§ 25. The Efficacy of Holy Water in Behalf of the Suffering Souls.
112. The priest blesses water in the name of the Church, to be used for ritual purposes and by the faithful. The priest in reciting the form of the blessing makes the sign of the cross over the water, and mingles with it a little salt that has been previously blessed. The prayer recited is a petition that God may preserve those sprinkled with this water from the snares of satan, grant them health of body and purity of soul, etc. Holy water is to remind us of the Sacred Blood of Christ, by which we are cleansed from sin, and whose prototype saved Israel from the Destroying Angel. It is moreover to exhort us that we should purify our souls by a chaste and pious life. Let us therefore remember how Jesus shed His Precious Blood amid excruciating torments to cleanse us from sin and to deliver us from the bondage of satan; let us pray to be more and more cleansed in the Blood of Jesus, and to be preserved from future sins. And may God, through the death of Him who vanquished satan by the shedding of His Blood, protect us in all dangers, and ward off from us all temporal and spiritual evils.
113. The prayer of the Church and the blessing of the priest are rendered efficacious through the merits of Christ. Hence the faithful and confident use of holy water is attended with great benefits for soul and body in life, and brings consolation to the souls of the faithful departed; The following are some of its effects:
a) It brings remission of venial sins to the souls in the state of grace.
b) By the devout use of it at least a part of the temporal punishment of sin is remitted.
c) It promotes the health of the body.
d) It puts to flight the evil spirits and guards us against their snares.
e) It prevents sickness and wards off other evil influences.
When we take holy water and sprinkle ourselves or our surroundings with it, the prayer of the Church ascends to heaven, drawing down blessings upon us and on the objects that are sprinkled with it. The missionary, Father Alexander of Rodez, relates that his catechists wrought numerous miraculous cures by the sign of the cross and the sprinkling of holy water. Thus he once sent six catechists to a village sadly afflicted with sickness, and within a week they healed two hundred and seventy-two sick persons. Church history relates that holy water was also used to avert the plague of locusts. For instance Pope Stephen VI. had the fields devastated by locusts sprinkled with holy water blessed by himself, when these voracious insects suddenly disappeared.
114. Holy water may be used not only for the purpose of benefiting persons present, but may also be applied with the intention of procuring its blessed effects for the absent, and especially for the Suffering Souls. In this case the prayer of the Church ascends to heaven in favor of the person or soul intended to be helped. A drop of holy water is sometimes more effectual than a long prayer. Our prayer is often distracted and lukewarm; the prayer of the Church connected with holy water always pleases God, no matter when, where and by whom it is said—provided it be said in the name of the Church. Hence the Suffering Souls thirst for holy water, and could we but witness their yearning for a drop of it, we would certainly not omit to refresh them at least in the morning and evening and sometimes during the day with its sacred dew.
115. From the following private revelations we may conclude with what joy the Suffering Souls receive, and how yearningly they long for holy water. — A stranger had been buried in the Campo santo at Rome. Seventeen years afterwards he appeared to the
Venerable Dominic of Jesus-Mary, begging that the remains of his body might often be sprinkled with holy water, because thereby his soul would be refreshed. This same servant of God, as is customary with the Carmelites, had a skull always lying before him on his desk. One day he sprinkled this skull with holy water, when he heard a pitiful voice imploring him: ''More holy water! More holy water!" The sprinkling of the holy water undoubtedly refreshed the soul and relieved its pains in the fiery prison.—To the Venerable Sister Frances of the Blessed Sacrament there often appeared a deceased Sister begging that her grave be sprinkled with holy water, because her soul was refreshed thereby.—The Venerable Lindmayer was frequently reminded by God to sprinkle the remains of the deceased with holy water, and she was accustomed, before retiring, to sprinkle the souls that appeared to her. Once she forgot to do so, when the souls continued to implore her till she rose from her bed and complied with their request.
