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Removing Holy Water During Lent

Due to several requests we have received since the Catholic Liturgical Library went down about the practice of removing holy water from fonts during Lent, I am reposting the official answer here. The Library should be back up tomorrow.

Can the holy water be removed from fonts during Lent?

No. Here is a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship responding to this question on 3/14/03:

Prot. N. 569/00/L

Dear Father:
This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:

  1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
  2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The “fast” and “abstinence” which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturda).
  3. Hoping that this resolves the question with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    Mons. Mario Marini


  1. Before yesterday I had never heard of removing holy water for Lent. I wonder how that rumor got started…

  2. Ethan, some churches do remove the water from the fonts, and some go so far as to replace it with sand. I am not sure what the parish meant it to symbolize, and someone snuffed out a cigarette in it one year. I do not recall seeing sand in the fonts at that particular parish the following year. I think it’s pretty silly to try to one-up the Church in the richness of her symbolism. It only shows a lack of knowledge of the REAL symbolism she offers.

  3. This habit of removing Holy Water during lent just pisses me off.
    There is NO CALL for that.

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