A recent study out of ABC News on Saturday suggests holy water is riddled with bacteria. However, the holy water report raises more questions than provides answers, which could cause unnecessary alarm with a popular Catholic ritual.
Good Morning America cited a recent study conducted at the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna. Researchers sampled holy water from 21 springs found in Austria and 19 fonts in Vienna and discovered over 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water.
The report began with a statement that “holy water could actually be more harmful than healing.” It then mentioned that holy water is used in the sacrament of baptism and to dampen the lips of worshipers. Finally, it went on to state that holy water is not safe to drink and ABC quoted one of the researchers, Dr. Alexander Kirschner, as stating people should be warned.
We need to warn people against drinking from these sources. This may represent a problem that has hitherto been underestimated, especially in hospitals, since there are a lot of people with weakened immune systems there.
Catholics living in the United States need only to peruse ABC’s report briefly to see that there is no cause for alarm. As the faithful enter and leave the church, parishioners lightly dip their finger into the font and then make the sign of the cross on the forehead, heart and shoulders; the holy water never touches the mouth. And this Catholic has never witnessed any, one individual drinking from the fonts.
When a baby is baptized and the holy water is poured on the infant’s head, the child’s neck is gently tilted back and the water falls away from the face and is then immediately patted with a cloth by the deacon or priest. The baby's mouth, eyes and nose are not touched.
Lastly, this study that found holy water contained harmful amounts of bacteria was region specific and only conducted in Austria and the churches of Vienna, not the United States.
As last year’s flu epidemic spread, many officials of the Catholic Church suggested not offering the sign of peace during Mass to avoid the spread of the illness. As with public handling of anything, this holy water scare should be taken for what it is worth; a reminder to diligently wash the hands and avoid touching the face. What was mentioned in the report and the study is not conducive to the practices of Catholics in America.
Deirdre Haggerty, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior written permission and consent from the author or Clarity Digital Group LLC, DBA Examiner.com.