The Special Effects of Holy Water
One of the great riches of Catholic life are the variety of sacramentals the Church approves and encourages us to use to help us grow in holiness and to protect us. The difference between the Sacraments and sacramentals is that the Sacraments were instituted by Christ whereas sacramentals were instituted by the Church. The Sacraments are seven in number: Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Holy Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The Sacraments give grace of themselves provided we place no obstacles in the way, whereas sacramentals obtain grace, and thus depend on the faith and devotion of the person making use of them. Sacramentals are numerous and varied, such as candles, relics, crucifixes, statues, scapulars, medals, rosaries, ashes, chalk, and holy water.
Whenever we enter a Catholic church we dip our hand in the holy water stoup by the door and bless ourselves making the Sign of the Cross (which is a sacramental in itself). This signifies a cleansing before coming into God’s presence and remits venial sin. The custom is even to be found in the Old Testament with the Jews using water for cleansing rituals as the old law commanded, and of course it was used by John the Baptist to baptise in the River Jordan. Then Our Lord Himself made water a condition necessary for salvation when He said, “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
Holy water has been used in the Catholic Church from the earliest days. Pope Alexander who died in 130 confirmed this when he said, “We bless salt and water for the people, that all who may be sprinkled therewith may be cleansed and sanctified.” St Justin Martyr who died in 163 tells us that at this time the faithful were sprinkled in their assemblies with holy water every Sunday.
Ordinary holy water is blessed by a priest with a solemn prayer to beg God’s blessing on those who use it, and protection from the powers of darkness. But why is it mixed with salt? Salt keeps things from decay, and so the salt and water combined expresses washing away sin, putting out the fires of passion, and keeping our souls from the decay of sin. In addition, a priest uses holy water to bless places, people and things, such as rosaries, statues, houses and even cars. The traditional rite of blessing holy water also contains prayers of exorcism to drive away demons and evil spirits and to give us grace, which is why holy water is used by exorcists.
There are other types of holy water too such as Epiphany water, which in the traditional Roman rite is blessed on the eve of the Epiphany, and the prayers are very long and sung to make it more solemn. There is also Easter water which is blessed at the Easter Vigil. Then there is also holy water associated with particular pilgrimage sites like Lourdes. But the most common types we come in contact with are ordinary holy water and Easter water.
Every Catholic home ought to have a supply of holy water. Take advantage because the spiritual benefits from devoutly using holy water are immense. Sprinkled with faith you can bless your loved ones and protect them from harm of both body and soul, even from afar. The souls in Purgatory long for it because it can bring them great relief if you sprinkle it with that intention wherever you are. You may be the one to release them from the purgatorial flames, thereby gaining grateful intercessors for yourself in Heaven. You might even visit the cemetery and sprinkle holy water on the graves.
There is an urn with holy water by the right hand wall of the Sacred Heart chapel. Take some, cultivate its use and protect yourselves and others from dangers to both body and soul. The more holy water I have to bless the happier I will feel!
Fr Paul Gillham, IC