Friday, 13 November 2009

HOLY Water; Holy Mackerel!

As I was getting ready this morning, and listening with half an ear to BBC Radio 4, Thought for the Day (or Platitude for the Day, as I call it) came on. This morning, it was all about Holy Water and Swine Flu. Now I know that many churches have dispensed with 'the peace' (shaking hands with the person next to you, or in some of the more extreme cases, walking around the church and embracing people you would cross the road to avoid at any other time) and in some churches, the congregaton dip the bread into the wine, rather than drink from the communal cup. (Am I wrong to think that drinking from the common cup is what Christianity is all about? Perhaps it's just me....)

Anyway, all this is done in the sacred (or profane) name of Swine Flu which seems like the greatest health scare since the Black Death, and... I now hear on TFTD that one church, to avoid members dipping their fingers into infected Holy Water at the font, has installed an electronic dispenser with an infra-red detector to dispense a measured amount of Holy Water into the palm, so no-one ever has to have contact with anyone else.

WHAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND is, if Holy Water has all the properties usually attributed to it, why isn't one of them the ability to resist disease? I ask this as a simple seeker after truth. Having been brought up as a Catholic (now long since lapsed) I always believed that Holy Water, and indeed other blessed things, had almost magical abilities, though in what direction, I couldn't say.

Holy water from the cave of Massabielle

I know we always had Holy Water in the house, though I sometimes wonder whether this wasn't more of a souvenir of a visit to, say, Lourdes than an auto da fe.

We still have a bottle of Holy Water in OUR house, retrieved after the death of my parents and the subsequent sale of their house, though this one does say 'Leeds' on it. Hardly a souvenir.

Amazon sells Holy Water fonts for home use... what more is there to say?

What I think I'm coming to is that, even as a child, terrified of eternal damnation - I seem to have spent most of my childhood/adolescence in that state, (nuns have a lot to answer for) I'm not sure I had any better idea then than I do now, what properties the act blessing water, or a rosary or missal, etc. was supposed to convey to the inanimate object being blessed. I am now a non-believer (except in humanity) but even then, at my most fervent, I was mystified. Perhaps that's the point?

Holy water for the faithful to take home with them (St Teresa's church, Clarendon Street, Dublin)

"Once blessed, more ordinary water can be added to the supply of holy water, and the entire quantity of water remains blessed provided that the amount added is less than the amount of water that was there."

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