Holy water dispensers to combat swine flu

No, this isn't about holy water as a miracle swine flu vaccine. Rather, some Catholic churches in Italy are replacing holy water basins with more sanitary electronic dispensers that spurt out a single serving of the magical fluid. From The Telegraph:
 Telegraph Multimedia Archive 01521 Holy-Water 1521431F It functions like an automatic soap dispenser in public lavatories - a churchgoer waves his or her hand under a sensor and the machine spurts out holy water.

"It has been a bit of a novelty. People initially were a bit shocked by this technological innovation but then they welcomed it with great enthusiasm and joy," said Father Pierangelo Motta...

"After all the news that some churches, like Milan's cathedral, were suspending the use of holy water fonts as a measure against swine flu, demands for my invention shot to the stars. I have received orders from all over the world," (inventor Luciano Marabese) said.

Holy water dispenser combats spread of swine flu


  1. About freakin’ time they updated the ceremonies to account for germ theory. I was raised Catholic and am pretty sure I got my first cold sore from a chalice of sacramental wine.

  2. wait –
    isn’t _Holy Water_ supposed to have some god properties to it?
    like being disease-free, or even disease-neutralizing? or healing, even?
    while this dispenser is probably a good idea from a health standpoint, it seems there’s some Faith that it denies.

    1. Erzatsen, holy water is just water that has been sanctified. It’s no more guaranteed to be disease-free than graveyard dirt is guaranteed to be worm-free. Its purported benefits are entirely spiritual, not physical (vampires notwithstanding).

  3. Catholics traditionally find the characterization of Holy Water as “magical fluid” offensive. The concept of Magic is anti-religion – it is an attempt to work around the power of God.

    The more you know…

      1. Yeah, REALLY. Not just an alternative to religion or disassociated from religion as some would believe, but seeking to displace religion. If you can make things happen on their own with a wave of a wand or nonsense incantation, you don’t need God. Unless, I suppose you are a Jew, in which case there is a history of Magic as part of the religion, but that discussion takes you away from the Holy Water issue at hand.

        So to speak.

        1. Ok, so “magic (that’s different from OUR magic)” is the definition you mean. Because if you can do it on your own, you don’t need to invoke “God’s will.” Jealous gods, and so forth. But then, holy water IS of the church, so it would be Christian magic. I don’t see how that would be different than all the miracles performed by saintly relics and all that. Do you deny the Catholic Church still believes in miracles, or just the idea of holy relics?

          1. Sorry, but I’m not a spokesman for the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The concept is that magic (“One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you’re going to wind up with an ear full of cider.”) is an endeavor by man to preform the supernatural without divine intervention. Magic is quite distinct from a holy, God filled and God dependent action.

  4. Anyone know if Holy Water can’t have something (like a small amount of bleach) added to it that would keep it sanitary for a few hours? That way you could still use the old and I’m sure more impressive basins.

  5. The point of this dispencer is to operate hands-free. That way, you won’t have to dip your hands into something that a fellow parishoner may have dipped their H1N1 contaminated hands into. Heron of Alexandria developed a coin operated one way back when.

  6. jere7my, not according to the blessing that is used to sanctify the water:

    “That this water may be unto the healing of souls and bodies, and unto the banishing of every hostile power, let us pray to the Lord.”

    1. didymos, don’t spread falsehoods. This is a Catholic Church, and the blessing you cite (from wikipedia) is from the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Catholic blessing (from your same source) is as follows:

      ‘RITE OF BLESSING Father, You give us grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of Your unseen power. In baptism we use Your gift of water, which You have made a rich symbol of the grace You give us in this sacrament. At the very dawn of creation, Your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. The waters of the great flood You made a sign of the waters of baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. Through the waters of the Red Sea, You led Israel out of slavery, to be an image of God’s holy people, set free from sin by baptism. In the waters of the Jordan, Your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit. Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from His side as He hung upon the cross. After His resurrection, He told His disciples: “Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Father, look now with love upon Your Church, and unseal for her the fountain of baptism. By the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font the grace of your Son. You created man in Your own likeness: cleanse him from sin in a new birth of innocence by water and the Spirit. We ask You, Father, with Your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of this font. May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with Him to newness of life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.’

      Notice there is nothing about the healing of body in there anywhere.

    2. Didymos, that’s from the Eastern Orthodox Lesser Blessing. For Catholics (which is what we’re talking about here), the priest is just certifying that there are no evil influences in the water.

