud to priests?

    [Most blessings are reserved to priests.]

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