Anointing with “Oil of Gladness” will now stop

Do you remember my post QUAERITUR: Who should receive Anointing of the Sick?

I spoke of inappropriate administration of the Sacrament of Anointing and even its abuse.

Today I found this interesting entry on a blog called Summorum Pontificum Johannesburg.

The writer received a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments about Anointing.  It is signed by the Secretary Archbishop Ranjith.

Apparently there are "anointing" service in which lay people or deacons anoint others with something called "Oil of Gladness".

The Church doesn’t not have amongst its consecrated oils anything called "Oil of Gladness" and lay people must never be allowed to do anything that can be mistaken as "simulating" a sacrament they cannot confer.

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33 Responses to Anointing with “Oil of Gladness” will now stop

  1. Barb says:

    The devil must delight in these false sacraments replacing the real ones.

  2. Michael says:

    Father,

    Does this mean that my family and I can’t use oil blessed using the Rituale Romanum (EF) in my home?

  3. Michael says:

    Obviously we know that no sacrament is being admistered and that it is merely a sacramental such as holy water.

  4. TNCath says:

    Great! Now, can we do something about writing our sins on little slips of paper and burning them in a hibachi on Ash Wednesday?

  5. John says:

    Michael, I share your confusion.

    Does this letter suggest that all sacramentals are forbidden for private devotional use if they also partake as part of the matter of a sacrament? (Holy Water, Blessed Oil, Bread, Wine…)

  6. Chris says:

    I look forward to Cardinal Napier’s reply! I think he may set a few things straight. I also can’t wait to see how Abp Ranjith copes when he gets home to Sri Lanka and finds all kinds of sacramental (small s) practices going on! Catholics have done this sort of stuff for centuries, letters from Rome won’t stop it!

  7. Maureen says:

    Holy water is blessed by a priest (or deacon), as a sacramental, for use by the faithful. (Similarly, holy salt.) But if I were to try and bless water or salt and use it on people, that would be wrong. Blessed bread (as opposed to consecrated) can also be used at home, but the blessing given to bread is very carefully differentiated from the consecration. (That’s why Easter blessed bread is usually given out after Mass is over, or food baskets are blessed separately from Mass.)

    Now, there are certain oils connected with devotion to various saints, but those are collected from blessed sources, not blessed as sacramentals themselves (as far as I understand it), and not anointed onto people as parts of formal Masses or rites (as far as I understand it).

    So I think the problem is: 1) deploying something as a sacramental that sounds weird and new; 2) deploying it IN MASS in a way that imitates the actual sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick; and 3) probably something they’re not saying about the “Oil of Gladness” being said to have magical properties to attract joy or instantly heal depression, or something shady and demonic like being a love potion or a way to get power over others.

    Searching…. Ah. On a page of questions on the Archdiocese’s website: http://www.catholic-johannesburg.org.za/general-comments/view-comment?comment_id=8837&return_url=

    “Dear Father

    It is my belief that something called the “oil of gladness” (cf. Ps 45: 7(8); Heb 1:9) became somewhat of a prominent sacramental as an agent of healing through the Charismatic renewal … could you please provide me with concise references of the use of such a sacramental and whether its use has been sanctioned by the Church in Rome or South Africa.

    Could you also answer the following while providing full citations:
    What is the oil of gladness made from?
    Does it have to be blessed?
    Who can bless it?
    When is it blessed?
    Who may use it?
    For what reasons is it used?
    Can a deacon use it as a substitute for the Sacrament of the Sick?
    Looking forward to your response.

    Kind regards….”

    From an American religious products company (Protestant), referring to anointing people with perfume (essential oils) which they’d be glad to sell you:

    We have lots to tell you about what God is doing through the Anointing Oil.

    We had a call from a Chaplain going to Afghanistan wanting several bottles which touched us deeply. It was a privilege for us to be involved in prayer for our troops. Another minister took some to Iraq and prayed for the troops there as well as some of the Iraqi citizens. This year we also shipped anointing oil to Japan, South Africa, and through many ministers of the Gospel, to dozens of countries throughout the world. God is good! One dear brother told us he heard about the Oil from a minister visiting Kurdistan so he called and got some for himself. The funny thing was that he was a fellow Texan who had to go to another country to learn about the Oil available right in his own backyard!

