A somewhat popular practice that came about in the Catholic Church after Vatican II is the removal of holy water from Churches during Lent. The pastors sometimes replace the holy water with sand, rocks or even cacti to promote a supposedly "desert experience". One of the parishes near where I live place a big rock on top of the empty holy water font during Lent. But this is a diabolical practice.
I admit that most pastors who continue this odd practice may not be removing the holy water out of a visceral desire to "do the devils bidding", but the action remains a diabolical one. How is this diabolical?
Firstly, it deprives the faithful of one of the most powerful spiritual weapons that the Church freely gives during one of the most "spiritually charged" (if you will) times of the year: Lent.
A booklet (Imprimatur: Albert G. Meyer Archbishop of Milwaukee, Jan. 13, 1958) titled, "Holy Water: A Means of Spiritual Wealth" explains in fascinating detail, the power of holy water:
"Holy water is a sacramental that remits venial sin. Because of the blessing attached to it, Holy Church strongly urges its use upon her children, especially when dangers threaten, such as fire, storms, sickness and other calamities. Every Catholic home always should have in it a supply of holy water.We do not take advantage of the benefits derived from holy water.
LET US CULTIVATE ITS USE: Untold spiritual wealth is concentrated in a tiny drop of blessed water. And we give it so little thought! Did we realize now, as we shall realize after death, the many benefits which may be derived from holy water, we would use it far more frequently, and with greater faith and reverence. Holy water has its great power and efficacy from the prayers of the Church, which its Divine Founder always accepts with complacency. The following are some of the Petitions that the Priest makes to God when he blesses water. 'O God,.....grant that this creature of Thine (water) may be endowed with divine grace to drive away devils and to cast out diseases, that whatever in the houses or possessions of the faithful may be sprinkled by this water, may be freed from every thing unclean, and delivered from what is hurtful....Let everything that threatens the safety or peace of the dwellers therein be banished by the sprinkling of this water; so that the health which they seek by calling upon Thy Holy Name may be guarded from all assault.'
PRAYERS EFFECTIVE: These prayers ascend to Heaven each time you take holy water and sprinkle a drop either for yourself or for another whether he be present or absent; and God's blessings descend for soul and body.
DISPEL THE DEVIL: The devil hates holy water because of its power over him. He can not long abide in a place or near a person that is often sprinkled with this blessed water.
DO YOUR DEAR ONES LIVE AT A DISTANCE?: Holy water, sprinkled with faith and piety, can move the Sacred Heart to bless your loved ones and protect them from all harm of soul and body. When worry and fear take possession of your heart, hasten to your holy water font, and give your dear ones the benefit of the Church's prayers.
THE HOLY SOULS LONG FOR IT: Only in Purgatory can one understand how ardently a poor soul longs for holy water. If we desire to make a host of intercessors for ourselves, let us try to realize now some of their yearnings, and never forget them at the holy water font. The holy souls nearest to Heaven may need the sprinkling of only one drop to relieve their pining souls.
REMITS VENIAL SINS: Because holy water is one of the Church's sacramentals, it remits venial sin. Keep your soul beautifully pure in God's sight by making the Sign of the Cross carefully while saying, 'By this holy water and by Thy Precious Blood wash away all my sins, O Lord.'" (1)
Doctor of the Church Saint Teresa of Avila writes, "From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the cross, but return; so holy water must have great value." (4)
Secondly, the Church has never, ever approved such a practice, in fact it does not permit it!
EWTN published a response from the Congregation for Divine Worship concerning this very issue, "This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons: "1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being 'praeter legem' is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts. "2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the sacraments is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The 'fast' and 'abstinence' which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. "The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturday)." (3/14/03) (2) Catholic Answers goes even further, stating, "Lent is a time when we need the spiritual benefits of holy water. Holy water is a protection from evil, a reminder of our baptism and of our commitment to live a Christ-centered life. Empty holy water fonts during Lent only deprive the faithful of spiritual benefits that are theirs by right." (3)
Should we allow ourselves to accept these practices that are not permitted by the Church Herself, and that remove a powerful spiritual weapon that is freely given to the laity by the Church!?
If your parish removes the holy water from its font this Lent, please ask your pastor privately, and charitably, to bring it back as soon as possible, while giving him the sufficient evidence to prove your point. If he disagrees, pray for him and perhaps ask your Bishop about the issue. Above all, keep some holy water on your person to make up for the unnecessary loss and pray for a continual renewal of Holy Mother Church and for the sanctity and obedience of Her clergy.
(4) St. Teresa of Avila, "The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus", Chapter 31.