Because the Holy Water is Back

Guest post by Ellen Hutchinson 
I bounded up the steps into the church last Friday. (Okay, so I didn’t “bound up the steps.” I’m hitting the big 5-0 later this year and I don’t bound up anything anymore. But it sounds so youthful to say that. Frankly, it was 6:50 in the morning and without morning caffeine, I was grateful to God that I was just functional.)  Reaching the top step, I  took my usual two steps to the left and dipped my fingers into the holy water stoup.

It’s been empty for several months now, an archdiocesan-ordered response last fall to the H1N1 scare. The dipping of my fingers into the empty stoup and blessing myself as I enter the church is an “auto-pilot” gesture. Or so I thought. For this time, my fingers hit water—holy water—and as I felt the coolness of the water on my forehead, I found myself thrilled by the fact that the holy water was back. Ditto as I left the church after Mass.

I spent much time later that day and on into the weekend thinking about my almost giddy reaction to being able to bless myself with holy water.  In CL (Communion and Liberation, the movement which I belong to along with uber-blogger and dear friend Webster, and our beloved Ferde) we are taught to judge our experiences. That, and the fact that my middle name is “dissect and analyze.”

I came to the conclusion that despite initially thinking that my dipping and blessing is an auto-pilot gesture, that I don’t really think of it that way. There’s a whole lot of meaning behind that most simple of gestures. That the crossing of myself as I enter church is my final act of preparation for the Mass; a last ditch prayer that I may be considered worthy of being in the presence of God; worthy to participate in the Mass; worthy to receive Him. That the coolness of the water on my forehead is a final attempt to cleanse myself before participating in the most beautiful of meals. That it is indeed a renewal of my baptism which took place in that same church almost 50 years ago. That as I leave the church, the act of crossing myself and the water on my forehead and chest help to form a shield, to protect me against the evil which awaits me out in the world.

The holy water is back, and I couldn’t be happier.  And tomorrow morning, as I walk up the steps, take my usual two steps to the left, dip my fingers into the water and make the sign of the cross, feeling that cool water on my forehead, I’ll pray that I never take that gesture for granted again.   

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

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  • A

    @Ellen:Lovely post! Our parish church still isn't offering two species of communion because of the H1N1 scare.Just wondering though why the Holy Water is back when it is Lent now? Or did this happen before Lent?

  • James

    Well said. I didn't know the reason for the absence of the holy water in the fount and if I had then perhaps that would have diminished the consternation I felt each time I entered the church for the past several months. It was a minor joy to find the fount replenished this Sunday. Of course, the reason for the dryness makes perfect sense but I hope that measure won't need to be taken again anytime soon.

  • Glad to hear that the Holy Water is back "on" in your archdiocese!

  • Anonymous

    The most dangerous people in society are those that are trying to save mankind from themselves. Please ignore the media of fear and politics in order to realize the flu has been around for centuries, that population explosion was a myth, and the global warming rhetoric etc is not proven. A universal truth: God is God and we are not. Let's get back to Holy Water in the stoup and resuming shaking hands and making eye contact at the exchange of peace instead of nodding at each other. These acts are due to the climate of fear. Nice post. Thank you for bringing the issue up in such a peaceful manner.

  • Love the holy water! Long may it spray, drip and bless!

  • I thought this post (again from Taylor Marshall) was rather befitting for the recent discussions on confession:

  • I wonder when the holy water will return to Klaipeda, Lithuania. In the spring, I suppose. Right now, at least when I was there for a couple of weeks in January-February, there was no holy water, only holy ice. One single block of ice. (You can imagine how cold we were during the Mass.) That aside, your post says much.

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks, Ellen, for this post. You've captured a "YIM Catholic" moment, a sudden realization that a simple detail of our Catholic faith and culture is filled with meaning. Usually we go to church in sleep (with or without caffeine) and take these moments for granted.

  • Wonderful post! Holy water is a favorite sacramental of mine. We have a small home altar by our front door and the holy water cup is placed between our family Bible and the handpainted Greek icon of Jesus and the 'nicho' with a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. My little girls dip their finger and bless themselves daily as they run out to the school bus. What's a morning without a little Holy Water blessing? Here's a question: Do Catholic families use Holy Water in their homes, and what percent of those families give a formal blessing to their children each day? (@Webster: sounds like a new poll in the making…) In the Latin cultures it is traditional for the father to give a Sunday blessing to each child as he lays hands on the top of their heads. A daily blessing by the mom or dad is the norm. How about in your families? Pax Christi.

  • Sal

    No Holy Water during Lent is one of those 'thought up' quasi-symbolic gestures that irk me no end.No, it doesn't make me realize that Lent is a 'desert place', it just irritates me that a very efficacious sacramental is denied us to teach us a lesson. Or something.

  • No holy water fonts–just the great baptismal font that runs with water no matter the season. Can't stand those little dishes with the yucky sponge!

  • cathyf

    Oh, yeah, Shannon, what the heck is it with the sponge? First the gross-out factor, the icky slimy thing is just nasty. And that's even before you consider the symbolism of replacing water that flows (even a little dish ripples) with water all bound up and squeezed out in miserly little portions.

  • Allison Salerno

    When I visit other churches, Protestant churches, I really MISS the holy water. I guess I always attributed the Holy Water to the R eal Presence in the Tabernacle. And so I miss the holy water and I sense something is missing.