The following is related by the learned divine Mendo in his life of St. Martin, canon regular of Liege, the manuscript of which is still preserved in the convent of St. Isidor: "There were many saints who were privileged to enjoy the visible intercourse of their guardian angels; and this holy servant of God during his whole life was similarly attended by the soul of a priest from Purgatory. This soul revealed to him, among other particulars concerning the punishments of that state of purification, that the souls felt a great mitigation of the pain of fire as often as the faithful sprinkled with holy water the graves in which their bodies were buried, feeling its effect in about the same manner as when in life a person overcome by heat is refreshed with water.
116. With regard to the use of holy water the directions of the Church and the example of our ancestors are the unerring compass which we must follow. Hence, if we desire to be worthy children of the Church and of our glorious predecessors in the faith, we must do as follows: As often as we enter a church, we ought to sprinkle ourselves with holy water, dipping our bare fingers into it and devoutly making the sign of the cross. Thereby we drive away satan, and excite ourselves to-recollection in prayer. On Sundays we should assist at the sprinkling of holy water which takes place regularly before the parochial Mass. We should not omit to have holy water at,home, preserving it in an appropriate vessel and in a decent place. In Catholic Europe there was a time when not a house was to be found in city or country, no matter how rich or poor the dwellers therein, where holy water, the crucifix and sacred images were not kept. Even to-day we find these indications of a true religious spirit wherever true faith has a home.—The use of holy water is very ancient. Some are of the opinion that it was introduced by the apostles. Its introduction in homes where its use was hitherto unknown, would go far to revive the spirit of faith.
117. If hitherto we have made use of holy water from custom, simply because we were thus trained, let us henceforth do so from a conviction of its usefulness and with due regard to its purposes. Convinced that we give great consolation to the souls in Purgatory by the devout application of holy water, can we regard it as troublesome to give a drop to them on leaving or entering the room ? It is a commendable custom when using holy water to give one drop for ourselves and the loving members of our family to receive protection for soul and body; a drop for the dying, especially dying sinners, that God may be moved to grant them the grace of conversion; and a third drop for the Suffering Souls in Purgatory. Oh, how much of blessing and true welfare, of merit and grace we would obtain during the course of the year for our dear ones and for innumerable others by this easy practice, thereby gaining a great number of intercessors during life, in death, and for the time of our own purification in Purgatory! As often as we perform this service for the Suffering Souls, they will requite it by interceding for us with an ardor impossible to the most saintly persons on earth. And God willingly hears their prayer, it being the prayer of His elect, and vouchsafes an immeasurable amount of grace to their helpers.
118. Hence the devout Christian, who is zealous for the glory of God and intent on his salvation and on the release of the Suffering Souls, makes it a practice to use holy water often—at home as well as in church. He sprinkles himself on entering the church and on leaving it; he is careful to keep it at home, and sprinkles himself on rising in the morning, before leaving the house, and before retiring for the night. Many zealous Christians make it a practice to take holy water as they enter or leave a room, in temptation, danger of lightning, etc. Good parents bless their children with it every evening.
When using this salutary sacramental, let us pray that God, for the sake of our Redeemer's Blood, may grant to the souls in Purgatory refreshment in their pains and speedy relief.—Behold how light and fleeting the vapor of steam: yet these few drops of diluted water are powerful enough to move enormous burdens! How small and inconsiderable is a gnat, how insignificant its sting; yet under certain circumstances such a sting may cause death! Now, if things so small and apparently so insignificant may cause death, why should not small things have saving properties? A drop of holy water possesses them. Oh, what comfort it gives to a Suffering Soul!—Deodatus, one of the ancient Fathers of the desert, remarks: "As the flowers withering in the heat of the sun are refreshed by the rain, so also the souls in Purgatory—these flowers elect of heaven, scorched by the Sun of eternal Justice—are refreshed by the devout application of holy water.* 1 Hence the cry of Dives in hell: " Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tips of his fingers in water, to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame." (Luke xvi. 24.) His request was refused. "But," says the learned Eck, "when the souls in Purgatory thus address us, saying, 'My brother in Christ, dip the tip of your finger in holy water and cool us, for we are tormented in this flame of Purgatory,' oh, do not refuse to do so, but grant them this consolation !"