Radio Show

Handling Holy Water


On a recent “Mass Class Wednesday,” Father Dave and Brett get a call from a listener who observes something in church that left him scratching his head: “I was in church, and I was waiting in line for Confession, sitting next to the little holy water fountain. And this lady comes up and slaps a sponge in the holy water font, takes it out, and then squeezes it into this pot … And then she walks off … So, a few minutes later, a different lady follows up, and she’s got [a pitcher full of] water that she just pours into the font … You can imagine my confusion as to all of these events taking place … My question is, is there a prescribed method for handling of holy water? I guess I sort of pieced it together that they were refreshing the holy water and replacing it… but I don’t know!”

Father Dave and Brett share a good laugh over this, and Father Dave asks the caller, “So you think the ladies were working for the church and replacing the holy water?” The caller says yes, that’s the only way he’s made sense of the whole thing, although he didn’t see them go into the sacristy or anything.

Father Dave dives in: “Well, beyond the fact that [holy water] is what we call a ‘sacramental’ — so not a sacrament, but some sort of earthly and tangible thing that, even though it’s not in and of itself divine, can draw us closer to God … The Church certainly would prefer that we handle [holy water] in an appropriate or reverent way, but there really isn’t a list of approved transportation devices.”

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He also poses a theory as to what was happening here, suggesting that perhaps the sponge was being used to clean any particulate in the bottom of the font. As for replenishing the holy water, Father Dave poses the question: “Let’s say you’ve got a whole vat of holy water … and somebody adds a bit of regular water, is that okay? Does the regular water take on holy properties?”

The answer is that as long as the newly added amount of water constitutes less than half of the holy water, then yes, the regular water becomes holy water. Father Dave explains: “If you’ve got [a font of holy water] that is mostly full but some evaporation has happened, there’s no problem for some church worker to come along and top it off a little bit. It’s still holy water. If there were only a few drops left, and they just added a whole bunch of regular water and there was no priest to bless it, then it’s not holy water.”
So, though it may have been a funny scene to witness in church, the caller may just have witnessed a regular cleaning and replenishing of the holy water. (Original Air 04-26-17)