Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
August 21, 2023 // Diocese

Holy Water Has a Place in All Areas of Our Lives

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

Globally, water is a symbol of life and hope. For the Catholic Church, blessed water reminds us of baptism and is a symbol of purification.

According to Brian MacMichael, Director of the Office of Worship with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, water has a rich history of being used for ritual cleansing in Judaism, and the Church also employs it in certain liturgical contexts beyond baptism, such as during the offertory at Mass, the blessing of churches or objects, and the renewal of baptismal promises at Easter.

Catholics will find blessed water at a parish placed in holy water stoups at the entrances or in a large dispenser.

MacMichael shared that the placement of holy water stoups at entrances to a church helps emphasize the transition into a sacred place, the Domus Dei (House of God), by encouraging visitors to trace the sign of the cross while recalling how baptism made us a part of the Body of Christ. Also, when a baptismal font is placed at the entrance of a church, it symbolizes our Christian life’s journey from the font of rebirth to the altar and the things of heaven.

Lisa Kochanowski
There is a long tradition of lay people keeping holy water in their homes, reinforcing a reminder of baptism for the domestic Church.

“Water in the actual baptismal font of a church is distinct from other holy water in that it receives a special blessing related to its baptismal purpose (though the water therein can also serve as a place for churchgoers to dip their fingers and recall their own baptisms),” noted MacMichael.

Some faithful will take holy water from large dispensers for use at home. There is a long tradition of lay people keeping a holy water font in their homes, reinforcing a reminder of baptism for the domestic Church.

Theresa Delgado has kept a bottle of holy water in her home for years and purchased a holy water font as an anniversary gift for her husband a few years ago. She keeps them in her home as a way of spiritual protection.

“When our children were small, as we would conclude our nightly prayers, I would often bless them and ask their guardian angels to watch over them,” said Delgado. “I would encourage families to use holy water to bless each other and their homes. Away from home, it is good to have holy water with you, in case of an emergency. There are stories of people who have had opportunities to baptize as they are dying or in an accident, so I like to be prepared.”

Carl Loesch keeps holy water in his home and uses it to bless rooms in the house by making signs of the cross with holy water on the doors. He feels there are many temptations and evil influences attacking families, and we need all the help we can get to build homes as places of refuge and holiness.

Janice Martin keeps holy water and a holy water font in her home, gifts from a beloved relative. “My holy water font and my first of many bottles of holy water was given to me by my Aunt Janice when I was 10 years old, 19 years before I was blessed by the waters of baptism into full communion with the Catholic Church at the 1997 Easter Vigil. I had seen my younger cousin prepare for her First Communion and wondered why we didn’t have a holy water font in our home. My Aunt Janice gave me my own for my room,” recalled Martin.

Martin kept holy water in her home because her younger cousin and aunt’s family had it. Over time, she realized it was something she also wanted and to gain a better understanding of the “why” behind it.

“It was Christmas before my Aunt Janice passed away from breast cancer. She gave me her rosary and told me, ‘One day you will understand what to do with this and it will lead you home.’ From 1986, I prayed my aunt’s beloved rosary because she had taught me how to, along with my younger cousin, and my aunt was correct. In 1997, her beloved rosary, the holy water font, and years of getting holy water from her when I would need some did indeed lead me home,” said Martin. “My younger cousin left the Catholic Church after my aunt passed and could never understand why I ran towards the Church. When my cousin passed a few years ago, I placed my aunt’s beloved rosary under her hands, said a prayer, and said under my breath, ‘Now they can lead you home.’”

What started out as a desire to have what her aunt’s family had, came full circle for Martin with daily prayer, the rosary, and blessing herself with holy water before she understood that she was being called home.

“I have a constant reminder of my baptism each time that I bless myself with holy water either coming in or going out. God is always present in a small way. I am reminded of the blessing and gift that I received in the waters that washed away my sins. Recently I became aware of the Jewish mezuzah that holds a scroll on the door post that is kissed at the coming and going. Knowing that the Jewish people are, like St. Pope John Paul II said, our older brothers and sisters in the faith tie me to our early roots of Christianity. I’m not saying that the holy water font and holy water are the same as the mezuzah; however, what comfort can be found in traditions that go back to the time of Jesus among us,” noted Martin.

MacMichael said that having holy water in the home is acceptable, but lay people cannot formally bless objects or people in the same way clergy can. The faithful can keep a quantity of holy water to refill fountains in the home or to bring while traveling.

“We must also keep in mind that holy water should not be consumed or poured down a regular drain, etc. The reverent way to dispose of old holy water is either to pour it down a church’s sacrarium (a drain that goes straight into the earth) or to pour it into the ground in a decent place outside (such as a garden area),” said MacMichael.

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