The Reverend Matthew Barzare says that St. Anne’s Church in Abbeville, in southwest Louisiana, consists of about 200 families. Wanting to extend the blessings of Christmas to as many people as possible, he secured an aircraft with the help of his congregation and then loaded it with 100 gallons of water that he’d blessed. Of course, great care was taken to ensure that the plane’s usual cargo of pesticides was thoroughly flushed out before loading it with holy water.
Then, he sent the craft into and around town to spray water where people were gathered, such as stores, schools, or other churches.
“I have a large area to cover,” he says.
Barzare also noted that the practice of bringing religious rituals to the people where they are, rather than expecting them to come to the church, has its roots in medieval European Christian tradition.
“It has roots in what we call the Ember Days, when Catholic priests would travel around the rural parishes, particularly at harvest time, and bless the fields and the crops and the community that tends them,” he said.
On the Diocese of Lafayette’s Facebook page, the organization showed pictures of Father Barzare and his congregation loading the plane and getting it ready to deploy.
“It’s an isolated parish and this was a way of bringing people together at the holidays,” he said.
It seems that the rather unorthodox (no pun intended) method of spreading the blessing was a big hit. One commenter, for example, praised the priest for his “out-of-the-box thinking.”
Another called it an “act of love for the parishioners.”
Still others, tongue planted firmly in-cheek, suggested expanding the scope of the mass blessing next year to include heavily-trafficked sections of I-10, which runs between Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
He may not take the internet up on the suggestion to spray holy water on a busy highway, but Barzare will definitely be crop-dusting holy water on his parish again next year, thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response this year’s event received.
“We weren’t expecting it to get the publicity it did. It was just a small thing we were doing in the parish, then the diocese posted the photographs on Facebook. We’ll be doing it again next year. We can bless a larger area with 300 gallons of water than we can with 100,” he said.