Saturday, October 01, 2011

Mama's got a (holy water) squeezebox

J and I have been busy removing every personal item and piece of furniture from our second floor, which is about to undergo a major renovation. We're talking moving walls, cutting new doors, new wiring and outlets, new sheetrock, new ceilings, new flooring, and--most importantly--a new bathroom. (Do you hear that? It's the sound of an angelic choir celebrating with me. They're singing Kool and the Gang: "Celebrate good times, come on!")

The absolute bane of my existence shall be gutted! And replaced with something that actually makes sense. After things are finished, I'll post a before and after photo. You will be horrified by the before. I guarantee it. When we had them visit to take measurements for the estimate, even our contractors were horrified, laughing and scratching their heads. "Now this is special," one of them said. The other was speechless. I got the impression that were he alone, he'd curl into a ball and start rocking in the corner.

As we pack and displace our belongings (everything must go!), it's been fun discovering personal artifacts we'd long-since forgotten about. A diary I kept when I was nine, accompanied by a creepy lock of hair...misshapen ceramic art projects J made in high school. And! A handful of rosaries and a small squeeze bottle of holy water.

I must have received it during some religious exercise in my youth (a better person would call them 'sacraments'). I can't remember if it was my confirmation, or my first communion, or simply because the nuns were worried for our souls and handed them out like candy one day after catechism class.

There is a sticker affixed to the back of the bottle which reads: "Holy water is a sacramental. Any deliberate misuse or disrespect of it is a serious sin of sacrilege."

Now, calling me a "lapsed" Catholic would be putting it mildly. I'm so lapsed that on the occasions I DO return to church, I worry about my skin smoldering. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but I no longer am a member of any sort of organized religion for my own very private, personal reasons. I know what I believe and what I no longer believe, but most of all, I know that there is so much I do not know. YET--

Certain habits and long-ingrained beliefs tend to linger. Take the bottle of holy water. "What should I do with it?" I asked J.

"Water your plants with it."

I figured I'd go straight to hell if I did, so I tried giving it to my mom, who still goes to church. "Can you pour this back in the holy water fount?" I asked. She laughed and politely declined.

"Water your plants with it!" my Dad suggested.

"I can't do that!" And then I paused. Am I REALLY this superstitious??!! What would happen if I dumped it in a potted fern...would I be struck by lightning? Be attacked by a plague of locusts? Be forced to eat pork and wear a shirt of mixed fibers?

In the end, the holy water came back home with me. On the way, J said, "Maybe having this in the house is why it's not haunted." Granted, our house was built in 1885, but my husband is NOT the superstitious type.

Clearly, some of his childhood religious education and superstitions also lingered. It's a tenacious thing. Or maybe we'd just seen The Exorcist too many times.

Either way, the holy water remains in my living room, tucked near some photo albums on a shelf. Just in case.


  1. You need to grow an avocado plant from the seed. Then water it with the holy water. I think that would be perfectly acceptable, because DUH, it's an avocado plant, and they rock.

  2. Keep it. You're doing the right thing. Or bathe in it. It'll save you from the depths of hell, no matter what you believe.

  3. If you think that YOU'RE a lapsed Catholic, then you should know that I've fallen off the cliff, hit _every single_ outcrop of sinfulness on the way down, only to land in the firey pits of Dante's Inferno...but I digress...

    If you're feeling super-superstitious about the water (which it seems you are), I vote for keeping it until your next monarch butterfly rearing. If you give those fluttery babies some holy water during their transition from caterpillar to butterfly, then you are totally using it for goodwill and all the valued Catholic tenets--life, life and more life.

  4. or you could water your plants with it : )