“One day a pious brother, advanced in years, entered my study and said: “Father, I wish you would write something about Holy Water. It is such a good, simple medicine for body and soul; and so many people do not know this.”
To this pious suggestion the present little book is due. Since that day I frequently found myself thinking of this “good, simple medicine for soul and body,” and finally I conveyed my thoughts into writing. In this way the seed was sown. God grant it may bear fruit.
The subject then is “Holy Water,” and its virtue. I hope the reader is not afraid of holy water; but if he is, then this little work has fallen into the right hands. At the same time it is intended for everybody. In more exact terms the subject matter is as follows: how the divine Power and the blessings of the Church are imparted by holy water; its preparation and its uses, the purposes it serves—all these can be helpful to the zealous, no less than to the indifferent Catholic. For the pious brother was right when he said: “Many do not know how good this simple medicine is.”
Doubtless you are acquainted with the miracle of mercy which Jesus performed at the pool of Bethsaida. In one of the five porches to the pool lay a sick man who suffered from the palsy during thirty-eight years. For a long time he had waited in vain to be healed by the moving water. At certain times the water became agitated and whoever then first descended into it was healed of his infirmity.
The blind, the lame, the consumptive recovered their health in this water. But the palsied man had never succeeded in entering it at the right time.
One day the Saviour was passing through the porches in which a great crowd of sufferers were assembled. One of the poorest of these sad figures was the palsied man, and the heart of the divine Friend of men was filled with compassion for him. Jesus said to him: “Will you be made whole?” Ah, which one of these poor sufferers did not desire to be healed! The sick man looked up sadly at the kind Friend who put the question to him. He replied: “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond. For, whilst I am coming, another is going down before me.”
In the pitiful complaint can be heard the silent request: “Will you help me, good Master? In all the years of my suffering no one has shown me so much sympathy. Help me and guide me down into the water.”
But Jesus did not need to wait until the water moved; He did not need to help the sick man to the miraculous pond. In an earnest, sublime voice He spoke: “ Take up thy bed and walk.” And St. John, an eyewitness, relates: “Immediately the man was made whole: and he took up his bed and walked.” What happiness it was for this man to be perfectly well again after such a long illness! But when later Jesus met him again, He said to him: “Thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worst thing happen to thee.”
This beautiful story of the Gospel contains much food for wholesome thought. Let us first consider the means by which God sends us His aid. From this miracle which our Saviour worked we see that God can help man in all his needs directly, without employing any means. He requires no medicines to heal the body, no Sacraments to save the soul. The omnipotent words of Jesus restored strength and activity to the man‟s palsied body and at the same time healed his soul.
But God seldom helps us so directly, so miraculously as in this case; usually He offers us His aid, in an ordinary way, through the mediation of His consecrated servants, the priests, and through the mediation of grace; that is the Sacraments, the Sacramentals and prayers.
We have a beautiful example of such divine aid in the healing water of the pool of Bethsaida. The water was stirred by a mysterious power, and then it possessed the virtue of healing all infirmities. How did this happen? Whence did it derive this wonderful power to heal? St. John tells us: “An angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved.
And he that went down first to the pond, after the motion of the water, was made whole.” Thus, an angel was sent by God to bless the water. Through the angel God‟s power was imparted to the water which thus became an instrument of divine aid.
We can easily understand how all the sick in Palestine sought this miraculous water, how they crowded to the pond and had themselves carried down, how they longed for the water to move and with what zeal each tried to be the first to descend into the water to be healed by its power.
How good it would be for so many sick people, if there were such miraculous water today which would effect a certain cure of every illness! But the pond of Bethsaida was destroyed completely by the repeated devastations of Jerusalem. It was only in the year 1888 that its original site with the seven porches was discovered by chance; the site was exactly as it is described in the Gospel. But it no longer contains miraculous water, and the sick are no longer healed there as was the case formerly.
But, thank God, there is another holy water, one which is nearer to us and which possesses even greater healing power, I mean the holy water of the Catholic Church. The miraculous water at Bethsaida was only to be found in one place in the world and it possessed the power of healing at certain times only.
