In Italy, tradition and the times we live in are cooperating once again as a new Holy Water dispenser has been created to help combat the spread of the H1N1 virus. The dispenser was created by Luciano Marabese, who hopes the new system will allow for churchgoers to help find the faith needed to get through troubled times.
The device itself is a terra cotta pottery piece with a motion-sensor in the front. Next to each dispenser a sign bears the words “Aqua Benedetta” meaning “Holy Water” along with a symbol indicating how the device works. Those wishing to undertake the tradition of wetting their hands in holy water so they may make the sign of the cross with it can now do so by waving their hand beneath the sensor and having holy water splashed into their hand by the machine. The device is being met with mixed reviews by faithful all over, who either hope or fear that it may soon be implemented in more churches throughout Italy and even the world as fears of Swine flu and germs in general become an issue everyone must contend with.
Traditionally in Italy’s catholic tradition, holy water is kept in a large basin next to the entrance of the church, and those passing through dip their hands into the basin to gather holy water and purify their bodies by making symbols across their foreheads so they can enter the temple. Of course as many church populations number in the hundreds, the spread of germs can become a problem within congregations for those who touch the communal basin and then put their hands to their mouth, nose, or eyes. Due to of fears of spreading disease, Milan’s Cathedral along with hundreds of churches were beginning to discontinue the use of holy water basins altogether.
In Italy 15 people have died of the swine flu, and many are starting to get worried about more deaths. Out of every 1,000 people who get the current pre-mutation strain of swine flu, approximately four must be hospitalized and statistically one dies. The CDC and global governments are fearing a more deadly strain of swine flu that may have an impact on infrastructure and result in a massive death toll. Still others are claiming the disease is being over-hyped at this juncture. Regardless, it’s safe to say the dispenser is making waves among Italian churchgoers, many of which are thrilled at the safer dispensers.
“It has been a bit of a novelty,” Pierangelo Motta, a priest at one of the two churches said, People initially were a bit shocked by this technological innovation, but then they welcomed it with great enthusiasm and joy. The members of this parish have got used to it.”
Technology seems to be slowly moving in to many modern religious ceremonies and practices, much to the chagrin of traditionalists. Of course it should be noted that several aspects of religious practices contain technologies (such as electric lighting) that would not have been around at the creation of the rituals themselves. Though the device is making a splash now, will these dispensers be used even after the H1N1 virus is no longer a threat? Only time will tell.