Practical Ministry Advice


Hi all,

I was hoping to get some practical ministry advice here- no great moral or theological questions, just "nuts and bolts" advice from folks who have more experience than I.

  1. Regarding the use of holy water in ministering to the sick and elderly... I have noticed this to be a comforting thing to people I have visited. Also, as a lay minister, It's nice to be able to "bless" someone with holy water, as they might do if they were able to walk into church, since I cannot actually bless them myself. I'm using a small bottle, from which I can bring a few drops onto my thumb and apply it to the forehead. Is there a better way? Is there any sanitary concern doing it this way?

  2. I find while it is always challenging to comfort and encourage those in nursing homes etc,. it can be especially tough to help someone who is unable to talk. In the case of someone who is incoherent (Alzheimer's, sedation, etc.) I might pray silently of pray in the Spirit quietly. But a younger person who cannot speak due to illness such as MS or ALS but does make eye contact, is a real tough one for me. I imagine, there is no harm in touching someone and praying a short pray either way but I guess I'm trying to be as considerate of their needs as possible without doing any harm.

One thing I've learned early on... pray before I go out, pray when I get back. Pray for those I will visit, pray for guidance. Pray at all times! :thumbsup:

Thanks for your help.

Praise Him.


(I didn't know where to post this. I don't see any "ministry" or similar section)


May God Bless you in your ministry!
I think what you are doing is terrific, giving people a faith experience with Jesus. I often feel terrible when I visit people at the nursing home and know they can hear me but cant respond. Sometimes just holding their hand and offering a Prayer of Healing and a Blessing can be very good.
May the peace of God be with you in life and ministry!


Sounds good! One bit I've found useful is stockpiling Holy Water bottles (if you look in the catalogs like Autom, you can get them cheap a few times a year), filling them with Holy Water, and leaving them with the folks you visit.


Don’t be afraid to pray aloud, even for people you think would not hear you or understand. We do not know whether they hear or understand, but they may. For example, my eldest sister is in the last stages or Alzheimer’s and is totally uncommunicative. My eldest brother, a priest, visits her regularly. When he visits, he tells her any news that happened since his last visit and prays “with” her. Why? Because hearing is the last sense to go. Why knows what she may understand of what she hears. But she may be somewhat aware that a family member is talking to her; she may understand the prayers. It may be comforting to the person, even though they cannot let us know that it is. Nothing is lost. Benefits may be gained.


My only concern with (1) is not to confuse what a layperson does with what only a priest can do. I don't know how big an issue that might be in the circumstances the OP describes, but it's an issue I'm sensitive to.

If I were in such a situation, I'd probably just offer the holy water and have the person 'bless' him- or herself. Just my 20 millidollars:o


Thanks for all the good advice.

Balto, I am quite orthodox myself and appreciate your concern.

If you check the “book” you will see, while it is not appropriate (or allowed) for a lay minister to bless someone, i.e. pronounce the church’s blessing: “I BLESS you in the name of…” it is permissible for anyone to simply make the sign on the cross on someone’s forehead with holy water, as everyone is encouraged to do with their children, family members, etc. That’s all I do. We are also permitted to “ask for God’s blessing,” as we do in many of the closing prayers of the Communion of the Sick rite, i.e. “May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life…”

I’m concerned about people doing stuff outside their “pay grade” too. :wink: I’m perhaps the only lay person in my parish who calls himself an extraordinary minister of holy communion and not a (ugh) “eucharistic minister!” But that’s another story…

L Marshall, what a great idea about leaving folks with little bottles of their own. I suppose, for those who are coherent, I will plan to have a few extra bottles with me to give them.

Thanks again, all.


As someone who ministers to the elderly and the sick and dying, I understand very well the discomfort you describe. My advice is simple but has helped immensely:
Pray that the Holy Spirit will provide you with the words and actions needed during that visit. Pray that during your visit, YOU will diminish and the Holy Spirit will take over.
It will not make everything easy as pie but you will feel how much it helps…trust me.
I see so many people who are seemingly non responsive and I am always amazed at how the reading ALOUD of scripture or prayer or some of the beautiful rites that the church has for the sick and dying evokes a response in even the most non-responsive.


Thank you. That's a good suggestion.

I do pray beforehand that God will guide and use me, direct my steps... and yes, there is little doubt I could never have the ability to even walk into the place and visit with one sick person without the Lord fueling it- I'm not that strong or that loving on my own! Amen?

Also, it may not have been clear but when I said that I pray "in the Spirit" over someone who is unresponsive, I meant literally in the Spirit- in Tongues. I believe that way the Holy Spirit can pray what He knows that person needs, better than I can.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

                                                                                          (Romans 8:26-27)

Thanks again for all the kind responses. Praise God.


Two points to your post, ordained ministers can validly and licitly bless; bishop, priest, and deacon not just priests. This is something I am very sensitive to being I am a deacon.

Second, there is nothing confusing or wrong with what is being described here. Tracing the cross on the forehead of a sufferring person with holy water which was properly blessed is quite appropriate. Now if a lay minister was to pronouce a blessing over the person or attempt something outside of teh simple action described here, then yes, I would agree.

An ordained would say, “I bless you F S & HS.” a lay person would ask for God’s blessing as a third party figure so to speak. Big difference.


God bless you for your work in nursing homes, this is one ministry I struggle with. I can handle 5000 teens with ease, my wife says its because I am just a big child. But with the elderly I am like a fish out of water. I had to work six months in a nursing home as part of formation, it was the toughest part of the 5 years of formation for me. Keep up your work and I shall pray for your ministry!


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