    You can learn more about our Anointing Oil and how to use them here or you can call M-F before 5 PM Central time to speak with a real person.

    May the LORD bless you as you use and learn about Oil of Gladness Anointing Oil.

    From the same company:

    “How do I anoint someone?”

    The word “anoint” means “to rub or to smear”. Many people interpret that different ways and there is really no “correct” way to actually apply the oil. Some dab it on the forehead, some form the sign of the cross, some pour (not too popular with the ladies when they are wearing nice clothes!), some put it on the hands. Some anoint themselves as well as others on their hands and feet.

    The main thing is the heart attitude with which it is done. The LORD says in James that we must pray in faith when we use the oils believing and trusting in HIM alone. The different fragrances are our own choice and have nothing to do with the type of prayer or the answer we are seeking from God.

    So, we suggest you see what method you feel the most comfortable with and begin in faith. You will learn as you go and we are confident God will bless you as you are obedient to Him in prayer.”

    So it sounds like this is something that’s come over from Protestant charismatics to Catholic ones, and which is being used more out of cluelessness than bad intentions.

    I told you people needed something to absorb all those yearnings for health stirred up by “Healing Masses” and the sicknesses that give them the need for them. Since the Spirit of VII folks mostly killed off the small devotions, now we need something public to sop up people’s neediness and need for help. And if priests don’t give people something licit, they’ll make up something illicit.

  8. RVC_catholic says:

    Amazing coincidence that this issue is raised today. We have an issue that just popped up in our parish which was printed in the bulletin this morning.

    We’re in an NO parish in the NorthEast US (working and praying toward an EF mass some day)and it was announced that on a weekly basis on Saturday mornings at a reglarly scheduled mass, if anyone who wishes sits in the first pew, after the homily and before the prayer of the faithful, one may receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Special mention was made that one need not be dying, but the desire to receive the sacrament coupled with an illness is all that’s needed.
    Truthfully we have never heard of this occuring within the context of mass on a regular basis. We’re also wondering if this was ever done in the EF – our guess is not. Would the pastor need to get permission from the bishop for such a move? Can you give us any imformation about this?
    We’re also wondering if this new move could be likened to allowing the EF in the parish.
    Thanks and best wishes.

  9. Fr P says:

    I was invited along to help at a Reconciliation Service (expecting to be hearing Confessions) in a parish next to my own. Once we were at the altar it turned out to be some Medjugorjie realted service and much of it involved the four priests present(myself included – I didn’t see what else I could do when this was sprung on me, although after this letter I should have refused) anointing all present with the “Oil of Gladness”. I had never heard of it and thought it was some sort of Sacramental. Having read this letter certainly gives a different view point.

  10. Jordanes says:

    Chris said: I look forward to Cardinal Napier’s reply! I think he may
    set a few things straight.

    You’re a little unclear about how these things work. The only reply that might be forthcoming from Cardinal Napier would be a report on just how bad things might be and what the bishops will do to set things right.

    I also can’t wait to see how Abp Ranjith copes when

    Or rather, “if.”

    he gets home to Sri Lanka and finds all kinds of sacramental (small s) practices going on!

    Unapproved sacramentals that closely resemble sacraments and blur the line between ordained and laity will be suppressed. If the Pope sends Archbishop Ranjith to Sri Lanka, without a doubt he’ll clean up any liturgical and doctrinal messes he finds, including the illicit “Oil of Gladness” services.

    Catholics have done this sort of stuff for centuries, letters from Rome won’t stop it!

    No, letters won’t stop it, but the Church will.

    Fr P said: I was invited along to help at a Reconciliation Service (expecting to be hearing Confessions) in a parish next to my own. Once we were at the altar it turned out to be some Medjugorjie realted service and much of it involved the four priests present(myself included – I didn’t see what else I could do when this was sprung on me, although after this letter I should have refused) anointing all present with the “Oil of Gladness”.

