As Catholics, we are familiar with the powerful sacramental holy water. Placed at the entrance in every Catholic church around the world, this sanctified water is part of our life from baptism onward.
Holy water is a very powerful sacramental and should not be taken for granted. It is blessed by God and should be used daily.
Understanding its true significance and uses is an important part of our upbringing.
The History of Holy Water
Although it has not been determined exactly when the Church first started using holy water, it was an integral part of Catholicism beginning after the death and resurrection of Christ.
The use of holy water is closely intertwined with Jewish Law. In Judaism, the Rabbis use blessed water to purify the body and the mind before conducting rituals, such as prior to entering the temple, offering sacrifice, or even eating.
In Christianity, the first uses of holy water are usually associated with Apostle Matthew. According to the writings attributed to Pope Saint Clement, Saint Matthew instituted the rite of using holy water to “protect the soul and body.” Saint Clement’s Constitutions also lists a specific prayer St. Matthew supposedly would say when using holy water.
Where Does Holy Water Come From?
Canon law has evolved, but at one point sacramentals were only blessed on the Epiphany, including exorcised salt, which is sometimes used in Holy Water. However, priests can now bestow these blessings at any time. Water is made holy when it is blessed by a priest. Once it is blessed, the holy water is reserved in a water font at the church entrance. Upon entering the church, we dip our fingers into the font and make the sign of the cross. The holy water reminds us of our baptism and union with Christ. In baptism, we are born anew spiritually, freed from our sins and brought into the covenant family of God.
The Significance of Holy Water
Holy water cleanses the soul. Sanctified by a priest, holy water repels evil and is used to bless those with whom it comes in contact. The rite of purification before entering a church and baptism, as well as many other Roman Catholic rituals, involve the use of holy water.
When a baby is baptized, holy water expunges the original sin that a person is born with and, in an adult baptism, it removes all mortal and venial sins.
By using holy water as part of mass, we are reminded how God has the power to forgive all our sins. Holy water also prepares us to receive the sacraments and protects us from demons.
The Uses of Holy Water
Some of the most common uses of Holy Water:
Baptism. Holy water is a fundamental part of the baptismal sacrament. Just as our Lord and Savior Jesus was bathed in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, the priest uses sanctified water to wash away original sin.
Holy Water Fonts. At the entrance of a Catholic church is a font filled with holy water. Catholics use this to bless themselves and purify their souls before entering the church, so they are spiritually cleansed prior to entering God’s house.
There are three categories of holy water fonts: stationary (as in a church), portable fonts (such as those used for baptism), and private fonts (usually found in homes).
Eastern Orthodoxy still has holy water fountains that are used to wash and hands and feet (likely derived from ancient Jewish rituals).
Home. As Saint Teresa of Avila says, there is “nothing like holy water to put devils to flight.” You can never have too much grace or blessing in your life. A holy water font in your home is a great way to renew your spirit and cleanse your home.
Cars. Though technology has created engineering marvels and changed lives everywhere, Christianity does not change. Holy water is just as effective today, despite technological advances, as it was at the time of Jesus. Many Catholics choose to bless their car using holy water. Blessing your vehicle with holy water reminds us that God is always watching over us and our loved ones.
The Sick. Holy water has the power to heal. Blessing someone with holy water is a spiritual work of mercy. You can use holy water to bless their hospital room and help bring comfort to them.
Your Pets. Pets are beloved companions and can be blessed with holy water because all creation gives glory to God. On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, many parishes have a rite of blessing for pets. This blessing can be given to farm animals, too.
Holy water can truly work miracles, and it can help you remain clean, pure, and closer to the Light of God.
Holy water is an integral part of what it means to be Catholic. When you dip your fingers into holy water and make the sign of the cross, you should be mindful of the significance of your baptism and renunciation of Satan. Remember, holy water receives its power through the authority and sanctity of the Church.