New Mexico shrine distributes water of "infinite value"

.- The Shrine of St. Bernadette in Albuquerque is distributing holy water from Lourdes as a way to spread spirituality—but it had to get through U.S. customs first.

The shrine received 14 10-gallon jugs of water from a natural spring in France, which was blessed by the Virgin Mary in 1858, after she appeared to peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous.

U.S. customs held the jugs of water when they arrived at International Sunport in January. "They wanted to know its value," Dan Paulos, the shrine’s finance manager, told the Albuquerque Tribune.

On one hand, the water has no monetary value since it was considered a gift from the Shrine of Lourdes in France. The church paid only the $3,200 shipping cost for the 10-gallon jugs.

But on the other hand, Fr. Tom Zotter, rector of St. Bernadette's told the newspaper: “Its value is infinite.”

Fr. Zotter explained Catholicism's connection to physical things, like water. Catholicism is a tangible religion, which is why Catholics will feel connections to relics and statues. It is also why Catholics feel deep and personal connections with saints, seeing them as once-human messengers who can act as intermediaries to God, he said.

The shrine in the Northeast Heights is one of three official distributors of Lourdes water in the U.S. In 2005, it was recognized as an official distributor of Lourdes Water in the Southwest United States. St. Bernadette's this week is hosting Fr. Raymond Zambelli, rector of the Shrine of Lourdes in France, which serves as a pilgrimage site for an estimated six million Catholics per year.

While this might seem to be a great money-making venture, Fr. Zotter says this is not the goal. The shrine is making the water available at the church in roughly 3 ounce containers for $1 apiece. They'll send it anywhere else in the country, too, for the cost of shipping.

"We're trying to spread spirituality through the water. That's our goal,” the priest told the newspaper.

They hope to make enough money to afford get their next shipment of water from overseas.