Last week I was called out to the hospital to anoint a sick person. He had become suddenly ill at home and was rushed to the hospital. The family was shocked and upset when I met them in the ICU. “Father, can you anoint him please?” We went in together.
I have nifty kit I use for anointing of the sick. It consists of a glass bottle of oil, the ritual book that contains the prayers, and a small stole, all contained in a leather Bible case. I keep the kit in my car so I can always have it with me. When I took out the stole I observed that it was cold and stiff. This week the weather had been below 0 degrees for 52 hours and everything was cold. Even though my car sits in a garage the kit had still become very chilly. I said some of the introductory prayers and took out the oil to anoint him.
The oil was frozen.
I shook the bottle upside down and nothing would come out. As the family cried softly in the background, I commented to myself, “I guess my oil is frozen.” Awkward silence followed as I looked around for a quick solution. Maybe I could dig the oil out with my pocket knife. I opened the small blade, scooped out a dollop of oil and wiped it on my thumb. The I reached towards his forehead and said, “By this holy anointing…” and the oil slipped right off my thumb and fell on his shoulder. It was rapidly changing consistency from lotion to oil. I scooped it up again with my fingers and anointed his forehead. It left the usual light smear of olive oil, but one little stubborn bit sat up defiantly and refused to melt. Then I dug out another glop of oil with the pocketknife and, carefully balancing it on my thumb, I anointed his hands.
“Thank you so much, Father,” the family said through sobs.
I finished the prayers and discretely slipped the bottle in my pocket to warm it up.
Ministry is full of surprises.
PS: By popular request as a followup to a previous posting, here is a picture of me all dressed up and ready for cold weather.