Catholic Classroom: Holy Water
Question: Why do Catholics use holy water?
Most of us cross ourselves with holy water each time we enter a church. The practice of using holy water is so common we might not give it a second thought. But it is an important gift the Church gives us that we would be remiss not to take advantage of.
The significance of water can be seen throughout Sacred Scripture, especially in the New Testament. Jesus tells the woman at the well that he offers water that will give eternal life (John 4:13-14). He tells Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit (John 3:5). When Jesus’ side is pierced on the cross, blood and water flow forth (John 19:31-37). These are just a few examples of the life-giving and purifying aspects of water.
Our first encounter with holy water is at our baptism when we are buried with Christ and then raised up, cleansed from original sin (CCC 1213). Each time we dip our fingers into a font of holy water, we should recall and reaffirm our baptismal promises. Holy water is a sacramental, which is a sacred sign that can help orient ourselves to God and open our hearts to grace.
Prayers of exorcism are included in the prayers used to bless holy water. In this way, holy water is an especially helpful weapon in our battle against Satan and his empty promises. However, holy water is not a magical potion that automatically protects us. As are all sacramentals, holy water is meant to remind us of our call, orient our hearts and minds to God, and increase our trust in God’s grace which he provides through his Church.
To learn why holy water basins are placed at the entrance of the church, check out our video with Bishop Christopher Coyne.