      You’re correct, though, that there are people who ascribe physical healing properties to holy water, just as some ascribe healing properties to the (filthy) water of the Ganges. But that’s not doctrine, and therefore not the message the people installing this dispensers want to send. I doubt the bulk of Catholics expect their ills to be cured by simple holy water. That would, I think, signify some sort of intervention: “I touched the holy water in front of this statue of Saint Ambrose, and Saint Ambrose cured me,” not “…the holy water cured me.” Some believe the water from sacred springs (like the one at Lourdes) has healing properties, but that’s not the same thing as holy water.

      (N.B.: I’m not a Catholic; actual Catholics could probably give you a better answer.)

  7. Have you heard about the nutjob Harlan Kilstein’s “Finger Healing for Swine Flu”?

    “Sit comfortably with your back straight but not stiff.
    Place your palms together and clasp your fingers.
    Keep one thumb upright, and encircle it with the thumb and index finger of the other hand.
    Breathe long, deep, and slow.
    Hold this symbol for three minutes.
    Feel the sickness ebbing from your body and flowing out as your body grows stronger.
    You can also use this exercise, which is called “Throwing the Sickness Behind You.”
    Stand with your legs spread a bit, with your knees slightly bend, and your hands in front of your chest.
    As you inhale, throw your arms behind you, turn your head to the right, and look over your shoulder.
    As you exhale, bring your hands back to your chest and turn your head back to the front.
    Repeat this motion 10 times, and feel yourself literally leaving your sickness behind.” From his blog – http://harlankilstein.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/finger-healing-for-swine-flu/ but $97 will buy you the full power of the snake-oil from this wondrous site – http://www.fingerhealing.com/index2.html

  8. Great, so you have to stand there waving your hands under it, just like the soap dispenser in the men’s?

      1. Yes, Crunch – they are. The ads cycle. I saw her scary-eyed mug and though that I was seeing things.

  9. Stupid idea, holy water is used to fight vampires not swine flu. And this is triggered by infrared sensing. But vampires are room temperature. Furthermore it squirts a bit on the hands, which has some impact on vampires but is hardly lethal. Finally, the cross on the dispenser means the vampire isn’t going to come close enough to trigger it in the first place.

    EPIC Fail on the design folks!

    Obviously you have to couple an ultrasonic sensor w/ the infrared sensor to discriminate room temperature moving objects and douses them thoroughly w/ holy water.

    1. Stupid idea, holy water is used to fight vampires not swine flu.

      You forget that vampires spread swine flu.

  10. I thought Catholics were supposed to forgo technological protection against microscopic life forms and let God’s divine will decide whether they get pregnant or infected or whatever.

  11. Sure, SK, the ads cycle, but unless BB is advertising both Going Rouge AND Going Rogue, you didn’t see what you thought you saw. And despite the oft-mentioned “wall” between editorial and ad sales at BB, I very much doubt that they’ve sold ad space to Sarah P. or her publisher.

  12. I wasn’t a big fan of the design–it looks too much like a soap dispenser.

    See, now *this* is something that could use a little of the ol’ slap-some-fancy-looking-hardwood-and-brass-on-it school of design!

  13. Something about that dispenser reminds me of a urinal. (I’m just saying, yo — don’t take offense pope-huggers.)

  14. Is there any limit to how much water a priest can consecrate at once? It would be cool if they could render the world’s oceans into holy water.

  15. Anyone else automatically think he picked up this idea from the Purell dispenser they use at adult bookstores?

    Um, I mean, I’ve _heard_ that they have them there… ;)

  16. Ordinary ultrasonic detectors aren’t very useful for vampire-targeting system. Unless you can get them above bat frequencies, they’ll hear them.

    The discussion does bring up the question of whether Eastern Orthodox or Catholic water is more effective. The Catholic version has ‘grace of the Son’ in it, but I don’t know whether that’s the caustic ingredient that makes it so burnelicious on vampire skin. The Eastern version is advertised as specifically good for banishing hostile powers.

    But anyway, the most important protection is to never invite them into your home, just like cops.

  17. This is but the first step. It’s only a matter of time before the clergy are completely replaced by robots.

    (“But how do you know it hasn’t happened already?”)

  18. Ok, but do you understand that “divine intervention/miracle/whatever” is just what a Christian calls what in other contexts (Wicca or something?) would be called magic? That’s just how it “works” in Christianity, by invoking the will and aid of some other supernatural being, rather than just doing it yourself.

  19. The way it’s shaped looks kind of like a face. The cross resembling a hat, the gold sticker being one eye, and the sensor light looking like an eye with a tear drop.
    Wave at it and it spits at you. Amazing.

  20. I thought Catholics were supposed to forgo technological protection against microscopic life forms and let God’s divine will decide whether they get pregnant or infected or whatever.

    No, it is your new age homeopathy friends that reject modern medicine. Catholics are quite fine with modern medicine, and in fact there are many Catholic hospitals all over the world that provide cutting edge medical treatment.

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