The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is the Church’s sacrament for those who are sick and aging or dying, and is a sacred moment when we pray for God’s grace to strengthen someone who is suffering from any form of illness.
When the Sacrament of the Sick is administered, the hoped-for effect is that, the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the Sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age or approaching death.
Canon No. 1004 provides that “the anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age.” The ritual itself designates as proper recipients, “a sick person … before surgery”, as well as “elderly people … if they are weak, though not dangerously ill”, or those “who are in danger of dying.”
The first purpose of anointing is to bring about healing, physically and spiritually. In his epistle, St. James (Jas 5:14-15) says: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person.”
What is particularly troublesome to parish priests is that families often wait until the last minute before calling a priest. This is due, in part, to the fact that the sacrament of anointing of the sick used to be called “extreme unction.” But the clear teaching of the church is that someone does not have to be “in extremis” (i.e., in imminent danger of dying).
That is why, today we call it the “Sacrament of the Sick”.
The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient.
In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the priest anoints the seriously ill, injured, the elderly or the dying, with the oil of the sick. The oil of the sick is a special oil used for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. It is blessed by the bishop at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week.
The Anointing of the Sick is not a Sacrament that is meant to be received often. Once received, it may be repeated only if the sick person recovers after being anointed and then falls ill again, or if during the same illness, the person’s condition becomes more serious. Some people think that the more often they receive the Sacrament, the more effective it will be. This is not the case.
If you or a family member is hospitalized or in need of the comfort and grace of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, please contact the Parish Office.