Holy water in the era of swine flu: an electronic dispenser

  • Share
  • Read Later

Amid fears that religious ritual was eroding due to swine flu fears, an innovative Catholic from the town of Fornaci di Briosco in northern Italy has invented an electronic holy water dispenser. As Reuters first reported, inventor Luciano Marabese first developed the dispenser—which works similarly to soap dispensers, but instead spurts out holy water when parishioners wave a hand underneath—says he did so out of concern that swine flu was undermining the ritual of people dipping their hands into the font upon arrival and departure from church. And now, not only has Marabese solved this Catholic conundrum, but he may have also launched himself a new business. As he told Reuters:

“After all the news that some churches, like Milan’s cathedral, were suspending the use of holy water fonts as a measure against swine flu, demands for my invention shot to the stars. I have received orders from all over the world,” he said.

Gathering in a church, temple, mosque or other house of worship can foster community during challenging times, but as the swine flu pandemic continues, the many religious rituals that involve close contact with others, shared drinking vessels or exposure to other shared objects may put houses of worship on the front lines in battling the spread of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control now estimate that 4,000 Americans have died from H1N1 since April, and while that figure reflects more a change in calculation technique than a surge in the flu’s potency, it underscores the need for continued caution and preventive measures. As NPR reported recently, across the U.S. rabbis, priests and imams are now confronting hard questions about how to cultivate spiritual health with tradition and ritual, while also looking out for their parishioners’ physical health.