Its effects were confined to healing the body, and that only in the case of the few who were fortunate in descending into the pond when the water was moved by the angel. But the water which God also causes to be blessed and given the power of imparting grace, through His messenger, the priest, is to be found in every Catholic church: it can be taken thence to the home, and in this way we have it with its virtue by us always.
It retains its power to heal and helps not only the body, but protects and helps yet more our souls, in life and in death, for time and. eternity. Now, the aim of this little book is to give an account of this precious holy water. But first we shall consider a little the power to bless which has been bestowed on the Catholic Church which offers us this holy water in God‟s Name.
The Power of the Church
During His life on earth the Saviour sent forth His apostles and disciples “ and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.” The disciples returned from their first mission, filled with joy, and said: “ Lord, the devils also are subject to us in Thy Name.” But Jesus answered them: “ Behold, I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy and nothing shall hurt you . . . But in the same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Ghost, and said: „ I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to the little ones. Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in Thy sight” (Luke X).
Thus the Saviour, while He was still on earth, allowed His disciples to share, to some extent, in His divine power of bestowing grace. But when He took leave of the world He gave them His full power to save and to heal: “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.”
This is the great divine authorisation of the Catholic priesthood. Our Lord‟s work as Redeemer is to be continued in the world, and to this end His priests are endowed with the power which the Redeemer Himself received from His Father. Even as Jesus healed, the Catholic priest shall and can heal, save and bless. In the Name of Jesus, the priest shall and can break the power of evil spirits, that they may not harm us. He shall and can place us under the protection and blessing of God in all places and in all conditions of life. The Catholic church has received from her divine Founder the power, through her servants, the priests, of penetrating the whole human existence with divine inspiration and grace. We have the surest foundation for believing this.
The apostles and their immediate successors and assistants, by numerous miracles, soon revealed that God was with them, that through them He bestowed His blessing on men of good will. In the days of the miracle of Pentecost it was clear that Peter shared His divine Master‟s power of healing. In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that Peter met a cripple at the Golden gate who asked him for an alms. Peter said to him: “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, I give thee:
In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and walk.‟ And, taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up, stood, and walked, and went in with them into the temple.” (Act III).
A few pages farther on we find, in the same book, frequent instances of such miracles, the apostles being mediators of the divine aid and divine grace: “By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people . .. . They brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches that, when Peter came, his shadow, at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered of their infirmities.
And there came also together to Jerusalem a multitude out of the neighbouring cities, bringing sick persons, and such as were troubled with unclean spirits; who were all healed.” (Acts V). And the following particular instance is related of St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles: “And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles.
So that there were even brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them” (Acts xix). Thus we see that even the shadow, handkerchiefs and aprons of the apostles were mediators of divine assistance.
But it was not the actual vocation of the apostles and their successors, the Catholic priests, to perform miracles and heal the human body. They were called rather to save souls, to make men holy, to bring them nearer to God and unite them to Him for all Eternity. This distinction is very important.
The astonishing visible miracles which they worked were and should be no more than the divine testimony and sign of the much greater supernatural power of healing souls with which the servants of Christ are endowed. In what does this supernatural power consist? They offer the most holy sacrifice, and renew by this unbloody sacrifice, the redemption of the world by Christ at Golgotha.
Infinite grace comes from the sacrifice on the altar where the Catholic priest in intercession elevates the immaculate Lamb of God. By administering the seven Sacraments he introduces souls into a wonderful world of grace. By holy Baptism man is born again, a child of God; the Sacrament of Confirmation seals his affiliation with God; the most Blessed Eucharist is his daily bread; the Sacrament of Penance renews or strengthens his affiliation with God;
Marriage consecrates the family of God‟s children; by Extreme Unction they are blessed at the hour of death; by Holy Orders the children of God are raised to be administrators of the means of sanctification instituted by the Son of God. How wonderful are the gifts which the Catholic Church is empowered to bestow, through her priests!
