Annointing with Oil at religious retreat


I recently attended a retreat by a catholic organization. At the very end, there was oil being dispensed by several “officers” , on the forehead with sign of the cross, and on both palms of the hands. I asked if the oil had been blessed and the person said yes.

I was not sure what this all meant. I thought that Annointing with Oil is one of our seven Sacraments, and can only be administered by a priest, or at least by someone deligated by a priest, to someone who is ill or dying, with benefits of healing and forgiveness of all sins.
Can any group do this as part of a program?

Thank you.


Depending on exactly how they did it, it can be toeing the line with Simulating a Sacrament, which is a grievous matter.

Even if they were not Simulating the Sacrament of Anointing, I think this is probably a bad idea since it could very easily diminish the sacramental importance of Anointing. I have encountered several groups that have done this, but I’ve never seen it approved by any Church authority.


I have personally experienced this “anointing” on the forehead and hands, a number of times with two different priests, who are both in the same archdiocese where I currently live.

I was skeptical about it at first, but I realised that these priests are doing a blessing with oil. My guess is that they prefer to use oil, instead of holy water for blessing people on certain occasions.


Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament, and it uses holy oil consecrated by a bishop. It can be done by a priest.

Confirmation is a sacrament, and it uses holy oil consecrated by a bishop. It can be done by the bishop, or a designated priest.

Baptism is a sacrament, and it uses holy oil consecrated by a bishop. It can be done by a priest or deacon. Baptism can be done by anyone in an emergency, the additional rites such as anointing can be done by a priest/deacon.

Other types of anointing with oil blessed by a priest would be considered a sacramental, not a sacrament. A priest can bless oil, water, houses, all sorts of things. Holy water, blessed oil, etc, can be used to anoint in non-sacrament settings.


The oil you saw used is a sacramental.

Chrism: holy oil consecrated by the bishop, used in sacraments
Blessed Oil: a sacramental, oil blessed by a priest



A priest cannot delegate anyone to administer this Sacrament. Only a priest can do it. As to the practice of doing this sort of anointing, I’d be cautious. The Holy See has stated:

In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or ony other oil. …

It must also be affirmed that the reservation of the ministry of Anointing to the priest is related to the connection of this sacrament to the forgiveness of sin and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. No other person may act as ordinary or extraordinary minister of the sacrament since such constitutes simulation of the sacrament. (105) article #9

Since you were confused by this ceremony, it seems to be exactly the sort of event the Holy See wants us to avoid. Having the anointing on the forehead and palms is the same as the Sacrament. At the same time, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was simulating the Sacrament. If the “officers” said the words that are used in the Sacrament of Anointing, then it might have been simulation. Apparently, no words were used along with the act of anointing?



I have just learned that the translation of the document I referenced is incorrect. The sentence should read: “Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other *non-blessed *oil.” I wanted to make sure I set the record straight.



I have a related question. I have invited a friend of mine who has cancer to a “healing mass” at my parish. She is not a Catholic Christian, but was raised in a Protestant home. She has come to cancer ministry meetings at my parish and is treated with respect and Christian love. She likes coming to the Church, but has not yet attended one of our monthly “healing masses”. My question flows from the following: at every one of these masses the folks in the pew–if they so desire–come up to be anointed by the priest with oil on their foreheads and hands. I don’t know if it is oil blessed by the bishop or is oil blessed by the priest. I also don’t know if there is anything said about forgiving sins by the priest at the time of the anointing, but think there may be. My question is this: would my friend be permitted to receive the healing oil as a kind of blessing? I have invited her, but I may need to reconsider or otherwise explain to her that she might have to walk up with arms crossed instead–if that is what needs to be done. Thank you.


To be clear, only a priest can do Anointing for the sacrament of the sick, deacons have the faculties to anoint during baptism of infants and children under age 7.

This practice of using blessed oil, not oil of the sick, catechumans or sacred chrism, I have seen before at charismatic retreats, and is not prohibited although in your case it can case confusion. Scented oil has been used since before the time of Christ to place on wounds and to anoint kings.
Because of the confusion it can cause in a Catholic setting , I personally would discourage it .
Deacon Frank


Thank you to everyone who replied to my post about Anointing with oil at religious retreat.
I will start another post with similar question about sacrament of baptism,(by the same organization)


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