HOW ST. TERESA VALUED HOLY WATER.
If you wish to inquire the value of some precious jewel or gold ornament, you do not ask the next best man in the street, a hawker or the baker‟s boy. You take it to an expert, a jeweller or a goldsmith. Similarly you do not go to ignorant or indifferent Catholics, to the scoffer or the recreant, to inquire the value of the things of religion. In this case, also, you have to go to experts. Where are these to be found? They are God‟s saints. These have a true, expert knowledge and large experience of things appertaining to religion. They possess supernatural knowledge, minds rendered keen by faith and a delicate sense of the things of God. These can give us a true idea of the value of holy water, and many have given testimony to its efficacy.
St. Teresa, one of the greatest women saints of all times, one in whom were combined perfection in virtue and an extraordinary keenness of intellect and wisdom.
One of St. Teresa‟s companions in religion, the reverend Sister Anna of Jesus, relates the following: “Our holy mother (Teresa) never permitted us to travel without holy water. Seeing on several occasions that we had forgotten to take some with us, she had two little gourd bottles fastened to our girdles. It almost always happened that we had to bring one or other to be replenished from hers, while she would remark: „ You do not know how refreshing it feels to be sprinkled with holy water. What an advantage to be able to apply to ourselves so easily the Sacred Blood of Jesus Christ!‟ Each time that we prayed during the journey we had to take holy water.” (Letters of St. Teresa).
Regarding the power of holy water over Satan, St. Teresa relates the following from her own experience: “ One time while I was in the oratory, the devil appeared in a horrible shape on my left. While he was speaking to me I noticed his horrible mouth. A large flame of fire, very bright and without shadow, surrounded his body. In a terrible voice he told me I had escaped from his hands, but he would obtain possession of me again. I was terribly afraid, and I made the sign of the cross as well as I could. Then he disappeared, but came back twice. I did not know what to do until at last it occurred to me to sprinkle holy water towards the spot where he stood. He disappeared and did not return.”
On another occasion, during an illness, she was again tormented by the devil, this time in the form of a negro. She relates: “The worst was the restlessness of mind I felt which was so intense that I could not recover peace in any way. I did not wish the sisters to notice what was happening lest they should be frightened, and so I did not venture to ask for holy water. I have often experienced that nothing was so effective as holy water for driving away evil spirits finally. They flee before the cross, but return again. Therefore the power of holy water must indeed be great. I have myself felt an extraordinary consolation when I have used it. It is certain that I have felt a great joy and inner peace which I cannot describe, a joy with which my soul was quite refreshed. This is not merely an effect of the imagination, nor a rare occurrence. I have experienced it frequently and paid special attention to it. On these occasions I feel like one who, suffering intense thirst, takes a glass of water and is quite refreshed. From this we can see how important everything instituted by the Church is; it comforts me to see the great power which her blessing imparts to water, so great is the difference between blessed and unblessed water. As the evil spirit continued to torment me, I told the sisters at length that I should like some holy water, only they must not laugh at me. They brought it and sprinkled me with it, but in vain. Then I sprinkled it in the direction of the hideous black figure and he disappeared immediately.
The saint wrote to her brother who was tormented by great fear that she attributed his suffering to the evil spirit, and she advised him as follows: Always have holy water near you; for there is nothing the devil fears more than this. I have found this remedy of great service to me in many cases when I was tortured, not only by fear, but in other ways. I am telling this to you alone. But unless the holy water reaches him he will not flee; therefore you must sprinkle it around.”
Her brother, asking her to enlighten him further, she wrote back: “I have no other foundation for what I have said regarding the power of holy water except my own experience. I have discussed the matter with learned men and met with no disagreement. For us it is enough that, as they said, the Church sanctions the use of holy water.”
This is the opinion of a true expert concerning the value of holy water and its power. This testimony of the great enlightened saint has its true foundation in the example of the holy Church. St. Teresa merely states what the Catholic Church teaches in her prayers and practice. The Church was St. Teresa‟s guide; it should also be ours. We should regard with her eyes all ecclesiastical means of grace, and hence also the sacramentals, which include holy water; we should treasure them with her judgment and love them as she loved them. How happy is the Catholic who always feels that he is a child of the Church, always looking on her as his mother, always in harmony with her views! He will always be preserved from error, doubt and restlessness, and will share abundantly in the graces imparted by the Church.
Let us be even such good and happy children of the Catholic Church. Let us prove this by frequent, devout use of holy water. Once again, let our watchword be: “ I will imitate my mother the Catholic Church.”