Sunday, December 09, 2007

Are Holy Water Sprinkling Superstitions a Thing of the Past?

The answer, I was saddened to learn, is no. In this recent post, a Catholic describes his own abject fear of the devil and his appeal to:
- repetitious prayers (to Mary);
- use of an idol (purporting to be of Our Lord during his crucifixion); and
- the sprinkling/daubing of "Holy Water" in the sign of a cross.

One positive thing: the person realized that the devil needs to be opposed.

The negatives? If we trust in God alone, we have no need to be afraid of the devil and his angels. How do we avert his attacks? By reference not to holy water, idolatry, and repetitious prayers to creatures, but by the Word of God and prayer to Him!

Please keep the author of this post in your prayers, that he may be set free from the bondage of papist superstition by the light of the gospel!

Here's the key paragraphs in the author's own words:
So, I get the holy water, I’m still saying Hail Mary’s, and I’m putting just little bits on my finger and I’m making the sign of the Cross on every entry point that the devil could try to make in my life, into my room, into my space. So, I put the holy water on the top of the door panel and along the side, and a huge cross on my window. I know, maybe it sounds silly, but I really felt like it was necessary to do the Cross on my monitor, on my computer, on my television, above my bead. I sprinkled it across my bead and on the headboard of my bed, just everywhere because I know that holy water, holy things, the devil cannot stand holy things. So I was just trying to protect myself as much as I could with the holy water.

Then I just layed [sic] in bed. I was still fearful, I’m not gonna lie. Even after everything that I did, I was still afraid. So, I just kept it up: caressing the crucifix, saying the Hail Mary prayer over and over again. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Over and over again, the most repetitions I’ve ever made of the Hail Mary prayer. Eventually I fell asleep.

May God give us courage to spread the light of the gospel to those in darkness,



Anonymous said...

Hi Mr.Turretin, I'm always amazed how some Protestants will take things out of context to show Catholics to be weird, superstitious, buffoons who don't embrace the gospel. Why not quote this?, "There’s no more powerful weapon against the devil. “In the name of Jesus Christ.” Every knee bows at that name. Even in Scripture, when people, possessed by demons, when Jesus would come to them, even though they are from the devil they still acknowledge his lordship over them. I knew that this was the perfect prayer to send to her. “In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus.” Please sir I know you may mean well, but please, we do not rub a crucifix because we think that it's our Lord, but it serves to remind us of our crucified and risen Lord. This is no more idolatry than a Protestant who lovingly embraces his Bible. Is the Protestant worshiping the Bible? Of course not, we all recognize it's out of reverence to God's Holy word. Having to explain this is painful. Please if your going to knock Catholics do it in a truthful and respectful manner. No need to belittle and ridicule. God Bless.
In Cristo, Chad G.

GeneMBridges said...


As my 16 and 17th century forefathers often pointed out, the devil likes to make a show of it in exorcisms. If you really believed what you just wrote, you wouldn't be supporting what amounts to superstitious practices that one can just as easily find in another form in African and Asian paganism. Please - placing holy water in the sign of the cross on the door panel, etc? The Bible actually speaks of the people prostituting themselves before the ephod and treating the brass serpent the way you suggest. By the way, Chad, did you know you can find "holy water" for sale in the Jesus Junk aisles of your local Christian bookstore these days? Why not just hire a local mundunugu?

I'd also point out to TF that these practices are, in point of fact, practiced by many a Pentecostal. They are by no means limited to Roman Catholics. I've known some to take "holy water" and actually pour out vials outside their homes, anoint the pillows of their children and all sorts of profane practices.

If a Christians encounters the diabolical, he need only command it to leave him. There is no need for such a show. Indeed that is the biblical example, given by Christ and His Apostles.

Turretinfan said...

Chad G.,

Thanks for your comments.

