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Ask the Register: holy water in Lent?

Q. I have seen, in some churches, that holy water is not available in fonts, or used during Lent. Does the Church forbid the use of holy water during Lent?

A. In recent years, some Catholic churches have initiated the practice of emptying the holy fonts during Lent, to evoke a sense of the stark desert in which Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days. 

However, this practice is an innovation which is not instructed by the Church, and which should be avoided. The Church’s ordinary practice is to empty holy water fonts during the Sacred Triduum, in order to prepare for refilling them with water newly blessed at the Easter vigil. 

Holy Water is a sacramental, a blessed reminder of our baptism, and a spiritual protection against evil. During Lent, when we fast and sacrifice in order to grow in holiness, holy water is especially important for us, because the evil one works during Lent to stop us from growing in unity with the Lord. In fact, it would be a good practice for families to bless themselves with holy water during daily prayers in Lent, and to continue that practice throughout the year.


Q. Was the Clopas, whose wife was at the foot of Christ’s cross (John 19:25), the same as the Cleopas, one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:18), and was he an uncle of Jesus?

A. There is no definitive answer available for your questions. The names Clopas and Cleopas, are very close in spelling, so their identity could be the same. The biblical manuscripts do show some variance and this adds to the suspicious possibility that they are identical. 

Saint John calls Mary, the wife of Clopas, the “sister” of the Blessed Virgin.  It is unclear if the term “sister” is used generically to indicate some close relative or whether she is the blood sister of Mary and therefore also a daughter of Saints Ann and Joachim, the grandparents of our Lord.  Either of these alternatives is possible. 

In one case, of course, Mary and Clopas would be the aunt and uncle of Jesus. There are many authors who identify Clopas with Alphaeus, the father of James the Younger (the Less). In that case, James, who is often called the “brother of the Lord,” could have been His cousin. (See Mark 3:18; Matthew 10:3; Luke 6:15; Acts of the Apostles 1:13.) 
In New Testament times the terms “brother and sister” were widely used both for siblings but also for other close relatives.

Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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