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Daniel Lindberg wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Seeing that you bless holy water, what would happen if a priest went to the ocean and blessed it?
  1. Would the whole ocean become holy water or do you have a blessing range?
  2. Would the amount of water be a problem?

I am really confused about the whole situation.

Thank you in advance.


  { Seeing you bless holy water, what would happen if a priest blessed the ocean with holy water? }

John replied:

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your question.

There is no limit to the volume of water that can be blessed at once. It is only limited by the intent of the priest but remember, holy water blesses whatever it comes in contact with.

So long as there is some holy water left in the bottle, the entire volume of water being blessed will be holy water. It's a sacramental and not a sacrament so this sort of thing is allowed and is actually routine. By blessing the ocean, you don't dilute the holy water or the blessing.

In contrast, this could never happen with the (Eucharist) the Precious Blood of Christ. You can't just add unconsecrated wine to the cup if it's running low.

In theory therefore, if a priest were to bless the water in the ocean, the whole ocean would be blessed. That said, there is also the question of authority. A priest can only licitly bless water or items under certain circumstances and in accordance with the will of the Church so the question still has a lot of grey area.

It's not a dumb question because there really is no such thing as dumb questions . . . most of the time. It's a legitimate question but it begs all kinds of other questions:

  • If one pours holy water down the drain, does all the water in the sewer become holy?
  • See what I mean?

We really need to talk about the meaning and purpose of holy water. It's a sacramental and therefore, by definition, it's a point of contact for our faith through which we access the blessing.

This is unlike a sacrament.

Holy water isn't an external sign of An Objective Reality . . . like the Eucharist.

The Eucharist remains the Real Presence of Jesus so long as the appearance of Bread and Wine remain. Once a Consecrated Host is devoured by mold, it's no longer Jesus . . . just as it is no longer Jesus once it's broken down in our digestive tract. If, Heaven forbid, the Eucharist were to fall in the mud, or worse, it's still Jesus.

With holy water, there is no objective reality. If I use holy water to bless myself with the intention of blessing myself, I receive a blessing. If I accidentally spill holy water into the mop bucket full of water, I'm not blessing the floor, unless it was my intention to do so.


An Anonymous Friend replied to Daniel:

Dear Daniel,

This certainly is a popular question. A search on the internet turns up numerous questions and answers sites in which people have asked about the same thing. Maybe it would be useful to first talk about what a blessing is. In Roman Catholic thought, there are two types of blessings.

  1. Sometimes a priest blesses an object with the intention of dedicating it for sacred use. Here is an explanation by Fr. William Saunders, on the EWTN website:

    A constitutive blessing, invoked by a bishop, priest or deacon, signifies the permanent sanctification and dedication of a person or thing for some sacred purpose. Here the person or object takes on a sacred character and would not be returned to non-sacred or profane use. For example, when religious Sisters or Brothers profess final vows, they are blessed, indicating a permanent change in their lives. Or, when a chalice is blessed, it becomes a sacred vessel dedicated solely to sacred usage.

    When a priest blesses some water for sacred use, then the blessing has this meaning. There is a specific procedure for blessing holy water: literally, exorcised water, to be used in Baptism.

  2. In other blessings, there is a prayer for God's assistance, but without any intention to give the blessed object or blessed person a new status. This happens when a parent blesses a child; or when we bless our food; or when a priest blesses a house or some other place.

    If a priest blesses a body of water, such a river, lake, or ocean, it is this type of blessing. He is praying that God will show favor to all the people who use that body of water for travel, for work, etc.; but the water does not become sacred. There is no distance limit on such a prayer.

I hope this helps to clarify things.

With best wishes,

An Anonymous Friend

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