A) As to taking things out of context.
I quoted two large paragraphs, and I provided a link to the source. If I provided much more context, I'd risk some kind of copyright issue.
B) Many Catholics are superstitious. Surely there is variety within the billion or so people that consider themselves "Catholic" or are considered "Catholic" by the Vatican. Nevertheless, I did not pick this particular story because it is so far from the ordinary. I don't think "phatcatholic" is an especially superstitious papist. Perhaps I'm wrong. Do you think the sort of Catholic he is, is far from the norm?
C) The reason for not mentioning the prayer (or the other parts of the story) was simply that it doesn't have much to do with the theme of the post. The issues involved with that approach are not central. I could have addressed that portion as well - but it was really off the topic.
D) "Please sir I know you may mean well, but please, we do not rub a crucifix because we think that it's our Lord, but it serves to remind us of our crucified and risen Lord."
Not even the most silly pagans in foreign lands think their pieces of woods are the gods they represent. In fact, they could make the same defense you do. Do you think anyone at Ephesus thought that the statue that supposedly fell down from the sky was actually the goddess Diana? Surely not. They just worshiped it as a way of worshiping her. Same as you with your crucifixes and statues, and the both you and the Orthodox with their icons.
Don't you see how similar it is?
But that is not how God is to be worshiped. He is not worshiped with the works of man's hands. He is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth.
Keep yourself from idols.
E) "This is no more idolatry than a Protestant who lovingly embraces his Bible."
Of course, it is possible for "idolatry" to have a range of meanings.
Still, calling it idolatry when there is an idol (a representational likeness) there is more proper than otherwise.
Within the semantic range, yes, people can make idols of all sorts of things, even their leatherbound Bibles.
Nevertheless, having something that is supposed to look like your god is more or less exactly the sort of idolatry that the pagans (those that are idolaters, unlike the Jews or Muslims) practice.
G) "Please if your going to knock Catholics do it in a truthful and respectful manner."
Well, it doesn't get much more truthful than quoting word-for-word what the person says.
And when someone is doing something wrong, glossing over it is not necessarily "respectful."
The ten commandments are clear. No likenesses of any kind.

Turretinfan said...

To Gene's comment, I'd add:

With prayer by the exorcist (the person commanding the diabolical to leave) to God. There is no need to try to coerce a possessed person into reciting words they do not believe.

Otherwise, the demon may simply respond: "Jesus I know, but who are you?"


Carrie said...

Isn't phatcatholic the originator of, a Catholic student, and I thought he was associated with a Catholic apologetic organization (who name escapes me)? Anyway, this I believe is an influential online Catholic amongst at least the younger Catholics - it's sad.

phatcatholic said...

Thank you all for your interest in my post. If anyone would like to debate a particular point related to what I have written, just let me know.

Also, just to clarify, I am not the founder of, but I am the "Apologetics Director" and one of the "scholars" allowed to answer questions in the Q&A board. Also, yes, I am a student. In May I will graduate with an M.A. in Theology and a Certification in Catechetics from Franciscan University of Steubenville. As for the "apologetics organization" I am supposedly associated with, I'm not sure what you are referring to.

I've checked the box to receive follow-up comments, so if anyone wants to take me up on my offer to debate, just leave a comment here. I'm busy with finals right now, but I expect to have more free time after the 14th.

Pax Christi,

Turretinfan said...


Thanks for the clarifications.

As to debate opportunities, consider whether you would be willing to defend (take the affirmative side) on the resolution:

RESOLVED: That the application of Holy Water is an effective means for stopping demonic forces.

I would gladly demonstrate that such a resolution is untenable.


phatcatholic said...

Shall this be a formal debate, or an informal one? If formal, what shall the rules be?

Turretinfan said...

Formal ...

I'm flexible on the precise rules, but if the format:

Affirmative Constructive (1000 words)
Negative C-X (3 questions of 100 words with Aff given 500 words to answer each question)
Negative Constrsuctive (1000 words)
Affirmative C-X (3 questions of 100 words with Neg given 500 words to answer each question)
Negative Rebuttal (500 words)
Affirmative Rebuttal (500 words)
Negative Conclusion (1000 words)
Affirmative Conclusion (1000 words)

No linking in arguments from elsewhere to avoid the word limit.

No comments from the audience until the conclusions are posted.

I'd be happy to host the debate on my debate blog, but we can pick some other forum if you'd prefer.


