Holy Water, Vodka and their Cures

holy water

holy water

From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water
to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also
flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue. For
my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most
notable consolation. In fact, it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a
refreshment which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy
which comforts my whole soul.  St. Teresa of Avila, “The Power of Holy Water, Chapter 31, Autobiography”


Kay, 99 years old, is one of the most devout Catholics I know. We all know the type-rosaries every day (sometimes in the car) , Mass ever day (via television nowadays), frequent Signs of the Cross and the liberal sprinkling of holy water on herself, her children, relatives and friends. Until her eyesight went, she was an avid reader of every Catholic novel and magazine published in the English language.

Kay married Arthur Castle in 1939. After Art returned from World War II they bought a house in San Francisco. Art was a Presbyterian when he and Kay became engaged. He agreed to convert to Roman Catholicism—as part of the marriage deal. Kay insisted—no conversion, no marriage. Art went along but really never took to Catholicism—more a go-along and get-along approach for marital harmony’s sake. Both of their children, Cathy and Buddy were educated in the Church—grammar school at Epiphany with Buddy going to Sacred Heart High School and Cathy attending St. Paul’s.

The family prospered with Art eventually becoming foreman of the printing plant for the San Francisco Progress newspaper and that’s where this particular story begins.

In the mid-1970s Kay went on an apparitions tour of Europe—Fatima, Zaragoza and Lourdes. She returned from Lourdes with a large jug of Lourdes holy water. It was her prize possession. She placed it in her refrigerator along with another jug of holy water blessed by Father Francis O’Keefe. Buddy remembers as a small boy frequently taking the jug of water to the Epiphany rectory to get it blessed and lugging it back home. Alongside the bottle of holy water was another jug of ice water—for daily household use.


With Kay there developed a kind of holy water pecking order. In saloon terms—Father O’Keefe’s water was the well (the cheap stuff) and the Lourdes water that was the top shelf (the expensive stuff). Every night when Cathy and Buddy were asleep, Kay would quietly sprinkle O’Keefe’s holy water on them as she said a prayer for them. Kind of a nice reassuring touch by a devout mother that the kids took for granted. The Lourdes water was used for special occasions. When Cathy got a sore throat or Buddy a bruise she’d rub the afflicted spot with the Lourdes water. When her sister Jewel developed eye problems from her diabetes she rubbed her eyelids with the Lourdes water. As far as Kay was concerned the Lourdes holy water trumped O’Keefe’s holy water.

Art never paid any attention to Kay’s ritual. Like I said—go along and get along—he just loved her and that was enough. When he got home from work every day, he and Kay would enjoy a cocktail which she made; being an attentive era wife. He liked Vodka and ice-cold water from the refrigerator and she liked hers straight over ice.

One unfortunate day, Art slipped and sprained his ankle climbing over the printing presses. The doctor x-rayed his ankle, wrapped it, gave him a cane and told him to take a couple of days off. Arriving home early he found the house empty. Kay was out and the kids were at school. He made himself a vodka-ice water cocktail, sat down on the couch, turned on the TV and relaxed. Unknowingly he drained the Lourdes holy water bottle and left it on the kitchen countertop.


An hour or so later Kay came home with groceries. As she put her bags down, she spotted the empty Lourdes bottle next to the open vodka bottle on the counter. There was a verbal explosion as she ran into the living room. “What have you done,” she yelled at Art who, of course, didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. “My Lourdes water! I brought that back all the way from Lourdes, France…you moron!…How could you!” She was in tears. Of course, Art apologized “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” Nothing he said would assuage her. “How could you? ” It went on the rest of the afternoon. He tried to her hug her but pushed him away with the well-known womanly: “Don’t touch me!”

As she cooked dinner she ranted: “It’s sacrilegious what you’ve done.” While the family ate dinner, she was still infuriated at poor Art: “I can’t replace it you know. I hand collected that holy water myself.” When they went to bed, she turned her back on Art, sobbing and muttering: “I collected it with my own hands, dipping the bottle into the holy water in the pond up to my wrists….How could you?.”

When Art awakened the next morning he dressed and walked downstairs. Kay was cooking breakfast for the family. Cathy and Buddy were in their rooms putting on their school uniforms. Kay looked at Art fully dressed. “What are you doing? You’re supposed to take a few days off?” Art grabbed a piece of toast as he picked up the cane. “It’s a miracle,” he said. Throwing the cane on the ground, he opened the front door. “The Lourdes water,” he said. “I’m cured,” as he limped out the door.

Kay stood in shock as he left. Then she started laughing. To this day nobody knows if Art really went to work that day or the corner bar for a peaceful vodka and “ice city water” cocktail or two.

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