Use of holy water and oil


How can oil and holy water blessed by a priest be used at home?


Holy Water is used – to sprinkle prayfully ones house…to use it blessing yourself as well.


I dip my fingers in it and then make the sign of the cross, just like when walking into church.


Holy water is a sacramental and can be used as a way to constantly remind us of our baptism.

I keep some in a font on the wall in my hallway and bless myself with the sign of the Cross whenever I walk by.


Since everyone has answered water, I will address oil.

It is customary in the middle east that blessed oil (instead of blessed water) be available at shrines to take home - usually on a cloth dabbed in the oil. It can be used to bless oneself in the same manner, as is water. In Latin theological terminology, it is only considered a “sacramental” as opposed to a sacrament, since oil must have an epiclesis performed over it to be considered one of the oils of the sacraments.

In a terrible misunderstanding of liturgy, the Maronite Church now uses the old rite for the Anointing of the Sick for a Holy Week devotion and this oil (which is the Syriac equivalent of Extreme Unction) is distributed to be freely taken home.


It seems that there is some concern about simulating a Sacrament where blessed oil is used vice holy water as indicated in this forum post concerning the anointing of hands and forehead at a retreat.

It references a Vatican Instruction

Which says in part under Article 9, “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.”

This poses a question, should oil be blessed in the first place, so as not to cause confusion or the appearance of Simulating a Sacrament? Can anyone please clarify?


In the Latin Church, no because there’s no widely known historical tradition of using blessed oils. In the Eastern Churches, yes because there’s minimal risk of “simulation.”


I have blessed oil from St Anne de Beaupre shrine. I do not have anointing oil which is kept in every ambry.

I may not “anoint” my family with oil, but I may use it the same way as holy water. This is to say that I may not administer a Sacrament or accept a vow of any person. This may have to do with understanding and intention.

I think we need to look up the word “anoint” in a Catholic context (I believe that anointing is a rite reserved for ministers) and compare that to the definition of “bless.”

Because there is such confusion, and the possibility of using oil with the right intention but lack of faculty, it had been advised to use water in the home in lieu of oil.



The document you referenced (The Instruction from 1997) is talking about a situation that simulates the Sacrament of Unction/Anointing.

In the Tradition of the Church, there are many examples of blessed oil being used at home by laypersons. Many of these are associated with certain shrines, or with certain feast days. The use of these oils does enjoy the favor of the Church. *

What your quote is addressing is a situation where a non-priest (layperson or even a deacon) outright simulates the Sacrament of Unction, or comes close to simulating the Sacrament. Of course, that’s strictly forbidden.

If other “holy” oils are used in such a way that there is no possibility of confusion with the Sacraments, then that use is acceptable. For example, let’s say that I visit the shrine of Saint so-and-so and bring back some blessed oil. I apply some of that oil to the doorposts of my home, asking for the intercession of that saint to help protect my home against evil. In such a case, there’s no question that I might be simulating a sacrament, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

There was a clarification from the Holy See asking this very question. I’m searching for it now, and will post it when I find it.


In the current (Ordinary Form) Book of Blessings, we see in paragraph number 1795

Blessing* of Oil

God of compassion, mercy, and love, in the midst of the pain and suffering of the world your Son came among us to heal our infirmities and soothe our wounds. May all who use this oil (in honor of Saint N.) be blessed with health of mind and body. Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Now, it’s important to keep this in context. This “blessing” is included with other prayers (I just cannot make myself keep typing “blessing” I just cannot do it…) for objects to be used at home. It’s included with prayers over foods, candles, and even flowers. It is clear from the context that this prayer over the oil is not meant to be used for oil that simulates the Sacrament of Unction/Anointing of the Sick. Yes, references to healing are made, and that’s only natural; but those references do not equate with a situation that might confuse this prayer with something that would either simulate or even come close to simulating the Sacrament.

The point is that the Church does allow blessed (or “prayed over”) oil to be used at home by laypersons, but never in a context that confuses this with the Sacrament.

  • I use the word “blessing” only because that’s the title in the Book of Blessings. Like nearly all of the “blessings” in that book, an actual blessing of the object is nowhere to be found.



Perhaps you missed the clarification I made on that thread you referenced so I will repeat: note that the translation of that document–as available at the Vatican website–is deficient. While the English translation prohibits the use of any oil, the official text actually says the non-ordained are not to use “non-blessed” oil. So, yes, if a person wants to use oil in personal/private settings, it has to be blessed.

For the Latin text, see here, page 872, Articulus 9, end of paragraph 1.




We too have a small HW font in our home but the HW evaporates so quickly. The use of a piece of fabric with Holy Oil sounds more practical from this standpoint but I think it would stain our clothes is we make a proper SotC.


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