Carrie said...

As for the "apologetics organization" I am supposedly associated with, I'm not sure what you are referring to.

Either am I, which is why I can't remember the name.

My point was simply you are an educated Catholic, not just some layperson who has taken superstitions too far. Thanks for the clarifications.

phatcatholic said...


I will take you up on your debate proposal. I just need to iron out a few things first.

For one, regarding the Q&A period, is each question 100 words and each answer 500 words, or do the 3 questions add up to 100 (and the 3 answers add up to 500)?

Secondly, what are the rebuttals in response to? The constructives and the Q&A, or just the Q%A?

Thirdly, I propose that Scriptural citations (like, for example: "Mt 16:18") or quotations of verses (like, for example: "He who hears you hears me") DO NOT be counted against the word limit. I don't think that my quotation of your words (in order to respond to them) should count against the word limit either.

Fourthly, are we going to set a time-table for when our various portions of the debate are due?

Finally, what is the url for your debate blog? How shall I submit my responses to you? I would like to post the proceedings of our exchange on my blog as well.

I think that's all the questions/concerns that I had. Thanks for bearing with me while we try to get this up and running. I've been in a ton of informal debates, but not very many formal ones.

Pax Christi,

Turretinfan said...

Dear PC,

As to your first item, I had in mind that limit for each question (rather than for all questions).

As to your second item, the rebuttal is a chance to briefly argue counterpoints - they could be counter-points to Answers from the Q&A or to the constructive argument. Hopefully the questions themselves will not be mini-arguments, but if they were - the rebuttal could also be used to address those mini-arguments. It's really a chance to clarify and hit the important issues that you feel the other side has not addressed yet (or not addressed well yet).

As to your third item, it's fine by me to exclude quotations of Scripture. To avoid the canon argument, we'll include both the 66 books of the Protestant Bible and the additional books accepted by Trent.

As to your fourth item, I'm hesitant to impose rigid time limits, because I know that the "real world" can often interfere. If you'd like to limit response time to something like one week or even a few days, that would be fine. I don't think I can promise to get the whole debate done in a day, or anything quite that aggressive - but if that would be necessary to make this debate happen, let me know.

My debate blog's URL is:

You could feel free to republish our exchanges in your blog.

If you'd like, using one of Blogger's features, I could email you an invitation to be a "guest blogger," which would allow you to submit the posts yourself to that blog. Alternatively, you could submit your posts to me (either by email or the comboxes here or there), and I could post for you.


phatcatholic said...

tfan (I think I've settled on that as the shorthand for your username),

Thank you for the clarifications, for allowing me to post the debate on my blog, and for allowing me to use my canon of Scripture. You are THE FIRST Protestant to extend to me that courtesy.

Regarding a time limit for responses, I think a week would be fair, but I'm going to try to get my responses in sooner just so that this thing doesn't take up my entire Christmas break. I humbly encourage you to do the same, if you will do me that favor.

Also, I think giving me "guest blogger" would be best, b/c then I can format my post the way I like it (I'm really particular about that sort of thing).

That said, I have two final questions before we begin:

1. What happens if someone goes past the word limit or breaks any of the other rules?
2. I anticipate possibly having to request an extension on the word limit. I've found that taking the affirmative requires many more words than taking the negative. If this does ever happen to be the case, I'm willing to extend the word limit for you if you will extend it for me. That seems fair to me, but I want to know what you think.

You seem to be a very worthy opponent and I look forward to our debate.

Pax Christi,

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for your reply, and for your compliments, which I appreciate.
As to the consequences of exceeding the word limit (or breaking the other rules): I cannot really think of any suitable penalty. I guess it is just a matter of the comments we (and others) will make about the debate once it is over. A typical way of handling excessively long speeches in oral debate is for the judge to disregard the over-time portion of the speech. I suppose we could (in advance) ask our readers to disregard the excessively long portions of our writings. If you have a suggestion on this, I'm all ears.

As to a need to exceed the word limit. Your proposal sounds fair.

I'll send you an invite to be a guest blogger over at the debate blog, shortly.