Question: What is holy water and how do I explain the reason that it is placed at the entrances of churches to my non-Catholic friends?
Answer: Holy water is a sacramental, a reminder of the life of the Church expressed and celebrated through the sacraments. God’s grace is mediated through word and gesture (the outward signs). This comes to us through Jesus (instituted by Christ) as he entrusts to the Church his saving mission (to give grace). In turn the Church, through the sacraments, shares that grace and mission with us.
On Ash Wednesday, we receive ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our origins, humbly created from the dust. But by blessing ourselves with holy water, we are reminded of our destiny! We are baptized sons and daughters of God. This is also a call to conversion, to live more fully our baptismal call to live as disciples of Jesus. We see holy water whenever we renew our baptismal promises. This will occur during the Easter liturgy as well, reminding us that we are indeed on a journey of faith and renewed in Christ. Blessing ourselves with holy water reminds us that we are baptized into a community faith, and always in need of turning from sin and toward God. Holy water is a visible sign of our baptism!