    Not surprised to see this in the context of a Medjugorje-related service: that unapproved alleged apparition and the phenomenon surrounding it are inextricably linked with the Charismatic movement, which in turn is strongly redolent of Protestant Pentecostalism.

  11. Fred says:

    At a parish where I served, a woman approached me and said that the pastoral associate told her that I would anoint her hands with chrism in preparation for becoming an extraordinary minister of Communion. I told her that I could not do that, that it would be an abuse of the oil and of that rite, which is reserved for priestly ordination. At the same parish, the head or religious education told me that the confirmandi would come up at mass to have their hands anointed with chrism scented with lavender. I explained that I could not do this (and scented with lavender?…) These ideas come from somewhere, I suspect from women’s retreats, catechetical conferences, and the like. These abuses sow much confusion, and I believe they are INTENDED to marginalize ordination and the sacraments.

  12. dhatchen says:

    The “Oil of Gladness” is definitely in use in Western Canada by the Charismatic Renewal as a sacramental for prayers of healing and (non-sacrament) lay anointing of the sick. There was never an explanation of where it came from or who blessed it as such and I was not astute enough to inquire after it’s origin at the time. It was assumed by many, including me, that it had been blessed by some clergyman somewhere although that was never explicitly stated.

    The people would form lines to process up to designated “prayer warrior” types, who would listen to your petition, pray over you, and then anoint your forehead with this oil. On several occasions the people were told that the power of the Holy Spirit would come over them and that they should relax in the Spirit, i.e., allow themselves to be “slain in the Spirit.” To reinforce that this was to be expected, one or two men would be behind you to catch you when/if you were “slain.”

    There was no word on the teaching of the Church about any of this. I don’t know about anyone else, but I assumed that it must be Ok if it was allowed in the Sanctuary of our parish Church building.

  13. Chris says:

    Chris said: I look forward to Cardinal Napier’s reply! I think he may
    set a few things straight.

    You’re a little unclear about how these things work. The only reply that might be forthcoming from Cardinal Napier would be a report on just how bad things might be and what the bishops will do to set things right

    No, Jordanes. I am not unclear at all. A few years ago Cardinal Hume of Westminster got a similar letter from a Roman dicastery. He told them exactly what was happening, that they had got the wrong end of the stick and to ask him next time before jumping to conclusions. They shut up. That is the kind of response I expect will follow in this case.

  14. Future Priest says:

    There is an anointing with the “Oil of Gladness” by the priest in the Byzantine rite.

    This is usually done at baptisms and at the end of Great Vespers.

    This declaration would not apply to the Byzantine liturgical tradition.

  15. Jordanes says:

    Chris said: No, Jordanes. I am not unclear at all. A few years ago Cardinal Hume of Westminster got a similar letter from a Roman dicastery. He told them exactly what was happening, that they had got the wrong end of the stick and to ask him next time before jumping to conclusions. They shut up. That is the kind of response I expect will follow in this case.

    Then prepare to be disappointed. Whatever allegedly happened a few years ago with the late Cardinal Hume was in a different time and a different place, and probably involved a completely different situation that what the CDW is addressing in this letter. Archbishop Ranjith asks that the South African bishops address the confusion over this Charismatic “Oil of Gladness” stuff so that proper catechesis and sacramental discipline be restored “where it MAY be lacking.” From what I hear about South Africa, it’s probably lacking in quite a few places, but in any case don’t hold your breath waiting for Cardinal Napier to publicly take the Church of Rome to task in this matter. It is the Church of Rome, not the bishops, who has custody of the discipline of the sacraments and sacramentals.

  16. Chris says:

    Indeed it is. However the dicastaries of the Holy See have absolutely no infallibility when it comes to misunderstanding what is going on or being led astray by people with an axe to grind. And, occasionally, they need telling so!

  17. Theodorus says:

    I don’t think the document forbids oils blessed for private devotional use, such as oils in honor of various saints, oils from shrines, oil exorcised and blessed according to traditional Roman Ritual for use by laity, as long as these oils are not used in a way that resembles the Sacrament of Anointing.

    THE ROMAN RITUAL, Translated by PHILIP T. WELLER, S.T.D. Copyright 1964 Philip T. Weller: PART XI. BLESSINGS AND OTHER SACRAMENTALS – 8. BLESSING OF OIL

    P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
    All: Who made heaven and earth.