Yet her power of imparting grace is not here exhausted. Between the principal stations of our life which are sanctified by the Sacraments numerous small, but none the less important concerns enter our lives daily, hourly, which can not well dispense with God‟s blessing.
For these concerns the Catholic Church offers us her sacramentals, that is, exorcisms, consecrations, blessings, through which all that is harmful, especially the influence of the evil spirits, is warded off from us, and all that may help us rendered good and beneficial. To this end the Church uses the power bestowed upon her by Christ and follows the example He gave when He laid His hands on the little children and blessed them; when, looking up to Heaven, He blessed the loaves and fishes for the hungry multitudes.
In the same way the Catholic Church blesses mothers and children, food and drink, dwellings, clothing, pasture and corn, domestic animals, barns, stables, workshops, machines and innumerable other things. She consecrates her churches and all that is intended for God‟s service; she consecrates cemeteries and blesses the graves of our dear ones, oil, candles, herbs, palms, crucifixes, rosaries, scapulars, medals, and especially holy water for the manifold, pious use of body and soul.
The Catholic Church possesses enormous power of imparting grace; she surrounds her faithful children with innumerable spiritual helps and the divine protection. If but few receive these abundant graces, the cause lies in the want of a lively faith—a want from which our time suffers so much.
That which was said of the inhabitants of Nazareth is only too true today: “Because of their little faith Jesus did not work many miracles.” Thus, because many are weak, cold and ungenerous in their faith, God cannot expend on them his supernatural graces, even through His priests.
We read in the Gospel that the Saviour has always demanded a lively faith as a condition for His miraculous aid. The best prayer of petition is a lively, childlike faith.
Therefore let us increase our faith by making frequent acts of faith and by a life of strong faith. Let us look upon all the things of religion with believing eyes, and let us use them with pious zeal and a holy desire for divine aid. In this way also we should look upon holy water which is the source of abundant graces.
The Sacred Source
In the Old Testament we read that God sent Moses to lead the chosen people: “ Take in thy hand the rod and strike the rock and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. A fresh source sprang up and gave forth abundant water with which the thirsty multitude were refreshed.
Now, in the new Covenant the Catholic Church holds the place of Moses. She has received the command to lead the chosen people of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and to open to them the source of grace—in the words of St. Paul, Jesus Christ Himself—is Prayer. By prayer the Church performs her work of redeeming souls; for it is extremely efficacious; of her prayer may be said, in the words of Our Saviour: “Ask and you shall receive!” By her powerful prayer also the Church sanctions holy water.
Holy water is composed of two elements, water and salt. Very beautiful are the prayers, and deeply significant the ceremonies with which the priest converts both into a mediation of divine grace; the evil spirits are exorcised so that the water may be efficacious in warding off their evil influence; and it is consecrated so that it may become a mediator of divine grace.
The priest, wearing a purple stole, blesses the holy water in the following manner:
Our help in the Name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
[The Priest exorcises the salt].
I exorcise thee, creature of salt, by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by that God who ordered thee to be put by Eliseus the prophet into the water, that the barrenness of the water might be healed; that thou mayest become exorcised salt for the salvation of those that believe; and that thou mayest be for the healing of soul and body to all those receiving thee, and that there may be banished from the place in which thou hast been sprinkled every kind of hallucination and wickedness, or wile of devilish deceit, and every unclean spirit, adjured in the name of Him who will come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. Amen.
LET US PRAY.
O Almighty and eternal God, we humbly implore Thine infinite mercy, that this creature of salt which Thou hast bestowed for the use of mankind may be blessed + and sanctified + through Thy mercy, that it may make for health of mind and body to all who partake of it; and that what ever is touched or sprinkled with it may be freed from all uncleanness, and from the assaults of the evil spirit. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee for ever and ever. Amen.
[He then exorcises the water.]
I exorcise thee, creature of water, in the Name of God + the Father Almighty, and in the name of Jesus + Christ His Son our Lord, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit, that thou mayest be made exorcised water for the banishment of every power of the enemy, and that thou mayest be able to uproot and cast out that enemy himself, together with his rebel angels: by the power of the same Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who will come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. Amen.