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home : features : parish life

3/22/2018 9:00:00 AM
Castleton symbol of Lent: sand in holy water fonts
In another unusual Lenten practice, Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet has been giving out its annual Lenten coins, a token to be carried by parishioners to remind them of Lent. (Read a previous story at www.evangelist.org.) This year's coins are embossed with John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life." The coins were purchased by the faith formation program. IHM also has a Lenten prayer banner on which parishioners can post the name of a person or intention they're praying for this Lent.

Sacred Heart parish in Castleton is trying an unusual method to help Catholics prepare for Easter Sunday: filling the church's holy water fonts with sand.

"Christ spent 40 days in the desert tempted by the devil, and we spend 40 days [during Lent] on our own desert journey," said Rev. Thomas Krupa, pastor. "The sand reminds us of the desert."

The idea for placing sand in the fonts was borrowed from other local priests, Father Krupa explained. Around five years ago, at a Lenten reflection he was attending, priests from the Albany Diocese spoke about how they were trying the practice.

"I thought, 'Wow, that's a great idea," Father Krupa recalled. "But then I forgot about it."

Then, this winter, one of the worst flu seasons in years took the country by storm, with parishes across the Diocese taking precautions to avoid spreading germs. Father Krupa said he removed the holy water from all the parish fonts as part of that effort, since parishioners dip a finger in the font as they arrive at church and leave after Mass, blessing themselves with the water.

When the pastor saw the empty fonts, he remembered the sand.

At the beginning of Lent, Katherine Monty, pastoral associate for administration and pastoral associate for faith formation, went to the local Dollar Tree store and purchased five packages of white sand to fill the fonts.

At first, some parishioners were perplexed by the sand. Father Krupa said children would come up to him after Mass, asking why the fonts had become a sandbox.

One first-grader asked Father Krupa to put some water into the sand. The pastor explained that "then we would have mud, not sand."

A notice was placed in the parish bulletin explaining the purpose of the sand, and was also mentioned in the parish's weekly email blast, which reaches a majority of Sacred Heart parishioners.

"Once people understood, they thought it was a good idea," said Father Krupa. "A couple people said we should do it again."

The pastor himself has forgotten about the sand a few times before the entrance procession into Mass, and attempted to bless himself with the water that isn't there.

"I'll put my hand in the font, and it's sand," he recalled with a laugh.

On Easter weekend, the fonts will be emptied of the sand and filled with newly-blessed holy water. Though the sand is a small gesture, Father Krupa said that anything reminding people of their Lenten journey is important.

"We have the Stations of the Cross and the church decorated for Lent to encourage people to participate in Lent, and the sand is just another way," he explained. "Any way a parish can keep people in the Lenten spirit is good."

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, April 2, 2018
Article comment by: Katherine Logan

I am very grateful to our priests and for the care they give us. But I wish they would stop trying to make things 'new', 'more meaningful', 'innovative' (and this goes for liturgy as well). We have boundaries, limits, and traditions, big and small-t, for good reason. They work. They have meaning. They unite us. Too often our priests, and our fellow parishioners who push them or make demands for change, are so focused on pleasing 'the people' that they seem to make the people into gods. "Our" (note the proprietary feel) God is an image of us and what we want. Just listen to the howls of outrage if people get asked to do a practice or say a prayer that is mandated, traditional, etc. No, 'we don't want to do it THAT way'. But for those who object to sand or rocks in the holy water fonts, ad libbed Eucharistic prayers, and other 'let's make it meaningful and exciting and personal instead of being 'like everybody else'. . .well heck, we're supposed to shut up and not be rigid or 'mean' by 'demanding' to have it done that old boring way.

There are plenty of opportunities for Catholics to do different things in their Catholic life. There are three different penitential rites in the Liturgy for example one can say the Nicene or the Apostles Creed.

There are plenty of opportunities to have a 'fresh' take on Lent without going against what the Church very reasonably teaches and requests as well. To remind us of the desert, why not have special collections for the persecuted Christians in the mideast (deserts)? but why take away a sacramental like holy water when water is what we NEED in the desert?

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2018
Article comment by: Brian Kennedy

Isaiah – I share your sentiment. How long must the good parishioners of the Diocese of Albany endure these innovations? To add insult to injury, The Evangelist - The Official Publication of the Diocese of Albany – publishes this nonsense as if it’s a practice worthy of admiration. Apart from removing Holy Water “to avoid spreading germs”, I too would be “perplexed” about the benefit of sand deepening my Lenten preparation and spirit. Fortunately, it appears the Congregation for Divine Worship has already provided an answer – “This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted” - (3/14/03: Prot. N. 569/00/L). Why? Because this innovation “…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...” and “The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church.” In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “I often experience that there is nothing the devils flee from more— without returning— than holy water.”

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2018
Article comment by: Isaiah Bennett

How is it wise to deprive parishioners of a most powerful sacramental and reminder of the covenant made at Baptism?

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