    Exorcism

    God’s creature, oil, I cast out the demon from you by God the
    Father + almighty, who made heaven and earth and sea, and all
    that they contain. Let the adversary’s power, the devil’s
    legions, and all Satan’s attacks and machinations be dispelled
    and driven afar from this creature, oil. Let it bring health in
    body and mind to all who use it, in the name of God + the Father
    almighty, and of our Lord Jesus + Christ, His Son, and of the
    Holy Spirit, the Advocate, as well as in the love of the same
    Jesus Christ our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and
    the dead and the world by fire.

    All: Amen.

    P: Lord, heed my prayer.
    All: And let my cry be heard by you.
    P: The Lord be with you.
    All: May He also be with you.

    Let us pray.

    Lord God almighty, before whom the hosts of angels stand in awe,
    and whose heavenly service we acknowledge; may it please you to
    regard favorably and to bless + and hallow + this creature, oil,
    which by your power has been pressed from the juice of olives.
    You have ordained it for anointing the sick, so that, when they
    are made well, they may give thanks to you, the living and true
    God. Grant, we pray, that those who will use this oil, which we
    are blessing + in your name, may be delivered from all suffering,
    all infirmity, and all wiles of the enemy. Let it be a means of
    averting any kind of adversity from man, made in your image and
    redeemed by the precious blood of your Son, so that he may never
    again suffer the sting of the ancient serpent; through Christ our
    Lord.

    All: Amen.

    (It is sprinkled with holy water.)

  18. Fr W says:

    Interesting that there IS a blessing in Weller – but it is sprinkled with Holy Water, not put on hands and foreheads.

    Around here there are Charismatic ‘Healing Masses,’ and I believe they use some kind of oil. The lady involved visits the sick and often tells me that ‘so-and so would like a ‘blessing.’ This is her way of saying ‘Anointing of the Sick.’ I suspect she does it on purpose to blur the line between Sacraments and their healing services.

  19. I am somewhat confused here. I have always understood that blessed oils (not the three mentioned above) could be used for anointing and praying for others. If this is not the case, may I ask, what is its purpose as a sacramental? Cooking?

    Last year, as a layman, my family and I went and prayed with my grandfather (a Methodist) who was preparing to have his leg amputated. I anointed him with a blessed oil from a shrine and we prayed for him. There was nothing in any of our prayers intimating that this was the same as the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

    I understand the need to avoid confusion for the sake of the faithful, especially when deacons come to anoint and the individual thinks he or she has received the Anointing of the Sick…

    I also had a practice of blessing my children with oil when they were younger. Am I to understand that thIs is now “verbotten”?

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  20. Fr W says:

    I can’t read the letter Fr. Z displayed from the Congregation. Does it forbid the use of thee blessed oils on foreheads?

  21. Theodorus says:

    Dear Fr W, almost all sacramentals are sprinkled with holy water at the end of blessing, according to the fomular in the traditional Roman Ritual. For example, foods like lamb, bread, eggs and so forth, are all sprinkled with holy water at the end of blessing, which has nothing to do with how the sacramental is used. The blessed devotional oils can surely be put on hands and foreheads by lay people themselves, just like the way they use holy water. Of course they need to know this is not the Consecrated Oil used in the Sacrament of the Anoiting of the Sick.

  22. Theodorus says:

    I found this from http://catholiccharismatic.us/ccc/articles/nonattributed/Blessed_Oil.html , and the document discussed was issued many years ago:

    [On the Use of Blessed Oil

    Bishop Sam Jacobs of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, and Chairman of the, US Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has issued a clarification concerning the statement in the Vatican document, “Some Questions Regarding Collaboration of Nonordained Faithful in Priests’ Sacred Ministry” which reads, “Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with oil of the sick or any other oil.” (Article 9 n. 1).

