ANNOINTING OF THE SICK
It is important to understand how our faith tradition views the ancient rite of anointing the sick and to plan ahead. From the earliest times, the sacrament of the Anointing of the sick was cherished among Christians, not only in immediate danger of death.
In the Roman Catholic Church, when individuals are faced with a new diagnosis, serious illness (physical or mental), surgery, or the complications of aging, the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is ministered by a priest (bishops and presbyters). The celebration of the sacrament includes the following principal elements: the priests of the church – in silence – lay hands on the sick; they pray over them in the faith of the Church – this is the epiclesis proper to this sacrament; they then anoint them with oil blessed, if possible by the bishop.
Like all sacraments, holy anointing was instituted by Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry. The Catechism explains, “This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament (CCC 1511).
“The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole church; the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age; the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for the passing over to eternal life” (CCC 1532).
Does a person have to be dying to receive this sacrament? No, the Catechism says, “The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has already arrived” (CCC 1514).
If a person has been anointed in the past, the question may arise as to whether he should be again. If a sick person who received anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness, the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced. However, repeated anointing in an attempt to “change the course” of the patient’s condition is not recommended. Anointing is a spiritual blessing that enables a person to be comforted in the transition through death to a new life.
For more questions on this Sacrament, or if you know of someone in need to receive this Sacrament, please contact the Parish Office at (619) 470-1352.