SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
A. We bless Churches, and other places set aside for divine service; altars, chalices, vestments, incense, bells, etc.: by way of devoting them to God's service. We bless candles, Agnus Deis, salt, water, etc.: by way of begging of God that such as religiously use them may obtain his blessing. We bless our meat and other things which God has given us for our use, that we may use them with moderation, in a manner agreeable to God's institution, that they may be serviceable to us, and that the devil may have no power to abuse them to our prejudice.
Q. But is it not superstition to attribute any virtue to such inanimate things as blessed candles, Agnus Deis, holy water, etc.
A. It is no superstition to look for a good effect from the prayers of the Church of God; (See St. Epiph. Haer. 30. Theod. L. 5. Hiat. Eccles. C ax.) and it is in virtue of these prayers that we hope for benefit from these things, when used with faith ; and daily experience shows that our hopes are not vain.
Q. What warrant have you in Scripture for blessing inanimate things ?
A. From the first epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, C. iv. 4, 5; where he says, that every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected which is taken with thanksgiving : for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. ,
Q. What do you mean by Agnus Deis ?
A. Wax stamped with the image of the Lamb of God, blessed by the Pope with solemn prayers, and anointed with holy chrism.
Q. What do you mean by holy water ?
A. Salt and water sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Q. Can you show me from holy Writ, that water, salt and the like, may be lawfully used to obtain any favor from God ?
A. I can; for God himself ordered holy and purified waters to be made in the old law; Num. v. 17. et C. xix. 9. Again, we read in the second and fifth chapters of the fourth book of Kings, that the prophet Elisha miraculously healed the noisome waters of Jericho, by casting salt in the spring.
Q. Why is salt blessed and mingled with the water?
A. To signify unto us, that, as salt preserves meat from corruption, and gives it a relish, so does the grace which we receive in virtue of the prayers of the Church, when we use this water with faith, defend us from unclean spirits, and give us a taste for heavenly things.
Q. What is the use of holy water ?
A. The Church blesses it with solemn prayer, to beg God's protection and blessing upon those who use it; and particularly, that they may be defended from the power of darkness. Moreover, it may well serve to put us in mind of the covenant we made against the devil, when, by the water of baptism, we were mercifully cleansed from sin; and of renewing our promise, or of making an act of contrition.
Q. Are the prayers of the Church so prevailing with God, as to obtain us his assistance against the wiles and power of the enemy of our salvation, when we use holy water with faith?
A. Nothing prevails more upon God than prayer in general; and the Apostle St. James, v. 16, exhorting us to pray for one another, assures us, the assiduous prayer of a just man avails much. Now, if the prayers of particulars be so powerful, it is manifest that the constant prayers of the whole Church, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, are always graciously heard; and that God grants to all those who co-operate with his grace, the fruit of the perseverant prayer of the Church, to which Christ said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you. St. Jo. xvi. 23.
Q. Is the use of holy water ancient in the Church of God ?
A. Yes, it is; being mentioned in the apostolical constitution, and in the writings of the holy fathers and ancient church historians. See Constit. Apost. 1. 8. c. xxxv; St. Cypr. 1. 1. Epist. 12; St. Hier. ib; St. Basil, L. de Spir. Sancto, c. xxvii; St. Greg, the Great, 1. 9. Epist. 71; St. Epiph. Haer. xxx; Thod. 1. 5, etc.
Q. How ought we to use holy water, or what advantage ought we to draw from it ?
A. First, we ought to look upon it, and upon other sacred rites and ceremonies of the Catholic Church, with due reverence and esteem; to be persuaded that they are all instituted to help on the great affair of our salvation, either by putting us in mind of the unspeakable favors which we have already received from God, or by raising our affections to heaven, humbly begging the divine assistance, whereof we stand in need every moment of our lives; and ought never to imitate those mistaken people who rail against all things which they understand not; St. Jude x. Secondly, we ought to use holy water with attention and devotion, always endeavoring to make an act of contrition, or some other act of religion; saying, Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow ; Ps. 1. 8.