I joined the Catholic church in 2003 after many many years of being an atheist/agnostic.
I keep a LOW profile about my Faith here, but since you have opened the door... I am glad to add and learn from this thread (assuming mutual respect is maintained).
I was first exposed to the real Catholic Church's doctrine back when I was engaged to marry my wife at the mandatory "Marriage Classes", they were quite interesting to me and fit with my desire to commit to marriage and have a family.
Shortly after 9/11 and my wife's cancer diagnosis I needed God in my life in a REAL way, so I decided to join the Church and went through the RCIA program (adult education program for those wanting to join). I was baptized and confirmed at the Easter 2003 Vigil service (which is a wonderful memory for me).
Six years ago I joined a men's fellowship group (we meet Sat mornings at 7:30 am). We have discussed (and debated) many topics over the years, so I am fairly knowledgeable. One of the members of our group was actually a retired criminal lawyer who liked to argue just about EVERYTHING (he was leaning more Protestant, and actually very unhappy with the Catholic Church's soft political stances).
As far as Holy Water, yes it is water blessed by the priests. I dip my finger in and bless myself with it when entering/exiting the church. It is not mandatory to do this, just a Tradition. I had not thought much about the bacteria thing (wow, my wife would go nuts thinking about that...).
I had my foot washed once by our pastor at the Holy Thursday service (Thursday before Good Friday/Easter Sunday). This service re-enacts the Last Supper, and the priests wash the feet to symbolically show their role of humility and service to others.
I also have had my foot washed during a fantastic "experiential" men's retreat, and also washed men's feet later as a staff member.
Let me know if you have any more questions (PM if you prefer). I'll add here that Catholics (at least according to doctrine) do NOT worship Mary. We do ask (in prayer) for Mary (and other Saints) to pray for us. This is similar to asking others here on earth to pray for our needs.
We do not worship statues or other idols. We do read/study the Bible. In fact I do not know of any one hour experience more focused on Jesus and the Bible than a Catholic Mass service.
Take care and God Bless,
Loneliness is a power that we possess to give or take away forever. -Yes, Starship TrooperMy Story