I have a tiny bottle of holy water, safely stored near the eggs in my refrigerator so it won’t topple over and spill. It has been there for years. In my father’s handwriting, the label taped to it reads: “Holy Water from Lourdes.” I find comfort knowing it is there, although we’ve had it for so long that no one in our family remembers how it came into our possession.
Over the years I’ve used it very sparingly because, after all, it’s holy. The time I was called back to the doctor’s office for a second mammogram, I used it to make the sign of the cross. When our oldest son had an extremely high fever, I used it to bless him, praying for his fever to break. And for those times of serious prayer requests, or when I felt I needed strength in knowing God was near, I’d dip my finger into the little bottle and make the sign of the cross on my own forehead in a private blessing.
My parents always had a small vile in their refrigerator, too. I remember my mother using it once or twice and I recall as a child feeling “lucky” that we had it.
During one of our editorial meetings, in which our team gathers to plan what we’ll write about in future issues, I suggested “holy water” as a story idea. That resulted in a wonderful feature, written by former Editor Patrick Mott, on why holy water is so much a part of our faith. (It can be found on www.occatholic.com and searching with the key words “Holy Water.”)
Mott wrote: “Throughout the history of Christianity, holy water has been one of the most potent, visible and easily accessible symbols of the faith…For Catholics, holy water—water blessed by a priest—is known as a “sacramental,” a sacred sign that bears a resemblance to the sacraments.”
That’s why I never want to be without it and why I became concerned when I noticed that I only had enough left for a few more blessings. I started to think about where I’d find my next supply. I have no plans to travel to Lourdes and I wondered… would my next bottle be as “holy?”
An answer to a prayer, my brother and his wife returned from a recent trip to Rome with the perfect gift for me – a bottle of holy water straight from the font of the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua! My brother said the water wasn’t purchased from a souvenir shop, but rather he had asked the priest at the basilica if holy water was available. The priest took my brother and sister-in-law into the basilica sacristy where he pulled the bottle from a wooden cabinet in which it had been kept after being blessed.
The bottle traveled all the way from Rome and is now safely stored in my refrigerator … right next to the eggs.