    Bishop Sam Jacobs writes:

    The document in question was addressing the issue of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick which can be administered only by an ordained priest. Non-ordained laity are not allowed to administer this sacrament with the Oil of the Sick nor to use any blessed oil to administer this sacrament. When I was in Rome in March for the Ad Limina visit, I asked Cardinal Ratzinger about this question. He assured me, in front of the other bishops from Region V, that the document was only referring to the sacrament of the sick and not to the ancient custom of lay people using blessed oil, even when praying for the sick, as long as a clear distinction was being made between the sacrament of the sick and sacramental use of blessed oil, as is done with blessed salt, palms, ashes, etc.
    I asked that a clarification be made to the effect and he assured me one would be coming.
    I think it is necessary that people don’t extend the understanding of the authors of the document beyond their intention, which was limited and focused. ]

  23. Bp. Basil says:

    **The Church doesn’t not have amongst its consecrated oils anything called “Oil of Gladness” ….**

    Yes, she does.

    The LATIN church may not, but it’s a venerable Eastern Catholic custom. There is even a blessing of oil for this purpose in the Ukrainian Catholic Trebnyk.

  24. Bishop Basil and Theodorus,

    Glory to Jesus Christ!

    Thank you for your comments. It helps to clarify the precise nature of the CDW’s proscription.

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  25. Maureen says:

    Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if the charismatic movement had gotten the idea of “oil ogladness” anointings from reading about the Eastern practice, and then made up their own variation.

    So blessed oil is okay, if you don’t use it in an iffy way or seem to be usurping the functions of a priest or of the Sacrament. Or of the Eastern side of the church. :) Fair enough.

    Anyway, the whole thing seems to show that people are hungry for sacramentals and perhaps for blessings (especially from priests). We really need to bring back some of the more tangible small devotions and pious practices that call other senses than the eyes and ears to worship God.

  26. Maureen says:

    Also, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Catholic charismatics are just like Protestants. I think they’re a group that picks up all sorts of everything, in an attempt to please God. If they flail a lot or grab onto the wrong stuff, that’s what you’d expect in our weird vacuum of Catholic culture. At least they’re trying.

  27. Jordanes says:

    Theodorus’ comment is most enlightening. It would appear that Archbishop Ranjith’s letter merely reiterates what is already Church law regarding “charismatic services” in which non-sacramental anointings might be performed.

    Maureen said: I don’t think it’s fair to say that Catholic charismatics are just like Protestants.

    I said “strongly redolent,” not “just like.”

    I think they’re a group that picks up all sorts of everything, in an attempt to please God.

    That’s probably the main reason that movement is strongly redolent of Protestant Pentecostalism. It’s picked up a lot of things from that movement. Nothing heretical, as far as I can tell (and many deeper conversions have come out of charismatic renewal), but in matters of devotion and various practices one can see a good degree of influence from Pentecostalism, right down to the Vineyard “praise and worship” choruses. I agree with your appraisal of the cause of that kind of “flailing” or “grabbing onto the wrong stuff.”

  28. In the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church (used to be called “Rite”, now referred to as an “ecclesia sui generis” by Rome — one of the 22 other “churches in full communion with Rome”) on large feast days the priest anoints every person present with the “Oil of Gladness”, a approved sacramental for them (but not for the Roman Rite).

    Blue vestments are normal for Marian Feast days for Byzantines, but not Romans.

    What I see is that these are being taken up by Anglicans and others and just incorporated without permission or logic because it seems “nice” by many Romans. One large Jesuit parish years ago was tired of “boring” violets and purples for Lent and did entire sets of vestments and altar clothes in dark blue. I’ve seen other priests celebrating elsewhere in similar dark blue vestment — forbidden in Roman Rite. Their fundamental understanding of church authority, liturgy and tradition were flawed: arrogant contempt for the Pope and Bishops in Rome not moving fast enough to suit their liberal agenda.

  29. alexis says:

    I think it’s important to note that not only are deacons and laity forbidden
    from splashing on the so-called oil of gladness, but since it isnt an
    approved sacramental, neither are priests allowed to do so either.

  30. alexis says:

    I hope that I bishops will act uprighly, and admit to this debacle. I pray
    that they stand in the truth and not pretend that there is no problem

  31. alexis says:

    I was one of the persons who reported this matter in South Africa to Rome.
    I was happily surprised that they acted on it.

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