Expert Answer Forum

Levels of Mortification QUESTION from Michelle March 8, 2000 Dear John-Paul:
I read your newsletter regarding the three levels of mortification.
The leaders of our parish have decided to replace our Holy Water in the entrance of our church with sand for Lent. This causes my heart a great deal of sorrow because I believe that Holy Water is a sacramental that is not just merely a symbolic reminder of our Baptism. It has a spiritual dimension which aids in the remission of venial sin enabling us to approach the Altar of our Lord at least somewhat cleansed. Without this cleansing, everyone who enters the church brings everything (all their sins) in with them. I cannot help but believe that we approach the Altar in a spiritually filthy state.
Have I lost my mind? Is my thinking way off base? Am I too attached to something which is of insignificant value? Am I too Catholic, making a mountain out of a mole hill?
The decision to deprive the faithful of Holy Water was imposed on us. Would this be a level four type of mortification given the sorrow and pain that it causes? Should a person merely suffer in silent obedience, offering up the pain, or should a person try and do something about this?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on March 17, 2000 Dear Mrs. Michelle:
No, this is level three mortification. You will receive great grace by mortifying yourself joyfully on the Holy Water issue. Lent is a time to remember our sin and unworthiness. It is a time of penance and sorrow. Some penitents would not bathe during this time as it was unworthy of them. The lack of bathing imaged the true soul.
Besides, having the empty Holy Water fonts is a tradition in the Church, though it is usually done only on Good Friday, as well as the statues being covered. Good Friday is a day of great sorrow, not of blessing.
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