Life & Soul Life and Soul

How to… Use Holy Water

Pope Francis baptises a child in the Sistine Chapel (CNS)

Water covers two-thirds of the earth’s surface, and makes up almost the same proportion of the human body. No living thing, from the giant squid to the cactus pot plant, the African elephant to the amoeba, can survive without it. It’s fitting, then, that Our Lord instituted water as essential to baptism, and so to membership of the Church: “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”

But the uses of water don’t stop there. Once blessed by a priest, it becomes holy water. (Some priests, it’s worth saying, believe it’s more effective to use the traditional ritual, including an exorcism of the water.) There’s usually some at the entrance to a church; some Catholics carry it around or keep it at home.

The most common use is to dip a couple of fingers in the holy water and make the Sign of the Cross to bless yourself. But you can also sprinkle it on your home, your family, your work space, your car…

Its benefits to the soul can be remarkable. St Teresa of Avila used to throw it at demons when they appeared to her – they were generally too horrified to come back.