Sunday 13 November 2016

Holy Water and its Significance for Catholics - Henry Theiler

Holy Water and its Significance for Catholics
Henry (Henrich) Theiler
John Francis Lang (Translator)
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781622823390

This book is a reprint of a book that was translated into English in 1909. I did not know that when I first picked it up. And to be honest I might have been less likely to pick it up if I had known that. But the book caught my attention and I am very thankful that I did make the choice to not only get the book but to read it. In part I picked up this book because my son started having problems going to sleep alone. A friend suggested we bless him before bed. The next day this book crossed my path and once I started reading I could barely put the book down.

The sections in the book are:
1. Water's Significance in Nature and Grace
2. Holy Water Is a Sacramental
3. Blessing the Water
4. The Effects of Holy Water
5. The Use of Holy Water by the Church
6. The Use of Holy Water by the Faithful
A. Questions and Answers
B. Eight Ways to Use Holy Water in Your Everyday Life
C. Prayers for Blessing Yourself with Holy Water

And is there ever a lot of information packed into the 50 pages of this book. From the first chapter of the book we are told: "Holy water has been used in the Church as it is now, through the centuries, back to the Apostles' days. It is spoken of in the Apostolic Constitutions. Pope Alexander, who died in the year 130, in his pontifical decree confirming this apostolic tradition says: "We bless salt and water for the people, that all who may be sprinkled therewith may be cleansed and sanctified."" and also "The martyr St. Justin, who died in the year 163, tells us that the faithful in his time were sprinkled in their assemblies with Holy Water every Sunday. So too we find Holy Water mentioned in St. Cyprian's writings in the third century, in the works of St. Basil in the fourth, in the writings of St. Jerome in the fifth, and by St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century." So many great saints of old wrote about the importance of this Sacramental.

But what is a sacramental, Theiler defines it for us as: "Holy water is one of the sacramentals, which are things made sacred by rites of the Church in the manner of Christ. In the Catholic Church we have sacrament and sacramentals. These latter differ from the sacraments. Christ our Lord gave us the sacraments. The Church, exercising the authority He gave her, instituted the sacramentals." He also states "They differ also in this: the sacraments of themselves, upon worthy reception, confer the particular grace that Christ attached to each of them; the sacramentals do not confer but obtain grace, as does, for instance, prayer.". Prior to reading this book I was unaware of how holy water was prepared. First salt is blessed and the blessed salt is added to water and with prayers the water is blessed. This book includes the prayers of blessing for the water and reading through them was very moving and stirring. It helped me realize why in university I carried a small bottle of Holy Water with me, and why I have tried to install a seriousness of the practice of blessing themselves in my three children.

Again Theiler speaking about the effects of Holy water says "For the effects of holy water we are indebted principally to our divine Savior. He merited for us the graces we obtain through its usage by His bitter Passion and death. Holy Church, however, who is the custodian of these precious and infinite treasures of grace merited by our Lord, has, in view of these merits, attached these effects to holy water. The power for doing this she has from Christ Himself; hence we owe the effects of holy water primarily to Christ, and secondarily to the will and the prayers of the Church." Of the effects of Holy water quoting Saint Teresa of Avila declares "I have myself felt an extraordinary consolation when I have used holy water. It is certain that I have felt a great joy and inner peace which I cannot describe, a joy with which my soul was quite refreshed. This is not merely an effect of the imagination, nor a rare occurrence. I have experienced it frequently and paid special attention to it. On these occasions I feel like one who, suffering intense thirst, takes a glass of water and is quite refreshed."

We are told by Theiler that "We have briefly shown the significance of holy water, which it possesses in the sanctifying order. The believing Christian knows well that it is not sufficient merely to take or use holy water to make secure of its effects, but that it is necessary to avoid sin, and the occasions of sin, to keep God's commands, to make use of the means of grace, and to lead a pious Christian life." And in the last few weeks I have seen these effects in my life and in all three of my children. One of the things we have started doing Is I bless my children before bed with Holy Water and have them bless me. Also when they are getting angry, frustrated or just feeling off they will often now go and grab the bottle of Holy water and bless themselves. This action slows them down, calms them and helps them make better choices.

Because of reading this book we now have bottles of Holy water on every level of our house and use if often. This book was a wonderful little read and I highly recommend it.

(Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

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