Pray Tell Poll: Holy Water during Lent?

Is it appropriate to remove holy water from the fonts during Lent?

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23 comments

  1. Wording was kind of confusing. I thought I was voting “yes”, holy water should be kept in church during Lent. Instead it came out as a yes to removing holy water during Lent. Oops!

  2. I confess, I struggle to understand why this is even a question, let alone why anyone would answer “yes”. As Lent is a particular time of both personal and communal penance (cf. SC 110), we absolutely need all the help we can get from the Sacraments and sacramentals.

    In any case, as Karl Liam Saur points out above, the Church has answered this question already.

    So, for my “no” vote, please read “never“.

    1. I will say that I have seen it done and was baffled by it when I saw it and I am old enough to have lived knowingly in the pre-Vatican II days. I suspect (without really knowing, I confess) that it is something that has been generated out of a false sense of ‘holiness’ by some of the newer clergy.

  3. I agree fully with the opinions against removing Holy Water during Lent. However, the following statement, which I think is from Karl Liam Saur, surely goes too far: “In reality, no one may do in [the] liturgy that which is not prescribed by the Church, specifically the Apostolic See, who alone has authority over it” (SC 22, canon 838). This is a misleadingly partial quotation of can. 838, which ought to include the rest of the sentence “… and, according to the norm of law, the diocesan bishop.”
    At any rate, it is not true that everything is *prescribed* in the liturgy: there are also matters which are permitted. And there are local and cultural customs not envisaged in the liturgical books which the wise pastor would not try to prohibit. To give merely one example, there is no provision in the Rite of Marriage for the bride to be escorted into the church by her father: the bride and groom are to be met at the church door (or where it is more appropraite at the altar) by the celebrant (OCM 45-47). But in my country and many others, a contrary custom is entrenched, and sensitive pastoral adaptation is called for when facing the popularly cherished custom of the father “giving away the bride”, however anachronistic it may be, as is almost universally done.

    1. In fairness, “giving away the bride” doesn’t really detract anything from the Rite of Marriage. It brings its own symbolism, but that’s about it as far as the Rite is concerned. Furthermore, it doesn’t involve the wholesale removal of a sacramental from a church, which is exactly what removing Holy Water during Lent does. Lent encourages us to make more use of the Church’s sacraments and sacramentals, not less, which is why this practice is so puzzling to me. IMHO it seems to stem from a poor understanding of both Lent and Holy Water, though I could be wrong.

    2. That statement is not from me personally. It’s merely included in as a preface from EWTN’s liturgical commenter to that curial letter from 2000 that I linked. Just to clarify. I was trying to find an English-language source that had a minimum of commentary around it.

      1. Just insert “A Pray Tell liturgical commentator…enough said” for good measure to see the salience of it, as it doesn’t change the content of the curial letter that follows, however….

  4. I have a vague memory that our Cathedral had a sprinkling rite during Lent when I attended not too many years ago. I could be mistaken at this point, or maybe it was a one-time event. And I wouldn’t do it myself.
    But it did make ponder more the idea that “Lent is about baptism” and the sprinkling rite drove it home. And thus definitely water in the fonts during Lent.
    We empty our font after Morning Prayer on Holy Thursday, so it’s empty before the Triduum begins.

    1. I’m not sure why you’d not want to do a SR in Lent, though in reality it’s rarely observed… I see a benefit from doing it at least once per Lent.

  5. We empty the holy water stoups at the doors of our parish church as part of the stripping of the altars after the evening Mass on Maundy Thursday. They are re-filled on Holy Saturday evening after the Paschal Vigil.

  6. I was in a parish once where there was an ongoing battle between the director of liturgy and the sacristan over this. The DoL would go around emptying the holy water stoups by the door and the sacristan would go round filling them. The sacristan had the right of it. Why on earth should we tell people to fast from blessing themselves?

  7. Sorry – there are also other ways to do this. Experienced this years ago as part of a comprehensive Lenten/Easter liturgy plan in one church. BTW – the baptismal font was front and center in the middle aisle of the Church.
    Thus, holy water fonts were replaced by ashes but it was explained and folks were educated – meanwhile, anyone entering the church passed by the baptismal font which continued to have holy water.
    In fact, this simple liturgical step (explained and lived) was a dramatic way to get folks into the Lenten season, continuous reminder, and Easter/Vigil started with fonts with holy water.

    There really are various sides to this step.

  8. I agree with Chuck.

    If Lent is meant, as I believe, to be not only a preparation for the baptism of the Elect but an occasion for us to reflect on our own baptism, then removing water from holy water stoups on the basis that “Lent is a ‘dry’ season” or “We ‘fast’ from water until the Easter Vigil” has no foundation in reality.

  9. Some churches still have little vessels of holy water at various entrances. Ours does not. To enter the parish I serve you have to pass through the baptistry and its large font. We remove the baptismal water from that font during Lent because we do not ordinarily schedule baptisms during Lent and we wish to make a statement about the important link with baptism to Easter. Holy water is available elsewhere. And on infrequent occasions we will celebrate a baptism during Lent. On the Sundays of Lent the large cross we venerate on Good Friday is placed in front of the baptismal font. People touch the cross on the way into church and bless themselves afterwards. It is a local custom which our people have strongly resonated with. We do not put sand in the baptismal font but we do “seal” it with purple cloths.

  10. Thank you, Fr. Jack – the exact same situation exists in our church and most churches in the Dallas diocese.

  11. General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar #27 “Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful, through REMINDERS OF THEIR OWN BAPTISM [emphasis added] and through penitential practices.”

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