ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A statue of St. Bernadette stands near the chapel in the Shrine of St. Bernadette here. The church is an official distributor for water from Lourdes, France, a site of pilgrimages for an estimated 6 million Catholics a year.
Not even holy water, it seems, can get through U.S. customs without a few questions.
"They wanted to know its value," says Dan Paulos, finance manager at Shrine of St. Bernadette Catholic church.
That’s a tricky question to ask about 14 10-gallon jugs of water from a spring blessed by the Virgin Mary.
On one hand, these jugs of water that were temporarily held up at Albuquerque International Sunport in January were worth nothing. No monetary value, at least, since they were considered a gift from the Shrine of Lourdes in France.
Yet, this Lourdes water, as it’s called, came from the natural spring that the peasant Bernadette Soubirous dug with her own hands in 1858. At Mary’s request.
So, yes. It has value. Especially to a parish that has been declared a shrine to St. Bernadette.
Theologically a good answer, but not a good answer to tell a customs official when he starts calculating the import tariff on infinite.